Science

Here’s the Deal with Heavy Metals

… and nope, we aren't talking Metallica, Megadeath or Black Sabbath

While we love a good jam sesh every now and again, over at Because Health when we talk heavy metal, we're getting our periodic tables out, pulling on the lab coats, and talking about elements like arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium. Although these are naturally occurring elements, scientists have learned that they can cause some pretty negative health effects.

Side note, not all metals are bad for humans. In fact, there are even some that we need in order to stay healthy, like iron, zinc, and magnesium. So, just because it sounds like a metal it doesn't mean it's dangerous. You just have to be careful about some of them. But have no fear, we lay out the big names to stay away from here.


Arsenic

Arsenic is common in the world. It's kind of just around, but it is also found in water, food, and pressure treated wood. It can get into water sources from naturally being found in soil. It can get into food from both the soil and the water applied to the crops as they grow. It is important to limit how often we come into contact with arsenic because, in large enough concentrations, or small, repeated doses over time, arsenic is poisonous.

One of the most common sources of arsenic for the general public, and especially people with a gluten intolerance and young children, is rice. Often young children and those avoiding gluten eat more rice, or products made with rice, than the average individual. While eating rice even a few times a week isn't something to worry about, eating large amounts of rice (like for multiple meals a day) can lead to higher arsenic levels. Trying a variety of different grains, like quinoa, oats, farro, and amaranth is a great way to limit the amount of arsenic coming from rice in your diet. Apple seeds are also known to have higher levels of arsenic. We recommend you just don't eat those (they don't taste very good anyway), but the rest of the apple is perfectly safe.

In terms of pressure-treated wood, if you have furniture or a deck made of pressure-treated wood, we recommend sealing it on a regular basis to keep the wood from releasing arsenic as you come into contact with it. While arsenic-treated wood for residential use was phased out in 2004, this is still important to think about if you have older outside furniture. Also, never use pressure-treated wood if you are building a fire. If you are touching the wood, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly when you are finished.

Finally, if you get your water from a well, test the water often for arsenic levels, and if needed, use bottled water or a filter that removes arsenic.

Mercury

This is more well known, but mercury can have some pretty serious health effects as a neurotoxin, especially for developing babies and children. There are a few forms of mercury (elemental, organic, and inorganic), all of which can cause problems when they get introduced to human systems. The most common ways people are exposed to mercury are through accidentally being exposed to it in broken products that contain mercury, through dust as coal is burned for energy and heat, and, most commonly, through eating fish and shellfish. The bigger the fish, the more likely it is to have higher levels of mercury because it often starts in small fish and as bigger fish eat the smaller fish the bigger fish collect larger amounts of mercury. This is true for humans, too. As you eat fish that contain mercury, that mercury builds up in your body over time. This is called bioaccumulation, meaning that little amounts add up to bigger amounts in your body over time. The best way to avoid mercury is to check guides for the best fish choices and to carefully dispose of batteries, very old thermometers, and CFL light bulbs, which also may contain mercury.

Lead

There's been some news about this one lately, so you've probably got some idea how ingesting lead can be not so great. Lead can cause reproductive problems, cardiovascular disease, learning disabilities, and diminished kidney function. Because of this, and its well documented dangers for children, the CDC has determined that there is no safe level of lead, meaning you always want to avoid it.

Lead had many common uses like in old paint and pipes, which is why we still have to worry about finding it in homes even though it's not allowed to be used in those products any more. A long time ago it was also added to gasoline for cars, so it has ended up as pollution and settled in the soil across the country. These are only some of the uses. It can also be found in artificial turf, cosmetics, and pottery glaze. We have a whole article on some easy way to avoid it in your home, but the three easiest tips are to always use cold water when cooking or drinking, wash your hands and your kids hands after playing outside in the dirt, and get a doormat to wipe your shoes on as you walk in the house, or better yet, have a no shoes in the house rule. All of these things can dramatically lower the amount of lead you come into contact with on a regular basis, and take little to no effort to change.

Cadmium

Cadmium, like everything else on this list, occurs naturally in the world. People most commonly come in contact with it through the food that we eat, or through cigarette smoke. Although, it is also found in some paint, rechargeable batteries, and in children's jewelry.

Cadmium ends up in food because it is absorbed by plants as they grow. This isn't a large concern for people in the US because cadmium levels are relatively low here, but in other countries, like Japan, this is a bigger concern. The biggest concern in the US is for people who smoke because tobacco plants are very good at absorbing cadmium, and the cadmium is transferred to the smoke as the cigarette burns. Which is just another reason to quit smoking.

There is also some worry for people who work in mines or with paints or soldering equipment. In those cases, the workers have a higher chance of inhaling cadmium, which can lead to kidney problems.

Cadmium has different health effects depending on how a person is exposed and how much cadmium they have in their body. The good news is, if it's only small amounts over long period of time, our bodies can work to remove the cadmium. If it's more cadmium than that, longer term effects can include learning disabilities, kidney problems, lung problems, and cancer.

The best way to limit your contact with cadmium is to quit smoking, and not allow smoking in your home. Additionally, be careful with reusable batteries, especially around kids, and watch out for costume jewelry. Other than that, the risks are relatively low unless your job exposes you to cadmium or you live near a factory that releases cadmium.

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

Want an easy way to live healthier?
Sign up for our newsletter! Curated environmental health news delivered to your inbox every three weeks.
By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.
/ SOCIAL
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!

Keep Reading Show Less
popular

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!

Want an easy way to live healthier?
Sign up for our newsletter! Curated environmental health news delivered to your inbox every three weeks.
By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.
/ SOCIAL