Science

What Are Flame Retardants?

They sound awesome, but trust us, they aren't

What are they?

Flame retardants are a group of chemicals that are added to a variety of different products to help them meet flammability standards. These standards were set back in the 70s, and we have learned a lot since then about flammability, chemicals, and even the health hazards of cigarette smoking (which used to be a large cause of indoor fires).


What can they do to me?

Scientists, researchers, doctors, health professionals, and even firefighters don't like flame retardants because of how difficult they are to break down and how long they stay in our bodies. As flame retardants accumulate in our bodies, they can cause problems like cancers, decreased fertility in both men and women, impacts on the immune system, disruption to the regulation and creation of hormones, and lower IQ and hyperactivity in kids. (1)

Where is this stuff?

These chemicals are in all sorts of products. They are in furniture with foam padding like couches and chairs, car seats, baby mattresses, airplanes, foam blocks at gyms, construction materials like wires and insulation, and even electronics. Basically anything near people that might catch fire easily or get very warm and overheat.

Another common place people often don't realize they are exposed to flame retardants is in the dust that just naturally happens… because life. Flame retardants are one of the biggest culprits of ending up in dust because of how they are added to products. They tend to be sprayed on or added at the end, as opposed to actually being built into or stuck on the product, meaning they easily escape from the products.

How can I stay safe?

Depending on the product, there are different ways to limit your exposure to flame retardants. When it comes to furniture, look for options, especially couches, that are flame retardant free. Furniture or kids products that are filled with wool or polyester instead of foam can often meet updated standards without needing to add flame retardants at all.

In your home, another good habit is to clean with a wet microfiber cloth and vacuum regularly, with a HEPA filter vacuum if you can. Both microfiber cloths and vacuums are very good at actually collecting dust, removing it from the air and your home, and keeping it from just circulating and landing somewhere else in your home as you clean.

Washing your hands regularly, especially before you eat, is another great way to remove and limit your unintended contact with flame retardant chemicals.


1) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Flame retardants. National Institutes of Health. 2016. Viewed August 12, 2016.

Family

Keep These Common Household Items Out of Reach From Teething Babies

And why we recommend always having a safe teether on hand

We're all guilty of just letting our teething baby chew anything they can get their hands on. What's the harm as long as it's not a choking hazard? A little dirt is good right? Turns out, there are some common household items that you definitely don't want your kids to chew on because they contain toxic chemicals or substances like lead and flame retardants. We recommend always having a safe teether on hand, whether you're at home or on the go. Even though common everyday items may look harmless, there can be unsafe substances that your little one can ingest if they're chewing on them.

Wondering what household items could be harmful to chew on? Here are some common items that you shouldn't let your little one chew on, even though it's so tempting to let them gnaw.

Keys

Keys are always in our purses or pockets and babies are fascinated with them. Sometimes they're the perfect distraction to avoiding a meltdown in the grocery story line. But it's actually not a good idea to let your little ones chew on keys or even play with them. The metals used to make keys vary greatly, but many brass keys can contain up to 2.5% lead (1,2). Even keys that don't look like brass might be plated in another metal, which can wear off over time. Not all keys contain lead, but it's impossible to know for sure which ones do and don't. So pick one of our safe teethers, including these Kleynimal Stainless Steel Keys, and make sure to pack it for your next grocery run.

Remote Controls

Remotes have colorful buttons and fit perfectly in little hands, so it's no wonder you always see babies chewing on the ends. But remotes contain batteries, which are not safe anywhere near your child's mouth. Additionally, household electronics like remotes contain flame retardants, which can come off into mouths and on hands. Try to limit contact with remotes and definitely don't let them become toys! We like to keep them out of reach on a shelf.

Cell Phones

It seems like all babies become obsessed with cell phones... probably because they see us constantly looking at them! But is it safe to let your baby chew or mouth your phone? Definitely not. Cell phones are covered in germs, including some pretty nasty pathogens like E. Coli (3). They also contain a lot of chemicals and substances, like batteries, heavy metals, flame retardants, and plasticizers, which are all toxic. Plus, if your baby is teething or has teeth, they could chip the phone and little pieces could come off that can be a choking hazard. Because of all these hazards, teething babies and cell phones are not a good match. But if your child is old enough to play games on your phone, wash their (and your!) hands after they use it, especially before snacks and meals.

Jewelry

Jewelry is sparkly, shiny, and colorful, which basically just screams "please put me in your mouth!" to babies. Unfortunately, metal jewelry can contain toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium while plastic jewelry can contain bisphenols or plasticizers. Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin at any dose, and cadmium can cause kidney, bone, and lung damage. Brass is also a common component in jewelry, which can contain up to 3% lead. And just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's safer; jewelry at all sorts of price points have been found to contain these heavy metals. Research has found that the amount of heavy metals that get ingested while chewing or mouthing jewelry can be dangerous (4). Even jewelry that seems completely harmless, like Mardi Gras beads, has been found to contain toxic substances. So let jewelry be just something nice to look at and let kids chew on a set of silicone teething beads instead.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses come in all sorts of sizes and shapes nowadays, but most sunglasses are made of a polycarbonate plastic that contains BPA. While it may not be a big exposure risk for adults who wear them, letting your little one chew on them or suck the ends is not the best idea. BPA is a hormone disruptor and kids are especially vulnerable as they are in a sensitive growth period. Yet another reason to always pack a safe teether in your bag if your little one is an especially mouthy one!

References
  1. https://cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra181/f/leadinkeysen011804.pdf
  2. Kondrashov, Vladislav, et al. "Assessment of lead exposure risk in locksmiths." International journal of environmental research and public health 2.1 (2005): 164-169.
  3. Pal, Shekhar, et al. "Mobile phones: Reservoirs for the transmission of nosocomial pathogens." Advanced biomedical research 4 (2015).
  4. Weidenhamer, Jeffrey D., et al. "Bioavailability of cadmium in inexpensive jewelry." Environmental health perspectives 119.7 (2011): 1029-1033.
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Roundups

9 Non-Toxic Teethers

Your baby will love chewing on these safe materials!

We're all guilty of just letting our teething baby chew anything they can get their hands on. What's the harm as long as it's not a choking hazard? A little dirt is good right? Turns out, there are some common household items that you definitely don't want your kids to chew on because they contain toxic chemicals or substances like lead and flame retardants. Having a safe teether made of silicone or wood is your best bet for your baby's health. Check out our 9 favorite options that will give your little one some relief and will also make for some cute photos!


9 Non-Toxic Teethers

a) Bonbino Teething Rings

b) Itzy Ritzy Cactus Teether

c) Loulou lollipop Llama Teether

d) Chewbeads Elephant Teether

e) Caaocho Sola the Goat

f) Bumkins Gameboy Teether

g) Maple Landmark Ring Teether

h) Oli and Carol Kendall the Kale

i) Kleynimals Toy Keys

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Home

Non-Toxic Candle Roundup

They smell even better than they look! Plus no harmful chemicals

Trying to set the perfect mood for Valentine's Day? We've got you covered! Our candle roundup is a great guide to finding the perfect candle. Most candles contain paraffin wax, which is made from petroleum and use fragrance oil. And fragrance can contain a ton of harmful chemicals. Our candles only use natural wax like soy or beeswax, and only contain essential oils! Plus they all smell amazing!



a) Aira Soy Candles
b) Lulu Candles Natura 100% Organic Soy Vegan Wax Candle
c) Big Dipper Beeswax Aromatherapy candle
d) Milk + Honey essential oil candle
e) Pure Plant Home glass candle
f) Edens Garden essential oil candles

Wondering why you need a non-toxic candle? Candles release compounds known as volatile organic compounds whether they are lit or not (1). VOCs can have both short and long term adverse health effects and there are consistently higher concentrations of VOCs indoors than outdoors. The majority of the VOCs released from candles is because they doesn't burn cleanly, which releases acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, phenol, benzene, and toluene, many of which are carcinogenic (3). Phenols (one of the words in that list if you jumped to the end of the sentence when you started seeing a bunch of scary words) are the fragrance chemicals that make candles smell like brown sugar, wild mango, and clean laundry. It makes sense that it would take some pretty weird chemicals to bottle up the smell of a tropical island in a single candle, right?

It's definitely healthier and safer to go with candles scented with essential oils to avoid some of these nasty VOCs. A few of the other VOCs released can cause changes to our DNA (and in some cases, bad changes!). Of all of the VOCs released, formaldehyde and acrolein are the other two biggest worries because they are released in the highest concentrations. Formaldehyde itself can cause cancer (4) while acrolein, which is used to make weapons in high concentrations, can kill you if you breathe in too much of it - Yikes (5). I don't know about you, but those are some things I definitely don't want to invite to my relaxing spa night!

Candles are also traditionally and most commonly made of paraffin, which is obtained from petroleum or shale. We recommend candles made from beeswax or soy because they come from natural sources. Some candles wicks may contain lead, so always make sure to look for a "lead-free" wick made from cotton.


References

1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304389414010243

2. http://candles.org/elements-of-a-candle/wax/

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231010010502

4. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=39

5. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp124-c1-b.pdf


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.







First off, nice! We are super excited for you!

Now that the relationship is serious, have you started thinking a little bit more about what your life might be like together in the future? Maybe you are at the point where you are leaving a toothbrush at the other's place, or maybe it's a little more serious - like talking about moving in together. No matter how serious "serious" is for you, we've got a suggestion for making that step of the relationship a little healthier.

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Non-Toxic Safe Sex Brands

Safe sex is good, non-toxic safe sex is better

Updated for 2020!

We are always talking about being careful about what we put on our bodies, but what about things we put in them? Choosing safe condoms and lube, which directly touch one of the most absorbent and sensitive parts of your body is critical.

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PFAS Free Winter Jackets

Stay warm without the harmful chemicals

A lot of weather-proof jackets contain harmful chemicals like PFAS or PFOA. That's why we found the best PFAS-free winter jackets for your next trip to the mountains ! These jackets will keep you nice and warm without the use of those pesky forever chemicals. And since snow season is winding down (for some.. ) there are a ton of sales on right now! You can grab a new jacket for this winter or one for next year! ⁠ ⁠

a) Picture Organic Clothing Week End Jacket
b) Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket
c) Nau Clothing Reykjavik Insulated Jacket
d) Jack Wolfskin Powder Mountain Jacket⁠

Life

PFAS Free Ski Wax

What to know before your next trip to the mountains!

If you're heading up to the slopes this week , you might want to double check what your ski wax is made from. Ski wax is a necessity to enjoy the sport but it turns out, most wax contains a ton of fluorinated chemicals like PFAS and PFOA . Fluorinated wax may make your skis glide a little easier, but it's super bad for the environment (and you!). That's why we've found some brands that made fluoro-free ski wax. ⁠ ⁠

a) Rex G21 Graphite Spray⁠
b) Toko Non Fluoro Glidewax
c) North by Swix Speed Brick Universal Wax
d) mountainFLOW Quick Wax ⁠
e) Swix F4 Universal Easy Glide Wax
f) Ulla Glide Wax

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