Life

Why Voting This November is So Important

This election, environmental health is on the ballot

Like many things this year, this election season has been anything but ordinary. With the emergence of COVID-19, the barrage of tropical storms hitting the Gulf and Atlantic coasts (1,2), in addition to the relentless wildfires raging in the Western US (3), the connection between the environment and our health is more apparent than ever. The impacts of climate change have become hard to ignore and many Americans are now beginning to feel its effects (4,5,6). Additionally, with the increased focus on health because of the coronavirus pandemic, issues of air, water, and soil pollution and healthy buildings are taking center stage in many people's daily lives.

You probably know that Election Day is coming up on November 3rd, 2020 and that mail-in ballot voting is already underway in more than half the states (7), but did you know that environmental health issues are on the ballot? Voting this election year has never been more important in helping decide how our country moves forward to address widespread environmental health concerns that affect your health and your family's health. Read on to find out what you can do to help and why this issue is so important.

Why Voting Matters for Environmental Health

While we all want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, ensuring this for everyone requires proper environmental safeguards to better protect public health. As we've already seen this year with the increase in tropical storm and wildfire damages, there is a direct effect on people's health caused by their surroundings, whether it be in the form of air pollution, flooding, or smoke (8). Many people may not think that the presidential election will impact their lives in a real and tangible way, but who wins can have a big impact on environmental policies. In his first term, Trump has already moved to roll back and dismantle up to 100 environmental regulations passed by his predecessor, Obama, meant to further safeguard and protect the environment and human health (9,10,11). Notable repeals have included the Clean Air Act, the Clean Power Plan, as well as the Waters of the US Rule (12). These rollbacks have resulted in reduced fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars and light trucks, the repeal of a rule requiring coal-burning power plants to reduce carbon emissions, and a decrease in the number of federally protected bodies of water under the Clean Water Act (12). Other environmental regulations that have been targeted for repeal focus on controlling greenhouse gases, coal ash waste, water pollution, mercury, and smog (11).

Rolling back environmental regulations such as these go against the scientific recommendations of scientists who advocate for the enforcement of these standards to combat air pollution and its health hazards (25). Air pollution, caused in part by greenhouse gas emissions (26, 27), is a dangerous health threat that is responsible for a rising number of deaths around the world due to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and respiratory infections (28, 29, 25). The Global Burden of Disease report identified air pollution as one of the leading risk factors for disease burden in 2012, and in 2016 the WHO labeled it the single largest environmental health risk we face today (29, 28). Trump's denial of climate change (13) and encouragement of wider fossil fuel use and development within the US (14) not only goes against strong scientific consensus and advice (25, 28), but also risks increasing air pollution-related health hazards and mortalities.

There are many ways in which a new administration could bolster much needed environmental health protections. Biden has proposed a plan focusing on clean energy production to shift the US away from its dependence on fossil fuels and achieve a 100% clean energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050 (15,16,17). Biden's plan also includes engaging with local areas to create community-based solutions to climate change issues, establishing an Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the US Department of Justice to revise current environmental justice policy, and recommitting the US to the Paris Agreement that Trump initially withdrew from in 2017 (16,18,19,20). By transitioning away from fossil fuels and prioritizing clean energy, this would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and help strengthen the US's response to global warming (27). Since climate change has a direct effect on people's environmental health, directly combatting it would help ensure cleaner air, safer drinking water, sufficient food, and more secure shelter for everyone (30). Reducing greenhouse gas emissions would also help ease the burden of ambient air pollution, which causes nearly 3 million deaths every year (30).

These regulatory decisions have far-reaching impacts that go beyond a single presidency, and one of the most important ways citizens can make their voices heard on these issues is to vote in the upcoming national election in November.

Local Elections Matter Too

While large national elections have historically had higher turnout compared to state and local elections, it's actually these closer-to-home elections that decide how a community deals with important local issues (21). In local elections, citizens vote for a mayor, city council members, special districts, school board members, and a District Attorney, among others, to deal with local and countywide ballot measures (24). Local issues include land use and development, housing, transportation policies, parks and libraries investment, and even immigration policies to an extent (24). Electing leaders who care about climate change and environmental stewardship at the local level is just as important as national elections.

Not only are these local issues crucial to the functioning of a community, but local and state regulations can also have a big impact at the national level, especially when it comes to consumer protections. For example, California just enacted the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act this past month, which bans 24 toxic ingredients from cosmetic and personal care products. It's likely that product manufacturers will make these non-toxic products and sell them throughout the US so that they don't have to make a separate version just for California. Other times, federal and state policymakers look at the success of local ordinances when drafting new environmental protections. So make sure your voice is heard on issues you care about and don't forget to vote in your local elections as well!

How to Get Involved

If you are over the age of 18 and a US citizen, you are legally allowed to vote—huzzah! Here are a few things you can do to make sure you're able to properly participate in the election process and make the most out of your experience.

  • Stay informed! Read up on political issues (both local and national) and figure out where you stand.
  • You can register to vote here and check your registration status here. Make sure you register to vote by your state's election deadline. Once registered, you can request an absentee ballot and vote by mail if you prefer or you may choose to vote early if your state allows (early voting exceptions include CT, KY, MO, MS, NH, and SC) (22). There are no drawbacks if you decide to vote by mail, and all mail-in ballots will be counted once they are received and properly approved.
  • You can find your State and Local Election Office website here. This provides you with more information on your state and local elections, which are just as important as the larger national and presidential ones. Don't forget to vote in these as well!

If you are not yet 18 or are not a US citizen, no worries! You can still get involved and help out. Here are some great ways to start flexing your political muscle if you're not yet ready to vote.

  • Stay up-to-date! Learn about topics you care about and why they matter to you.
  • Talk to others. Don't be afraid to use your voice! You can start by talking with friends and family about the issues you care about. Once you feel more confident, you can also voice your opinions on social media, in the local newspaper, or in other public forums (23).
  • Volunteer. There's a number of ways you can volunteer for a cause or campaign. Phone bank calling, door-to-door outreach, and writing letters are just a few ways you can directly help with a campaign. Contributing to a cause or campaign by volunteering can be a very rewarding feeling.

Whatever your choice or stance, voting is one of the key pillars in American democracy that helps society function in a way that should be representative of all. Your vote matters and is a way to let the government know your position on the issues you care about and what you find important. With so many things that may seem out of our control this year, there is one thing that we do have control over—our vote! We'll see you at the polls this November.


REFERENCES

  1. https://disasterphilanthropy.org/disaster/2020-atlantic-hurricane-season/
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/11/us/2020-atlantic-hurricane-season-fast-facts/index.html
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/fires-map-tracker.html
  4. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/flooding-and-climate-change-everything-you-need-know
  5. https://climate.nasa.gov/blog/2956/how-climate-change-may-be-impacting-storms-over-earths-tropical-oceans/
  6. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2912/satellite-data-record-shows-climate-changes-impact-on-fires/
  7. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/04/election-early-absentee-mail-voting-every-state.html
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/default.htm
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html
  10. https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/votervital/what-is-the-trump-administrations-track-record-on-the-environment/
  11. https://environmentalintegrity.org/trump-watch-epa/regulatory-rollbacks/
  12. https://www.brookings.edu/interactives/tracking-deregulation-in-the-trump-era/
  13. https://www.npr.org/2020/09/14/912799501/i-don-t-think-science-knows-visiting-fires-trump-denies-climate-change
  14. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28032017/trump-executive-order-climate-change-paris-climate-agreement-clean-power-plan-pruitt
  15. http://thedialog.org/national-news/environmental-protection-is-another-point-of-divergence-between-donald-trump-joe-biden/
  16. https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/#
  17. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-biden-issues-climate-change-environment/story?id=73151337
  18. https://www.state.gov/on-the-u-s-withdrawal-from-the-paris-agreement/
  19. https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/
  20. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-biden-issues-climate-change-environment/story?id=73151337
  21. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/why-voting-important/
  22. https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/early-voting-in-state-elections.aspx
  23. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/why-voting-important/
  24. https://campuselect.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/local_office_description-an_explainer.pdf
  25. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(16)30023-8/fulltext
  26. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know#sec2
  27. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/greenhouse-gases/#:~:text=Greenhouse%20gases%20have%20far%2Dranging,change%20caused%20by%20greenhouse%20gases.
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6357572/
  29. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/14/9/1048/htm
  30. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health
Food

Summer BBQ Essentials

Don't break out the grill without these non-toxic finds!

Summer isn't complete without at least one BBQ! They're the ultimate excuse to get together with friends, enjoy the nice weather, and cook delicious food (even if you're doing meat-free Monday). If you're new to the BBQ scene, then you might not realize that an outdoor get-together can require some specialized gear. Standard BBQ gear can be made from harmful materials like melamine, plastic, and PFAS, which is why we wanted to find alternative products that were safer for our health. Our summer BBQ essentials roundup has everything you need and more to throw the best party ever! And don't forget to check out our tips for a non-toxic BBQ!


Stainless Steel Popsicle Mold

Stainless Steel Grill Basket

Glass Beverage Dispenser

Cast Iron Griddle Pan

Carbon Steel Grill Frying Pan

Moscow Mule Mugs

Enamelware with seafood pattern

Grill tools

Stainless steel Citrus Press Juicer

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Roundups

Non-Toxic Personal Care Picks at Costco

The best personal care at wholesale prices!

Costco has some great hidden gems among the massive package of toilet paper and free samples. That's why we did the research and found the best non-toxic personal care items. All these items have been vetted by us and are readily available both online and in stores.

Weleda Skin food

type A deodorant

Pura D'or Organic Aloe Vera Gel

Honest Company Truly Calming Lavender Shampoo + Body Wash

eos USDA Organic Lip Balm

Pangea Organic Facial Mask- Japanese Matcha Tea, Acai, & Goji Berry

Dr. Jacobs Naturals Castile Body Wash

Roundups

9 Stainless Steel & Glass Tumblers

For iced coffee, iced tea, and smoothies on the go

Getting iced coffee in a plastic cup with a plastic straw is a lot harder to do after watching that video of a plastic straw being removed from a turtle's nose. Plus there is also that pesky condensation that creates a pool of water at the bottle of your cupholder or on your desk. So we found the 9 best reviewed stainless steel and glass tumblers, so that you can have your iced beverages in style this summer. Many of the brands have different sizes ranging from 20oz to 30oz and variety of colors. We prefer stainless steel or glass because many of the acrylic or plastic tumblers may have chemicals similar to BPA. We also link to some stainless steel straws because not all of these tumblers come with straws. And if you're like us, drinking iced coffee through a straw is just synonymous with summer.

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Life

Banish Bugs With Our Recommended Insect Repellent Ingredients

Don't be an all-you-can-eat-buffet for annoying critters again!

Summer is here! But that means so are the biting insects…. Ugh. Mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, fleas, and biting flies seem impossible to avoid when the weather heats up. They're really annoying and they can post a pretty big health risk. Mosquitoes and ticks alone can transmit some scary diseases like Zika, Lyme, malaria, encephalitis, and dengue fever. And to make matters worse, a new CDC report shows the number of mosquito and tick-borne diseases are on the rise (1). To help protect yourself against these pesky insects, we're discussing the most effective insect repellent ingredients that are EPA registered (AKA safe and effective) and CDC recommended: DEET, picardian, and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

We know what you're thinking- synthetic chemicals are recommended?! In this case, the risk of disease is a bigger environmental health threat than using these two specific synthetic chemicals. Additionally, there have also been no scientific studies that show essential oils are effective in protecting against insect bites so we can't include them in our recommendations. You can try them and maybe they'll work for you, but there's no guarantee. If you really want our one DEET alternative, non-synthetic repellent recommendation, that has a transparent list of ingredients, and is scientifically proven to keep bugs away, stay tuned!

DEET

DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is considered to be the "gold standard" of insect repellent. It's a good choice if you're outside all day in a high-insect are because it repels the most insects, including both mosquitoes and ticks, and lasts the longest amount of time (2). When applied correctly (make sure to read the label!), there are very few negative reactions from DEET. A product with a concentration of DEET between 20-30% can provide protection from insects for most of the day (3). DEET can be used while pregnant and on children older than two months and has not been found to be carcinogenic. Although some may see dermatitis or an allergic reaction from long-term exposure to high levels of DEET (2) and oral ingestion has been shown to have neurotoxic effects like seizures (4).

Picaridin

Picaridin (icardian) is another repellent ingredient that repels ticks and mosquitoes. It's been widely used in Europe and Australia for years with positive results. A product containing at least 20% picaridin has similar short-term results as DEET, although picaridin does not provide long-lasting protection as well as DEET and has to be reapplied more often (2). Picaridin has not been studied as thoroughly as DEET, but it does not seem to have any major negative health impacts. Although uncommon it can cause skin or eye irritation, so make sure to read the directions when using a product containing picaridin (5). We've become big fans of Ranger Ready Picaridin 20% Insect Repellent Mist!

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

Oil of lemon eucalyptus (P-menthane-3,8-diol) is a natural oil extracted from the lemon-scented eucalyptus plant (6). It can be an appealing ingredient to people because it's an alternative to synthetic chemicals like DEET or picaridin. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is great at repelling mosquitoes, flies and gnats, but not so great against ticks (2). Products containing at least 30% of oil of lemon eucalyptus have shown to be almost as effective as repelling mosquitoes as DEET, but it has to be applied much more frequently (6). While it is natural, it can irritate the eyes or skin and is not recommended for children under 3 (7). Just a quick note: lemon essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil are NOT the same thing as oil of lemon eucalyptus though, so make sure to look for that exact phrasing in any ingredient lists.

Since oil of lemon eucalyptus is EPA registered and a natural ingredient, we think it's a great synthetic-ingredient alternative! We love Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray. It uses 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus as a way to repel those annoying bugs and lists all of the ingredients (ethanol and water). It's super super hard to find a complete list of ingredients in insect repellent products, so we think this is a huge plus.

So which ingredient should I choose?

It depends! Are you in an area with a high amount of mosquitoes and ticks? Are you outdoors for the entire day or maybe just an hour? Do you want to avoid synthetic chemicals or are you okay with it? Are you traveling to a place that has a high rate of diseases like malaria or yellow fever? The EPA has a quiz you can take in order to find the best insect repellent for your needs.

We recommend to always read and completely follow the directions listed on any repellent product you use, and wash your hands after applying a repellent. Generally you want to apply repellent when you're outside while holding the product at least 6 inches away as you spray. While spraying repellent on your clothes is okay (although DEET shouldn't be sprayed on synthetic fabric), it's not a good idea to spray it under your clothes (8). Long sleeved shirts, pants, long socks, and closed toe shoes can reduce the risk of a bite because less skin is exposed.

Now that you're fully up-to-date on the best insect repellent ingredients you can go back to focusing on what really matters: barbecuing, swimming, beach trips, and all of fun activities that come with summer!


References:

1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6717e1.htm?s_cid=mm6717e1

2. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/prevention-of-arthropod-and-insect-bites-repellents-and-other-measures

3. https://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-guide-bug-repellents/ewg-repellent-guide

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=2506420

5. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/PicaridinGen.html

6. https://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/pesticides/factsheets/oillemoneucalyptus.pdf

7. https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/prevent-mosquito-bites.html

8. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/the-pre-travel-consultation/protection-against-mosquitoes-ticks-other-arthropods

Food

Canned Coffee is Convenient, But What About BPA?

Why they should be a treat instead of part of your daily routine

Now that we're all working from home, it's easy to get bored of our everyday homemade coffee routine. Sometimes we just want something different to wake us up in the morning or even a quick pick me up in the afternoon! That's where canned coffee comes into play. It's quick, convenient, and comes in a ton of flavors. But that convenience might come at a cost; there's been concerns surrounding the use of BPA in the lining of canned products. So, does canned coffee pose a risk to health? We looked at the research to find out.

The Problem With BPA in Cans

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a synthetic chemical that acts like estrogen in our bodies and it has been known to screw with important hormones like testosterone and thyroid hormones. Some of the common health problems associated with BPA include breast cancer, reduced sperm production, obesity, reproductive issues, disruption of brain development and function, and damaging effects to the liver (1). To make matters worse, there is more and more scientific evidence that even very low doses of BPA exposure can be harmful, especially for pregnant women and babies. Low doses of BPA exposure have been tied to abnormal liver function, chronic inflammation of the prostate, cysts on the thyroid and pituitary gland, and many more serious health effects during the early stages of life (5).

Even though BPA is definitely not a chemical we want to be exposed to, it's found basically everywhere, including our food. One common place to find BPA is the internal lining of canned foods or beverages. BPA can help prevent corrosion between the metal and the food or drink inside a can, but over time (or if stored under the wrong conditions like high temperatures), it can start to leach out and get into the food or drink (2). Even cans that say BPA free can have nasty BPA alternatives that have been shown to have similar hormone disrupting effects (7).

Studies have shown that canned soft drinks, beers, and energy drinks all had small traces of BPA in them. Beer was found with the highest concentration of BPA, followed by energy drinks. Soft drinks were found to have the lowest concentration of BPA. In order to find out where BPA in these drinks was coming from, researchers compared the canned drinks to the same drinks packaged in glass bottles. They found very little to no traces of BPA in the glass bottled drinks, which means that the source of BPA in the canned drinks was definitely coming from the cans themselves (2,3,4).

Even if there are only small traces of leachable BPA, it can still be harmful if we are consuming canned products on a regular basis.

Is Canned Coffee Safe?

With the recent increase in popularity of cold brew and other canned coffee drinks, there have not been extensive studies on BPA levels in canned coffee. However, one study of canned coffee drinks in Asia, where they have been popular for longer, did find that BPA was leaching into the coffee from the can. Interestingly, they also found that the more caffeine was in the coffee, the more BPA leached from the can into the drink. Meaning the more caffeine, the more BPA! (4,6) Now before you think you can get away with only drinking decaf canned coffee, keep in mind that caffeine only increases the leaching from the can, but it can still happen without it (6).

Even though the levels of BPA found in canned coffee were relatively small, because BPA is all around us in so many common products, we should try to limit our exposure as much as we can. This means that it's probably okay to drink a canned coffee every once in a while, but best practice is to not drink them every day. But if you're in the middle of a road trip and are desperate for some energy, don't get too stressed about grabbing a canned coffee!

Canned Coffee Alternatives

If you're starting to get worried about what coffee to buy when you're out and about or when you want something more than just plain coffee, don't stress! We thought of some easy and fun alternatives for your canned coffee fix that might make you forget all about it!

  1. Swap out the canned coffee for coffee in a glass bottle or tetrapaks whenever possible.
  2. Find some fun new ways to make coffee at home like using a Chemex or a nice French press!
  3. Go get a coffee at your local coffee shop. Support small businesses if you can!
  4. If you like canned coffee because of the flavors, try making your own caramel or mocha sauce at home. It's pretty easy and it saves money! For something icy and refreshing, we are partial to muddling some fresh mint with some cold brew.


References

vom Saal, F. S., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2021). Update on the Health Effects of Bisphenol A: Overwhelming Evidence of Harm. Endocrinology, 162(bqaa171). https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqaa171 (1)

Cao, X.-L., Corriveau, J., & Popovic, S. (2010). Sources of Low Concentrations of Bisphenol A in Canned Beverage Products. Journal of Food Protection, 73(8), 1548–1551. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-73.8.1548 (2)

Determination of BPA, BPB, BPF, BADGE and BFDGE in canned energy drinks by molecularly imprinted polymer cleaning up and UPLC with fluorescence detection. (2017). Food Chemistry, 220, 406–412. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.10.005 (3)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (4)

Prins, G. S., Patisaul, H. B., Belcher, S. M., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2019). CLARITY-BPA academic laboratory studies identify consistent low-dose Bisphenol A effects on multiple organ systems. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 125(S3), 14–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcpt.13125 (5)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (6)

Pelch, K., Wignall, J. A., Goldstone, A. E., Ross, P. K., Blain, R. B., Shapiro, A. J., Holmgren, S. D., Hsieh, J.-H., Svoboda, D., Auerbach, S. S., Parham, F. M., Masten, S. A., Walker, V., Rooney, A., & Thayer, K. A. (2019). A scoping review of the health and toxicological activity of bisphenol A (BPA) structural analogues and functional alternatives. Toxicology, 424, 152235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tox.2019.06.006 (7)

Life

Throwing a Party with Less Plastic

A healthier way to eat cake, drink beer, and celebrate

Parties are always great. You get to see friends, have a good time, and figure out how to eat delicious food off a paper plate while not spilling whatever may be in your cup. While the chips, cake, and booze may not be the healthiest, there are other things you might not be thinking about that harm our health. The biggest offender at parties usually is all the plastic. The plastic cups, the plastic utensils, the fun table cloths with Yoda's face on them are all made of plastic.

While there are many reasons to avoid plastic - it's not good for the world, it requires oil to make, it's hard to recycle if there has been food on it - one that people often don't usually think of is that single-use plastic can affect our health, both immediately and long term. The chemicals in the plastic cups, or even used to make paper cups and plates oil and water resistant, can easily seep into food and drinks. As it does that, it gets into our bodies as we consume the fun party foods and can interfere with the ways cells communicate with our bodies. This interference has been shown in various research projects to lead to things like obesity, fertility problems, temperature disregulation, and even cancers (1).

We are never going to be completely free from plastic. It's everywhere, and for certain things, it's really convenient and necessary. But, it isn't necessary as often as we normally use it. And, one way to lower the risk of health problems and send a message to companies that create unnecessary plastic waste at the same time is to buy and use fewer plastic products or products with excessive plastic packaging.With a few simple swaps, you can make the party healthier for your guests (and yourself) by limiting the amount of plastic you use:

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