Food

Say No to Non-Stick Without Saying No to Eggs!

Why the extra effort to cook without non-stick is worth it

Ugh, and there it goes, your non-stick pan just can't survive another round of frying up your favorite eggs for brunch. You've avoided this for as long as you can, but you just can't put it off any longer. Yup, you have to go shopping for pots and pans. If the thought of choosing between the seemingly hundreds of different brands promising different things scares you, we get it! I mean, who wants to try and figure out the difference between non-toxic and toxic cooking pans between running errands and going grocery shopping? We're here to help you cut down on your shopping time and anxiety!


Let's begin with the basics

Non-stick pans are made up of two different materials. The first is the one inside of a non-stick pan that is metal, generally aluminum, which helps conduct heat evenly. This metal base is then sprayed with a non-stick coating that we most famously know as Teflon (1). The non-stick coating is made up of fluorinated chemicals, which are as bad for you as they sound. While the fluorinated chemicals help keep the surface of pans slick and nonstick, they have been found to cause negative health effects in humans. Most notably, the gasses released from Teflon can cause respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing (2).

If you're like me, the reason you need to replace your non-stick pan is because it's scratched up, and you can see the aluminum underneath. That's when it gets even worse and is surely a sign you should head to your nearest pan store ASAP! Why? A couple of reasons: you have definitely been breathing in fumes from the nonstick coating, chances are you have even eaten some of the coating as it chipped and stuck to your food, and because exposure to aluminum (that stuff you see under the scratches) has been connected to Alzheimer's Disease and other negative health outcomes (3).

What about my PFOA-, PFAS-, and PFTE- free pans? What do all the P's mean?

Well, essentially one word – bad! PFAS is an all-encompassing term for fluorinated products, and many companies will promise that their products are PFOA or PFTE free, but aren't actually free of all fluorinated chemicals since there are lots of them. As a general rule of thumb, anything that has a non-stick coating is going to contain fluorinated chemicals. We just haven't reached a point where magical properties in an added coating can be made safely (I know, I know, I'm sad too). The annoying thing with these non-stick coatings is that when you buy them, they are technically safe because it does not contain or give off any dangerous chemicals. However, the problem is when you heat these pans to high temperatures (which many of the pans say not to do if you read the fine print), the non-stick coating gets converted into a dangerous compound (in most cases, PFOA) which is then released into the air and into your food (4). Companies keep creating new compounds that they believe are safe, but there's really not enough information out there to know that they don't pose negative health effects further down the road. The best thing to do is say no to non-stick pans! It may be tough at first, but if you really think about it, non-stick pans aren't necessary for everything you do in the kitchen (I'm talking about you, my pasta pot)!

Does this apply to those magical "green" pans that I've been seeing everywhere?

Sadly, we're going to have to say that they aren't worth your time or money. These "green" pans are similar to how non-stick pans are made. They also have a metal base, again, generally aluminum. But this time, instead of a fluorinated coating, the metal base is covered in a ceramic coating. The coating is usually made of silicon and oxygen, and is there to act as a barrier between the metal base used for conducting heat and the food that you're cooking. The ceramic coating is free of PFOA and PFAS, which is what we're concerned about in Teflon, so maybe they are less toxic. But, studies and tons of user reviews have shown that these pans don't work, or basically stop working after a couple of weeks or months and then end up getting thrown away (5). Doesn't sound very "green" to us. In some cases, if you're purchasing green pans made out of the country, the ceramic coating may even contain lead and cadmium, which are not good for adults and children alike (6). Similar to non-stick pans, once the ceramic coating has been scratched or damaged, you really can't continue using it because the aluminum base is exposed and can get into your food. Bottom line, these aren't the magical answer.

So what should I use instead?

The great news is that you have options! We've done all the research to make your life easier. Here are some of our recommendations. If you're in shopping mode right now, we've also lined up a list of perfect pans for you in our roundup!

    • Cast iron – can be made non-stick if seasoned properly and will last a lifetime. Great for everything except acidic foods
    • Carbon steel – can be made non-stick if seasoned properly
    • Stainless steel – can be made non-stick if properly heated and greased well
    • Enamel cast iron – make for a very pretty pan
    • Pure ceramic – can be used for all foods, even acidic ones!

Hopefully you agree with us now that non-stick is not the way to go. Not only does it have a short lifespan, but it also releases harmful toxics. Instead, try investing in some non-toxic cookware. The ones we recommended are great because they basically last forever (especially cast iron!). If you're still hooked on these magical "green" pans and want to buy ceramic, go for a pure ceramic cookware from a reputable brand and you're in good shape! So, what are you waiting for? Take all this new knowledge you've learned and spread the wealth at your nearest home goods shop!

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-21872-9_2
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11356-017-0095-y
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969716324548
  4. https://blog.kitchenwarehouse.com.au/choose-right-cooking-surface-exactly-pfoa-pfte/
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261306913007073
  6. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VBBQDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA211&dq=ceramic+pans+and+health&ots=EOrXbIcGju&sig=83E2Sg4qPdP5H7RsGYAxYSFYElE#v=onepage&q=ceramic%20pans%20and%20health&f=false
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713517305819
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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Life

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/

Roundups

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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Roundups

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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