Life

How Budget Jewelry Could Be Messing with Your Health

The problems with cadmium and how you can avoid this cheap filler metal

We've all heard of platinum, gold, and silver used for jewelry, right? Well, how about cadmium? We hate to break it to you, but this is definitely a metal that you'll want to hear more about, but not so you can be ahead of the next jewelry trend. Just the opposite actually. As a pretty cheap metal, it is often either added into jewelry pieces as filler or even used entirely to make pieces of jewelry. This hitchhiker makes jewelry more affordable, but really, shouldn't be used at all! Cadmium has got some pretty yucky health effects, but luckily with some savvy shopping knowledge, you'll be able to avoid this metal and any of its health harms.

What's the deal with cadmium showing up in jewelry?

Cadmium has some awesome properties as a metal. When it is added to other metals that are frequently used for jewelry (making it what is known as a metal alloy), it can increase the strength and durability of a piece of jewelry so it doesn't break as easily from the wear and tear of everyday life (2). Not to mention, cadmium is extremely cheap as far as metals go, and easy for industries to get their hands on (4). Because of this, cadmium is often found in children's jewelry, since using more expensive metals often makes the piece of children's jewelry a sky-high price (totally annoying for something that might get lost or forgotten after a couple rounds of play, right?) (2).

This isn't to say that it can't be found in adult jewelry. Cadmium has been found in jewelry from Ross, Nordstrom Rack and Papaya, in addition to Claire's and Limited Too (2,3). With so many great things about cadmium, it must have downside right? If you guessed yes, you're right, it does.

What should I be worried about?

In a nutshell, cadmium is not good for you! Even with very small amounts it can cause some pretty concerning health effects (1). Some health effects that scientists know for sure that are caused by cadmium are kidney, bone and lung damage (1). If you're exposed to cadmium for a long time (i.e. you've been wearing the same necklace for 10 years), it can cause cancer and harm to your reproductive system (2,4). Recently, there has been new research coming out that suggests that exposure to cadmium might even have some endocrine-disrupting effects (a.k.a. messing up the way your hormones are supposed to work in your body) (1).

If we know it's dangerous, why is it used in jewelry at all? Well, the problem is that since most states don't have regulations on cadmium usage in jewelry (with the exception of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, although it seems like there is little to no enforcement), we don't know which pieces of jewelry contain cadmium and which ones don't. The Center for Environmental Health found that in the pieces they tested from Ross, Nordstrom Rack, and the other stores mentioned above, many of the pieces were over 90 percent cadmium (2), so there's no way of knowing what you're getting!

How can we be exposed?

Since the negative health effects of cadmium generally requires chronic exposure, wearing jewelry is really a perfect route for exposure, since many people wear some sort of jewelry piece every day (2). Children are exposed to cadmium when they suck, chew, or even swallow jewelry (2). Another concern is that some will be absorbed through the skin. But by far, the biggest worry is for children, who might accidentally swallow small bits of cadmium when wearing or playing with jewelry (3). This is especially problematic since children absorb cadmium more easily than adults, and their organs are also smaller, meaning the organs get more easily overwhelmed by the amount of cadmium than compared to adult organs (1). For adults, the concern is mainly over dermal exposure, since they are way less likely to gnaw on a necklace (3).

If we can't tell what's in our jewelry, how can we stay away from cadmium?

There is not really a fool-proof method, but scientists recommend not purchasing jewelry that is cheap (3). Most likely, these pieces have cadmium added in order to lower the price point (3). What does this mean for you?

  • Think quality over quantity. We recommend investing in pieces that are more versatile and can be worn with multiple outfits. And hey, added bonus, you're doing the earth a favor too, by being more sustainable!
  • For children, look into alternatives to metal jewelry. Wooden or silicone beads and twine make for an excellent art day, and ensure that children have a beautiful necklace or bracelet to wear that doesn't contain cadmium. They will also be pretty excited when they get to say they made their own jewelry.
  • If you're worried about a piece of jewelry you have, The Center for Environmental Health can test pieces for you. They offer free testing of items for lead and cadmium by appointment or mail-in.

Hey, jewelry making companies might be trying to keep their prices down by using cadmium, but now you're all set to make safer and more informed decisions the next time you go jewelry shopping!

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002210/
  2. https://www.ceh.org/campaigns/legal-action/previous-work/fashion-accessories/cadmium-in-jewelry/
  3. https://nypost.com/2018/10/11/jewelry-with-toxic-chemicals-found-on-retail-shelves/
https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp.asp?id=48&tid=15

If you've read our pantry packaging materials article, you'll know that all packaging is not created equally. Traditional food packaging like plastic and cans can contain harmful chemicals like BPA, phthalates, or PFAS. That's why we recommend glass containers, cartons (like Tetra Paks), or paper whenever possible. And it's easier than you think to find pantry staples packaged in these materials!

Take beans, for example. Up until recently, you could basically only find beans in cans with BPA lining. Now they come in a wide variety of packaging, including Tetra Paks and glass jars! Our roundup features brands that are widely available; you'll have no problems finding these products in your local supermarket! And most of these brands carry many different kinds of beans! Jovial., for example, has organic chickpeas, cannellini, kidney, and borlotti beans in jars. Your pantry is about to get a major upgrade!

a) 365 Organic/Whole Foods

b) Jack's Quality

c) Inspired Organics

d) Randall

e) MaiaOrganic

f) Jovial


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Roundups

Non-Toxic Body Lotion Roundup

Stay moisturized without feeling sticky, slippery, or like you're covered in chemicals with these natural lotion options

Colder weather is coming, which means so is dry skin. Ugh! Usually we'd just grab whatever is on sale at the drugstore, but all body lotion is not created equal. In fact, traditional body lotions can contains some harmful chemicals that could be absorbed through your skin. Many lotions also contain petroleum products, which is something we also like to steer clear of. That's why we did the research and found you the best non-toxic body moisturizers and lotions that are well reviewed and readily available.

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Life

Your Summer Guide to Water Safety

How to Promote Fun and Prevent Drowning

Summer has arrived! Cue the backyard BBQs, ice cream sandwiches (or DIY popsicles), and Will Smith jams. During long, hot days, water activities are basically a necessity for creating fun memories and staying cool. Unfortunately, water-related accidents are a leading cause of injury and death for young children (4). So to keep things fun this summer, let's talk about drowning prevention.

Drowning happens in seconds and often quietly (1,3). Permanent disability can result even when drowning isn't fatal (3), since any prolonged oxygen disruption injures our brains. Though it can happen to anyone, drowning is the second most common cause of death for 1-4 year olds (3). Almost 90% of these incidents occur in home pools and hot tubs5,6 (and anything that collects water, even buckets, poses a risk) (3). To keep the children in your life safe and cool, here are 5 water safety tips as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, CDC, National Safety Council, Pool Safely, and Red Cross.

1. Kids' water activities require close supervision at all times

Most drowning incidents occur unsupervised when adults briefly step away or become distracted (4). For this reason, children need vigilant supervision by a designated adult whenever they're around water (4). We can appreciate a relaxing poolside novel or margarita, but the responsible adult/Water Watcher (7) needs to be completely free of alcohol impairment and any distractions (not even Insta). Consider water supervision to be like your greatest Netflix binge – your attention is totally focused, and you don't want to miss a thing. For young children the guiding principle is "touch supervision"– being within arm's reach at all times (3). 5-9 year olds are more likely to drown at public pools (4), so designate a supervising adult even when lifeguards are present (3).

2. Modest safety measures make a massive difference

Physical safety measures are imperative, especially when delightfully curious and unintentionally stealthy toddlers attempt to swim without you! Installing the right type of fence can reduce drowning risk by over 80% – 4-sided pool fences (completely isolating the pool) are far more effective than 3-sided property line fences (3). The safest fences measure at least 4 feet high, prevent climbing, and have self-latching, self-closing gates (3,7). Door alarms and rigid pool covers are also preventive, though their effectiveness is less studied (1). Always check that the pool you use has intact anti-entrapment drain covers (mandated by federal law) to prevent suction-related accidents (7). For portable pools, check out this specific safety guidance.

3. Life jackets are way better than floaties

Sadly those super cute floaty wings aren't designed for safety, according to the CDC, and should not replace life jackets (3) (on the upside, this means less flimsy plastic!). Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacketwhenever near water (1,9). And, regardless of swimming ability, all children need USCG-approved life jackets if playing around lakes or the ocean (2). Life jackets are only effective if they fit well, so check the weight and size limits before using (9). Remember that nothing replaces close supervision! (To help start your life jacket search, we tracked down a more eco-friendly option.)

4. Teach children swimming and water safety

Learning to swim is crucial for water safety. We all benefit from learning how to swim, and swimming lessons can prevent drowning in 1-4 year olds (3). It's never too early (or too late!) to learn – YMCA and community centers often provide affordable lessons for all ages. (We get that communal activities are probably not your jam with the current Covid-19 situation, but, at some point, formal swim lessons could be a fun family activity.) Knowing how to swim does not make us "drown proof" though, so we still need to exercise caution with kids of any swimming ability (1). Teaching children not to climb over pool fences, swim without an adult, or play near pool drains is also crucial for preventing drowning incidents (7).

5. Assess surroundings and swimming ability

Being aware of location-specific water dangers and knowing a swimmer's ability can help discern which activities are safe. Every water activity presents an assortment of fun and risk. Case in point: sprinklers are a simple joy but also an understated toe hazard (been there…). Oceans, rivers, and lakes offer wilder adventure yet can even prove dangerous for expert swimmers – rip currents are an infamous threat in oceans, and lakes and rivers can have undertows (6). Older children and adolescents are more likely to drown in these natural bodies of water (3). Since alcohol can impair your ability to assess surroundings and react appropriately, avoid drinking while swimming or supervising others (7).

Prevention first, but CPR can still save lives

We hope you'll never ever need to use CPR...ever. Prevention with the above measures can massively reduce drowning risk for everyone, but CPR is invaluable during a drowning incident and can improve the likelihood of the drowning victim's survival (3). The American Heart Association provides in-person Family and Friends CPR courses, as well as socially distanced, at-home instruction with Family and Friends CPR DVD or Adult/Child CPR training kits (includes a training manikin and DVD – fun for the whole family!).

With safe water play, we know your summer days will be full of adventure and excitement. Have fun!


References

1. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2019/03/15/drowning031519

2. https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/drowning/

3. https://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html

4. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/2020-Submersion-Report-4-29-20.pdf

5. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/pdfs/blk_media_SafetyBarrierGuidelinesResPools.pdf

6. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/drowning

7. https://www.poolsafely.gov/parents/safety-tips/

8.https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/drowning-prevention-and-facts.html

9.https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/swim-safety.html

Roundups

Non-Toxic Infant and Convertible Car Seats

Keep your little one safe and secure in flame retardant free and PFAS free car seats

Updated for 2020!

If there's only one thing you absolutely need before your baby is born, it's a car seat. Everything else on your registry (except maybe diapers) can come later! Car seats are an absolute necessity for keeping your little one safe while you're on the road, from the first car ride home and on. Most kiddos actually end up spending a lot more time in car seat other than just for rides. Many kids end up napping and snacking in them. Unfortunately, most car seats contain flame retardants and forever chemicals called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.) The good news is that car seat makers can meet the required flammability safety standards without using chemical flame retardants and car seat covers can be removable and washable for when messes happen. There are great flame retardant free and PFAS free infant car seats and convertible car seats. We outline all the options and why they are important for you.

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Family

Non-Toxic Bassinets and Cosleepers

All well-reviewed and safe for your newborn to sleep in all night (or day) long

Updated for 2020!

*whispers* The baby's asleep! *silent celebrating* And, while the baby is snoozing away, you can actually eat some food and shower. While getting the baby to sleep can be a bit of a headache, figuring out where you will be gently laying them down in the first few months once they are asleep shouldn't be. So, we did all of the hair pulling research to narrow it down to a selection of 8 non-toxic bassinets and cosleepers that parents and experts agree are great options. Without further ado, here are the top picks.

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Non-Toxic Baby Shampoo

Safe, gentle, and perfect for bath time

Updated for 2020!

Bath time is different in every household, but one this is the same - you gotta wash all that delicate baby hair without them throwing a fit or crying. It has to be gentle, but still strong enough to get any wild strained peas and mashed sweet potatoes out. Look no further. We reviewed all the databases and reviews to find the best baby shampoo options that are widely available, loved by parents and babies alike, and do their job without any harsh chemicals or exorbitant prices.

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Food

What's the Healthiest Sparkling Water?

We're hooked on flavored sparkling water.... But what are we really drinking?

Let's be real: sometimes we reach for sparkling water to make everyday life feel just a little bit swankier. We also do it for our health. For those of us who struggle with drinking enough water, it's refreshing bubbles and flavors are an enjoyable incentive to hydrate. And since sweetened beverages, like traditional sodas, contribute to chronic conditions like diabetes (1), sparkling water offers a satisfying CDC-recommended substitute for sugary drinks (2). Sparkling water is basically H2O with jazz hands, so there's no way it can be bad, right? As it turns out, there are a few things to watch out for. We're diving deep with sparkling water to help support your health and environment (and your bubble habit).

Let's Talk About Natural and Artificial Flavors...

You've probably seen common ingredients like fruit juice, natural flavors, or artificial flavors in your favorite fizzy water brands. Fruit juice is pretty self-explanatory, but what do we know about the rest?

Natural flavors. According to the FDA, a natural flavor must come from non-synthetic source, such as spices, fruits or vegetables (3). However, the rest of the solution carrying the flavor may still contain synthetic additives as preservatives or solvents (which just means substances used to dissolve other things). These additives like propylene glycol are considered "Generally Recognized as Safe" by the FDA, and some like ethyl formate form naturally in plants (5). But safety studies are ongoing for some of these approved chemicals. For example, recent research has shown methyl paraben acts as an endocrine disruptor in mice and contributes to obesity (6). Organic products have higher standards for natural flavors – the National Organic Program only allows natural flavors if "not produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservatives" (7). Organic flavors must be used in organic products if commercially available (7) and comply with USDA organic regulations – including that 95% of the flavor must be certified organic (8).

Artificial flavors. Yep, you guessed it – unlike natural flavors, artificial flavors need not derive directly from natural sources like those listed above (3). Instead they are chemically synthesized. This doesn't actually mean that the main flavor's chemical structure differs from that of the natural flavor. As University of Minnesota food science professor Gary Reineccius explains, "there is little substantive difference in the chemical compositions of natural and artificial flavorings…the distinction in flavorings comes from the source of these identical chemicals" (9). But the kicker again comes from the additional synthetic chemicals allowed to accompany the flavor. Some of these originally occur in nature (such as butyl phenylacetate, found in fruits), while others are totally synthetic and potentially problematic (like phenylethyl benzoate, which is "toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.")

Bonus round: what is "naturally essenced"? This is its own category used in particular by LaCroix products. Its true meaning is still unknown, as LaCroix has not disclosed this information publicly. What we do know, according to their website, is that "all LaCroix flavors are derived from the natural essence oils extracted from the named fruit...there are no sugars or artificial ingredients." Furthermore, Business Insider clarifies that "essence is created by heating items such as fruit and vegetable skins, rinds, and remnants at high temperatures, producing vapors. These vapors are condensed and then sold by the barrel."

Bottom line: though natural and artificial flavors are chemically similar, they both come with long lists of potential additives that may be detrimental to our health and environment . When in doubt, stick with what you know is good – like real fruit juice – or opt for brands with organic ingredients and flavors.

How to Sparkle from the Inside Out

Sparkling water containers matter just as much for our health and environment as the inside ingredients. The lining of aluminium cans contain BPA and similar chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors with the potential to cause hormonal and reproductive harm. While these chemicals are less likely to leach into beverages like sparkling water than more acidic beverages, we don't like to make a habit of drinking from cans. Sparkling water beverages also often come in plastic. Microplastics can also end up with your bubbles – a study in 2018 showed that microplastics contaminated 93% of plastic water bottles (10). The research world is still seeking to understand the health implications of microplastics, but given what we already know, we say it's better to play it safe and avoid plastic bottles as much as possible in the meantime. Reducing plastic use is even more important for environmental health now that international governments have stopped buying recycling products from the US (cities in the US are throwing away formerly recyclable types of plastic because they can't afford to recycle, as reported by The Atlantic). Your choice of carbonated beverage is that much better for our health and environment when it doesn't come with plastic!

Simple Solutions for Keeping Your Sparkle Alive

1) Choose glass over plastic containers if buying carbonated beverages from the store

2) Check out the ingredients of your current brands and *gasp* consider trying a new one (we know you're dying for a new pandemic adventure). Try brands with fruit juice flavoring (Iike Spindrift) or organic natural flavors to be extra safe in avoiding sneaky synthetic additives.

3) Consider DIY! You can easily make your own sparkling water at home and have total control over what goes in it, including water quality and flavor choice. SodaStream's Aqua Fizz water carbonating machine uses glass bottles. Or if you're on a budget, consider a more basic model and transfer your newly carbonated water over to glass carafes for storage, or just quickly consume it (not a problem for us!). They also have organic flavoring options and a carbon dioxide cylinder exchange program to reduce waste. You could also experiment with adding your own fruit juice flavor concoctions – the possibilities are endless.

Stay fizzy, my friends.


Resources:

(1)https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/sugar-sweetened-beverages-intake.html

(2)https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html

(3)https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=20a79c9179f3c43d5b514f5f13c06d7b&mc=true&node=se21.2.101_122&rgn=div8

(4)https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=c3057692e430edc601fcb3e3352fed1c&mc=true&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title21/21cfr184_main_02.tpl

(5)https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=e5c407d421f852bcf58b25fd5c700a4d&mc=true&node=se21.3.184_11295&rgn=div8

(6) https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s13679-017-0240-4.pdf

(7)https://ota.com/sites/default/files/indexed_files/OrganicFlavorsPracticalGuidance_OrganicTradeAssociation.pdf

(8)https://www.qai-inc.com/media/docs/qai_guide_for_natural_flavors_in_organic_products.pdf

(9) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-difference-be-2002-07-29/

(10)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6141690/

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