What is Earth Day?

What is Earth Day?

Besides being our favorite day all year, Earth Day is a global holiday that celebrates one very important thing: our planet. It also marks the birth of the modern environmental movement back in the 1970s – a time where environmentalists were labeled “tree huggers” or “hippies”, and the concept of sustainability was all but drowned out by the desire for economic growth.

Although most of America (and the world for that matter) was not tuned into the changing needs of our planet, environmentalists like Rachel Carson began to set the stage for the modern sustainability movement we recognize today. Her New York Times Bestseller Book, Silent Spring, was released in 1962 and wrote on the negative impacts of chemical insecticides on animals, habitats, and humans as a whole. Although it focused specifically on the chemical pesticide DDT and bird habitats, it began to raise public awareness around all types of pollution – and the way we treat our planet as a whole.

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Earth Day

Silent Spring, in addition to major environmental crisis like the 1969 oil spill in California, inspired then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (with the help of his friends!) to create an event that celebrates the grassroots enthusiasm for the planet he was witnessing, and fuses that enthusiasm with national policy initiatives. After a year of planning, on April 22, 1970, Earth Day took the world by storm as 20 million Americans hit the streets and public parks to rally for what they believed in. Various groups from all walks of life came together to rally against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, and the extinction of wildlife and biodiversity – and left the first Earth Day with a much larger community they realized they shared values with. And so the modern environmental movement was born!

By the end of 1970, the enthusiasm around Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Endangered Species Acts. Woohoo! Simply because of passionate grassroots activists some major environmental  policies were enacted that we still have in place today. But the power of Earth Day didn’t stop there.

Earth Day goes Worldwide!

Flash forward to 1990. A group of prominent leaders in environmental advocacy wanted another big push around Earth Day to rally not just America, but the entire world! They called on Denis Hayes, co-coordinator for the first Earth Day, to serve as international chairman and spread Earth Day with everyone. With his help, they mobilized 200 million people (mostly grassroots activists!)  in 141 countries and focused on important issues like recycling and the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit. This was a hugely successful campaign, and by 2000, they knew that Earth Day was a rapidly growing global force that had the ability to create real change.

In 2000, Hayes wanted to combine the excitement and passion he saw around the first Earth Day back in 1970, with the hands-on activism and involvement from the 1990 Earth Day. The campaign focused specifically on global warming and clean energy, sending a clear message that citizens across the planet wanted meaningful action from their leaders on these issues. About 5,000 environmental groups across 184 countries teamed up with millions of activists (both online and in person!) to rally for this cause. Hundreds of thousands of activists collected on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for a First Amendment Rally. A drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, to celebrate. The message from the entire world was clear that Earth Day: we need to protect our planet, and politicians better step up to help us.

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Earth Day Information

By 2010, Earth Day was a well-known holiday…. But the environmental issues that faced us were becoming more severe than ever. Issues like climate change (and climate change deniers), oil lobbyists, an under-educated public, and a large political divide preventing change all inspired the Earth Day Network to remind the world what Earth Day is – and why it matters more than ever. They brought 250,000 people to the National Mall in D.C. for a climate rally, and launched the world’s biggest environmental service project, A Billion Acts of Green. That inspired  The Canopy Project, a global tree planting initiative that engaged 75,000 partners in 192 countries back in 2010, and has continued to make a significant impact on our global forests sense.

Today, Earth Day is considered the largest non-religious holiday observed worldwide, and is celebrated by over a billion people every year! From people choosing to celebrate the day enjoying nature with friends and family, to others who opt for a good ole’ fashioned peaceful protest, there are tons of ways to make an impact this holiday. Checkout some of our favorite Earth Day facts and initiatives below!

Earth Day Facts

  1. This Earth Day (2019) is the 49th annual Earth Day! The 50th Anniversary of this holiday is next year (2020) and we couldn’t be more excited!
  2. Earth Day was chosen to be on April 22nd by Gaylord Nelson because it was between Spring Break and Finals Week – so that students could be as involved as possible. It’s also the global Spring Equinox!
  3. According to the device recycler ecoATM, 30% of those polled celebrate by planting a tree for Earth Day, and 23% clean up local areas. About 47% of those polled associate Earth Day with recycling.
  4. Some environmental policy victories since the first Earth Day include:
    • Creation of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA!) which regulates the environmental quality of our water, air, and lands in the United States.
    • The National Environmental Policy Act: a law that requires any actions done by the U.S. Federal Government to be evaluated for their impact. That includes building roads, dams, and other infrastructure, and it’s potential impact on species habitats, water and air pollution, and more!
    • Clean Water, Clean Air, and Endangered Species Acts!
    • Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act: required the study of pesticides and their impacts – plus regulation of what pesticides and chemicals can be used!
    • Formation of A Billion Acts of Green, and the Canopy Project!
    • And tons of education initiatives!
  5. Despite all the enthusiasm around Earth Day, according to Gallup Polls, 42% of Americans believe that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated, and less than half say the environment should be given priority over energy production. Yikes!
  6. Earth Day was officially renamed in 2009 by the United Nations to be International Mother Earth Day.
  7. On Earth Day 2012, over 100,000 people ditched their cars and rode bikes in China to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel usage.

EarthHero’s Favorite Earth Day Products

At EarthHero, we’re celebrating the day by teaming up with the organization that started it all – the Earth Day Network (founded by Denis Hayes!) to donate towards their amazing 2019 campaign called “Protect Our Species”. The entire week of Earth Day (4/22-4/29) we’ll be running a special promotion (stay tuned!) that gives you a chance to help us give back to their cause. Until then, support brands who are putting our environment first with some of our favorite eco-friendly products below!

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Earth Day Custom Gift Box

To celebrate the “Protect Our Species” campaign, we curated a custom gift box chock full of zero-waste, plastic-free products that directly or indirectly support happy habitats, species biodiversity, and sustainable ecosystems. Our oceans are one of our largest habitats, and host millions of unique species – but can be easily impacted by mounting environmental issues like plastic pollution and climate change. This gift box brings together products like reusable straws and food storage containers that reduce the amount of plastic you produce, with innovative products like the Cora Ball microfiber catching laundry ball.

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4Ocean Recycled Earth Day Bracelet

Every year, an estimated 16 billion pounds of plastic waste enters our oceans, where it damages habitats and hurts a variety of species. 4Ocean’s custom Earth Day Bracelet is on a mission to reduce the amount of plastic on our planet by making bracelets from recycled plastic and recycled glass – that also remove a pound of plastic from our oceans for every purchase. To date, 4Ocean bracelets have removed 2,246,704 pounds of trash from our oceans, and are just getting started! Plus, this bracelet is in support of the Earth Day Network, and donates a portion of profits to their numerous causes. Get one for yourself, and for a friend this Earth Day!

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Zero Waste Essential Starter Kit

Want to share Earth Day with someone who is just getting started living more sustainably? Then this is the essential starter kit you need! It’s full of our favorite plastic-free essentials like reusable produce bags, silicone Ziplock alternatives, a bamboo utensil set, reusable straws, bamboo toothbrushes, and silicone food savers… aka all the essentials to get you creating less waste, and living more mindfully! They also come in size small and large, depending on what sustainable goodies you’d like to give or get!

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Coral Reef Friendly Sunscreen

For many of us, Earth Day is an amazing reminder to get outside and enjoy nature – whether that means hiking, biking, swimming, diving, climbing… or just chilling. No matter what you decide to do, wearing a earth-friendly sunscreen is imperative to protect your skin, without harming the fragile ecosystems we love to play in. You can read more about why natural sunscreens are the way to go here, but make sure you opt for an oxybenzone-free, reef-friendly option like this one!

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Reusable Insulated Water Bottle

Plastic water bottles: they’re made of single-use chemical-laden plastic from oil, they’re mostly not recycled, and we add about 20 billion new plastic bottles to our landfills each year. Needless to say, the planet probably isn’t a huge fan of them. This Earth Day, make an effort to switch to a reusable bottle and kick single-use plastic to the curb! These insulated stainless steel bottles by Earthwell are leveling up on plastic bottles because they can keep drinks iced for 72 hours (that’s three days!), cold for 24 hours, and hot for 16 hours. Grab one and take it with you to any Earth Day celebration! And then… take it with you everywhere after that…. The planet will thank you.

Want to make an impact this Earth Day? Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet (which we’re proud to be a part of!) says that anyone can make a difference by simply incorporating little changes into your daily routine. “Read your labels, and require transparency from your favorite brands. Make a pledge to keep water clean and accessible for years to come. Commit to making an at-risk species your mascot, and become an advocate for that particular species. There are so many ways to make an impact – you just have to choose one!”, says Williams.

How will you make an impact this Earth Day? Comment below or share it with us on our Facebook or Instagram!

What are microplastics?

Microplastics, microbeads, microfibers…You might have heard of them, and you probably know they’re not great. But, what really are microplastics, and how can we limit the amount of microplastics that we bring into our lives–and our ecosystems? Read on to get all the details on these macro-menaces, and how you can reduce your microplastic footprint!

What are microplastics?

Microplastics: as their name suggests, this word refers to any small plastic pieces less than 5mm long (roughly the size of a sunflower seed); and includes microbeads (manufactured round pieces of polyethylene), as well as synthetic microfibers from non-organic materials like nylon. Microplastics can either come from larger pieces of plastic beginning to break down into smaller pieces, or, like microbeads, be intentionally manufactured for use in various products. Another major source of microplastics come from our clothing, and are often referred to as microfibers. Lots of conventional clothing contains non-organic, synthetic threads that come loose in the wash, pass through filtration systems, and heading to our waterways.

No matter what type of microplastic it is, these nuisances are bypassing filtration systems and ending up in our oceans. From there, the pieces are being ingested by aquatic and marine life…which, in many cases, are eventually consumed by us! Whether you’re looking at the impacts of microplastics on our ecosystems, or our bodies, the result is the same: something needs to be done to mitigate this problem before it gets even worse.

What are microplastics? EarthHero

Ecosystem Impacts & Bioaccumulation

Although they’re small (sometimes so small they cannot be seen by the human eye), microplastics are likely to be the most numerically abundant type of plastic pollution in the ocean today–and will only increase as larger pieces of plastic begin to slowly break down (it usually takes at least 250 years, depending on the type of plastic!)

Beyond the quantity of microplastics in the ocean comes another problem: they are literally everywhere. Studies have found microplastics inside of animals that live in the Mariana Trench, a 7-mile deep spot that is known as the deepest point in our world’s oceans, as well as inside of animals who live in shallow tide-pool ecosystems. These microplastics can block digestive tracts, diminish the urge to eat, and reduce reproductive behavior. The problem is so bad that recent reports say plastic pollution will outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050, due in part to the 8 million tons of new plastics that are dumped into our waterways every year. Yikes.

Larger pieces of plastic, aka non-microplastics, are known for killing or suffocating the animals they come in contact with. Remember the recent story of the whale filled with plastic bags, or the sea turtle with the plastic straw stuck in his nose? But small, nearly invisible microplastics can often be ingested without immediately impacting the creature who consumed it, which means microplastics are more likely to travel through the food chain, leading to something called bioaccumulation! Plastic pellets are highly absorbent, and can collect persistent organic pollutants (POPs); aka hazardous human-made chemicals that are also poured into our waterways and oceans. When animals ingest the combination of microplastics and POPs, the chemicals begin to accumulate in the fatty tissues of marine animals. Over time, these chemicals can cause cancer, malformation, decreased immunity to disease, and impaired reproductive ability in their host animals. Beyond the ability of plastics to attract POPs, many microplastic pieces already contain their own chemical additives like BPA, phthalate plasticizers, flame retardants, and more, all with their own slew of long-term health impacts.

When an animal containing these particles and chemicals is consumed by another animal in the food web, bioaccumulation ramps up even more. Think of it this way: if a whale eats 1,000 plankton a day, and each plankton contained .5 grams of plastics, now the whale has 500 grams of plastic particles inside of it. The whale is unable to metabolize and excrete these toxins, so it accumulates inside them. This is a major problem, not only for animals, but for humans, as we are at the top of the marine food web and consume a wide variety of marine species.

What are microplastics? EarthHero

Human Health Impacts

Because microplastics are so widespread, it’s no surprise that they’re also in some marine and freshwater species that humans consume, both wild & farmed. Scientists have discovered microplastics inside 114 aquatic species, and over half of those species are readily consumed by us! So what does this mean for human health? Hint: it’s definitely not good…

A recent report by the United Nations Food + Agriculture Organization has found that people do consume trace amounts of microplastics from aquatic life. Luckily, we don’t consume nearly as much as other animals due to the fact that humans really only eat the muscle tissue of animals, leaving out the guts of fish, where the bulk of microplastics and chemicals accumulate. But, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem! Microplastics over time become “nanoplastics”, which are almost invisible pieces of plastic. These nanoplastics can penetrate cells, and move into tissues and organs, and their effects have been relatively unstudied.

The truth is, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what microplastic accumulation is doing to us. Part of this is due to the fact that we’re so highly exposed to chemicals and plastics that it’s hard to separate each cause and effect. Plus, running tests on humans is difficult due to our longer life-span than many marine animals, so tests require more time to analyze the long-term health impacts. But we think it’s pretty safe to say that reducing your exposure to microplastics and their associated toxins can be nothing but good for you.

How to Reduce your Microplastic Footprint

Microplastics, although they’re making waves in recent news, are not a new problem. Plastic microbeads first appeared in consumer goods about 50 years ago, as companies began to shift away from organic ingredients. Flash forward to 2012, and most consumers were still unaware of the prevalence of microbeads, partially because companies were not required to disclose if their products contained them (crazy, right?). Despite a general lack of awareness, in 2015, President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which banned plastic microbeads in cosmetics & personal care products. But this is only half the battle.

Microbeads are just one source of microplastic pollution, and are easier to tackle because they can be banned through legislation. The other two main sources: larger plastics breaking down over time, and synthetic microfibers, are where we need to direct our attention now.

Checkout 6 ways to reduce your exposure to microplastics below!

What Are Microplastics? EarthHero

Although the government has banned microbeads in “rinse-off” personal care products, the ban didn’t immediately take affect. The Microbead-Free Waters Act is so recent that products with microbeads were still sold in stores as recently as January 2019! We suggest you play it safe and only shop with brands that are proud to say they’re truly non-toxic. Better yet, look for brands with third-party certifications like USDA Organic or NSF Certified to prove it! Switch to products with natural exfoliants like walnut shells, clay, or rice grains. If you’re still unsure, check ingredients lists for ingredients like Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

  • Reduce your overall plastic consumption, and therefore plastic waste!

As we mentioned above, many microplastics come from larger pieces of plastic slowly breaking down into even more hazardous pieces. That thin plastic grocery bag, over the course of 50 years, will break down into thousands of particles that will never truly biodegrade. By reducing the amount of plastic that you bring into your life, you can help tackle this problem at the source. For tips on how to ditch plastic, checkout these blogs!

  • Support small scale plastic cleanups, and large scale plastic cleanups!

Whether you’re taking part in a local community beach cleanup, or lobbying to your local politician for more ocean plastic cleanup technology, it’s important to address the plastic that already exists on our planet.

  • Wear organic clothing that doesn’t contain plastic or synthetic microfibers!

Microfibers are a maaaajor source of microplastics, and come almost exclusively from non-organic fabrics being washed. Washing machine filters can’t catch these nearly invisible fibers, and they’re easily ingested by animals once they reach our waterways. Instead, buy clothing made from organic sources (think organic cotton, wool, and hemp). You’ll reduce the amount of synthetic fabrics that get washed, and therefor reduce microfiber pollution. Plus, producing organic clothing typically uses less water and energy than synthetic materials!

Cora Ball Microplastics Laundry Ball | What Are Microplastics | EarthHero

  • Use a Cora Ball to collect any leftovers microfibers that may be going from your washing machine to the ocean!

Unless you have a wardrobe made up entirely of organic cotton clothing (we can dream, right?) there probably will be some of those pesky microfibers leaving your washing machine no matter what. That’s where the Cora Ball comes in–a microfiber catching laundry ball made from 100% recycled plastic. Just toss it in the washer with your clothes, and watch as it begins to catch microfibers in its spindles. Then, simply pull the threads out and toss them in the trash. It’s an easy and awesome way to cut down on microfiber pollution in your home. Get yours here!

  • When disposing of small plastic pieces, or any small non-biodegradable waste items, try to contain them so they can’t be easily digested!

If you buy a six-pack of soda, you’ll likely cut up the plastic bottle holder to make it harder for animals to get stuck in it. Take this approach and apply it to any non-biodegradable/non-recyclable waste you come across in your life! Think of little items like plastic straws, bread twist ties, rubber bands, hang tags from the store, etc. By containing them inside another item, like a plastic bag or enclosed bin, we can reduce how easily they fly away and enter our ecosystems.

 

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

Fact: 85% of the toxic chemicals used in personal care, food, packaging, and other everyday products have not been tested–which means we have no idea what impact they can have on our bodies, and our planet. As more and more research on common additives is done, we’re finding out they might be linked to a slew of health problems.

From cancer-causing chemicals, to hormone-disrupting toxins, you’d be shocked to learn what secrets are potentially hiding in your everyday products. While it may feel impossible to completely eliminate your exposure, it’s important to play it safe and be educated about what’s is inside the products you use. Read on to learn about 7 of our least favorite toxins below, and how you can avoid them in your life! 

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

1. Phthalates – The Everywhere Chemical

Phthalates (pronounced Tha-lates) are chemical compounds typically added to plastic products to make them more flexible, durable, and long lasting. These little buggers are in almost everything — plastic food containers, cosmetics, “fresh” produce, electronics, children’s toys and even medical equipment. Simply eating from containers or using skin care products that contain phthalates can expose you to the chemical, and once they are in your body, they are quickly converted into metabolites (tiny molecules) that won’t leave your body for in several days.

Even though phthalates don’t stay in your body long, the impact they can have on your health is significant. One type of phthalate, named Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a known endocrine disruptor, and researchers are beginning to conduct long-term studies on how this chemical impacts human health. The biggest issue with phthalates, like many toxins, is that we truly don’t know what long-term continuous exposure from multiple sources (think food, skincare, packaging) can impact.

To learn more, the CDC measured 13 common types of phthalates in the urine of 2,636+ participants. What they found was that the general population has measurable levels of many types of phthalates in them–meaning that phthalate exposure is widespread amongst the US population. They also found that, on average,  adult women have higher levels of phthalate metabolites than men on average, specifically for the type of phthalates used in cosmetics and personal care products. They also found that, as with like most chemicals, children under the age of 3 are at greater risk when exposed to phthalates–due in part to their smaller body size, and from exposure to phthalates through items products they put in their mouths, like plastic toys, pacifiers, and more.

Phthalates are probably one of the most widely used chemicals in conventional products, and because there is currently minimal regulation when it comes to ingredients, with many companies choose choosing not to label their products as containing phthalates. This feels like seriously scary stuff, but there’s hope! To reduce your exposure, here there are a few things you can do: 

  • Look for skincare, cosmetics, and other personal care products  that is proudly to say “We are phthalate-free!”, and that also disclose their full ingredient lists.
  • Use phthalate-free food containers whenever possible (glass, stainless steel)–and never microwave food inside plastic containers that could contain phthalates, as the microwave process will leach those chemicals into your food.
  • Look at the ingredients list for these common phthalates: BBP (butyl benzyl phthalate), DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) *commonly found in nail polish, DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) *often commonly added to PVC products to make them more flexible, DEP (diethyl phthalate) *added to personal care to enhance fragrance, and DiNP (di-isonoyll pthalate) *commonly added to toys and childcare products.

7 Toxic Chemicals To Avoid in Your Products

2. Parabens – The Preservative Chemical

These synthetic chemical preservatives are one of the most widely used preservatives in beauty and personal care products today, thanks to the fact that they keep bacteria and mold from growing in your products–extending their shelf life. While this sounds awesome, it actually negatively impacts human health…which is not so awesome.

You can be easily come into contact with parabens by applying them to your skin through makeup, moisturizers, hair care, and shaving cream, as well as by consuming them through preserved foods and food packaging (parabens are even in some pharmaceuticals. Yikes!) A study by the CDC on over 2,500+ participants found methylparaben and propylparaben, two of the most common types of parabens, in most of the people tested–indicating widespread exposure to parabens amongst the American population.

Other researchers have found parabens in breast tumors, linking the toxin to endocrine disruption and potential cumulative health impacts like cancer, as well as finding that butylparaben can severely impact the male reproductive system. Like phthalates, more long-term testing needs to be done to find a definitive relationship between health impacts and parabens, but we personally don’t want to wait to start limiting this chemical in our lives.

Currently, the FDA has no regulations against preservatives like parabens in cosmetics, which means that companies can include these toxins in their products without getting FDA approval–and without having to readily disclose that their products contain parabens. Which means, for now, that it’s up to the individual to protect themselves from such toxins! Here are some tips for doing so…

  • Look at the ingredients list for these common parabens: methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and ethylparaben. More and more companies are proud to say their products are “paraben-free” – be sure to support those ones!
  • Avoid food grown with preservatives and opt for organic whenever possible!

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

3. Sulfates, SLS, & SLES – The Lathering Chemical

Like parabens, these synthetic chemicals are also commonly found in beauty products and traditional household cleaners. They’re known for their ability to create that satisfying lather that elicits the feeling of true (but false) cleanliness! While bubbles are fun and all, absorbing toxins into your body is not. Some of the most common types of sulfate-based chemicals are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), which are what allows your shampoo, soap, and bubble bath to suds up.

These compounds are produced from petroleum and ‘plant’ sources like palm oil, and are created through a chemical reaction with sulfuric acid and other chemicals. In short, they’re derived from not-so-great chemicals, and their production contributes to air pollution, increased greenhouse gases, and ultimately, climate change. But that’s not all…

Studies on sulfates, SLS, and SLES have found that SLS and SLES can irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs–especially with long-term exposure (which happens easily if these chemicals are present in your daily personal care products!). They also found that SLES may contain 1,4-dioxane, which is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

Beyond the environmental impacts of production and possible human health issues, simply using products that contain these chemicals can impact our animal biodiversity. The palm oil that is used to manufacture these sulfate-chemicals is a major contributor to tropical rainforest devastation, and then the final formulas are often washed down the drain (think of your shampoo!) where they end up in oceans, lakes, and waterways and can be toxic to different species of animals. All in all, we are not a fan of any version of synthetic sulfates. Check out some ways to avoid them in your life below:

  • SLS and SLES are usually found in: liquid soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, dish soap, toothpaste, bath bombs, and other “lathering” personal care items. Opt for solid and oil based soaps and shampoos rather than liquid versions–and keep an eye out for products that are proud to be “sulfate-free”!
  • Look at the ingredients list for: sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, laureth-8 carboxylic acid, lauryl ether sulfate, and other common synonyms!

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

4. Oxybenzone – The Sunscreen Chemical

Oxybenzone, aka benzonephenone-3, has been getting a lot of (negative) attention lately–with sunscreen numerous companies  saying “we’re proud to be oxybenzone free!” But even so, oxybenzone is still in nearly 80% of conventional sunscreens, with studies from the CDC estimating that oxybenzones are present in more than 96% of the US population. It was initially used because oxybenzone provides UV coverage, while staying colorless, which many sunscreen companies loved for “spray” sunscreens and other innovative products. It’s also used in nail polish, fragrances, hair spray, and some cosmetics.

Despite the fact that oxybenzones are supposed to absorb UV rays and protect us from the sun, studies have shown that oxybenzone is readily absorbed by the skin–where it then stays in our bodies for an unknown amount of time. The EWG has found that oxybenzone, when in our bodies, is highly toxic–and has begun to link the additive to hormone disruption, damaged cells that could lead to skin cancer, and reproductive issues. According to one researcher, Dr. Kurunthachalam Kannan, a professor of public health and environmental health services with the New York State Department of Health, oxybenzone is an even stronger estrogenic than BPA–which has been widely banned due to its toxicity. In fact, oxybenzone even won an award (a bad award…) for being “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society back in 2014.

Beyond that, coral reefs and other ocean ecosystems are highly impacted by the presence of this chemical in our sunscreens–as sunscreens are often rinsed off in the shower, pool, or ocean, where they can end up ingested by sea life, or absorbing into porous coral habitats. Despite all this research, oxybenzone is still FDA approved for use in our products, which means it’s up to us to reduce our exposure with tips and tricks like these…

  • Check the ingredients list for these common chemical filters: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, homosalate, and octinoxate. Instead, look for mineral-based sunscreens that use active ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
  • Allow your sunscreen to fully absorb into your skin before hopping in the pool or ocean to reduce the amount of run-off that occurs!
  • Accept the fact that you may have to rub in your white-based sunscreen a little bit more than your conventional clear sunscreen… or look for mineral-based sunscreens that are slightly tinted! Checkout our blog on natural sunscreens for more info here!

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

5. Synthetic Dyes – The Colorful Chemical

Fact: the food industry adds more than 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into our food supply every year–putting them in everything from cereal to soda. They’ve become so prevalent that we often don’t even notice them, or know how to recognize them on the ingredients list. The same is true of synthetic colors in common cosmetics, personal care, and household products, with the FDA enforcing some regulations on what acceptive levels of synthetic colorants are, but not providing the consumer with information on how those additives can impact their health, or the health of the planet.

The truth is, coal, tar, and petroleum are the base for most of the artificial dyes that are used to color anything from clothing to personal care. These dyes contain heavy metals, plasticizers, fluorocarbons, and formaldehyde, and require a great deal of water and energy to produce them. Plus, most artificial colors aren’t readily biodegradable, and end up polluting our waterways and marine ecosystems. On top of that, although they are tested by the FDA, certain synthetic additives are linked to allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. For example, FD&C No. 5 can lead to itching, hives, and other skin reactions, despite the fact that they are considered safe. Some studies from the Center for Science in the Public Interest are even beginning to link these petroleum-based colorants to more serious health risks like cancer, hormone disruption, and hyperactivity (ADD and ADHD).

The good news is that you don’t need synthetic colorants in your products, because natural colorants exist! Things like beet juice powder, red radish powder, annatto powder, and water soluble carmine are all alternatives to synthetic red dyes–and are an awesome way to transform products to have the bold colors we’re so used to seeing.

How to avoid synthetic colors…

  • Check the ingredients list of your products for non-FDA-approved synthetic colors like tartrazine. Try not to confuse certified colors with their uncertified counterparts. For example, FD&C Yellow No. 5 is the certified form of tartrazine, and has been FDA certified, but tartrazine has not. You can find a list of FDA approved color additives here.
  • Switch from products that use synthetic additives (even if they are FDA approved!) to products that use only natural colorants from plant-based sources.

7 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Your Products

6. Synthetic Fragrance – The Smelly Chemical

Synthetic fragrances, aka the “new second hand smoke of 2019”, are one of the most prevalent chemical additives–and can be found in countless everyday products including scented candles, detergents, deodorants, air fresheners, shampoos, lotions, and more. Have you ever been around someone with just a little too much cologne on, or walked into a room that has been “Febreez-ed”? While it may seem innocuous, the chemicals that make up synthetic fragrances can be absorbed when we inhale them, and are linked to some serious impacts on our bodies and the planet.

About 95% of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum (crude oil)–which is a finite resource that is extremely unsustainable to harvest, process, and transform into these synthetic chemicals. Beyond their impact on the planet, synthetic scents greatly impact our lungs and respiratory system. One such study shows a decline in exhalation volume by 58% when exposed to synthetic colognes, and is linked to a worsening of asthma symptoms. Additionally, synthetic scents can include those hormone-disrupting phthalates we talked about before, and be linked to health issues like cancer, birth defects, and reproductive issues. These same chemicals

Although fragrances are highly prevalent in our consumer products, it is possible to avoid them in the products you purchase by opting for “fragrance-free”, “unscented” products, alongside certified organic products and those who use essential oils in lieu of synthetic fragrances.

  • Swap out synthetic fragrance filled products with those that use natural & organic essential oils to fragrance their products. Avoid ingredients like: benzenes, aldehydes, toluene, styrene, and more.
  • Don’t be confused by the word “fragrance”. Fragrance is a catch-all term that can apply to nearly 3,000 various chemicals, all with their own serious impacts!
  • Look for unscented or fragrance-free products – but still read the labels carefully to ensure a company is not using some other chemical to masks scents to create the “unscented” experience.

7 Toxins to Avoid | BPA

7. BPA – The Water Bottle Chemical

Whether or not you’ve been paying attention to the toxins in your products, BPA has been making major headlines recently for two main reasons: almost everyone has detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, and they can create serious health impacts for fetuses and newborns. But what is BPA? Short for Bisphenonol A, BPA is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate–a hard, clear plastic that was used in plastic water bottles, food and product packaging, and as a protective lining in some metal-based items since the 1960s.

According to a study by the CDC back in 2003 on 2,500+ individuals aged 6 years and older, there were detectable levels of BPA in 93% of urine samples–which does not take into account the levels of BPA that may be present in children under the age of 6, the most at-risk demographic. Other studies pursued by the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research have continued to analyze the relationship between expectant mothers and BPA, with initial results suggesting long-term health impacts. Beyond that, it is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and endocrine disorders.

In July of 2012, the FDA amended its food additive regulations to ban the use of BPA is baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging–but not other places where BPA were readily used. Despite this new regulation, many plastic products still contain BPA–leaving it up to the consumer to avoid it in their lives. But, because of the attention it has gotten, BPA is actually one of the easier toxins to avoid! Checkout some tips and trips to live BPA free below.

  • Avoid foods that could be packaged with BPA–like non-organic canned soups, preservative-packed produce, etc.
  • Choose cardboard and glass containers over canned goods! Highly acidic foods, like canned tomato sauce, are more likely to leach BPA from the can lining. Opt instead for cardboard and glass containers, instead of cans with plastic linings.
  • Do not microwave food from polycarbonate plastic! At high temperatures, these plastics can leach BPA into your food and become easily ingested. Although companies are not required to say if a product has BPA in it, polycarbonate plastics are usually marked with a number #7 recycling code on the bottom.
  • Look for baby bottles, toys, and other children’s products that are made by companies who proudly state they are “BPA free!” Because this is the demographic most impacted by the chemical, go the extra mile to research products that are truly BPA free.

 

7 Toxins to Avoid

BUT DON’T PANIC!

We know…. This is a lot of pretty scary information. And it can feel overwhelming. Toxins seem like they are everywhere–and can seem nearly impossible to avoid. The good news? Companies across the globe are taking matters into their own hands, and banning the toxic chemicals that are linked to negative health impacts… even if the FDA hasn’t.

By embracing the power of natural ingredients on a larger scale, brands are making it easier for their communities to shop products that are chemical-free. On EarthHero, we ensure that no brand or product on our site contains these toxins. Instead, we turn to essential oils, plant-based dyes, and other natural ingredients that work hard–without all the extra gunk added. Checkout our sustainability logos here that we use to label our products that are toxin-free, or look at the “Made Without” Sustainability Feature facet found on each product page! 

How do you live a toxin-free lifestyle?