Are You Poisoning Your Children Without Even Knowing It?
In a dramatic illustration of why it is essential that makers of cleaning products fully disclose their ingredients on product labels, the release of Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning has resulted in the revelation that more than half of a line of cleaners marketed to parents of babies contain an ingredient that releases formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.
The company is New York state-based BabyGanics, whose representative has described its products as “so safe that you can even drink them” in a video posted online. In the video uploaded by BabyTVcom on Feb. 13, 2008, he then drank from a bottle of a BabyGanics cleaner.
EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which gave more than 2,000 products grades of A-to-F based on the potential hazards of their ingredients and the completeness of their ingredient disclosures, gave “F” scores to a number of BabyGanics products because of poor disclosure. After the company contacted EWG and protested its grades, it agreed to post a full ingredient list on its website. This list, in turn, revealed that more than half of its products contain a preservative called HHT (Hexahydro-1,3,5-tris(2-hydroxyethyl)-s-triazine), which releases formaldehyde during product use. As a result, those products will continue to be graded “F” on the EWG guide until their formulations are changed.
Executives of BabyGanics told EWG that the company is making plans to remove the preservative from its entire line.
“Consumers should be wary of products that release formaldehyde because it is a carcinogen that experts believe is unsafe even in small amounts,” said Johanna Congleton, a senior scientist at EWG. “It would be hard to find anyone, especially parents, who believe it’s acceptable for products marketed as safe to use around babies to contain a substance known to release a known human carcinogen.”
The BabyGanics revelation is a dramatic reminder that consumers cannot take companies’ labeling and marketing claims at face value.
“As a mother of two young children, I am shocked that companies don’t have to tell consumers what’s in their cleaning products,” said Heather White, EWG’s chief of staff and general counsel. “So many families buy these products because they think they are safe, when in fact they contain chemicals that could pose serious dangers, including cancer. My advice to consumers is simple – don’t buy products labeled only with generic terms like ‘surfactants’ or ‘preservatives.’ Companies need to tell us exactly what’s in the products they’re selling. We have a right to know what chemicals we’re bringing into our homes in the products we buy. And EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning was created to help consumers exercise that right.”
The BabyGanics line is sold by national retailers such as Babies R Us and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
EWG’s guide has highlighted how many cleaning products contain toxic chemicals and how difficult it is for even careful consumers to find out exactly what’s in them. Many companies use generic names like “surfactants” and “mineral salts” to describe some of their ingredients. Current federal law does not require disclosure of ingredients on the vast majority of cleaning products. EWG’s rating system and the information provided by the guide is challenging other companies to reevaluate what they put in their products and to detail that information on their product labels and on their web sites.
EWG plans to do further research to evaluate more closely the use of toxic preservatives in household cleaning products.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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