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Label Education: Furniture

Laying out what certifications to look for

Home isn't home without comfortable furniture. When it's time to find something new, we usually focus on what feels and looks good, and of course the price. But did you know that furniture can contain, and leak, various chemicals like flame retardants that aren't so good for us into your home? The good news is that there are more and more healthy options! You can read our article on choosing a healthy new couch.


When you get to considering individual pieces advertised as being "green" or "healthy," you'll probably come across various labels and certifications. Decoding them can be a bit of a maze. We've gathered all the important ones here so that you know what they mean and how to use them to find that perfect piece that you'll love.

Before you launch in, here's the quick dirty on the three general things to look out for: flame retardants, VOCs (volatile organic compounds, like formaldehyde) that leak into the air from various materials and contribute to poor air quality, and stain-resistance and waterproofing treatments.

1) Flame retardants

Thanks to a California flammability standard, TB 117-2013, furniture is commonly labeled with a tag containing the language below, which makes it easy to find pieces without chemical flame retardants. These still meet safety standards for flammability, so it's a win-win. There are also older tags that say TB 117 only, no year, and with no language on flame retardants. These are likely to contain flame retardants, so be sure to look for the TB 117-2013 tags, which always have the language below! Look for these tags under the cushions or on the bottom of the couch.

2) VOCs

These are generally found in synthetic materials, so there are two easy things you can do: 1) choose natural fillers like cotton, wool, or natural latex (this allows you to sidestep flame retardants too), and 2) choose solid wood over manufactured because the glues in things like particleboard and plywood are common sources of VOC emissions. If these aren't options for you, check out the certifications below to find the lowest-emitting synthetic products.

3) Stain-resistance and waterproofing treatments

These are pretty common, but can contain some not so good chemicals. It's worth asking retailers if they have any products that don't use them. If you find something that is untreated but are worried about cleaning stains, consider going with a darker or patterned material or getting a washable cover. The GOTS and Oeko-Tex certifications (details below) don't allow the use of these treatments (learn more about these PFAS chemicals).

Good luck. It might take a bit of time to find the perfect piece, but it's well worth it—for your comfort, your health, and the planet!

a) Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

What is it? Certifies the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading, and distribution of textiles, mattresses, and furniture components made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibers. There are two label grades: 1) "organic," over 95% organic fibers, and 2) "made with X% organic materials," 70-95% organic content. Read details on standards and search the product database (select Retailing or Mail Order).

Furniture Components Certified: upholstery fabrics, fiber-based fills, natural latex foam

Environmental Health: Many toxic chemical restrictions, including any chemicals linked with cancer, reproductive problems, genetic defects, or organ damage, or harm to the environment. This is a way to avoid upholstery treated with chemicals of concern including PFAS (stain resistance treatments) and flame retardants.

b) Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)

What is it? Certifies latex foam and foam-based products containing at least 95% organic latex, with chemical restrictions for both the latex and non-latex parts. Read details on the standard.

Furniture Components Certified: natural latex foam, entire pieces of furniture

Environmental Health: Emissions of total and specific VOCs are restricted. Use of certain toxic flame retardants and other chemicals are banned. Cotton fills and coverings must be certified by GOTS (see above) or Organic Content Standard-100 (see below). Synthetic latex and other synthetic foams are not permitted. Synthetic fabrics and fibers are permitted in interiors of products.

c) Oeko-Tex Standard 100

What is it? Certifies that textiles, mattresses, and furniture components do not contain or release certain harmful chemicals. Read details on chemical standards and search the product database.

Furniture Components Certified: upholstery fabrics, fabric-based fills, foam fills (natural and synthetic)

Environmental Health: Many toxic chemical restrictions, including limits on emissions of total and specific VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Synthetic foams are allowed as long as they meet the chemical restrictions.

d) GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold

What is it? Restricts emissions of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from a wide range of consumer and commercial products. There are two labels: 1) GREENGUARD and 2) GREENGUARD Gold (previously called Greenguard Children & Schools Certification). Search the product database and read more details on the standard.

Furniture Components Certified: entire pieces of furniture, fabrics and glues used in furniture

Environmental Health: Emissions of total and specific VOCs are restricted. Read details on the emissions limits. GREENGUARD Gold has stricter restrictions.

e) CertiPUR-US

What is it? Certifies that polyurethane foam in furniture and mattresses meet standards for chemical ingredients, emissions of VOCs, and durability. Read about the chemical restrictions and view a list of companies selling products containing certified foam (including but not limited to furniture).

Furniture Components Certified: polyurethane foam

Environmental Health: Requires that polyurethane foam be made without heavy metals and without certain types of phthalates and flame retardants. (This does not mean the products are completely free of potentially harmful phthalates or flame retardants.) Emissions of total and specific VOCs are restricted.

f) Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard

What is it? Product standard which provides designers and manufacturers with sustainability and social criteria across five quality categories (material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness), awarded at five levels. Also has requirements for continually improving what products are made of and how they are made. Range of certified products including clothing, home textiles, building supplies, furniture, and cleaners. Search the product database.

Furniture Components Certified: upholstery textiles, office furniture

Environmental Health: Chemicals that accumulate in the environment or can lead to irreversible negative health effects are banned. View the banned list of chemicals.

g) California Phase 2 Compliant, California 93120 Compliant for Formaldehyde

What is it? California Air Resources Board's standard for restricted formaldehyde emissions from composite (manufactured) wood products. Right now the standard is only being implemented in California, but labeled products can be found outside of CA as well. EPA is planning to implement a similar national standard at the end of 2018. Read details from CARB and EPA.

Furniture Components Certified: entire pieces of furniture, hardwood plywood, particleboard, medium density fiberboard

Environmental Health: Sets strict emissions restrictions for formaldehyde. There are additional provisions for no-added formaldehyde (NAF) and ultra-low emitting formaldehyde (ULEF), which may also be stated on products or product packaging.

h) Organic Content Standard

What is it? Assures presence and amount of organic content. OCS 100 is for products that contains 95% or more organic material. OCS blended is for products that contain 5% minimum of organic material blended with conventional or synthetic raw materials. View a list of companies certified to the organic standard.

Furniture components certified: upholstery fabrics, fiber-based fills like cotton, wool, hemp, and linen

Environmental Health: Verifies that final products contain the stated amount of organic material. Chemicals added to raw materials during manufacturing (dyes, finishes, etc.) are not addressed.

i) USDA Certified Organic

What is it? USDA seal verifies that agricultural products are grown and processed per organic standards. "Certified organic" means at least 95% of the ingredients are organic. "Made with organic" means 70-94% of ingredients are organic. Only "certified organic" products can bear the seal.

Furniture components certified: upholstery fabrics, fiber-based fills like cotton, wool, hemp, and linen

Environmental Health: Fiber materials must be grown and processed per USDA Organic standards for food, without use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. GOTS and GOLS (see above) both meet USDA Organic standards. Note that USDA Organic does not address toxic chemicals that may be found in the non-organic components.

Life

Buying holiday decorations? Here's what you should know

Don't let these chemicals ruin your holiday cheer

You may need to be careful rockin' around the Christmas tree this year! Why you ask? Well, there might be some unexpected chemicals in that holly jolly decoration above your head. Holiday decorations can bring great cheer, but sometimes they can contain an unwanted surprise. Some decorations may be made with toxic chemicals - keep a look out for the ones below!
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Life

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Tips to reduce your exposure to these hazardous chemicals

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. Because they can be reused, families tend to save money by choosing artificial trees over a real one. A study from the The American Christmas Tree Association (yes that is a real and reputable organization!) performed a life cycle analysis and found that one artificial tree that's reused for eight or more Christmases is more environmentally friendly than purchasing a real tree each year (1). The study also found that Christmas trees, both real and fake, accounted for a tiny part (< 0.1%) of a person's annual carbon footprint.

But are artificial Christmas trees as good for your health as they are for your wallet? The majority of artificial trees are made using a plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and lead, which is used to stabilize PVC (2). The lead in the trees break down over time and forms lead dust. These particles are released into the air and can cause health issues, especially in young children. Most people do not realize that artificial trees contain lead, and only California requires a lead warning label (2). It is estimated that there are 50 million households in the United States that own artificial trees with lead in them (3).

Don't panic! If you are an owner of an artificial Christmas tree made out of PVC, there are precautions you can take to reduce your family's exposure to lead.

  1. PVC releases more gases when it is first exposed to air. They also release gases as they degrade. A good way to reduce the amount of lead in your household is to take the tree out of the box and air it outside when you first purchase it (4).
  2. If you have used your artificial tree for many Christmases, you may want to consider purchasing a new one. PVC tends to weaken and degrade after nine years (4). Newer artificial trees do not leach as much lead as older ones.
  3. Light cords that come with your artifical tree are prone to have levels of lead that exceed the limit set by the EPA (4). It is recommended that you wash your hands immediately after touching light cords. And definitely don't let young children handle cords.

If you're currently tree-less and in the market for an artificial one, consider purchasing a tree made out of polyethylene. This plastic is safer than PVC and does not leach lead. Additionally, trees made out of polyethylene tend to be more durable than PVC trees.

While artificial PVC Christmas trees don't pose a high health risk overall to the general population, it's very possible for young children to have severe negative health effects (3). It's important to be aware of the health risks that go along with trees made out of PVC, and the ways to avoid lead exposure for yourself and your family this holiday season.


References

  1. https://www.christmastreeassociation.org/real-artificial-christmas-tree-environment/
  2. https://rtkenvironmental.com/lead/warning-hidden-health-hazard-artificial-christmas-trees/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15628192
  4. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19548208/do-christmas-trees-make-you-sick/
Sometimes it may feel like everywhere you turn, there's some sort of junk food being advertised—whether that's cupcakes or fries or deep fried things on a stick. And more than sometimes, you have a child begging you for a sweet treat or sugary drink. It can feel like a daunting task at times to encourage and foster healthy eating. While we know there are many factors that influence a child's food choices, here's one that you may not have thought of.
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Avoid These Stressful Ingredients the Next Time You Relax with a Bath Bomb

We don't need these chemicals messing with our #selfcare

December means it's time to start thinking about those stocking stuffers or Chanukah gifts for your loved ones. What's better than a bath bomb to relax and take in those sudsy, therapeutic fragrances? Bath bombs can also get your kids to bathe without putting up a fight. They're basically magic! But, have you stopped to think what else they are putting in those bombs to make those suds glisten and fizz?

What's in a Bath Bomb?

It turns out, there can be a whole range of questionable chemicals packed neatly into those appealing little bombs. It's hard to tell exactly what's in each bath bomb because the ingredients vary widely among manufacturers, but fragrances, artificial colors, boric acid, and glitter are some common ingredients.

Fragrance is never a welcome sight on the ingredient list. The FDA does not require companies to disclose ingredients used to make fragrances in products like bath bombs in order to protect company "trade secrets (1)." Many synthetic and natural fragrances also include such hormone-disrupting chemicals as phthalates, which can be absorbed through the skin and have been found to pose specific risks for pregnant women and children (2). Studies have also linked health effects of phthalates to miscarriage, gestational diabetes, reduced IQ, and ADHD with increased exposure to phthalates.

As for dyes, the evidence is limited when it comes to FDA approved dyes readily being absorbed through the skin. However, one study found that certain dyes may be absorbed after shaving (3). Also, young children often swallow water while bathing and ingestion of some of these chemicals for young children is definitely not recommended!

Boric acid also has some side effects that you may not want to risk. It can be absorbed through the mucous membranes and has been linked to hormone disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity (4). And then there is glitter, which is just more plastic that can end up in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

Alternatives and DIY Recipes

While there may be harmful ingredients in some bath bombs, you don't have to give them up! It's easy to avoid these ingredients with just a little extra effort. You can choose to purchase "fragrance-free" or "phthalate-free" bath bombs, but making your own bath bomb is super easy. Here are also some DIY recipes to try at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup finely ground sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond oil (or apricot oil)
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of witch hazel
  • 1 teaspoon beet root powder
  • wild orange essential oil
  • rose essential oil

Directions

  • Blend all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Blend wet ingredients in another bowl.
  • Combine all ingredients.
  • Place in mold of choice or just form a ball about 1-2 inches in diameter.
  • Allow the bath bombs to dry for approximately 1-2 days.
  • To use, place bath bomb in the bath.
  • To store, place in airtight container. Storing in a refrigerator can allow the bath bombs to keep for about 3 weeks (5).


References

1.https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics

2.https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp73-c1.pdf
3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23127598
4.https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boric-acid#section=Health-Hazardhttps://draxe.com/health/are-bath-bombs-safe/
5.https://draxe.com/beauty/diy-bath-bomb-recipe/
6. https://homemadeforelle.com/bath-bombs-for-kids/#Ingredients
Life

The Hidden Risk in Store-Bought Slime

Avoid this hazardous ingredient with our own DIY slime recipe

Slime seems to be the hottest new toy for kids. They love that it's a tactile toy they can squeeze and smash. But before you rush out to buy a new tub of gooey slime on your next shopping trip, have you ever wondered what's actually in it? Turns out, there's a not-so-kid-friendly ingredient lurking in many slime products sold in stores, as well as in some DIY kits and recipes.

What's So Bad About Boron?

Boron is a chemical commonly used in many brands of slime, DIY kits, and some DIY recipes to give it that rubbery texture. While it may feel fun, it's actually not great for our health. Boron is an acute eye, respiratory tract, and nasal irritant and is harmful if swallowed (1). If ingested, it can also cause nausea and vomiting (2). Long-term exposure to boron can also cause negative reproductive health effects (3, 4). The problems with boron don't stop once you throw slime away either. It turns out that boron lasts a long time in the environment and has hazardous effects on aquatic life (5).

To make matters worse, there's a lot more boron in slime than there should be. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently tested different brands of slime and found concentrations as high as 4700 parts per million (ppm) of boron, (6) which is more than fifteen times the allowable level for toys sold in the European Union (300 ppm for sticky/liquid toys) (6). Canada, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates have even instituted policies limiting or banning boron in children's toys (6).

Safe Slime

Luckily, it's easy to make your own boron-free slime. We like this recipe for full-proof slime that substitutes boron/borax (a boron compound that's found in a lot of other slime recipes) with cornstarch and school glue. We guarantee your kids will still have hours of fun with this non-toxic slime!

Fluffy Volcano Slime

  1. Pour 1/4 cup white school glue and a 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a bowl
  2. Add 3 drops of food coloring (optional)
  3. Mix well
  4. Knead it with your hands for 10 minutes
  5. Heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds
  6. Let it cool, then knead it for another 10 minutes (7)

References

2. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

3. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+328

4. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

5. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boron

6. https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/WEB_USP_Toyland-Report_Nov18_2-1.pdf

7. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/make-slime-without-borax/

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15 Non-Toxic Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Fun, healthy, safe, and great for those budding imaginations

Updated for 2019!

You can pat yourself on the back for bringing these non-toxic toys into your home or gifting them to friends. These are the highest rated, healthiest toys for your growing little one. Not only did we make sure that the materials are safe, but we made sure parents like you love these toys. All the toys here are great for revving up their imagination and creativity and are made to last. If you're looking for something for a newborn or a baby under 1, here are our top picks for best non-toxic newborn toys.

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15 Non-Toxic Toys for Newborns

healthy, safe toys for 0-1 years old

Updated for 2019!

Even before they can talk, babies know how to play. Sure, they will play with whatever is in front of them, but having their own toys is way more fun, and saves things like your watch from being covered in slobber. Here are some of the highest rated, healthiest toys out there, but be sure to check out our roundup of toy brands, too. If you're looking for something for someone a bit older, here are our picks for best non-toxic toys for toddlers.

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