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Wondering If You Should Jump On the Organic Cotton Train?

The surprising reasons why it might not be the best bang for your buck when it comes to buying organics

If you've made the move to try and purchase organic products for the betterment of your health and the environment, you've probably heard of a slew of things that you can purchase that are organic - kale, apples, cereal, even cotton. We recommend a simple way to prioritize your organic produce purchases, but how does cotton fit into this? Is it worth the extra dollars? Clothes, sheets, towels, baby blankets, and all the other things around the house that are made from cotton can add up quickly. You might be thinking about organic, but aren't so sure. Well, we've weighed the pros and cons for you below to make an informed decision.


Reasons to Buy Organic Cotton

  • No synthetic chemicals: Cotton is considered a food crop, so in the United States it is regulated by the USDA and must follow strict guidelines. By definition, all pesticides need to be biologically based (a.k.a. no synthetic chemicals) and the product can't contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) (1).
  • Protecting farm workers, local communities, and the environment from pesticides: Growing cotton requires a LOT of pesticides and they can easily contaminate the air or water through wind and runoff, harming the environment (6). The main pesticides that are used during cotton production include Fluometuron, Acetamiprid, and Glyphosate. Just to give you an example of just how bad these pesticides can be, Fluometuron can mess with reproduction and fetal development, while Glyphosate is largely believed to cause cancer (12). It won't come as a surprise then when you hear that some workers miss out on earning wages for up to 50 days, just from the negative health effects of constantly being exposed to these pesticides (12). For most cotton producing countries, there is limited personal protective equipment which increases the amount of pesticides that the workers are exposed to (12). This ends up harming the workers and their families' health (12).
  • Helping conserve water: Many companies that produce organic cotton also adhere to more sustainable agricultural practices including water conservation, which helps A TON, as cotton requires a lot of water to grow (2).
  • Avoiding pesticide residues in conventional cotton (9, 10): Scientists have found pesticide residues on conventionally grown cotton. However, we have to note that this study detected pesticide residues through a highly intensive laboratory process. There are no studies indicating that this would happen through normal wash, wear, and use. One study showed that when raw cotton goes through the extensive dying, processing, and finishing stages to become fabric, pesticide residues are actually removed (11).

Reasons to Pass on Organic Cotton

  • Chemicals in the manufacturing process: Unfortunately, a USDA organic certification of cotton doesn't include the dyeing process, which is one of the most water intensive-steps (8). In addition, during the dyeing process, heavy metals, dyestuff, polymers and plasticizers are used to create the qualities in a fabric that we're used to (think eye-catching colors and fabrics SO soft you could use it as a blanket) (13, 14). These toxic chemicals can cause cancer or are known endocrine disruptors, posing a hazard to factory workers and surrounding communities. In some cases, consumers might even be at risk as some dyes that are used have a tendency to bind to skin (13). Take it from us to ALWAYS wash your new clothing before wearing! Check out more information below on the certified GOTS label if you want more assurances on dyes, in addition to just organic cotton.
  • Using more land: While organic farms tend to use more sustainable practices, in general, more land is needed to produce the same organic crop compared to a conventionally grown crop. However, studies show limited evidence that organic cotton yields are less than conventionally grown cotton (4).
  • Not a significant source of exposure: Pesticide residues in cotton products haven't been shown to be a significant source of exposure. You're much more likely to be exposed through food, so you might want to prioritize organic at the grocery store if you're on a budget.
  • Puts a larger dent in your wallet: Unfortunately, since organic cotton takes more time and land to produce, as well as uses more labor, it is more expensive (7). Products made from organic cotton will usually cost more than the same products made of regular cotton (7).

For the avid organic cotton connoisseur

If you're really invested in purchasing organic cotton, the best thing to do is purchase products that carry a GOTS label, a certified textile standard. This standard covers the whole cotton production process (growing, processing, dyeing) all the way until the product reaches the store for you to buy! A textile product carrying the GOTS label contains a minimum of 95 percent certified organic fibers AND covers environmental, social and human toxicity criteria that is not included in USDA regulation (5).




References

  1. https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling
  2. https://cottonleads.org/sustainable-production/regulation-and-compliance-united-states/
  3. https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~lhom/organictext.html
  4. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081039
  5. https://www.global-standard.org/the-standard/general-description.html
  6. https://rodaleinstitute.org/blog/9-ways-you-may-not-realize-cotton-is-in-your-food/
  7. http://www.howstuffcompares.com/doc/o/organic-cotton-vs-conventional-cotton.htm
  8. https://qz.com/383562/these-chinese-textile-mills-are-going-green-and-saving-millions/
  9. Attallah, Emad & Abdelwahed, Mahmoud. (2017). Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in some Cotton Products in Egypt using GC-MS/MS and LC-MS/MS. Middle East Journal of Applied Sciences. 07. 102-109.
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17679434
  11. http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-HXFJ201401020.htm
  12. https://www.pan-uk.org/site/wp-content/uploads/Cottons-chemical-addiction-FINAL-LOW-RES-2017.pdf
  13. https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/dcb253_bee8ca24afb1405bbd7c731b0885fdc6.pdf
  14. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325703378_A_review_of_textile_industry_Wet_processing_environmental_impacts_and_effluent_treatment_methods
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.







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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

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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
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d) Jack Wolfskin Powder Mountain Jacket⁠

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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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