About Us

About Us

Because Health is a non-profit environmental health site, bringing 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 is the Director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. 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. karen@becausehealth.org





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.

stephanie@healthandenvironment.org




Contributors



Andrew Hill

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

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

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 project of Commonweal, a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Bolinas, CA, and dedicated to spreading awareness of environmental health issues"

Please refer to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Our Favorite Non-Toxic Water Bottles

We can't get enough of these stylish and functional bottles!

One small perk of 2020 was that we spent a lot of time outside. Shelter in place and social distancing meant countless hikes, walks around the neighborhood, and picnics with our households. And no matter what, we always had our trusty reusable water bottle by our side! Reusable water bottles are great for both the planet and your own health. You probably already know why plastic bottled water isn't so great, which is why we're all about glass and stainless steel. Both materials will keep your water tasting fresh without leeching harmful chemicals into your drink. Looking for a new reusable water bottle but don't know where to start? Check out our top picks below!


a) Takeya Black Originals Vacuum-Insulated Stainless-Steel Water Bottle

b) Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel Singel Wall Non-Insulated Water Bottle with Sport Cap

c) Hydro Flask Water Bottle - Standard Mouth Flex Lid

d) Contigo Purity Glass Water Bottle

e) Ello Pure Glass Water Bottle with Silicone Sleeve

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Life

Our Resolutions for 2021

A healthier you and a healthier planet

Goodbye 2020, hello 2021! We feel like this year will be a good one. We wanted to start the year off right right by making some non-toxic resolutions. Why not challenge ourselves to do something thats good for ourselves and good for the planet?


Our director Karen wants to reduce her spending and buy less stuff. Which could be hard with two kids, but she's up for the challenge!


Comms associate Stephanie wants to switch to more non-toxic cleaning products! The pandemic has shown just how important cleaning is, so the more safer cleaning products, the better!


Like Stephanie, our program manager Hannah's resolution also focuses on cleaning. She wants to keep pushing for safer disinfectants to be used in schools.


Freelancer Erica wants to walk instead of drive when she has errands to run in her neighborhood.


Freelancer Veronica wants to ditch her car whenever possible so she can exercise more!


In order to avoid needless Amazon deliveries, freelancer Andrew will buy new books from a secondhand bookstore and donate his old books to the library!

It's the most wonderful time of the year... to do some baking! We love getting creative in the kitchen during the holiday season, but a lot of baking essentials can be made from harmful materials like plastic or contain artificial colors or flavors. That's why we created a non toxic baking holiday baking roundup! Each item is made from safe materials like ceramic, wood, and steel so you can create some sweet treats without worry!



a) Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons and Cups
b) Supernatural Into the Woods Sprinkles
c) India Tree All Natural Nature's Colors Decorating Sugar Variety Set
d) Ann Clark Cookie Cutters 11-Piece Winter Christmas Cookie Cutter Set
e) Farberware Classic Wood Rolling Pin, 17.75-Inch, Natural
f) STAUB Olivewood Spatula, 12", Wood Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish
g) AmazonBasics Silicone, Non-Stick, Food Safe Baking Mat - Pack of 2
h) TeamFar Baking Sheet Cookie Sheet Set of 2
i) Food Colors Variety Pack by Supernatural
j) Nordic Ware Starry Night Cookie Stamps
k) If You Care Unbleached Paper Snack Bags
l) India Tree Food Coloring

Food

Everything You Need to Know About Natural Wine

The tasty alternative to conventional wine

Whether you're relaxing at the end of a stressful day, toasting the New Years, or eating a picnic brunch, chances are there's wine involved! Wine is our go-to alcoholic beverage because it's so versatile and delicious. But conventional winemaking often relies on pesticides and additives to produce a bottle of vino. That's where natural wine comes in. Natural wine has gone from a small, underground trend to a pretty big deal. With widespread availability in restaurants, shops, and wineries, natural wine is here to stay. But with so many terms like natural, organic, biodynamic, the whole natural wine world can be a bit confusing, so here's a simple guide on what you need to know.

What is Natural Wine?

There are some pretty big differences between natural wine and the usual wine you'd find in a grocery store. Conventional wine making relies on many different external factors to produce a bottle of wine. To start, vineyards are often sprayed with dozens of harmful chemicals like Glyphosate to keep pests and weeds away. After harvesting grapes, wine makers can then add ingredients to the grapes in order to control the manufacturing process-- additional yeast to help with fermentation, sulfur dioxide to reduce oxidation and prevent bacteria from growing, or artificial ingredients to improve a flavor profile or color of the wine (1). Even though approximately 60 additives have been approved for winemaking use, an ingredient list is not required on wine bottles (2). It's hard to believe that additives like egg whites, mega purple, bentonite, and sulfur dioxide make their way into your happy hour glass (5)!

Natural wine, on the other hand, aims to "add nothing and take nothing away" during the wine making process (3). This means no pesticides are used in the vineyards and the grapes ferment on their own with naturally occurring yeasts after being hand picked. Sometimes winemakers have to add a minute amount of sulfur dioxide or yeast to correct a manufacturing problem (3), but in general they don't rely on additives when making natural wine. In fact, they try to be as hands off as possible! Natural wine often has some sediment in the bottom of the bottom, a cloudy appearance, or may have a complex taste.

One thing to note about natural wine- there's no universal standard of what "natural" wine means. This means it's usually up to each winemaker to figure out their best practices. Some countries have attempted to create their own definition of natural wine, but not everyone is on the same page. Take France, for example. Their national agricultural organization has recently formally recognized a two-tried definition for natural wine, but many winemakers have pushed back against the government's definition. To make things more complicated, the European Union doesn't even allow the term on wine labels (6)!

Even though there are complexities surrounding the definition of natural wine, we still think it's worth checking out. Knowing that the wine you're drinking is basically additive-free really gives us peace of mind. And the unique flavors of natural wine means every bottle is it's own adventure!

How are Organic and Biodynamic Wines Different From Natural Wines?

Wine variety doesn't stop at natural! Organic, biodynamic, and vegan are three other types of wine available to consumers. Vegan wine doesn't use animal products, but can still use pesticides or other additives during production. Even though organic wine can be confused with natural wine, they're actually two different things. And to make things more complex, organic can actually mean two different things in winemaking: wine made from organically grown grapes or wine that's organic (4). Wine made from organically grown grapes means that there are no pesticides used during the growing process but, more often than not, still contain additives. Wine that's organic is made from organically grown grapes that don't use pesticides during the growing process, and also doesn't contain added sulfites. There's a lot of information to keep track of! When in doubt, just look for a USDA organic label or the phrase "100% organic" on a wine bottle. Wine must pass a rigorous five-step process in order to be USDA certified as organic and follow strict labelling guidelines, so you can be confident that the wine you're buying is the real deal (7, 8)!

Biodynamic vineyards, on the other hand, relies on a "holistic, living farm" (4) practice that incorporates a specific astronomical calendar to create their wine. Biodynamic farmers incorporate the climate, organic material, wildlife, water recycling, and natural pest-avoidance methods into their practices to both grow grapes and wine (4). Biodynamic wine also has principles and standards for how grapes are processed and made into wine. The Demeter certification process for biodynamic wine can actually be tougher than the organic certification process! It has stricter requirements on "imported fertility, greater emphasis on on-farm solutions for disease, pest, and weed control, and in depth specifications around water conservation and biodiversity (4)". But you still frequently see biodynamic wine labeled as organic because biodynamic farms pretty much use organic practices.

There's basically a whole new world of natural, organic, and biodynamic to discover! Although many of these winemaking techniques are hundreds of years old, so maybe we're just on a path of rediscovery? Either way, we're loving it. The next time you find yourself wandering down the wine aisle looking for something new, why not pick up a bottle of natural wine (or two)? You can purchase natural wine from many online retailers, including Dry Farm Wines, Primalwine, Plonk Wine Club or The Natural Wine Shoppe. Some of your local wine shops might even specialize in natural wine! Even if they don't, local wine shops might still carry some stock or be able to source a few bottles for you. Just ask!


References

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/dining/drinks/natural-wines-vin-methode-nature.html
  2. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/6/10/18650601/natural-wine-sulfites-organic
  3. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/12/466284145/what-the-heck-is-natural-wine-heres-a-taste
  4. https://www.demeter-usa.org/downloads/Demeter-Farm-Standard.pdf
  5. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=e616cf652c2a16d768ed4c4873ad2cb0&rgn=div8&view=text&node=27:1.0.1.1.19.12.343.7&idno=27
  6. https://www.winemag.com/2020/05/19/natural-wine-definition-france/
  7. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/01/08/organic-101-organic-wine
  8. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NOP%20Wine%20with%20organic%20references.pdf
Life

Artificial or Real Christmas Tree? What's better for you and the environment.

What toxic chemicals are in artificial Christmas trees and tips for how to stay safe

Artificial Christmas trees are becoming increasingly popular for families. They're seen as being convenient since they don't shed needles and can be reused year after year. Some even come with lights already on them! But is the convenience of artificial Christmas trees worth it? We break down the science and the pros and cons of artificial Christmas trees and farm grown real Christmas trees to help you have a healthy and sustainable Christmas!

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Non-Toxic and Sustainable 2020 Gift Guide for Kids

Here's the key to finding a perfect non-toxic gift for kids of all ages!

The holidays are right around the corner, which means we're on the hunt for cool and unique gifts! That's why we've put together gift guides for everyone on your list. Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun gifts for kids? Look no further!


non-toxic and sustainable 2020 gift guide for kids

Non-Toxic and Sustainable Gifts for Kids

$: Under $50

Toysmith Beetle and Bee Paint a Bird Base, Backyard Birdhouse Kit

Welcome birds into your backyard with a fun eco-friendly project that kids will love doing. We also love that this company uses FSC certified wood.

Green Toys Dump Truck

This dump truck with some gravel or dirt gets non-stop play at our house. It's always a favorite in the sandbox too. It's super durable, yet light enough to take to the playground. Green Toys are made from recycled plastic milk containers, and contain no BPA, pthatlates, or PVC.

Oli and Carol, FLO the Floatie Natural Rubber Duckie

A rubber duckie is a favorite bath toy for a reason, but synthetic rubber is full of yucky chemicals like phthtalates. That's why we love this natural rubber version. Bubble baths just got a lot more fun!

Ocean Bingo

Beautifully illustrated twist on traditional bingo. This is a fun way to learn about ocean creatures that brings the family together. It's a simple game, but one that your family can play over and over again.

Tegu 8 Piece Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set

This is the perfect first building set for younger kids that will still be fun years later. We love how portable this is and can be thrown in the diaper bag for on the go fun and entertainment. Not only is the wood sustainably source, but Tegu employs local workers in Honduras and pays them a living wage. Now these are blocks we can get behind.

Kids Organic Apron + Cookbook for Young Chefs

Cooking is a great way for kids to explore new foods and flavors and get excited about healthy eating. This organic apron and the award winning Cookbook for Young Chefs is the perfect starter gift set to get any kid started in the kitchen.

Elly Lu Cupcake the Unicorn

Elly Lu makes extremely cute organic stuffies that we love. There is also a really cute book that goes along with the stuffed animal that helps the stuffed animal come to life. The cloth is OCS Certified Organic Cotton and filled with a recycled polyfill made from recycled water bottles. They also have narwhals, tigers, elephants and more!

Green Tones Glockenspiel

This is a top quality cute glockenspiel with beautiful crisp sounds. It's made from eco-friendly rubberwood and the clever designs mean that kids don't take the bars on and off. That's less cleaning up for parents!

Tender Leaf Toy Espresso Machine

If it's your dream to have your kids make your cup of coffee in the morning, this wooden espresso machine is great for pretend play. It's eco-friendly and quality made and is the perfect gift for a budding barista.

$ $: Between $50-100

Keva Contraptions Plank Set

Made from solid pine, KEVA Contraptions are a fantastic building and engineering toy for older kids. This set includes 200 wooden planks that can be used to build scaffolding, ramps, paths, and much more. Kids will have so much fun making their own Rube Goldberg machine in their living rooms.

Manners&Co TableTalk Conversation Cards

Use this set of 135 cards to spark meaningful conversations with kids at the dinner table or in the car. It's a great way to get even the most reticent little ones (and partners) thinking and talking. There's a good variety of topics that can be revisited time and time again.

Hape Scientific Workbench

A fun and quality workbench that will inspire kids to experiment and tinker. This set includes contains everything children as young as four need to conduct over 15 experiments and learn basic scientific principles. Made of FSC certified wood like all Hape toys.

Poppie Toys Rattan Doll Crib

This beautiful doll crib is made from sustainably sourced rattan and cotton. It is a heirloom piece that will inspire hours of pretend open-ended play. The fact that it's beautiful enough to fit in with your decor is just a bonus.

$ $ $ : Over $100

Origial Wobbel Board

This quality balance board promotes balance and creativity. The board can be used a bridge, boat, and anything else they can imagine! This board is made with European FSC beech wood and even adults will have fun with it.

LL Bean Kids Pull Sled

A heirloom quality pull sled for the littlest snow explorers. We love that it's beautiful enough to function as holiday decor when it's not in use. We also love that it's not plastic, which inevitably cracks and breaks and contributes to our plastic pollution problem.

The holidays are right around the corner, which means we're on the hunt for cool and unique gifts! That's why we've put together gift guides for everyone on your list. Looking for non-toxic, sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun gifts for her? Look no further!


non-toxic and sustainable 2020 gift guide for her

Non-Toxic and Sustainable Gifts for Her

$: Under $50

Aya Paper Co Retro Thank You Card Set

Hand written notes will never go out of style and this is the perfect time to reach out and connect with friends and family. These thank you cards from Aya Paper Co are printed with 100% non toxic toner on 100% PCW Recycled, PCF chlorine free paper.

Captain Blankenship Dry Shampoo Powder

No bad hair days here! Captain Blankenship Dry Shampoo Powder will keep your hair looking refreshed even when you don't have time (or motivation!) to shower. The aluminum free baking soda, organic arrowroot and kaolin clay will absorb oil without leaving any residue or nasty chemicals in your hair.

Olio E Osso Natural Lip and Cheek Balm

This Natural Lip & Cheek Balm from Olio E Osso is about to be your next makeup obsession. This multitasker comes in numerous shades (we're a big fan of Tea Rose), gives a natural glow, and is made with safe ingredients.

Skin Gym Rose Quartz

Self care gets a major upgrade with this Rose Quartz Facial Roller from Skin Gym. Natural rose quartz will help de-puff your skin and create a radiant glow. Plus it just feels good, which is good enough of a reason for us.

Herbivore Coconut Milk Bath Soak

Bring the spa to you with Herbivore's Natural Coconut Milk Bath Soak. This luxurious bath soak only contains 4 ingredients and will leave your skin soft and hydrated. This is just what you need for the perfect Friday night in.

Grown Alchemist Intensive Hand Cream

Grown Alchemist Soothing Hand Cream is perfect for hands ravaged by harsh hand sanitizer and constant hand washing. Instead of petroleum products and harsh preservatives, this hand cream has aloe vera and cactus flower extract help to relieve dry skin and keep hands moisturized.

$ $: Between $50-100

Jungmaven Jung Tee

On the hunt for the perfect t-shirt? Look no further! The Jung Tee's relaxed fit makes it perfect for any occasion. Plus, it's made from 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton! We increasingly are into hemp because it's a natural material that requires almost no pesticides, irrigation, or fertilizer to grow.

Hydro Flask Water bottle with straw lid

Hydration meets style! This Hydro Flask stainless steel water bottle is super durable and comes in a bunch of fun colors. We love the straw lid and find ourselves drinking way more water this way.

Raaka Organic Chocolate Gift Subscription

This 3 Month Gift Subscription to Raaka Chocolate is a total crowd-pleaser. Who doesn't love chocolate?! And Raaka's transparent trade policy and quality organic ingredients made this treat a no brainer.

Coyuchi Organic Waffle Robe

Stay cozy during those long winter days in this GOTS certified, organic cotton robe from Coyuchi. We guarantee it's the first thing you'll reach for in the morning and the last thing you'll have on before going to sleep.

$ $ $: Over $100

Sea Bag Mariner Stripe Tote

This cute Red Mariner Stripe Tote from Sea Bags will hold all your essentials and look good doing it. Handmade from recycled sail, this tote is the perfect work bag... even if you're just commuting to your home office!

Dry Farm Wine 6 Bottle Gift Box

Want to try natural wine but don't know where to start? Then a Dry Farm Wine gift box is perfect! It's a great introduction to organic, biodynamic, wild yeast, and more. This curated mix of reds and whites is lab-tested and delicious!

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