About Us

About Us

In January 2022, Because Health merged with the non-profit, the Center for Environmental Health. CEH is a 25-year-old non-profit based in Oakland, CA, leading the nationwide effort to protect people from toxic chemicals. Like us, they believe that our air, water, food, and consumer products should be free of harmful and untested chemicals.

From 2018-2022, Because Health was a non-profit environmental health site that was a part of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment and founded by Karen Wang, PhD, MSc. Because Health brings you everything you need to know about how the places we live, work, and play impact our health. Through a combination of science-based tips, guides, and expert advice, it's our mission to show people simple ways to create a healthier future for themselves and their communities.

This is a site for people who care about their wellness and health, and recognize that pollution of our air, water, and soil, toxic chemicals in our products, and other environmental risks like climate change, are just as important as working out and eating right. We do the research, read the reports, interview the experts, find the safe products, and make it interesting so that you can live your best life. We are a place for real people, who don't have time to DIY everything, but want to make informed choices and advocate for the things they care about, because health.


Mission

To improve individual and collective health by sharing knowledge, providing resources, and building a young community around a shared concern for how environmental risks can impact health.

Vision

A world where all people live free from environmental risks that harm human health

Values

We embrace what's practical, celebrate everyone's imperfections, accept trade-offs, and always strive to be relatable. Everything we do is positive, actionable, science-based, bite-sized, and approachable.



Staff

Karen Wang, PhD, MSc

Karen knows how confusing environmental health can be. She's a mom, and when she was pregnant and trying to find out what "natural" and "healthy" really mean, it was easy to get overwhelmed. That's why she started Because Health. She wanted a source that is based on science and not the latest fads, and that makes the connection between wellness and the environment.

Karen is the editor-in-chief for Because Health content and was the former Director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. She also consults on healthy and sustainable building and construction through Inhabit Well. Karen completed her PhD in Strategic Management, a quantitative social science discipline grounded in applied economics and social psychology, at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. Karen also holds a MSc in Earth Systems and a BA in Economics from Stanford University.

Favorite Because Health Routine: Starting the day by filling up reusable water bottles for myself, my hubby, and my kid.

Email: becausehealth@ceh.org


Contributors



Stephanie Brinker, MPH

Stephanie is a big fan of environmental health and social media, so being the Because Health marketing and communications associate Is a perfect fit. Her goal is to make information about environmental health as accessible as possible. She graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health with a concentration in environmental health science.

Prior to Because Health she focused on developing climate change and health events, including the Global Climate and Health Forum, an official side event at the 2017 UN Conference on Climate Change (COP23). She's also worked for UCSF and the Center for Environmental Health.


Andrew Hill, MPH

Andy has a passion for communicating important science and impactful medical research to others. He has been working in medical communications for 5+ years. He is an active person who loves de-stressing with basketball or tennis. Andy graduated from The George Washington University's Milken Institute of Public Health with a focus in epidemiology. His published master's thesis centered on agriculture practices within India and their effects on chronic myeloid leukemia incidence. Andy wants to spread passion for science to every person he can, no matter what their educational background.

Danielle Ramos, MPH

Danielle is a public health professional with expertise in environmental health, mental health, and health communication. She currently serves as a health communications lead on both the American Public Health Association Children's Environmental Health Committee and the International Society for Children's Health and the Environment. She recently completed a post-graduate fellowship with the U.S. EPA, where she worked on improving health communication efforts related to protecting children from toxic chemicals. Danielle received her Master's in Public Health and Master's in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

Danielle's favorite Because Health routine is buying organic foods whenever and wherever possible, especially for food those foods that contain the most pesticides.




El'Gin Avila, MPH

El'gin is a Ph.D. student in the Environmental Health Science division housed within the School of Public Health. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, his experiences have shaped his approach to public health. His research interests in health disparities in environmental and occupational health stem from his experiences and knowledge of environmental and social injustices throughout history. He immerses himself in work focusing on vulnerable populations engaging in precarious work. Currently, he is working with faculty to develop a study on gig economy workers (i.e. delivery and transportations services) and their safety perceptions of their work. He joined the MPC officially as a Population Studies Predoctoral Trainee in 2019.




Emma Zang-Schwartz, MPH

Emma is a gladiator for health education. She helped launch Because Health and knows what it means to live and breathe these environmental health tips. She now works as an account executive at SciMentum helping larger healthcare companies educate others about their products. She graduated from the Mailman School of Public health at Columbia University where she focused on health education and helping people learn to become agents of change. She also worked with Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind Sesame Street, specifically focusing on providing water, sanitation, and hygiene lessons to children and teaching them how to share those messages with their families and friends. No matter the age or content, she is excited about getting people amped about simple swaps they can make that will have a great impact on their health and the health of the people around them, be it through their Insta feed or IRL.

Favorite Because Health Routine: Packing all the snacks in jars and reusable bags because #adulting is hard, and I don't want to get hangry at work



Erica Chung, MPH

Erica is a bake-a-holic and a former Because Health intern. She just finished her MPH at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, specializing in environmental health sciences. Her days of translating scientific literature from her previous jobs aren't over, but this time, they're for extremely relevant topics such as climate and health, and which nail polishes are least toxic for you. She brings her expertise in toxicology and climate to Because Health. Erica is excited to be at Because Health because all articles written are grounded in scientific research, but still fun and informative to read and put inspiration for a healthier lifestyle right at your fingertips.

Favorite Because Health Routine: Swapping out plastic cups for mason jars at parties, because who doesn't like to amp up the cuteness factor by 10000x.



Lizzy Ranheim, MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner

Lizzy is a self-proclaimed science nerd, outdoor enthusiast and sourdough baker. Lizzy completed her Nurse Practitioner training at Vanderbilt University and has since spent time working, traveling, and camping across the country. She also holds a BA in Human Biology (with a concentration in Global Health and Infectious Disease) from Stanford University and thinks microbes are awesome. Lizzy loves learning about the interconnectedness of health and environment, and she's passionate about finding scientifically grounded ways to prevent disease, promote wholeness, and restore ecosystems. She's excited to share her enthusiasm and encourage tangible, positive changes with Because Health.

Favorite Because Health Routine: hoarding (cute) re-usable containers and cotton produce bags to stock up on grocery goodies



Katie Gao, MPH

Katie is a recent MPH graduate of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health with a focus in Environmental Health Sciences and a certificate in Molecular Epidemiology. She is passionate about public health/global health and environmental sustainability/climate change mitigation/sustainable development and the interaction between both fields. Ultimately, she thinks that health and the environment are interrelated and that just as the environment impacts humans and human health, humans also impact the environment and its health.

In addition to her passion for public health and the environment, she enjoys cooking, taking long walks, singing, and playing with her kittens. If you can't find her lounging around at home, she's either out for a socially-distanced walk, grocery shopping for food, or exploring national parks nearby with family.


Valerie Gallardo-Buenrostro

Valerie Gallardo is a huge health advocate, from fitness to mental health to environmental toxins. She received her BA in Medical Anthropology with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice from theUniversity of California, Berkeley (UCB). She is currently working towards an MPH with a concentration on community health and her future plans are to pursue an MD in Neurology. She is a firm believer in the dissemination of educational health material. She currently holds positions within the Center forIntegrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment (CIRCLE) at UCB and the WesternStates Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (WSPEHSU) at UCSF, where her work focuses on research translation, community outreach and website development. She is happy to join Because Health to share her knowledge in environmental health toxins and children's health, among other topics of interest, in an easy-to-read, friendly and positive manner. On her spare time, she enjoys cuddling withTubby (her pet cat), reading, running, photography, blogging and practicing self-care.




1% for the Planet

We are proud to say that we are a 1% for the Planet non-profit partner. Learn more about the 1% for the Planet movement.


Because Health is a part of the Center for Environmental Health, a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Oakland, CA.

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We all want our homes to be a safe haven for ourselves and the ones we love.

The single easiest thing you can do for a safer home is to take your shoes off at the door. If you're already doing it, congratulations! If you're not, you can start today and science shows it makes a difference!

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Roundups

Non-Toxic Target College Dorm Picks

Everything you need to make a dorm feel like home!

Starting college is so exciting for so many reasons! A new school, new friends, and new adventures are just a few weeks away. If you're going to be living in a dorm room, you've probably already started thinking about decor and living essentials. That's why we picked out some of our favorite non-toxic dorm room essentials from Target! Our picks are made from safe materials like glass, stainless steel, and organic cotton. Each cotton item is also made with OEKO-TEX guidelines, which means it's been independently tested and certified against a list of over 350 harmful chemicals.


Organic Cotton Sheet Set

Getting a good night's sleep is a crucial part of any school routine. These 400 thread count cotton sheets will have you catching ZZZs in no time! We love that they're pill and shrink resistant, and made to strict Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX guidelines.

Organic Bath Towel

This soft, organic cotton bath towel is Made in Green by OEKO-TEX and will help any dorm shower feel a little more like home.

Chunky Knit Bed Blanket

This chunky knit blanket will add some serious cozy vibes to any dorm room! It's Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® certified and comes in a ton of cute colors.

Seventh Generation Easy Dose Laundry Detergent

This ultra-concentrated laundry detergent will keep your clothes fresh and clean without harmful chemicals found in traditional laundry detergents.

Biokleen Stain and Odor Remover

If you're a workout aficionado with lots of athletic clothes, or if you just have a neglected pile of dirty clothes in the corner of your room, this stain and odor remover is perfect for you. It gets rid of those tough, lingering odors safely and naturally without the use of harsh chemicals.

Everspring Dryer Balls

Dryer sheets can be full of harsh chemicals, which is why we love wool dryer balls instead! These dryer balls will keep your clothes static free!

Grove Co. Multi-Purpose Cleaner Concentrates

Even a dorm room needs some TLC every now and then! Clean hard surfaces with this multi-surface cleaner from Grove Co. This streak-free cleaner will effectively remove dirt, grime, and residue leftover from that late night study session or post-finals party.

Lysol Power and Free Multi-Purpose Citrus Sparkle Cleaner Spray

Sometimes you needed a heavy-duty cleaner. We get it. That's why this Lysol hydrogen peroxide all-purpose cleaner is perfect for life's bigger messes. This product has an EPS design for environmental certified disinfectant, which means it was reviewed for both human health and environmental health, so you don't have to compromise on safety.

Ello Meal Prep Food Storage Container Set

That dorm room mini fridge was basically invented for leftovers. Keep your food fresh in these Ello food storage containers. Since they're made from glass instead of plastic, you can use them in the microwave without having to worry about harmful chemicals leeching into your food. Bonus: they're dishwasher safe!

Brita 20oz Premium Double-Wall Stainless Steel Insulated Filtered Water Bottle

Students do a lot of walking while on campus, so make sure to stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle! This insulated Brita stainless steel bottle will keep your water cool even on the hottest days. Bonus: It has a built in filter to keep your water pure and delicious.

Bodum Goose Neck 27oz Electric Water Kettle

You don't need a kitchen to enjoy a kettle! This compact glass kettle is perfect for dorm snacks like hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.

Klean Kanteen 12oz TKWide Insulated Stainless Steel with Café Cap

This stainless steel travel mug by Klean Kanteen is the perfect mug to toss in your backpack while you're on the go! It's spill and leak proof lid means you can enjoy your beverage on the go in any situation!

Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap

Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap is a multi-use concentrate. Great as a body wash or even a shampoo or detergent. Its highly concentrated and made with great ingredients to ensure you get a bang for your buck and peace of mind.

Schmidt's Charcoal + Magnesium Aluminum-Free Natural Deodorant Stick

Aluminium-free deodorant is where its at! Stay fresh and free of unnecessary harmful chemicals.

Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream

Keep that skin moisturized and toxic-free with this rich cream. Perfect for dry weather.

Stasher Reusable Silicone Food Storage Snack Bag

Great for taking a snack to lecture or for a weekend adventure, these Stasher snack bags are the answer to a useful plastic bags without all the waste and plastic made from harmful materials.

Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap

This dish soap will cut through grease and leave your dishes shiny and spotless without all the unnecessary harmful chemicals.

Life

Everything You Need to Know About Artificial Turf

And why natural grass is a safer, eco-friendly, and healthier alternative

Have you ever been at your kid's soccer game and wondered if artificial turf is safe for them to play, snack, and lie on? What about those small black bits of infill that end up in every nook and cranny of your home or car?

Turns out that scientists are studying these same questions and artificial turf poses a number of health and environmental concerns. These include toxic chemicals in the artificial turf infill, artificial grass blades, and shock pad, as well as health concerns due to excessive heat. Environmental impacts of artificial turf include chemical runoff, microplastic pollution, and habitat loss. Is there a good alternative to artificial turf? Yes - just regular natural grass! Studies have shown that natural grass maintained with organic or sustainable practices provides a safer, practical, and affordable alternative for playing fields.

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Roundups

Non-Toxic School Lunch Packing Essentials

Get ready for school with these eco-friendly options

Packing lunches for school is a lot of work! We know from firsthand experience how hard it can be to pack something nutritious that your kids will actually eat. Plus if you're trying to reduce the amount of food packaging or plastic waste in your kid's lunch, it can just seem overwhelming. To make things easier, we rounded up our favorite non-toxic school lunch packing essentials. We included stainless steel lunchboxes, a hot food container, snack containers and bags, reusable food wrap, and a couple of cute and functional lunch bags. All of these items are free of lead, phthalates (commonly found in vinyl), BPA, and PFAS (Teflon-like chemicals). Check out these lunch packing essentials and get inspired to pack the best lunches ever.

a) Lunchbots Large Stainless Steel Lunch Container

Lunchbots is a great stainless steel bento container that will last for years. This one has 5 compartments for every type of lunch and snack combo you can come up with. You can get dip condiment containers that are leak proof that neatly fit inside. Lunchbots also has smaller containers for snacks that you should check out as well.

b) Planetbox Lunchbox

This stainless steel lunch box is easy for kids to open with a simple latch. The lunchbox comes with containers for wet foods and dips and you can buy extra dividers. The different compartments make it easy to pack a variety of foods. We love how it comes with magnets on the cover so that kids can customize the look. Planetbox also has an insulated carry bag, just make sure to pick one of the patterns that is made without a PFAS durable water repellent. Planetbox also has a smaller sized box for snacks or for little ones.

c) Bentgo Kids Stainless Steel

Bentgo is a favorite bento container that now comes in stainless steel! The silicone lining on the lid makes it leak resistant as and the latches make the container easy to open. It comes with 3 compartments and an extra silicone container.

d) Thermos Stainless Steel Insulated Food Jar

This container keeps food hot for 5 hours and is perfect for days when soup or mac n cheese are on the menu. The handle make it convenient to carry and helps kids open the top.

e) Stasher bags

Stasher bags are so popular for a reason! Say goodbye to single use plastic bags and say hello to a reusable food packing essential that comes in lots of fun colors. We particularly love the sandwich and snack sizes and use them daily.

f) Zip Top Snack Containers

These Zip Top container are as convenient to use as they are cute! We love how they sit flat and are easy to open for small hands. They are perfect for some sliced fruit or any loose snack.

g) Ukonserve Round Nesting Trio Stainless Steel Containers

These snack containers come with see through lids so that kids know what's inside. The are great for snacks, or use all three to pack a bento style lunch. They also nest for easy storage.

h) If you care Sandwich Bags

Sometimes you need a disposable sandwich or snack bag. No judgement! These If You Care unbleached sandwich bags are made of greaseproof, nonstick paper which is biodegradable, compostable, and microwave safe. Perfect for a cookie, sandwich, or other dry snack.

i) Bee's Wrap Reusable Food Wrap

Replace plastic wrap with this sustainable alternative. Bee's Wrap is made from GOTS Certified organic cotton, sustainably harvested beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. We love wrapping up snacks, sandwiches, and cut up fruits and veggies in these.

j) Fluf Lunch Bag

This organic cotton canvas lunch bag is fully machine washable! The interior is lined with a food safe water resistant lining (free of PFAS, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals) and has a pocket for a ice pack. The bag comes in so many cute prints and has a very durable canvas handle.

k) Fjallraven Kanken Mini Cooler

This well insulated lunch bag is made of durable, waxed fabric that is PFAS free! Bonus that the the fabric is made from recycled plastic. It comes in lots of cute colors and is sure to be a favorite for kids of all ages.

l) Petit Collage

A roomy insulated lunch box that is easy to wipe clean thanks to a biodegradable laminate made from sugar cane. It comes in several cute patterns and comes with a handle or a strap.

m) Ukonserve insulated lunch bag

This lunch bag is made from recycled plastic bottles and is free of PFAS, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals. It holds ups well to daily use and is roomy enough to pack a lunch plus snacks.

Family

The 3 Easiest Things You Can Do for a Non-Toxic Pregnancy

Some no brainer, healthier swaps for you and baby

First off, congrats! Feeling overwhelmed? Excited but nervous? Well, fear not! You have plenty of time to set up your nursery, nest a bit, and even think of some names. But right now, it's time to take care of yourself. At this point, that is the best way to take care of your baby.

We've narrowed it down to the 3 easiest changes you can make that will help you have a non-toxic pregnancy. We promise, they are relatively no brainer swaps that have been shown to impact the health of your growing baby. If you start now, these are all things you will want to do once the baby is born, so you'll have created some healthy habits.

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Roundups

Non-Toxic Paints for Your Nursery or Kids' Rooms

Baby safe and kid safe paints that are zero VOC and APE free

Painting and decorating a nursery is one of the best parts of waiting for a little one. Or adding a splash of color when making the transition from nursery to little kid room is also super fun. Whether you're painting just one accent wall, the entire room, or an unfinished pieces of furniture in just the perfect shade, it's important to pick a paint that not only looks good, but is baby and kid safe. Paint fumes and chemical additives can linger and baby's systems are especially vulnerable and sensitive. Luckily, there are safer paints on the market so that you can feel good about using them so close to where your little ones will sleep.

Best Practices While Painting

First things first- how to paint. Who paints a room and how the room is painted is super important in protecting your health. If you're currently pregnant, ask your partner or a friend to do the painting for you. You definitely don't need to be exposed to paint fumes while you're still growing a little person. You're doing enough as is! Also make sure there are no toddlers around while painting. Although having a little helper would be really cute, toddlers are in a critical developmental period and are especially susceptible to the negative effects of paint fumes. Plus you probably don't want anything with wet paint on it to become a messy toy!

It's also critical to ventilate as much as you can while painting. Have all windows and doors open and a fan running if possible. Even a box fan in the corner will help! When you're not using the paint (whether it's a small break or overnight), keep the lid sealed securely on the container. This will prevent emissions from escaping while the paint isn't in use.

What to Look for in a Safe Paint

Now that you know how to paint, which paint should you use? There are a ton of paints on the market right now that all boast different features. Who knew there were so many different paint finishes?! But here's what you really need to be on the lookout for:

  1. Zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are toxic gasses that are released from solids or liquids. Basically they are released when paint dries. You know, the weird new paint smell? Well VOCs can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat but repeated and long term exposure can cause cancer and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system (1). Also, the pigments added to paints can have VOCs, particularly darker pigments, so be on the lookout for paint with zero VOC colorants.
  2. Look for APE- free paints. Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) are a group of chemicals that are suspected endocrine disruptors (a.k.a these little guys mess up how hormones should normally work in the body) (2). You don't want those around babies or children or when you're breastfeeding. APE-free paint can be found easily, so just ask or look on the label.
  3. Avoid paints that are advertised as antimicrobial. Many paints contain a preservative to keep the paint fresh during storage, but paints that are advertised as antimicrobial may have other additives that are really just not necessary and there are no standards for efficacy (like does it actually kill harmful germs? And for how long?) It might sound good, but in reality they are also harmful to humans and don't do much (3).

Our Baby Safe and Kid Safe Paint Recommendations

Our recommendations will take the guesswork out of choosing a non-toxic paint brand, although you'll still have to pick the color! These paints are all zero VOCs and are free of APEs. In addition to the standard latex paints, we also included 2 options for milk paint, which are made from milk proteins and pigments. Milk paints are a bit more work to use, but are easy to use once you get the hang of it and you can create antique or smooth finishes. They are also great for painting furniture and decorations. No matter which paint brand you pick, you can feel safe about using them.

a) AFM Safecoat Zero VOC- This paint was designed specifically for those with allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitive. It comes in flat, pearl, eggshell, and semi-gloss finishes. Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, APE free, and contains no mildewcides and fungicides. All ingredients are disclosed and the paint is SCS certified for indoor advantage gold.

b) Benjamin Moore Eco Spec- Benjamin Moore recently stopped making their Natura paint, but their Eco Spec paint is very similar and available nationally. Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, and APE free. It is Green Seal 11 certified. It does contain isothiazolinone compounds to inhibit the growth of mold or mildew on the surface of the paint film.

c) Clare Paint- This paint come in specific designer curated colors, which can really help if you can't pick a color! Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, and the eggshell and semi-gloss paints are APE free. It is also Greenguard Gold certified. It does contain a mildewcide to inhibit the growth of mildew.

d) Lullaby paints or ECOS paints- ECOS paint, which also makes their Lullaby paint line is a great zero VOC paint, with zero VOC colorants, APE free, and contains no algicides, mildewcides, and rust inhibitors. They have a color catalogue or you they can color match any national brand. They have both a Declare label and a Health Product Declaration in which they disclose all ingredients. Declare labels are issued to products disclosing ingredient inventory, sourcing and end of life options. Health Product Declarations are third party verified and include the health impact of all product ingredients.

e) Sherwin Williams Harmony- A zero VOC paint, zero VOC colorant paint that is available nationally. The primer and flat finishes are APE free. The paints are also Greenguard Gold certified. It does contain anti-microbial agents that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on the paint surface.

f) Real Milk Paint- A natural paint option where the main ingredient is casein (milk protein). It comes as a powder that you mix it with water. The ingredients are casein (milk protein), calcium lime, natural pigment colors, and an edible plant based filler

g) Old Fashioned Milk Paint Farmhouse Finishes Safe Paint- This line of milk paint is formulated especially for painting walls. It comes as a powder that you mix with water. The ingredients are casein(milk protein), calcium hydroxide, chalk, clay, natural pigments, natural salts, and crystalline silica.

Updated for 2022!

Your little one deserves a crib that is both good looking and healthy. While we can't promise they will sleep through the night, we can promise that these cribs aren't covered in harsh chemicals or releasing large amounts of potentially dangerous fumes into your baby's room. We all want a nursery that will be a nurturing and loving place so that our babies can grow up strong and healthy. So we did our research and found all the highest rated cribs and then limited our picks to cribs that are GREENGUARD Gold certified, meaning they have been tested and meet stringent chemical and VOC emissions standards. That means your baby can sleep without fumes damaging their fragile lungs or irritating their eyes. And when your little one starts chewing on the rails, you can be rest assured that these paints and finishes are safe. We also included a non-toxic budget crib, which is a solid-wood choice from Ikea. While you are looking for a safe crib, you might also want to peruse our roundup of safe crib mattresses, to double down on the safest of safe sleeping places for your kiddos.

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