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How to Avoid Toxic Chemicals in Kids' Products
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com
Reports that toxic chemicals are in thousands of kids' products might lead consumers to throw up their hands in frustration. How on Earth can you possibly recognize every single product—ranging from clothing and footwear to personal care products, baby products, toys, car seats, and arts and craft supplies—that might threaten your child's health?
The Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) is here to help. In 2008, the non-profit won a campaign in the Washington state legislature for passage of the Children’s Safe Products Act (CSPA). This act set up—for the first time in the U.S.—a requirement for companies to report when they sell children’s products that contain toxic chemicals. Anyone can search the CSPA database of the information. But it’s a big database with a lot of information. And the database doesn’t cite the name of specific products or item numbers.
WTC summarized some of the products in the report Chemicals Revealed. But here's some simple guidelines that WTC says you can follow when considering a purchase for children.
- Look out for metal parts. Even with stricter controls on the kinds of metals children come in contact with, parents still need to watch out for metal jewelry and metal parts and ornamentation on shoes and clothing. The CSPA database contains reports of cadmium, mercury and even arsenic in these metals, and many more reports of less familiar toxic metals such as antimony, cobalt and molybdenum.
- Shop for phthalate-free. Hormone-disrupting phthalates are still in common use even with recent information about them reaching the public. Your best bet for avoiding phthalates is to seek out safer personal care products, plastics and toys.
- Be strategic to reduce exposures. Start with safer alternatives for products with the biggest potential for exposure such as items that can fit in your child’s mouth, products that are applied to the skin (lotions, shampoos, creams, etc.), or items in contact with your child’s skin for more than an hour at a time.
- Clothing may commonly contain toxics. There are many, many reports of toxic chemicals in children’s clothing and footwear. The presence of a chemical does not necessarily mean a product is harmful. But parents can minimize their children's exposure until more is known about the risks. See the WTC's “Toxics in my T-Shirt” for clothing and footwear recommendations.
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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.
It's become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration's policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.