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Green Purse Alerts!

Why My Purse is Green

Because I believe…

  • the fastest, most effective way to stop polluters is by pressuring them in the marketplace
  • women can be the world’s most powerful economic and environmental force if we intentionally shift our spending to the best green products and services
  • women have the power right now to solve many of our most serious environmental problems by using our green purses to make a difference
  • women must act – intentionally, collectively, and with the full force of our purse power behind us – if we hope to leave our children and grandchildren a better world.
  • May 11, 2008

    A Mother's Day Question: What Do You Have in Common with Your Daughter...or Your Own Mother?

    Susan The words, “You look just like your mother!” have taken on new meaning in the chemical age in which we live. According to the nonprofit research institute Environmental Working Group (EWG), we mothers pass the pollutants that have built up in our bodies along to our daughters while they are still in the womb. Consequently, our daughters begin life with a “body burden” of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that continue to accumulate throughout life.

    Chances are great that our daughters will pass on to our grandchildren some of the same chemical molecules they inherited from us. The estimated age by which a daughter will purge 99 percent of the inherited chemical varies depending on the chemical. It will take a day to excrete the phthalate plasticizers that soften up cosmetics, paint and plastics, but a year to dump mercury. Our daughters will be at least teenagers but perhaps senior citizens before they’re rid of the common flame retardants and stain-proofing chemicals we pass along. They would be 166 years old before they’re free of their inherited lead.

    Meanwhile, their own body burden continues to increase. According to EWG’s test results, chemicals that persist in the body were found at higher levels in mothers than daughters, showing how chemicals can build up in the body over a lifetime. Mothers had an average of 1.5 to 5.2 times more pollution than their daughters for lead, methyl mercury, brominated flame retardants, and the Teflon- and Scotchgard-related perfluorochemicals PFOA and PFOS.

    The EWG study, which was done on four mothers and their daughters, found that each of the eight women's blood or urine was contaminated with an average of 35 consumer product ingredients, including flame retardants, plasticizers, and stain-proof coatings. These mixtures of compounds found in furniture, cosmetics, fabrics, and other consumer goods, have never been tested for safety. The mothers and daughters in this study join 64 other people tested in six EWG biomonitoring programs conducted between 2000 and 2006. In total, EWG biomonitoring has found 455 different pollutants, pesticides, and industrial chemicals in the bodies or cord blood of 72 different people — including 10 newborn babies with an average of 200 chemicals in each child.

    "EPA studies show that children from birth to age two are 10 times more sensitive to cancer-causing chemicals than adults," said Jane Houlihan, EWG's vice president for research. "Scientists have found that chemicals' toxic effects can be passed down for four generations, by causing permanent genetic changes that can be inherited. A stew of toxic chemicals is not the legacy mothers want to hand down to their children."

    We monitor the pollution in our air, our water, and even our fish. Isn't it time we started paying attention to the pollution in our bodies?

    Related Post: What's in YOUR body, Mom?

    May 01, 2008

    Put Breast Cancer on Your Big Green Purse Agenda

    Soe2008cover_thumb Dr. Janet Gray, a scientist at Vassar College and director of the school's Science, Technology and Society program, recently collaborated with the Breast Cancer Fund to issue a report on the dangers women face from environmental factors that cause breast cancer. I interviewed Dr. Gray and reviewed the report; here are the highlights:

    *  Breast cancer strikes more women in the world than any other type of cancer except skin cancer.

    * In the U.S., a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer increased steadily and dramatically during the 20th century.

    * Today, a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer is one in eight.

    * The increasing incidence of breast cancer over the decades following World War II paralleled the proliferation of synthetic chemicals.

    * An estimated 80,000 synthetic chemicals are used today in the U.S.; another 1,000 or more are added each year. Complete toxicological screening data are available for just 7 percent of these chemicals.

    * Many of these chemicals persist in the environment, accumulate in body fat, and may remain in breast tissue for decades. Many have never been tested for their effects on human health.

    Thanks to reduced use of hormone therapy, breast cancer rates for women over 50 may be declining.  Nevertheless, 216 chemicals and radiation sources have been linked to breast cancer and all women remain susceptible. Of particular concern are the agents known as endocrine disruptors. These are chemicals that mimic our natural endocrine system and ultimately disrupt the work it does to regulate growth, reproduction and other human health conditions.

    Dr. Gray says that consumers can protect themselves by avoiding products that contain endocrine disruptors like phthalates, parabens, growth hormones in meat and dairy products, and bisphenol A. Increasingly, marketplace choices offer phthalate-free perfumes, soaps, shampoos, lotions and even nail polish. Parabens, a preservative, are being replaced by ascorbic acid. Cows that graze on organic feed and in free-range conditions will be free of artificial hormones. Consumers can avoid bisphenol A by choosing stainless steel water bottles rather than hard plastic, and glass over plastic or metal cans for the food they buy.

    These "big green purse" options will not only protect women individually. The way women spend their money sends a direct message to manufacturers. Saying "no" to breast cancer by choosing the safest products and services will pressure companies to say "no" to these same chemicals before they're even added to the product.

    Download a complete copy of the report here.

    March 13, 2008

    New EPA Clean Air Standards Show Why Consumer Action is so Critical

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - the federal guardian of clean air - has issued new standards to control smog that scientists and environmental organizations are criticizing for not going far enough. EPA's action offers a stark reminder that, in the absence of meaningful regulations, consumer action is critical if we're going to reduce air pollution now and in the future.

    According to the New York Times, 345 counties currently violate the new standards EPA has set to reduce smog and clean up the air. Bringing those counties into compliance would prevent 900 to 1,100 Asthma premature deaths a year and result in 5,600 fewer hospital or emergency room visits. Even with these benefits, groups like the Association of Clean Air Agencies worry that the standards are still too low.

    The timetable for meeting the smog standards could be decades, reports the Times, depending on the severity of the problem in each city. Industries like the electric utility industry are expected to resist  reducing the pollution from power plants to meet EPA's clean air directives. In tones that harken back to the debate around global warming, the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade association, is challenging the scientifically-accepted cause-and-effect relationship between smog and human health -- even though millions of people already suffer increased asthma, heart attacks, and other ailments from polluted air.

    While consumers should contact their member of Congress to support stricter standards, they shouldn't wait for more government action to take steps to protect their air. Smog results directly from burning fossil fuels. Consumers can help improve the air in their cities and towns by reducing the amount of energy they use. If every household installed just one compact fluorescent light bulb, for example, it would have the equivalent benefit of taking 800,000 cars off the road.

    Consumers can also use programmable thermostatsand energy efficient appliances, take mass transit or carpool, and buy electricity generated by windpower or biomass.

    May 05, 2007

    First, deadly dog food. Now, contaminated chickens. Locally grown, organic fruits and veggies never looked so good!

    If you ever needed a reason to eat fruits and vegetables that were grown by people you know and trust, read this week's news reports about dead pets and contaminated chickens.

    At least 4,000 dogs and cats have died and thousands more have gotten sick from pet food manufactured in China that contains melamine.  Melamine is an industrial chemical that's supposed to be made into plastic plates, among other things. Instead, it appears to have been intentionally added to animal feed to trick Chinese farmers into thinking they're buying protein. It's ended up in pet food, where it hasn't turned dogs and cats into durable dinnerware. it's killed them.

    Chicken Here's where the story goes from bad to worse. It turns out that the melamine is showing up in chicken feed, too. On Friday, reported the Associated Press, officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency placed a hold on 20 million chickens raised for market in several states because their feed was mixed with pet food containing melamine.

    We don't know yet if the chickens could harm us. And the 20 million chickens represent a tiny proportion of the 9 billion chickens raised every year in the U.S.

    Still, it's bone chilling to think that we could be eating poultry that was intentionally fed industrial chemicals rather than actual nutrients.

    It's at grim times like these that I'm reminded of the value of locally grown, organic food. When I shop at my farmers market, I have a chance to look the person who grew my tomatoes or raised my eggs directly in the eye. I suppose it's possible they'd try to cheat me, harm me even, by spiking their feed or their soil with toxic chemicals that might somehow temporarily enrich them while devastating me. But I doubt it. They have too much to lose -- not just money or business, but the actual human relationship with their customers that is as valuable to them as it is to us.

    Yes, I relish the delicious quality of the locally grown, organic food I buy. But just as much, I savor the accountability and trust I have in the grower.

    Buy local. And look the grower in the eye when you do.

    EcoCentric Mom
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