Roundups

12 Essentials for Packing a Plastic Free Lunch

our favorite reusable items for packing lunch for the kids (and yourself!)

As all the kids are going back to school, it's time to get ready to start getting creative when it comes to packing lunches. While plastic sandwich bags may be convenient, they aren't the healthiest and are only adding to the plastic problem in our oceans. Instead, stock up on some of these lunchbox essentials. They are reusable, washable, and healthier than a bag full of plastic containers. We also have a roundup of general food storage containers you might want to check out.


12 Essentials for Packing a Plastic Free Lunch

a) Abeego Wax Wraps b) Cal Tiffin Stainless Steel Containers c) GreenLunch Bento Box d) JaceBox Stainless Steel Containers e) Pantry Essentials Baking Cups (perfect for dividing larger containers or packing dips like hummus and peanut butter) f) PlanetBox Lunch Box g) Stasher Bags h) Smartplanet Collapsible Lunch Box i) Thermos Funtainer j) To-go Ware Bamboo Utensils k) UKonserve Stainless Steel Containers


*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.

Roundups

PFAS and PVC Free Adult Rain Gear

Stay protected from the elements

As spring approaches, you may be thinking of upgrading your rain gear before the rainy season hits. Most rain gear can contain harmful chemicals like PFC/PFAS or PVC, which is not something you want on your body. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is a common plastic that is used in hundreds of places, but it's often used in rain gear to make it more waterproof. PVC on its own is not inherently toxic but it is extremely brittle, which is why phthalates are often added to make it stronger. Phthalates are harmful endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer, infertility, heart disease, and obesity.

The other group of chemicals that we want to steer away from is PFAS or PFC (i.e. Teflon-like chemicals). These chemicals have extremely tight bonds between the atoms, which means nothing can get past them. While this makes them great waterproofing agents, it also means these chemicals basically don't break down over time. These "forever chemicals" are also found in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and even take-out containers. Because these chemicals are found in so many common products they eventually end up in our environment polluting the water and soil and staying there forever. PFAS have been known to cause serious health problems like decreased fertility, increased cholesterol levels, harming the growth and development of children, and lowering immune system function.

That's why we found the best rain jackets and rain boots for adults! These boots and jackets are free from PFAS and PVC but will still keep you protected from the elements.



a) VAUDE Escape Light Rain Jacket

b) Marmot Phoenix EVODry Jacket

c) Jack Wolfskin Hardshell Jacket

d) Royal Robbins Switchform Waterproof Jacket

e) Joules Welly Print Rain Boot

f) Columbia OutDry Jacket

g) Tretorn Wings rain jacket

h) Western Chief Women's Printed Tall Waterproof Rain Boot

i) North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT™ Jacket

j) VIKING Unisex Marine Kadett Boot

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Roundups

PFAS and PVC Free Kids Rain Gear

Rain, rain, go away... unless you're wearing one of these jackets!

For most people, the arrival of spring also means the arrival of the rainy season. And if you have kids, and are having an increased number of outdoor playdates due to covid, you probably need to stock up on some new rain gear. Remember, there's no bad weather, just bad clothing! But before you go out and purchase just any rain gear, you should know that a lot of the common gear you see at the stores could be made with toxic chemicals.

The two chemicals that we want to steer clear of are PVC and PFAS. PVC or otherwise known as Polyvinyl Chloride is a super common plastic that is used in hundreds of places, but it's often used in rain gear to make it more waterproof. PVC on its own is not inherently toxic but it is extremely brittle, which is why phthalates are often added to make it stronger. Phthalates are harmful endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer, infertility, heart disease, and obesity.

The other group of chemicals that we want to steer away from is PFAS or PFC (i.e. Teflon-like chemicals). These chemicals have extremely tight bonds between the atoms, which means nothing can get past them. While this makes them great waterproofing agents, it also means these chemicals basically don't break down over time. These "forever chemicals" are also found in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and even take-out containers. Because these chemicals are found in so many common products they eventually end up in our environment polluting the water and soil and staying there forever. PFAS have been known to cause serious health problems like decreased fertility, increased cholesterol levels, harming the growth and development of children, and lowering immune system function.

I think it's pretty clear that it's best to stay away from any rain gear that uses these chemicals. They are not good for the planet, nor for your health. We definitely think PVC, PFAS (PFCs) need to be avoided, which is why we rounded up our favorite PVC and PFAS free kids rain gear so you don't have to worry this Spring!



a) RAINY DAYS KIDS This lightweight jacket is waterproof, windproof, and comes in a variety of fun colors and sizes for toddlers to preteens! It also has built in, high visibility reflectors for added safety.

b) Kids' PreCip Eco Jacket This waterproof jacket is ultra lightweight and breathable for all types of weather protection. Also it's made out of completely recycled materials!

c) JAN & JUL Girls' Fleece-Lined Rain Jacket for Toddler Kids, Water-Proof This jacket comes in a variety of prints and solid colors and is fleece lined to keep the kiddos warm no matter the weather. It also comes with reflective strips for some added safety!

d) Playshoes Childrens Waterproof Reflective Rain Jacket and pants These super cute raincoats and pants are heavier duty while also being breathable and easy to pack away. Plus, they're waterproof and windproof!

e) CeLaVi - Kids Rain Suit Reflective Waterproof 2 Pcs Jacket and Pants/or Dungarees This waterproof set comes with a jacket and pants for full protection from the rain. The set comes in a crazy amount of colors and has sizes from toddlers to age 10.

f) Hatley Boys' Printed Raincoats This rain jacket comes in so many fun prints your kids are guaranteed to love it! It also comes in sizes for toddlers to preteens and is super durable.

g) WATERPROOF SHELL JACKET Made from recycled materials, this jacket is fully sealed to create the ultimate waterproof jacket. Also because of the jacket's unique finish it makes it super easy to clean!

h) OAKI Rain & Trail Suit - Kid &Toddler - Girl & Boy One Piece Rain Jacket & Pant Not only does this one piece waterproof suit come in so many fun colors it is also guaranteed to keep you kids dry! It's great for the rain and the snow.





Roundups

PFC and PVC Free Kids Rain Boots

Puddles don't stand a chance against these wellies!

Spring is right around the corner, which means so is the rain! If you have kids, chances are you need to stock up on some new rain boots (how do kids grow so quickly?!). But a lot of rain boots you'd find in stores often are made with harmful chemicals like PVC and PFC. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is a common plastic that is used in hundreds of places, but it's often used in rain gear to make it more waterproof. PVC on its own is not inherently toxic but it is extremely brittle, which is why phthalates are often added to make it stronger. Phthalates are harmful endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer, infertility, heart disease, and obesity.

The other group of chemicals that we want to steer away from is PFAS or PFC (i.e. Teflon-like chemicals). These chemicals have extremely tight bonds between the atoms, which means nothing can get past them. While this makes them great waterproofing agents, it also means these chemicals basically don't break down over time. These "forever chemicals" are also found in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and even take-out containers. Because these chemicals are found in so many common products they eventually end up in our environment polluting the water and soil and staying there forever. PFAS have been known to cause serious health problems like decreased fertility, increased cholesterol levels, harming the growth and development of children, and lowering immune system function.

That's why we found the best kids rain boots that don't contain PFAS or PVC! These rain boots are seriously cute, come in lots of different sizes, and will keep feet dry! Check them out today!



a) Hatley Rain Boots

b) Joules Welly Print Rain Boot

c) L.L. Bean Kids' Wellies

d) Oaki Rain boots

e) Polarn O. Pyret Classic Stripe Rain Boots

f) Stonz Natural Rubber Rain Boot

Home

What’s a Rain Garden and How Do I Build One?

A guide to how rain gardens reduce water pollution and how to build one

What's a rain garden? Well, we're glad you asked! Rain gardens are not very well known but they are becoming more and more popular for their ability to reduce water pollution. The basic premise of a rain garden is that a basin filled with native plants captures water as it flows through your yard and filters out pollutants through the soil and plant roots before reentering the groundwater. Rain gardens are incredible, not only for being a great way to clean our water runoff, but they are aesthetically beautiful and create habitats for so much wildlife!

Keep reading to learn more about how rain gardens can purify water in your local ecosystem and how you can build one of your very own!

How Your Home Causes water pollution

When we think of water pollution we usually think of culprits like landfills, farming runoff, and industrial chemical waste. As it turns out, the runoff from different places at our homes are also a big part of the problem! Everytime it rains, water runs off surfaces like driveways, roofs, patios, and even our lawns. A lot of the time these surfaces can carry dirt particulates, chemicals, oils, garbage, and different types of bacteria and all of this can end up in our water. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that pollutants carried by rainwater runoff accounts for 70% of all water pollution (1).

It's also important to mention that this water runoff from our homes and other areas can make its way into nearby streams, lakes, oceans, and even our drinking water reservoirs (3). This is a major problem for the health of the surrounding wildlife and even us humans. A lot of the pollutants that are running off our driveways, roads, and roofs are toxic industrial chemicals and heavy metals from cars, as well as agricultural pesticides and waste. When these chemicals get into our water systems and the surrounding vegetation, animals eat the plants or drink the water and are exposed to many harmful chemicals that can cause a variety of health problems (7). When it comes to humans, the safety of our drinking water is a major concern. Thankfully we have water treatment plants to clean out the harmful chemicals and materials, however, there are still some chemicals and pesticides that are tricky to remove from our water sources. Water treatment plants do the best they can to remove most of the pollutants, but it is not a perfect process (8). Because of this, we can be exposed to these nasty pollutants through drinking contaminated water or when we play in our local lakes, streams, and beaches.

The good news is that we have the power to reduce the amount of water pollution that comes from our homes by planting a rain garden!

So what exactly are rain gardens?

A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape filled with grasses and native plants that works to collect the runoff from all of the areas on your property. Not only does a rain garden collect all of the water runoff, it also helps filter out the pollutants collected along the way. This filtration process is done by using the plants and soil in the garden. As the water moves farther into the ground more of the contaminants are removed by the soil and plant roots and eventually the water will be able to recharge ground water aquifers. Sounds like a win win situation (1)!

Some of the other benefits of rain gardens include protection against floods and the habitat they provide. Water collects in the rain garden due to its lower elevation and acts as a drainage site for the diverted water. The water is then rapidly absorbed by the plants dramatically reducing the amount of water in your yard more efficiently after a storm (3)! This is where the plants in your rain gardens might differ slightly from your average garden plants. The most common plants used in rain gardens are able to tolerate long wet periods and long drought periods to be able to survive when there is rain and when there isn't (9). The plants have an added function as habitat for beneficial wildlife such as butterflies, bees, birds, and other small animals (4). Rain gardens protect our environment, our homes, our drinking water, and wildlife! Who wouldn't want that?

So... Do you want to build a rain garden?

We know this might seem a little daunting, but we promise it's easier than it looks and will be so worth it!

  1. Find a Location

The first step in creating the perfect rain garden is the planning phase. To pick a location for the rain garden many people conduct a rainy day survey. Is there a part of your yard that always collects water after a storm or where the soil stays extra wet for longer? That's a good place to start. You can also draw a rough map of your home and landmarks like trees, patios, and driveways, as well as how the water flows through your property when it rains. Typically areas with slight slopes or near gutter drain pipes are great places to plant a rain garden.Once you have picked a location that you believe will capture the most water runoff the next step is to determine the size you want your garden to be. Most rain gardens range from 150 - 480 sq ft and are at least 6 inches deep. Rain gardens can be really big or really small; design them to fit your needs and how much space you have available.

2. Pick Your Plants

The final step for planning is to pick your plants! When picking the plants for your rain garden you want to look for native perennial flowers, grasses, and shrubs that will survive in the amount of sunlight your rain garden is exposed to and the different weather patterns of where you live. The most common layout for plants in a rain garden is to have perennial flowers and natives that can tolerate lots of water in the center. Then around the center you want plants that can sometimes tolerate standing water but usually prefer to be dry like grasses, and finally around the edges use plants that prefer mostly dry soil (12). Talking with people from your local plant nurseries or just searching for native plants in your area can help you determine which plants will be best suited for your needs! (2) Some helpful online resources for native plants in your area and good plants for rain gardens are linked here!

3. Plant Your Rain Garden

Once you have completed all of the planning and preparation, the next step is to start digging. As we mentioned, a rain garden should be at least 6 inches deep for optimal water capture and drainage. Once you dig out your area make sure to create a gentle slope from the top to the center to help hold the water in. Once the area is prepared place your plants in the soil and pack them in. After planting, it is recommended that you place mulch over the top of the exposed soil to prevent weeds and to help with water drainage. This will save you a lot of time and energy down the line! The final step is to add any design elements like rocks and stones to the garden and water all of your plants in. Voila, you have a beautiful rain garden (5)!

If you need a slightly more in depth look at how to build your rain garden and different designs, we have added some links to help you out. Check out these links:

  1. https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/rain-garden/5712.html
  2. https://www.lawnstarter.com/blog/landscaping/how-build-rain-garden/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xuqmY7wzRc

References:

  1. https://www.groundwater.org/action/home/raingardens.html
  2. https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/rain-garden/5712.html
  3. https://thewatershed.org/green-infrastructure-rain-gardens/
  1. https://www.epa.gov/soakuptherain/soak-rain-rain-gardens
  2. https://www.lawnstarter.com/blog/landscaping/how-build-rain-garden/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xuqmY7wzRc
  4. Gaffield, S. J., Goo, R. L., Richards, L. A., & Jackson, R. J. (2003). Public Health Effects of Inadequately Managed Stormwater Runoff. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9), 1527–1533. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.93.9.1527
  5. https://www.iwapublishing.com/news/distillation-treatment-and-removal-contaminants-drinking-water
  6. https://www.embassylandscape.com/blog/the-best-of-the-best-perennial-plants-for-rain-gardens
  7. https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/
  8. http://raingardenalliance.org/planting/plantlist
  9. https://www.almanac.com/content/rain-gardens-two-d...:~:text=Planting%20a%20Rain%20Garden&text=Most%20of%20the%20plants%20in,that%20tolerate%20occasional%20standing%20water.
Roundups

Non-Toxic Hair Gel for Men

Get the perfect tousled look without the unnecessary chemicals

Whether you use gel every day or just on special date nights, getting the perfect 'do shouldn't introduce a slew of crazy chemicals to your hair. So, we poured over the databases to find which companies are creating some non-toxic hair gel options. Then, we made sure you could actually get your hands on them and that they got good reviews before collecting them into our final roundup.


a) Free and Clear hairstyling gel

b) Reverie Rake Styling Balm

c) Original Sprout Hair Gel

d) Shea Moisture virgin coconut oil daily hydration styling cream

e) Innersense Whipped Creme Texturizer

f) Rahua Hair Wax

g) Josh Rosebrook Styling Cream

h) Badger Hair pomade

i) John Masters Organics Sculpting Clay

We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, Made Safe, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

*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.

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)

Roundups

Non-Toxic Men's Shaving Cream

Achieve the perfect close shave without the unnecessary chemicals

Whether you shave every day or like to get a little stubble going before you shave, having a good shaving cream is important. What about one that not only helps you get a close shave but one that also is free of any ingredients that may irritate your skin or introduce toxic chemicals into your personal care routine. Check out this roundup of great shaving cream options that are well reviewed and non-toxic.

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