By Ketura Persellin
Gift-giving is filled with minefields, but the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) got your back, so you don't need to worry about inadvertently giving family members presents laden with toxic chemicals. With that in mind, here are our suggestions for gifts to give your family this season.
For Babies<p><strong>Safer Toys</strong></p><p>Grandma may be surprised to find out that cherished heirlooms from her childhood may be covered with lead-based paint, and this year's plastic "It" toy may contain PVC or other harmful chemicals. Steer well-meaning friends and family toward safer options, like toys made of natural materials like untreated wood, bamboo, hemp or organic cotton.</p><p><strong>Healthy Bath Time</strong></p><p>Babies' developing brains, organs and hormonal systems are especially sensitive to chemicals of concern hidden in bath products like shampoo, lotion and diaper cream. However, there are an increasing number of EWG VERIFIED™ <a href="https://www.ewg.org/ewgverified/products.php?type=baby+kids" target="_blank">baby care products</a>, which meet our scientists' strictest ingredient and transparency standards.</p>
For Kids and Teens<p><strong>Environmental Activism on Trend</strong></p><p>Believe it or not, you may see <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/eco-friendly-drinking-straw-alternatives-2571689759.html">reusable straws</a> on your kids' holiday wish list this year, as teens and tweens are rejecting single-use plastic, pushed by the <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/14/cnn-underscored/what-is-a-vsco-girl/index.html" target="_blank">VSCO girl</a> trend and images of sea turtles killed by plastic waste ubiquitous on social media. Choose from one of the many metal or silicone straws available this season, now in a rainbow of colors, some even sporting their own little carrying case.</p><p>Your teen may also appreciate a reusable coffee tumbler to go with that straw.</p><p>This way they'll be avoiding the PFAS chemical coating used on paper coffee cups and the side-eye from their friends for using single-use cups and plastic lids. Look for one made of ceramic or stainless steel.</p><p><strong>Safer Clothing</strong></p><p>Many types of clothing come with chemicals that can be harmful to children's health, like children's pajamas treated with flame retardants and winter coats coated with PFAS chemicals for waterproofing. To avoid this, choose children's pajamas made out of cotton and/or marked as not flame resistant on the tag. To make sure what you're giving doesn't contain toxic fluorinated chemicals, check out this list of companies making <a href="https://pfascentral.org/pfas-basics/pfas-free-products/" target="_blank">PFAS-free clothing and shoes</a>.</p><p><strong>Clean Beauty</strong></p><p>Clean beauty and elaborate skin care routines are also trending this year. Children are the most susceptible to the health harms associated with endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and other chemicals of concern in personal care products. Use EWG's Skin Deep® and EWG VERIFIED™ databases to find gift ideas for the kids on your list – without dangerous chemicals. These include:</p><ul> <li>Stuff stockings with green-rated <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/lip_balm" target="_blank">lip balm</a>.</li></ul><ul> <li>Clean makeup options – like <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Eye_shadow" target="_blank">eye shadow</a>, <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Bronzer__Highlighter" target="_blank">highlighter</a> and <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Mascara" target="_blank">mascara</a> – that will let them keep up with the latest makeup tutorial while still protecting their health.</li></ul><ul> <li><a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Mask" target="_blank">Face masks</a> – trendy among the teenage set – but who knows what ingredients they typically contain? Steer clear of harmful chemicals by finding one that's Skin Deep® green-rated or EWG VERIFIED, like one of <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Mask" target="_blank">these</a>. (Keep in mind that single-use products have more of an impact on the environment.)</li></ul><ul><li>The gift of an after-shave <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/After_shave?marketed_for=men&page=1&per_page=12" target="_blank">lotion or balm</a> made with safer chemicals. Kids who have just started to shave will be pleased to have that milestone acknowledged.</li></ul>
For your Partner or Spouse<p>If you're lucky enough to have another adult along for the ride during your childrearing years, thank them with a holiday gift that's free from chemicals of concern.</p><p><strong>Detox Their Coffee Routine</strong></p><p>There are many beautiful and plastic-free options for the sleep-deprived adults on your list – pour-over coffee makers are simple for making a single cup and come in many glass and ceramic styles. You can even find a reusable stainless steel filter. For multiple cup operations, choose a double-wall glass French press (the double wall keeps coffee warmer, longer) or a stainless steel percolator.</p><p><strong>Grown-Ups Love Clean Beauty, Too</strong></p><ul> <li>A splurge for a special man or woman on your list is Henry Rose, the fragrance created by EWG board member Michelle Pfeiffer. It's EWG's first fine fragrance that's 100 percent transparent – made without EWG's chemicals of concern, with full ingredient disclosure on the label and to EWG.</li></ul><ul> <li>A luxurious beard oil and brush kit makes a great gift. Look for <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/category/Beard_oil?marketed_for=men" target="_blank">beard oils</a> with a green rating in the Skin Deep® database and brushes with wood or bamboo handles.</li></ul><ul><li>Makeup wipes are hot right now, but their disposable nature and questionable ingredients are not as fun. Look for reusable cotton wipes in undyed organic cotton.</li></ul><p><strong>Green Kitchens Are More Than a Design Trend</strong></p><p>If you're like most parents, you try to feed your family without exposing them to harmful chemicals. So it's a disappointment to discover that the cookware and food storage you've been using might be toxic. Surprise the chef on your list with a few cleaner, greener product swaps:</p><ul> <li>Cast iron or carbon steel sauté pans and griddles are beautiful, long-lasting alternatives to nonstick cookware, which is often made with toxic PFAS, the notorious Teflon chemical.</li></ul><ul> <li>Enamel-coated pots and Dutch ovens in bright, beautiful colors that any chef would be happy to add to their collection.</li></ul><ul><li>Waffle makers and crepe pans are a gift everyone can enjoy – but they're typically coated with nonstick chemicals. Instead, choose a waffle maker made of cast iron or coated with enamel, or a crepe pan made of lightweight carbon steel.</li></ul>
Support EWG<p>You want to feed your family more vegetables, but getting your kids' buy-in is no small challenge. One approach: Your purchase of the <a href="https://act.ewg.org/onlineactions/xpK5DUDfFE-PM8bYOYd8sA2?sourceid=1018019&_gl=1*wayh0y*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1Njg2NDUwMjEuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JeGEtNmlNclY1QUlWaDR6SUNoMXVSZ0YzRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0piaGZEX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.129134415.290585068.1574696568-757456667.1543852855" target="_blank">2019 EWG Holiday Gift Box</a> includes the new cookbook by noted chef Abra Behrens, <em>Ruffage</em>, lauded as a both an homage to vegetables and a practical guide. Bonus: Proceeds support EWG's ongoing research and advocacy work.</p>
- EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays - EcoWatch ›
- How to Shop Sustainably - EcoWatch ›
- 4 Eco-Friendly Drinking Straw Alternatives So You Can Skip Plastic ... ›
By Karen Spangler
If you're a new parent, it can be confusing to keep up with the latest recommendations about how to give your baby a healthy start. As scientists learn more about the dangers of toxic chemical exposure to babies' developing bodies and brains, some products haven't stood the test of time. Here are three of the biggest differences about what parents do now compared to just a generation ago.
1. Choosing Organic<p>Parents have been making their own baby food at home for generations, and it's a great way to know what's on your baby's plate. Who doesn't love some home-mashed sweet potatoes smeared across that cute face? But today we know more about the damaging health effects of pesticide exposure, and how long pesticide residue can linger in the fruits and vegetables we buy. Doctors <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/just-released-ewg-s-2019-shopper-s-guide-pesticides-produce" target="_blank">recommend</a> limiting babies' pesticide exposure as much as possible due to increased risks of tumors, leukemia and effects on brain development from these chemicals.</p><p>When you're making your baby's first foods, consider organic fruits and vegetables, or those with lower levels of pesticide residues. EWG's <a href="https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/full-list.php" target="_blank">2019 ranking</a> of pesticide contamination in produce found that avocados were No. 1 on the Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least contaminated with pesticide residue. Of all the produce tested, strawberries, spinach and kale top the Dirty Dozen™ list of fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue. To reduce your baby's exposure, buy versions of these items produced with organic farming methods.</p><p>If you're short of time, don't forget you have more options than ever for organic premade baby food, both at specialty retailers and major grocery stores.</p>
2. Tossing the Baby Powder<p><br>Baby powder is another classic you'd think would be great for, well, babies. But <a href="https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-5TipsSaferCosmeticsKids.pdf?_gl=1*85c97l*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1NjcwMDk0MDkuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JMEtIcDlfeWw1QUlWbUlqSUNoM3YyUXhGRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0x0VV9EX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.117949578.2042356046.1567109717-2011668135.1528827282" target="_blank">airborne particles</a> can make their way into a baby's lungs, which is especially concerning since talcum powder can contain <a href="https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-5TipsSaferCosmeticsKids.pdf?_gl=1*85c97l*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1NjcwMDk0MDkuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JMEtIcDlfeWw1QUlWbUlqSUNoM3YyUXhGRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0x0VV9EX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.117949578.2042356046.1567109717-2011668135.1528827282" target="_blank">unknown amounts</a> of asbestos. Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen, and inhaling even a tiny amount can cause cancer later in life. Make sure to check <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG's Skin Deep®</a> so you avoid using other products on your baby that could contain talc.</p><p>There's another reason to ditch the baby powder: It often contains fragrance, a common <a href="https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-5TipsSaferCosmeticsKids.pdf?_gl=1*85c97l*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1NjcwMDk0MDkuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JMEtIcDlfeWw1QUlWbUlqSUNoM3YyUXhGRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0x0VV9EX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.117949578.2042356046.1567109717-2011668135.1528827282" target="_blank">cause</a> of skin irritation. Manufacturers are allowed to keep the exact <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wAToqkcAow" target="_blank">fragrance ingredients</a> under wraps, but they can include chemicals such as phthalates, which have been linked to harmful health effects.</p><p>Good alternatives: Zinc-based diaper creams create a strong protective barrier, and there are a number of <a href="https://www.ewg.org/ewgverified/" target="_blank">EWG VERIFIED™</a> options. You can also find safer alternatives for your baby's personal care products in <a href="https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-5TipsSaferCosmeticsKids.pdf?_gl=1*1em6xc9*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1NjcwMDk0MDkuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JMEtIcDlfeWw1QUlWbUlqSUNoM3YyUXhGRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0x0VV9EX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.44390755.613739430.1568812661-2011668135.1528827282&" target="_blank">EWG's guide</a> to choosing safer personal care products for kids.</p>
3. Avoiding Flame Retardants<p>Decades ago, concerns about the fire danger of foam furniture, like sofas and mattresses, led manufacturers to add flame-retardant chemicals to many kids' products. Today scientists know these toxic <a href="https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2017/02/flame-retardant-roulette-swapping-one-toxic-compound-another" target="_blank">chemicals</a> carry their own serious health effects, including cancer and disruption of the endocrine system.</p><p>Penta-BDE, for years the main flame retardant added to foam products, is now banned, due to reproductive toxicity. But its replacement, triphenyl phosphate, has also been<a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/nailed/nail-polish-chemical-doubles-furniture-fire-retardant" target="_blank"> shown</a> to accumulate in the bloodstream and cause reproductive and developmental abnormalities in animals. Considering that the average infant sleeps 12 to 16 hours a day, it's worth scrutinizing that mattress label.</p><p>To keep your baby safe, choose a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/healthyhomeguide/mattresses/" target="_blank">crib mattress</a> made with wool or polylactic acid for flame resistance, rather than chemical flame retardants. You should also make sure to check with the manufacturer on any hand-me-downs for flame retardants.</p><p>Additionally, avoid PVC or vinyl waterproof mattress covers; choose natural cotton with a PUL layer, or polyethylene instead.</p><p>To steer clear of flame retardants in your baby's clothing, choose snug-fitting cotton or wool pajamas, as "loose-fitting" kids' sleepwear is <a href="https://www.cpsc.gov/Business--Manufacturing/Testing-Certification/Testing/Childrens-Sleepwear-Lab-Bulletin/%3Futm_source%3Drss%26utm_medium%3Drss%26utm_campaign%3DLab%2BBulletins" target="_blank">required by law</a> to be flame resistant, often using toxic chemicals.</p><p>To learn more about protecting your child's health as they grow, see EWG's <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/" target="_blank">Children's Health Initiative</a> for the latest research and tip sheets.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Grace Francese
Outbreaks of potentially toxic algae are fouling lakes, rivers and other bodies of water across the U.S. Nationally, news reports of algae outbreaks have been on the rise since 2010.
What are algae blooms?<p>These smelly blooms <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tZooDsX8Fo" target="_blank">aren't actually algae at all</a>, but photosynthetic microorganisms called cyanobacteria.</p><p>Runoff from farm fields is often polluted with phosphorous and other chemicals in manure and commercial fertilizers. When this polluted runoff gets into lakes, it feeds the growth of cyanobacteria, especially in warm weather. Increasingly heavy rains and flooding, exacerbated by the climate crisis, make the problem worse. </p>
What are microcystins?<p>Many algae blooms are gross, forming a foul-smelling slime on a lake's surface, but not hazardous. But for reasons no one yet understands, some produce poisonous chemicals called cyanotoxins, including the group known as microcystins.</p>
What are the health risks?<p>Microcystin-producing cyanobacteria are a hazard to anyone, but the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/habs/" target="_blank">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> says children are especially vulnerable, since they're most likely to ingest water while swimming. Exposure can cause coughing, nausea, weakness, cramping and headaches, as well as long-term health effects such as liver failure.</p><p>Contact with skin, drinking <a href="https://www.ewg.org/toxicalgalblooms/#map" target="_blank">contaminated tap water</a> or eating contaminated fish can also cause health problems. Even breathing in microcystins can be harmful, and recent studies have shown that the <a href="https://www.news-press.com/story/tech/science/environment/2019/03/15/new-health-questions-raised-fgcu-research-toxic-algae-dust/3176195002/" target="_blank">toxins can become airborne</a>, drifting a mile or more from the site of the outbreak.</p>
How can I recognize and avoid algae blooms?<p>The best approach is to check with your city, county or state health departments, which may issue warnings. You can also use EWG's <a href="https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2019_microcystin/map/" target="_blank">map</a>to see whether authorities have found microcystins in a particular lake in the past few years.</p><p>If you can't find information about a specific lake, get to know the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsgg2rqPKEE&feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">warning signs</a>. Look out for dead fish or animals in or near the water, and slime that looks like blue, blue-green, bright green or dark green spilled paint.</p><p>Only experts who test the water can determine definitively whether an algae bloom is toxic. So if you come across what looks like an algae outbreak, stay away – even if you're not sure it's toxic. Don't swim in it, and do your best to avoid breathing the air around it. Contact your health department and alert local news media.</p>
What should I do if I think my child has been exposed to a toxic algae outbreak?<p>If you think your child has come into contact with toxic algae, or shows flu-like symptoms after playing in or near it, rinse them off with water. Make sure they also drink plenty of water. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.</p>
How can we prevent algae blooms?<p>Farming practices like vegetative buffers along streams and rivers help minimize runoff, but these practices won't be widely implemented without regulations that require farmers to apply them. </p><p>Ideally, states would test lakes and other bodies of water for microcystins and other cyanotoxins and warn the public when there's danger. But EWG's new report found that only 20 states test regularly for microcystins and make the data public, and often only after a delay.</p><p>The Environmental Protection Agency should regulate these toxins to protect our tap water supplies. <a href="https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/P100N2VG.PDF?Dockey=P100N2VG.PDF" target="_blank">More than two-thirds</a> of all Americans get their drinking water from utilities that rely at least in part on lakes, rivers or other surface water. Yet the EPA doesn't regulate the level of microcystins and other cyanotoxins in drinking water.</p><p>For more info about toxic algae outbreaks, check out this <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2019/05/toxic-algae-blooms-what-you-should-know" target="_blank">overview</a>. EWG also maintains a resource center on algae blooms <a href="https://www.ewg.org/key-issues/water/toxicalgae" target="_blank">here</a>.</p>
By Nicole Ferox
When my daughter was in preschool, she told me that instead of washing hands before lunch, the children used hand sanitizer. The thinking behind this was probably that hand sanitizer kills bacteria and viruses and therefore — presto! — problem solved. Hands are clean, and it's so much quicker.
1. Do the kids wash their hands before they eat?<p>Requiring hand washing with soap and water, especially after kids have been outside and before they eat, is arguably the easiest change schools can make to reduce kids' exposure to chemical pollutants from dust and other sources.</p>
2. What cleaning products does the school use?<p>We recommend schools use cleaning products that are <a href="https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/faq#q41" target="_blank">third-party green certified</a>, which means their ingredients are safer for everyone, especially children, or products with an A, or green, rating in our <a href="https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners" target="_blank">Guide to Healthy Cleaning</a>. For institutional cleaning supplies, schools should choose Green Seal, EcoLogo or EPA's Safer Choice-certified products only.</p>
3. Has the school had its drinking water tested for lead?<p>There's no safe level of lead exposure, but most states don't require schools and child care centers to <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/prc/projects/school-research/early-adopters/" target="_blank">test their drinking water for lead</a>. If the water hasn't been tested at your kids' school, urge administrators to contact the local health department to start the process. Since lead levels in a single building can vary, all faucets and drinking fountains should be tested. In California, <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/lead-detected-drinking-water-almost-1-5-california-schools" target="_blank">one in five schools</a> has found at least one faucet on their campus with water containing lead.</p>
4. What landscaping chemicals are used?<p>Chances are good your school uses chemical fertilizers, weedkillers and other pesticides for playground and grounds maintenance. Many of them, especially pesticides, are toxic and linked to <a href="https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2015/09/important-new-reason-keep-pesticides-away-children" target="_blank">childhood cancer</a> and <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22674/it-s-personal-pesticide-exposures-come-cost" target="_blank">autism</a>. <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22740/roundup-recess-how-get-cancer-causing-pesticides-your-local-playground" target="_blank">Talk to your school about safer landscaping alternatives</a>, with EWG's guide and collection of resources as a starting point.</p>
5. Does the school serve organic foods?<p>A good first step is to focus on foods where switching from conventional to organic will make the biggest impact: milk and <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22109/ask-ewg/organic-hot-dogs" target="_blank">meat</a>, fruits, and veggies with <a href="https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php" target="_blank">the most pesticides</a>; foods grown with particularly toxic pesticides; and snacks with the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22626/five-kids-snacks-you-should-always-buy-organic" target="_blank">worst food additives</a>.</p>
Questions to ask your kid’s child care center or preschool:
6. Are the nap mats made without flame retardants?<p>A study conducted by the Washington state-based nonprofit <a href="https://toxicfreefuture.org/" target="_blank">Toxic-Free Future</a> found that when child care providers replaced <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22050/advice-parents-find-nap-mats-without-flame-retardant-chemicals" target="_blank">nap mats</a> with chemical-free versions, the levels of flame retardants polluting children's bodies <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749118302690?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decreased by 40 to 90 percent</a>. It's a safe guess that mats made in 2014 and earlier were treated with chemical flame retardants; <a href="https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2014/09/california-makes-it-law-label-toxic-flame-retardants-furniture" target="_blank">2015 or newer</a> mats are more likely to be untreated and are required to bear a label stating whether they have added flame retardants.</p>
7. What kind of laundry detergent does the facility use?<p>To avoid fragrances, allergens and other ingredients that can irritate children's skin, we recommend child care providers choose detergent with a green A rating in our <a href="https://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/9-Laundry" target="_blank">Guide to Healthy Cleaning</a>.</p>
8. What kind of sunscreen do care providers use?<p>Sunscreen is especially important for kids, who are more susceptible to the ill effects of the sun. We recommend care providers avoid chemical sunscreens and instead choose a broad spectrum <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22673/ask-ewg-how-choose-best-sunscreen-your-kids" target="_blank">mineral sunscreen</a> with active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Use <a href="https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/" target="_blank">EWG's Guide to Sunscreens</a> to find products that offer adequate protection from both UVA and UVB rays without the addition of hazardous chemicals.</p>
By Grace Francese
You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.
Dangerous but Legal<p>Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin — it affects the nervous system and brain, and even small amounts of exposure can cause permanent health damage to babies and children. These health effects can include impairment of children's IQ and harm to the parts of the brain that control language, memory, behavior and emotion. A new <a href="http://cphpost.dk/news/link-between-insecticides-and-adhd-among-kids-danish-study.html" target="_blank">study</a> from the University of Southern Denmark also links chlorpyrifos exposure in pregnant women to ADHD in their children.</p><p>Because millions of pounds of chlorpyrifos are sprayed on crops every year, most Americans are exposed to it through milk, fruit and other produce. Research by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that babies and developing fetuses are exposed to about five times more chlorpyrifos than what the EPA's standard deems safe, and children consume chlorpyrifos at 11 to 15 times the EPA standard.</p><p>Despite this, in 2017 the Trump EPA <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/two-years-and-10-million-pounds-trump-epa-blocked-ban-brain-damaging-pesticide" target="_blank">decided</a> to ignore science in favor of the pesticide industry and cancelled a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. Now the EPA won't act to keep it out of milk and produce for at least another five years. While the EPA waits to evaluate chlorpyrifos again, roughly <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2018/03/thanks-scott-pruitt-30-million-pounds-brain-damaging-pesticide-will-be" target="_blank">30 million pounds</a> of this chemical will be sprayed on crops, risking the health of children across the U.S. </p><p>The EPA's failure to ban chlorpyrifos has even more harmful consequences for farm workers and their families. According to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/17/california-pesticides-central-valley-trump" target="_blank">The Guardian</a> newspaper, parents in California's Central Valley, which has some of the heaviest use of chlorpyrifos in the country, fear that drifting clouds of pesticides are causing their children's chronic health problems, including learning problems and attention deficit disorders. They're just not sure about possible solutions.</p><p>"We know this is dangerous for the kids," said one mother of five, "but what are we supposed to do?" </p>
Keeping Your Family Safe<p>The Environmental Working Group (EWG) supports a complete ban on chlorpyrifos, such as <a href="https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/news/press-releases/udall-senators-introduce-bill-to-ban-toxic-pesticide-chlorpyrifos" target="_blank">a bill</a> currently under consideration in the Senate. EWG is also urging grocery stores to stop supplying foods that could have residues of chlorpyrifos.</p><p>In the meantime, switching to organic milk and organic versions of the most potentially contaminated produce is a great way to <a href="https://www.ewg.org/planet-trump/2017/04/don-t-want-eat-pruitt-s-pesticide-here-s-what-avoid#.WrPxnJPwY3i" target="_blank">cut this pesticide out of your diet</a>. Chlorpyrifos residues are most often detected on some imported produce, so skip buying peaches and nectarines imported from Chile, bell peppers and hot peppers imported from Mexico, and domestic and imported cilantro.</p>
By Nicole Ferox
It's that time of year: Mosquitoes and ticks are out in full force, and so are all the latest bug repellent products claiming to keep them at bay. So what bug repellent ingredients do Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists recommend for kids? Our top picks are DEET, Picaridin and IR3535. These ingredients have low safety concerns and offer a high level of protection from a variety of biting insects and ticks.
Can I really use DEET? I thought it was dangerous.<p>Yes, DEET is a reasonable choice when used as directed, even for children. Still, after reviewing the evidence, EWG researchers concluded that it is best to use the lowest effective concentration of DEET, even though it's effective and generally safer than is commonly assumed.</p><p>Picaridin is a great alternative to DEET. It effectively repels both mosquitoes and ticks and, compared to other repellents, is less likely to irritate eyes and skin.</p><p>EWG research indicates that, in general, "natural" bug repellent ingredients like castor, cedar, citronella, clove, geraniol, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and/or soybean oils are often not the best choice.</p>
How do I know if there’s a risk of insect-borne disease in my area?<p>Ask your pediatrician or check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maps listed below. If you're traveling internationally, check the CDC website for information about the <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/world-map-areas-with-zika" target="_blank">Zika virus</a>.</p><ul><li><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/statsmaps/index.html" target="_blank">U.S. Map of Reported Cases of West Nile Virus</a></li><li><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/maps.html" target="_blank">U.S. Map of Reported Cases of Lyme Disease</a></li><li><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html" target="_blank">U.S. Maps of Ticks Carrying Lyme Disease</a></li></ul>
More Information<p><a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-guide-bug-repellents" target="_blank">EWG's Guide to Bug Repellents</a></p><p><a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22197/ask-ewg-what-s-best-bug-spray-buy-my-kids" target="_blank">Ask EWG: What's the Best Bug Spray to Buy for my Kids?</a></p><p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/prevent-mosquito-bites.html" target="_blank">CDC: Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites</a></p>
- How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Your Kids - EcoWatch ›
- Nitrates in Tap Water: What Parents Need to Know - EcoWatch ›
By Anne Schechinger
Over the Fourth of July holiday, many of us love to beat the heat in a favorite lake, pond or river. But this year, vacationers from coast to coast will have to look out for a potentially record-breaking number of algae blooms.
By Grace Francese
A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) study published in Environmental Research found that nitrate, one of the most common contaminants of drinking water, may cause up to 12,594 cases of cancer per year, but that's not its only danger: It can pose unique health risks to children.
Why is nitrate dangerous?<p>Most of the nitrate that ends up in public water systems comes from agricultural runoff that contains nitrogen fertilizer and manure. Although everyone may be exposed to nitrate, it poses the greatest risk <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/drinking-water-and-children-s-health" target="_blank">to infants and pregnant women</a>.</p><p>The potential harm of nitrate may begin during pregnancy, and at levels far lower than the legal standard. EWG <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/ewg-nitrate-pollution-us-tap-water-could-cause-12500-cancer-cases-each-year" target="_blank">estimates</a> that every year, it may cause up to 2,939 cases of very low birth weight, up to 1,725 cases of very preterm birth and up to 41 cases of neural tube defects.</p><p>Infants fed formula made with water contaminated by nitrate above the federal legal standard run the risk <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/20214/how-avoid-added-nitrates-and-nitrites-your-food" target="_blank">methemoglobinemia</a>, also known as "blue baby syndrome" — a rare but serious condition that blocks the blood's ability to carry oxygen. The EPA's current limit for nitrate in drinking water — 10 parts per million, or ppm — was set to prevent blue baby syndrome. <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/introducing-ewg-standards-benchmarks-protect-public-health" target="_blank">Current research</a> suggests that the standard, set in 1962, is long past due for an update.</p><p>Research shows that even a level of nitrate less than one-tenth of the current legal limit may cause harm to a developing fetus, but earlier this year, EPA suspended its planned reevaluation of the nitrate standard.</p><p>Although nitrate can be removed with at-home water filtration technologies, options are limited and can be expensive. It's less costly to keep nitrate out of drinking water in the first place, with policies and community-based efforts to protect source water, such as installing nitrate-removal treatment at water treatment plants.</p><p>"Millions of Americans are being involuntarily exposed to nitrate, and they are also the ones paying the heavy costs of treating contaminated tap water," said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., a toxicologist and author of EWG's new nitrate study. "But the federal government is not doing enough to protect Americans from tap water contamination."</p>
What can you do?<p>EWG has tools you can use to protect your family from nitrate contamination to your drinking water.</p><p>First, use <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/index.php" target="_blank">EWG's Tap Water Database</a> to find out whether you may be exposed to nitrate. If you have your own well, a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/dwlabcert/contact-information-certification-programs-and-certified-laboratories-drinking-water" target="_blank">state-certified facility</a> can test for nitrate and other contaminants. Your local county cooperative extension program may provide well testing, maybe even at reduced or even no cost. It is especially important to get your well water tested if you live in farm country, where nitrate pollution is <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/nitratecost/" target="_blank">often worse</a>.</p><p>If your water contains nitrate levels close to the EPA limit of 10 ppm, <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/nitrate-us-tap-water-may-cause-more-12500-cancers-year" target="_blank">switch immediately</a> to a different source of drinking water and install a water filtration system designed to remove nitrate. Even if your nitrate level is lower, you may want to install a water filter. Just be aware that carbon filters won't suffice to reduce nitrate. The EPA recommends reverse osmosis or ion exchange systems. Consult EWG's <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/water-filter-guide.php#findfilter" target="_blank">Water Filter Guide</a> for filters that can protect against ntirate and other contaminants.</p><p>If you have a formula-fed baby, instead of using unfiltered tap water to mix formula, follow EWG <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-nitrate.php" target="_blank">guidelines</a> to find a water filter system that will remove nitrate. Or use water that's been filtered by distillation or reverse osmosis, as indicated on the label.</p>
By Ketura Persellin
You've likely heard that eating meat and poultry isn't good for your health or the planet. Recent news from Washington may make meat even less palatable: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of the industry.
As with so many things in parenting, choosing a sunscreen for kids can be confusing and anxiety-provoking. You don't want your kids to get sunburned or have other skin damage that can lead to premature aging and cancer later in life. But neither do you want to coat them in sunscreen — and get yelled at while doing it — only to find out later that it's loaded with chemicals that may cause other health problems.
Can you just tell me what *&#%! sunscreen to buy?<p>No, sorry, we can't.</p><p>But you can choose one from <a href="https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-kids-sunscreens/" target="_blank">our list of Best Scoring Sunscreens for Kids</a>. We can also teach you how to shop, which is especially helpful when you don't have access to the web. Knowing what to look for on the label will help you make the best choice for your kids.</p><p><strong>Avoid:</strong></p><ul><li>Spray sunscreens and bug-repellant-and-sunscreen combo sprays</li><li>SPF greater than 50</li><li>Oxybenzone (in the active ingredients)</li><li>Fragrance</li><li>Retinyl palmitate, retinol or vitamin A</li></ul><p>We don't recommend spray sunscreens or those with SPF over 50, so eliminate those right off the bat. Sunscreen sprays pose <a href="https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/executive-summary/#.W1oJh9hKhcC" target="_blank">inhalation risks</a> and may not offer a thick and even enough application to protect against the sun's rays. Meanwhile, sunscreens with SPFs over 50 provide only <a href="https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/whats-wrong-with-high-spf/#.W1oJqthKhcA" target="_blank">slightly better protection</a> than those with low SPF values, and they have a worse balance of protection, especially for UVA rays. But they often fool people into thinking they can stay outdoors longer. We don't recommend bug repellant and sunscreen combination products because you don't necessarily need one just because you need the other, so why use the chemicals unnecessarily?</p><p><strong>Choose:</strong></p><ul><li>A mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (in the active ingredient(s))</li><li>If you must choose a chemical sunscreen, look for avobenzone (3 percent; in the active ingredients)</li></ul><p>Avobenzone reduces UVA damage that can lead to skin aging and cancer. However, choose products carefully: Avobenzone is often used in combination with other chemical active ingredients, many of which are hormone disruptors.</p>
Help! Sunscreen is messy and frustrating and has to be reapplied so often! What’s the best way to get it on my kids and keep it there?<p>We can relate. Putting sunscreen on wet, fussy kids can suck all the joy out of a relaxing summer day. But then again, so can a sunburn.</p><p>First, dress kids in shirts and shorts, even at the pool. Reducing the amount of sunscreen needed by covering your kids up with fabric means you've cut your battle in half or more. Shirts and shorts help protect their skin during hikes and play time out of the water, and rashguard-type clothing can be used on top of (or instead of) swimsuits. Plus, kids' shoulders and backs are prone to serious sunburn — especially when they're playing in water — so using a barrier of clothing between their skin and the sun is simple and important. Add a hat and you've reduced your kids' chances of major sunburns and skin damage.</p><p>Second — and sorry if we're boring you — but avoid the sun as much as you can, especially with infants and young children. Plan to bring kids in for lunch or a nap midday, when the sun's rays are strongest and the risk of UV damage is highest. And come equipped with a plan for shade — whether it's a tree at the park, a pop-up shade tent or a dash for an umbrella-covered spot at the pool. In short, don't go outside unless you have a plan to give the kids a place to sit, eat and hide from the sun for periods of time.</p>
EWG’s Top Tips: Sunscreen Should Be Your Last Resort<p><strong>1. Wear Clothes.</strong></p><p>Shirts, hats, shorts and pants shield your skin from the sun's UV rays, reducing burn risk by 27%.</p><p><strong>2. Plan Around the Sun.</strong></p><p>Go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky.</p><p><strong>3. Find Shade — or Make it.</strong></p><p>Picnic under a tree or take a canopy to the beach. Keep infants in the shade, reducing the risk of multiple burns by 30%.</p><p><strong>4. Don't Get Burned.</strong></p><p>Red, sore, blistered skin means you've gotten far too much sun.</p><p><strong>5. Sunglasses Are Essential.</strong></p><p>Not just a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation.</p><p><strong>6. Check UV Index.</strong></p><p>The UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure.</p>
By Ketura Persellin
Global consumption of beef, lamb and goat is expected to rise by almost 90 percent between 2010 and 2050. But that doesn't mean you need to eat more meat. In fact, recent news from Washington gives you even less confidence in your meat: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of line workers.