Food

5 Tips for a Non-Toxic BBQ

Because it's grilling season

Getting ready for that summer BBQ? They are super fun, delicious, and a great way to cook and socialize at the same time. We have some suggestions that will still let you party it up with a BBQ, while keeping everyone safe from unnecessarily hanging out with some chemicals, too.


1) Trim Fat and Clean the Grill

First off, think about the actual grill. Because it's an open flame, grills can create some smoke. And, while that can, at times, be the point, directly breathing in smoke usually isn't the best idea, especially for children and people with asthma. There are some things you can do to make your grilling a little less smokey, though. If possible, using a gas grill helps a bit, but if you have a charcoal grill (or prefer that), cut off excess fat to lower the amount of dripping and risk for flare-ups (1). Also, cleaning your grill to remove the charred, stuck-on bits before you cook is good for reducing smoke. And in general, a clean grill is better for you. It's suggested that you brush or scrape your grill every time you use it, and then do a deep cleaning a few times a year, depending on how often you use it.

2) Marinate, Marinate, Marinate

Now let's get to the actual food and BBQing. Overcooking (or burning) the food raises the amount of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and HCAs (heterocyclic amines) on the food (2). These chemicals are what people talk about when they say that grilling food can make it more likely to cause cancer. But, hang on, we have good news. You don't have to stop grilling. You can dramatically lower the amount of PAHs and HCAs by marinating your meat before grilling it. It doesn't have to be marinated for a very long time (even 5 minutes makes a huge difference, reducing PAH and HCA by as much as 92%), but the longer you marinate, the more flavorful the meat will be. Some research has shown that marinades with acid or oil are better than ones high in sugar (3). Additionally, tossing in some basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, or marjoram helps to reduce HCA levels because of their antioxidant properties. Easy peasy, and delicious (4).

3) Use Real Plates or Napkins

After you are done wonderfully cooking your food, you don't want to taint it by putting the piping hot food on plates that could leach chemicals onto the food. Usually BBQs or cookouts are known for using plastic or paper plates for easy cleaning up. But, plastic plates can transfer some harmful chemicals to the food, and so can paper plates if they are lined with an oil- or water-resistant coating. That magical water- and oil-proof property is often from chemicals known as PFAS, which easily gets onto the food items that it touches and takes years to break down, both in your body and in the environment. The best option would be to use real ceramic plates or some of these safe outdoor dishes that you can wash after the party, or unlined paper or bamboo plates that are completely compostable. Hey, if you are really going all out, why not just use napkins and create less trash over all. Who really needs a plate for a hotdog anyway?

4) Use Non-Toxic Sunscreen and Inspect Repellant

While this is less to do with the food, sunscreen and insect repellant are often popular for outdoor summertime events. While both have some pretty good benefits, like keeping you from getting burnt or covered in bites that can lead to various illnesses, some sunscreens and insect repellents contain pretty nasty chemicals. A good option is to wear long sleeve, lightweight shirts and pants that would protect you from both insects and sun. If that's just not seeming like an option for you, check out our roundup of safer sunscreen products. When it comes to bug repellant, that is more difficult and using a product with DEET, Picaridin, or IR3535 might still be your best bet. Some do find that oil of lemon eucalyptus (which is a particular active ingredient, different from lemon eucalyptus oil), can also be effective. You can read more about that over at EWG.

5) Limit Plastic Decorations and Toys

The last tip relates to the decorations and activities at your BBQ. We recommend avoiding plastic and opting for reusable decorations when you can. Read more about ideas for throwing a party with less plastic. For items that are more common at a BBQ party near water, try games like corn hole (made of wood) or sharks and minnows as opposed to beach balls. If you are more the type that likes to float around in the water, consider pool noodles instead of rafts and things. While slightly less instagramable or T-Swift inspired, foam noodles are safer than the plastic floats which are almost always made of PVC (which contains phthalates). Get creative for fun ways to play that don't require plastic toys.


References

1) Hall, McKenzie. Reduce your exposure to toxins from grilled meats. Chicago Tribune. July 2, 2014.

2) Chung SY, Yettella RR et al. Effects of grilling and roasting on the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in beef and pork. Food Chemistry. Volume 129, Issue 4, 15 December 2011, Pages 1420-1426.

3) Farhadian A, Abas F et al. Effects of marinating on the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene and fluoranthene) in grilled beef meat. Food Control. 28(2):420–425, December 2012.

          4) Riches, Derrick. Healthy Grilling. The Spruce. April 4, 2017. Accessed April 11, 2018.
          Food

          Protect Your Body Against Toxic Chemicals With These Seven Food Items

          Bonus: You probably already have some of these in your kitchen

          Remember when your grandma talked about food being its own form of medicine? Well, we're here to tell you that she was right (yes, grandma is always right). Now, eating these foods isn't going to turn you into a superhero overnight, but it will certainly help your body protect itself from toxic chemicals found in the environment. For some of these items, we recommend buying organic if possible (you don't want to be ingesting more chemicals when you could be avoiding them!).

          • Berries: We're talking strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and even boysenberries. Berries are high in antioxidants which are particularly effective in reversing acrylamide toxicity (1). Acrylamide is a chemical produced during high-temperature cooking (think frying or baking), but can harm your reproductive system and mess up your liver, lymph and bone marrow DNA (1). Studies have shown that mice fed with diets containing berries saw a significant recovery in their sperm counts, activity rate, and an increase in the number of healthy sperm (1).
          • Cauliflower, Broccoli and all the cruciferous vegetables: If roasted brussels sprouts are your favorite veggie, you're in luck! Cruciferous veggies like broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts all contain a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a phytochemical with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties (2). These properties make sulforaphane-containing vegetables an ideal food to eat to prevent cadmium toxicity (2). Sulforaphane helps cells recover from and prevents cell death after exposure to cadmium (2). We really think sulforaphane is spectacular!
          • Olive oil: Olive oil isn't just delicious drizzled over pasta and salads, it's also great for decreasing the effect of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on the body (3). Even though PCBs were banned in the 1970s, they are slow to degrade and still persist in the environment (4). PCBs are carcinogenic and also harm the nervous and immune system (4). However, studies have shown that a diet containing olive oil decreases inflammation associated with PCB exposure (3).
          • Grapes: Grapes are high in resveratrol, a polyphenol that can reduce toxicity from exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) (3). As an antioxidant, resveratrol helps decrease oxidative stress (basically cell damage) caused by TCDD (3). Delicious when frozen or nibbled on with cheese, the resveratrol in grapes can also decrease PCB toxicity and protect against the development of type 2 diabetes, which is often associated with exposure to PCBs (3). This is also totally a reason to drink more wine, right?
          • Green tea: Green tea drinkers, rejoice! Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the active component of green tea and can decrease the cardiovascular inflammation and toxicity that comes from arsenic exposure (3). This drink also packs a one-two punch, as it's also protective against PCB toxicity by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation of cells (3).
          • Spinach: Strawberry and spinach salad anyone? Aside from being insanely delicious, spinach can actually increase the excretion of arsenic from the body. One compound found in spinach, folate, is necessary to complete the excretion process of arsenic from the body (5).
          • Orange Juice: If the word glyphosate sounds familiar to you, it's probably because it's one of the most common herbicides used in farming (7). Glyphosate is categorized by the World Health Organization as a likely carcinogen (6). Lucky for you, organic juice can actually be protective against glyphosate toxicity (7). Mice given orange juice after exposure to glyphosate were shown to have decreased liver, kidney and DNA damage compared to mice not given orange juice (7).

          Don't forget to stock up on these fruits and vegetables the next time you're at the grocery store! They can be used in so many different recipes or simply eaten by themselves. Who knew protecting your health could be so tasty?!

          References

          1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1750-3841.12815
          2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11356-018-1228-7
          3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5503778/
          4. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=26
          5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5503778/
          6. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/4/950
          7. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306140395_The_protective_effect_of_orange_juice_on_Glyphosate_toxicity_in_adult_male_mice
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          Roundups

          7 Non-Toxic Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheet Options

          To keep those clean clothes fluffy and dry without the unnecessary chemicals

          Updated for 2019!

          You know when you are doing laundry and everything comes out of the dryer all warm and fluffy and smelling amazing and you just fall asleep in a pile of clean clothes on the couch? Nope, just us? Oh well. While that might not be a common practice, throwing in a dryer sheet or adding a splash of fabric softener is pretty common. But, have you ever wondered how one of those rather small dryer sheets works to get rid of the static for a whole load of laundry? Well, the answer often comes from many added chemicals. Next time you are doing a load of laundry (with some safe laundry detergent), check out one of these option instead. They will keep your clothes looking good without the potentially dangerous chemicals. All of the ones we recommend are widely available, have positive reviews, and have been checked for safety from a third party.


          a) Ecover Fabric Softener b) Method Dryer Sheets in Beach Sage c) Kintor Wool Dryer Balls d) Attitude Fabric Softener e) The Honest Company Dryer Cloths f) Attitude Reusable Static Eliminator and Softener g) Seventh Generation Natural Fabric Softener Sheets


          We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

          *Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

          Life

          Is Washing Your Favorite Sweater Contributing to Plastic Pollution?

          Machine washing your clothes is an unexpected culprit of microplastic pollution

          Each year, around 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean from coastal countries. That amount of plastic is the equivalent of about 40,000 blue whales (1)! Microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5mm in length) are a big part of the plastic pollution problem (2). It's estimated that approximately 50 trillion pieces of microplastics are currently polluting the ocean (3). These tiny particles also make up roughly 94% of the Great Pacific Trash vortex, which is the largest collection of floating trash in the world (4). And surprisingly, laundry is a significant contributor to ocean microplastics.

          How is washing your clothes polluting the ocean and what can you do to stop it? Keep reading for everything you need to know about microplastics and how doing your laundry may impact the planet.

          What Are Microplastics?

          Microplastics are either manufactured for primary use as exfoliating beads used in skincare or small machinery parts, or can be a result of the breakdown of other materials like large plastic water bottles or synthetic textiles (2). Microfibers, the microplastics that are in synthetic materials, are a big part of the problem. They make up roughly 35% of the microplastic found in marine ecosystems (5). Machine washing synthetic materials is one of the biggest ways microfibers get into the water supply (6). Washing machines and synthetic materials are a bad combination because friction from the spinning laundry drum causes synthetic materials to shed microfibers into the water, which are eventually drained back into the pipes. Since the fibers are so small, up to 40% pass through sewage treatment plants unfiltered and end up draining into the rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans that are connected to our water supply (7).

          Even though synthetic materials are a big problem, they're almost impossible to avoid. Today, about two-thirds of textiles used in clothing are synthetic because it makes clothing cheaper to manufacture. If you check the tag on your shirt right now, you'd probably see a popular synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, or nylon. A study in the UK found that nearly half a million microfibers are released in just one load of polyester clothing (8).

          Environmental Impact of Microplastics

          One of the biggest problems with plastic pollution is that it basically never goes away. Rather than chemically degrading, plastic tends to physically break up into smaller and smaller pieces. These microplastics continuously accumulate in the environments all over the world, from the peaks of the Pyrenees to the intestines of fish caught in the Great Lakes (9, 10). These materials are not only extremely harmful to the wildlife and ecosystems they are invading, but have potentially dangerous consequences for human health as well. Microplastics can get into drinking water, and are also often accidentally ingested by fish which pollutes our food supply. When ingested, microplastics can cause inflammation, gut blockages, growth and hormone disruption (11). Additionally, microplastics absorb other toxic chemicals and assist in their distribution.

          What You Can Do

          The impacts microplastics are having on marine and human health seem to grow by the day. Luckily, there are easy ways to limit microfiber shedding from your laundry!

          1. Adjust your laundry settings - avoiding delicate cycles that use high water volumes and washing with colder water are not only more water and cost efficient but help release fewer microfibers per wash!
          2. Use less detergent, and do not use bleach! The soapy liquid causes more fibers to be leached out.
          3. Fill up your machine and avoid washing things bulky items like shoes with synthetic fabrics - anything that increases friction will increase microfiber release
          4. If you have the option, use a front loading washing machine! They require less water and less vigorous washing for the same cleanliness.
          5. Consider getting a laundry bag. These bags are designed to catch microfibers so they cannot get into the water supply.
          6. Purchase clothing made of natural materials like cotton or linen - these materials don't shed any microfibers and are often softer, more breathable, and last longer!


          References

          1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/plastic-pollution/
          2. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html
          3. https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/plastic-pollution/plastic-pollution-facts-figures/
          4. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/
          5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30368178
          6. https://www.plasticoceanproject.org/microfiber-pollution-project.html
          7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27689236
          8. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40498292
          9. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/20/microfibers-plastic-pollution-oceans-patagonia-synthetic-clothes-microbeads
          10. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2199455-pristine-mountains-are-being-littered-with-microplastics-from-the-air/
          11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971834049X?via%3Dihub
          12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31460752
          13. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.est.7b01750
          14. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.6b03045
          15. https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/bills-and-best-practices-for-microfiber-pollution-solutions
          popular

          Is Your Tea Bag Made with Plastic?

          Silky pyramids, plastic sealed bags, and what brands are actually fully compostable

          Whether you like to pretend you are British all the time, or just have a cold, chances are you are making that cup of tea with a conveniently packaged tea bag. While tea bags are great (and basically everywhere) there's something you should know about that innocent tea bag. Many of them use plastic to keep them sealed shut. Nope, not just on the wrapper the tea bag actually comes in, but the bag itself. The idea of a plastic soaking in boiling hot water just does not sound cozy to us. But thankfully, there are some easy changes you can make if you feel the same way we do.

          Keep Reading Show Less
          Roundups

          8 Non-Toxic Bath Toys

          Rub-a-dub-dub, safe toys in the tub

          Make bath time extra fun with our non-toxic bath toy roundup! Lots of traditional toys (including that famous yellow rubber ducky) contain BPA, phthalates, or PVC. We knew there were better toy options out there, so we searched high and low to bring you the safest options! We tried to go for toys made from materials like natural rubber or silicone, but a few are made from safer plastic. We also looked for materials that wouldn't mold so these toys can be used again and again! These products also do not contain BPA, phthalates or PVC.



          a) Oli and Carol Origami boat b) Marcus and Marcus Squirting Bath Toy c) Ubbi Squeeze and Switch Silicone Bath Toys d) Hevea Kawan Duck e) Green Toys ferry boat f) Plan Toys sailing boat g) Caaoocho whale h) Fat Brains Squigz


          *Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

          Family

          Keep Your Baby Safe From Chemicals While Teething

          What to look for and easy DIY alternatives!

          A teething baby can simultaneously be exciting and stressful. Your baby is growing up! But there's lots of drool and crying. Teethers are an essential tool for dealing with new teeth, but not all teethers are created equally.

          Problems with Teethers

          No matter where you shop, it's hard to avoid seeing plastic teethers. Plastic seems like a good material for teethers because it's flexible and can withstand being chilled in the freezer, but many teethers are made from petroleum-based plastic, vinyl, or latex. We know plastics and vinyl can contain harmful phthalates, parabens, bisphenols, and other endocrine-disrupting compounds. A few studies have found that these chemicals can actually leach out of teethers (1)(2). We definitely don't want our babies chewing on something like that! Even a teether labeled "BPA-free" shouldn't be considered to be safe.

          Buying a Safe Alternative

          Luckily, there are a lot of safer alternatives on the market. Food-grade silicone is pretty widely available already, and it continues to grow in popularity. Silicone is a super durable material and can withstand lots of chewing and drool! Plus, it's easy to clean and can often be thrown into the dishwasher.

          Teethers made from wood are another great option. It's hard to get more natural than wood! It's also naturally antibacterial, so you don't have to worry as much if the teether gets dropped on the floor. Wood teethers can come in all shapes and sizes, from fun animal cut outs to wooden beads you can string together. We prefer wood that hasn't been painted or treated with any weird stains, but make sure the surface is smooth! You can condition the wood with natural ingredients like beeswax, coconut oil, or olive olive.

          DIY Teething Hacks



          If you're feeling crafty or just want to give your credit card a break, there are awesome DIY teethers you can create without having to leave your home.

          1. Take a damp washcloth, twist it into a rope, and let freeze in the freezer
          2. Freeze or cool a bagel. Make sure your baby can sit upright for this teether
          3. Take a spoon and store in the fridge until cool (don't put this one in the freezer!)
          4. Create your own homemade popsicles! Check out our popsicle ideas for inspiration

          References

          1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.6b04128
          2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jat.3159
          Roundups

          10 Non-Toxic Makeup Removers

          Safeguard your skin while removing the toughest waterproof mascara

          There is nothing better than taking off your makeup at the end of a long day. Sometimes it's the favorite part of our evening! But lots of makeup removers contain harsh chemicals that aren't great for your skin or your health. That's why we rounded up our top 10 favorite non-toxic makeup removers! We know there are different preferences for makeup removers, which is why we included 5 wipes and 5 liquids. These products have been vetted by us and will remove the toughest of waterproof mascaras!


          a) Aromatica Natural coconut Cleansing Oil b)Beauty by Earth Makeup Remover c) NARS makeup removing water d) the body shop waterproof eye makeup remover e) Klorane Floral Water Makeup remover with soothing cornflower f) C'est Moi Gentle Makeup Remover Cleansing Wipes g) RMS Beauty The Ultimate Makeup Remover Wipe h) Beautycounter One-Step Makeup Remover Wipes i) Brandless Facial Wipes j) Honest Beauty Makeup Remover Wipes


          We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

          *Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

          Want an easy way to live healthier?
          Sign up for our newsletter! Curated environmental health news delivered to your inbox every three weeks.
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