New Year, fresh slate.
I have a zillion green resolutions of my own I could share here but far more interesting, I think, is to do a little predicting (and fantasizing) about what might come to pass during 2008 in the world of green/organic parenting. 2007, as we all know too well, was the year of the toxic toy and the chemically-tainted bottle. In other words, it was the year parents who dont necessarily self-identify as green or organic got a serious wake up call. The way many of these parents approached their environment has forever been changed. Case in point: In the past few weeks on my local parenting message board there have been posts from totally mainstream moms and dads asking about the environmental health/safety of conventional crib mattresses, lead-tainted Christmas light wires, and how best to mask poopy diaper stench.
On the surface the last query doesnt quite fit in the environmental realm, but bear with me here. I was dismayed to read a number of moms responded by suggesting placing air fresheners in nurseries to quell the smell. I was about to post my standard response to anything concerning fragrance: dont! Fragrance often contains phthalates, so its never a good idea to spray it all over the room a baby sleeps in. I was happy to have recent, excellent research to back up my warning. The NRDC just studied air fresheners and, sure enough, showed that many do have hormone disrupters in them. I included this link to their study in my response:
They, along with the Sierra Club, the Alliance for Healthy Homes, and the National Center for Healthy Housing, have urged the EPA to investigate the potentially toxic chemicals in the stuff. From a Sierra Club press release about the request: Far too little is known about which chemicals make up air fresheners, and there is virtually no government oversight monitoring the health risks those chemicals may pose. Air fresheners do not clean the air; they just add toxic chemicals to the air we breathe. Instead of thorough cleaning or effective ventilation, the air fresheners are too often used as a mask for smells from sewage, mold, rodents and cockroaches, all health risks in and of themselves. (Read the full study.)
The EPA hasnt exactly jumped on the request, but it did send letters to seven major manufacturers asking for a voluntary list of chemicals in their products, the range of concentrations for each chemical, the chemicals function, and total annual amount used. (If youre still using the stuff at home, the manufacturers they contacted are Proctor and Gamble; Redkitt Benckiser; SC Johnson; Shell Oil; Blythe; Lancaster Colony; and Dial. Stay tuned for the responses.)
Sadly the EPA didnt ask the manufacturers for the coalitions specific requests which included:
provide EPA with consumers reports of health problems associated with air fresheners
submit copies of existing health and safety studies on the products
test the products for their potential impacts on peoples respiratory systems
label products containing phthalates, a particularly dangerous class of chemicals
It stinks (sorry, couldnt help myself) that the EPA didnt go this far but its important that theyve requesting any steps at all. Heres where this new group of green/organic parents comes in. Were a huge and growing -- vocal consumer group. Parents spreading the word to other parents that air fresheners are next in the toxic toy/chemicals in plastic bottles mold will entice more parents not to buy them until the companies comply with the coalitions specifics, and ultimately make better, safer products. Our outrage and determination helped pass a toxic toy ban into law in California. As upsetting as it is to read that yet another household item isn't safe, I find it very exciting to know that the more these concerns are brought to the public's attention, the less our government will be able to ignore these issues.
All of this chatter about air fresheners leads me back to my 2008 prediction: it will undoubtedly be a year when countless household staples make their way into the hot seat. I look forward to seeing what theyll be. Im hoping for a push for honest cleaning product labeling and am sensing low-level hysteria about lead in electronic wiring currently brewing below the surface. The scientists at Washington Toxics Coalition have been doing solid research and lobbying about flame retardants. Perhaps PBDEs will be 2008s bisphenol-A? If only we lived in a world where those chemicals were as well known as the characters in Us Weekly.
Ill wrap this up before I start sounding like a crazy person. I hope 2008 will be the year when environmental health issues are so widely acknowledged, they can be easily discussed with up-to-date pediatricians during well visits instead of researched alone online after the kids go to bed. Maybe it will even be the year when our cosmetics industry voluntarily adheres to (stricter than American) European standards. Or maybe it will just be the year when I convince the preschool Aili will probably enter this fall for a few mornings a week to stop cleaning with harsh products and offer children organic snacks. I believe all of the above can happen. Yes, its a slow, backwards process (the burden being on individuals as if were guinea pigs, and not big corporations or the government) but it will eventually result in safer environments for our children and for us. And thats the point.
Happy New Year.
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