Sixty-three percent of Americans own at least one companion animal, and sadly, most are virtually unprotected from toxic chemicals. Here are some tips to lowering their exposure to toxins.
|1.||Choose organic or free-range pet foods and treats. Check labels to avoid the chemical preservatives butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and ethoxyquin. The foods and treats here meet this standard. Check out the foods, treats, and chews that we offer.|
|2.||Limit meals with fish and seafood products that are high in mercury. Limit your cat's exposure to mercury in seafood, and choose organic or free-range ingredients rather than “by-products.” A 2009 Federal Study on Mercury Contamination found the toxic substance in every fish tested at nearly 300 streams across the country, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become. Vital Choice's wild fish and shellfish are free of hazardous levels of contaminants, as you can see in this revealing mercury chart. Also see this Purity page.|
|3.||Provide organic, or 'safe' vegetables & fruit from the "Clean 15" list to minimize exposure to dangerous toxins from pesticides. We have a vegetable garden that is not treated with pesticides or sprays. Our Golden Alfie loves the asparagus, romaine, string beans, sweet potatoes, and more. Go below to find out more about pesticides and those fruits & veggies in the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15", and to get EWG's Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.|
|4.||Clean drink: Use a reverse osmosis, faucet-mounted, or pitcher filter to remove contaminants before filling your pet’s water bowl. We have filtered water to our kitchen faucet and refrigerator/freezer through a Culligan water system as there are more than 140 contaminants with no enforceable safety limits in the nation’s drinking water. How does your tap water stack up? Search EWG's tap water database to see what you and your pets are drinking.|
|5.||Avoid chemicals leaching into food by going easy on processed, canned or fast foods. Read about Bisphenol A, a toxic food-can lining ingredient associated with birth defects.|
Learn more in these articles:
BPA, Chemical Used To Make Plastics, Found
To Leach From Polycarbonate Drinking Bottles Into Humans and
Plastic Water Bottles May Pose Health Hazard. To reduce exposure, try doing
Check out Good Life Gear's Pet Water Bottle and the new H204K9 25oz. Stainless Steel Dog Bottle & Bowl (also with carrying sling) that are both Stainless Steel and BPA FREE (shown here on right).
|7.||Avoid phthalates, common industrial
chemicals used in PVC plastics, solvents, and synthetic
fragrances. They are endocrine disruptors linked to problems
of the reproductive system and also to asthma and allergies.
When they tested 289 people in 2000, the CDC found phthalates in
all of the subjects' blood at surprisingly high levels.
Lack of federal oversight leaves consumers on their own when it
comes to pet toys. Minimize exposure by avoiding:
► Nail polish: Dibutyl phthalate is often used to make nail polish chip-resistant (shortened to DBP in contents list).
► Vinyl toys: Phthalates make vinyl (PVC) toys soft, so don't give them to pets/kids. Opt instead for wooden & phthalate-free toys.
► Paint: Paints and other hobby products may contain phthalates as solvents, so be sure to use them in a well-ventilated space.
► Air Fresheners: Just like fragrances in personal care products, most air fresheners contain phthalates.
|8.||Buy products with natural fibers, like cotton and wool, that are naturally fire resistant. Use EWG's list of products and manufacturers to avoid the chemical flame retardant PBDE.|
|9.||Throw out Fido's Bed. Replace older foam pet bedding, and replace or reupholster furniture with exposed or crumbling foam where flame retardants are found. We now feature memory foam beds and furniture that are not sprayed with flame retardants. Inexpensive imported foams often contain flame retardants that are toxic to your dog.|
Vacuum often with a HEPA-filter vacuum.
We love our
Dyson Animal vacuum that comes with a lifetime HEPA filter.
A Message From Rochelle Lesser, Foundation President: I recently had to buy a new vacuum for the foundation as I had surely killed my original and beloved purple (DC07) Dyson Animal vacuum (by not doing the simple maintenance of washing out the filter).
Dyson vacuums are not cheap. But, trust me, there is no other brand to buy these days. Ask any dealer and they will tell you that the return level on these vacuums is unbelievably low at much less than 1%.
found only one guy (Matt, the owner at
Max-Vacuum) who was actually willing
to be honest with me. He talked me into
buying a less expensive model, in fact, if
you can believe that.
And, his website had a
buying guide that you can find at no other
that answers questions that actually make sense and are
important. There is no affiliate
program and Matt is not paying me to make
this recommendation. I am just wanting to
pass on some valuable shopping information
that can benefit all my fellow animal pals.
When you find someone who is genuinely
honest and wants to make a living but also
do it with a conscience, it’s just a great
feeling to spread the news to others so that
they can benefit as well.
|11.||Clean without chemicals (using cold water). Although we cannot live without our Ladybug (see below), for quick SMALL jobs we use the Active Ion Pro Hand-held Sprayer which transforms regular temperature tap water into a powerful cleaner that works as well as or better than other general-purpose, commercial chemical and "green" cleaning products.|
|12.||Clean without chemicals (using steam vapor)
and have a Health Intentional Home with
Ladybug Vapor Steam Cleaners w/TANCS.
This is not the same as a clean home. This is a home that
has no dust mites, fleas, bed bugs, bacteria, biofilms, etc.
And, having this type of home is merely a vapor mist away. This
line of products will lower
exposure to toxins for the ENTIRE family ― furry or not.
have been searching and searching for years now for the best steam cleaner, one
that will affect health as well as clean. And we are thrilled that we finally
found a product that truly stands above all of the rest.
We learned about Health Intentional Cleaning, ONLY available through Advanced Vapor's TANCS systems. Using roughly a quart of tap water per hour, their quiet, portable multi-purpose appliances create a high-heat, low-moisture vapor that thoroughly removes contaminants and leaves any surface free of chemical residue. ONLY Advanced Vapor's TANCS® system is backed by solid research.
Chuanwu Xi, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Michigan and his research team found that treated steam from a novel steam disinfection system utilizing TANCS® technology rapidly kills highly resistant biofilms with greater than 99.95 % killing efficiency in a 3 second treatment, and to a non-detectable level in a less than 10 second treatment. “Scientific studies have found that biofilms can be up to 1000 times more resistant to biocide inactivation than are suspended microbes,” said Dr. Xi. “It is extremely difficult to get rid of biofilms and kill them."
"The efficacy of the steam vapor system is important because even strong chemical disinfectants such as bleach when allowed 20 minutes of dwell time did not achieve the same degree of kill that the TANCS-equipped unit accomplished in three seconds. This device is one of the very promising technologies that combine both rapid physical dispersal and disinfection functions. The dry steam generated can easily break the barrier of biofilm structures and kill cells inside the biofilms. It also does so without polluting the environment or risk of creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria."
|13.||Skip the Stain Repellants: Don’t get optional stain-proof treatments on couches, carpets and car upholstery—they’re loaded with toxic perfluorochemicals.|
|14.||Take off your shoes at the door in order to minimize your pets’ exposure to toxic chemicals in house dust. This cuts down on dust-bound pollutants in the home.|
|15.||Poison on the Deck: If you suspect your deck was made with arsenic-treated wood, treat it with a sealant every six months and don’t let pets play or sleep underneath it. Wash with mild soap and water, but never power wash! Order a test kit to find out if your wooden deck, picnic table, or playset is leaching arsenic.|
|16.||Use ceramic cookware and avoid nonstick pans. An overheated nonstick pan can
kill pet birds, and it gives off chemicals that may be bad for other pets
and people too. Try cast iron instead.
Teflon health concerns. You can avoid exposure to these chemicals by
also doing the following:
► Never preheat your nonstick cookware on high. Empty pans can reach high temperatures very quickly.
► Stick to as low a temperature as possible to safely cook foods.
► Don't put nonstick cookware in an oven over 500 degrees.
► Run an exhaust fan over the stove while using nonstick cookware.
|17.||Green Lawns: Care for your lawn without using insecticides, which may cause nervous system damage in pets that walk on the treated lawn, eat the grass, or breathe in the chemicals.|
|18.||Toss out those Flea Collars. Not only are flea collars generally ineffective, they’re also a source of constant toxic exposure for your pet and family. Instead, vacuum often and thoroughly, bathe your pet regularly, and use a non-toxic repellent such as Liquid Net for Pets, The Ultimate Insect Repellent.|
|19.||Avoid perfume, cologne and products with added fragrance. Most air fresheners contain phthalates just like fragrances in personal care products. Aroma Paws has a chemical-free spray that is pH Balanced, Eco-Friendly, and Bio-Degradable. This citrus blend is a combination of Orange, Lemongrass & Peppermint Oils.|
|20.||Safe Suds: Use a chemical and fragrance-free shampoo for your pets. Just like human products, pet grooming product manufacturers aren’t required to test their grooming products for safety—but unlike human products, they’re not even required to list ingredients on labels. Aroma Paws hypoallergenic & fragrance free Shampoo & Conditioner in One is a blend of Organic Honey, Colloidal Oatmeal & Pro Vitamin B5. It was designed for dogs with sensitive skin and allergies to the dyes and chemicals found in many pet grooming lines. This chemical-free shampoo is pH Balanced, Eco-Friendly, and Bio-Degradable.|
|21.||Get biodegradable, compostable doo-bags for when you go on walks with your pooch—or just reuse bags like plastic newspaper wrappers.|
|22.||Use kitty litter made of plant sources like wheat or corn. Clay-based kitty litter is strip-mined, causing extreme environmental damage during extraction. We only use the World's Best Cat Litter in our Cindy's litter box as is it an all-natural, organic cat litter made from whole-kernel corn.|
|23.||Learn your personal body burden. Take EWG's step-by-step tour of your home to learn the toxic truth about how household products contribute to your body burden of industrial chemicals.|
Should You Care About Pesticides?
The growing consensus among scientists is that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood. Every year, new research is published demonstrating the toxicity of pesticides to human health and the environment, often at doses previously declared "safe" by the pesticide industry and the government. Different pesticides have been linked with a variety of toxic effects, including: Nervous system effects, Carcinogenic effects, Hormone system effects, and Skin, eye and lung irritation.
Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment; they have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms – insects, plants, and fungi that are considered "pests." Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health risks to people, risks that have been acknowledged by independent research scientists and physicians across the world. Scientists now know enough about the long-term consequences of ingesting these powerful chemicals to advise that we minimize our consumption of pesticides.
What’s the Difference?
An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead. Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 10 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 15 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day. Less dramatic comparisons will produce less dramatic reductions, but without doubt using the Guide provides people with a way to make choices that lower pesticide exposure in the diet.
Will Washing and Peeling Help?
Nearly all the studies used to create these lists assume that people rinse or peel fresh produce. Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach: eat a varied diet, rinse all produce and buy organic when possible. Learn more about reducing exposure here.
How Was This Guide Developed?
In June 2011, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released the seventh edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce with updated information on 53 fruits and vegetables and their total pesticide loads. EWG highlights the worst offenders with its “Dirty Dozen” list and the cleanest conventional produce with its “Clean 15” list.
Analysts at EWG synthesized data collected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration from 2000 to 2009. Produce is ranked based on a composite score, equally weighing six factors that reflect how many pesticides was found in testing of on each type of the produce and at what levels. Most samples are washed and peeled prior to being tested, so the rankings reflect the amounts of the chemicals likely present on the food when is it eaten.
Notable changes in the new guide included apples’ rank as the most contaminated produce, jumping three spots from last year to replace celery at the top of the “Dirty Dozen” list. According to USDA, pesticides showed up on 98 percent of the more than 700 apple samples tested.
Pesticides can be extremely toxic to human health and the environment. U.S. and international government agencies alike have linked pesticides to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ deficits among children. "I really worry that pesticides on food are unhealthy for the tender, developing brains and bodies of young children," said Dr. Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP, creator of the book/DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block. "Parents don't realize they're often feeding their little ones fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide residues. Studies show even small amounts of these chemicals add up and can impair a child's health when they're exposed during the early, critical stages of their development. When pesticide sprayers have to bundle up in astronaut-like suits for protection, it's clear parents want to feed their families food containing as little of these toxic chemicals as possible."
"Pesticides, while designed specifically to kill certain organisms, are also associated with a host of very serious health problems in people, including neurological deficits, ADHD, endocrine system disruption and cancer," said Andrew Weil, MD, Founder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a renowned medical expert on natural health and wellness. "My advice to consumers is to whenever possible avoid exposure to pesticides, including pesticide residues on food."
Consumers who choose five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from EWG's Clean 15 list rather than from the Dirty Dozen can lower the volume of pesticides they consume by 92 percent, according to EWG’s calculations. They will also eat fewer types of pesticides. Picking five servings of fruits and vegetables from the 12 most-contaminated products would result in consuming an average of 14 different pesticides a day. Choosing five servings from the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables would result in consuming fewer than two pesticides per day.
The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure, and EWG strongly recommends that everyone follow USDA’s recommendation to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. EWG’s Shopper’s Guide makes it easy to meet that goal while reducing your exposure to pesticides. “Pesticides are toxic,” said Sonya Lunder, Senior Analyst at EWG. “They are designed to kill things and most are not good for you. The question is, how bad are they?”
EWG’s Shoppers Guide is available for free as a PDF download here.
For a small $10 donation, consumers can also have a version of the guide
sent to them as a bag tag that can be attached to reusable shopping
We donated here as this is such an important resource.
Contaminated: THE DIRTY DOZEN
Celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, lettuce and greens (kale and collards) are the vegetables most likely to retain pesticide contamination:
Contaminated: THE CLEAN FIFTEEN
The fruits least likely to test positive for pesticide residues are pineapples, avocados, mangoes, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, watermelon and grapefruit.
The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 53 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 51,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2009 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the studies on which the guide is based tested produce after it had been rinsed or peeled.
Contamination was measured in 6 different ways:
For each metric, we ranked all of the foods based on their individual USDA test results, then normalized the scores on a 1-100 scale (with 100 being the highest). To get a commodity's final score, we added up the six normalized scores from each metric. The full Shopper's Guide list shows the fruits and vegetables in order of these final scores.
The goal is to include a range of different measures of pesticide contamination to account for uncertainties in the science. All categories were treated equally; for example, a pesticide linked to cancer is counted the same as a pesticide linked to brain and nervous system toxicity, and the likelihood of eating multiple pesticides on a single food is given the same weight as the amounts of the pesticide detected or the percent of the crop on which pesticides were found.
The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide is not built on a complex assessment of pesticide risks but instead reflects the overall pesticide loads of common fruits and vegetables. This approach best captures the uncertainties of the risks of pesticide exposure and gives shoppers confidence that when they follow the guide they are buying foods with consistently lower overall levels of pesticide contamination.
Chemical Used To Make Plastics, Found To Leach From Polycarbonate Drinking
Bottles Into Humans
ScienceDaily (May 22, 2009) — A new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found that participants who drank for a week from polycarbonate bottles -- the popular, hard-plastic drinking bottles and baby bottles -- showed a two-thirds increase in their urine of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Exposure to BPA, used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics, has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans.
The study is the first to show that drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA, and thus suggests that drinking containers made with BPA release the chemical into the liquid that people drink in sufficient amounts to increase the level of BPA excreted in human urine.
In addition to polycarbonate bottles, which are refillable and a popular container among students, campers and others and are also used as baby bottles, BPA is also found in dentistry composites and sealants and in the lining of aluminum food and beverage cans. (In bottles, polycarbonate can be identified by the recycling number 7.) Numerous studies have shown that it acts as an endocrine-disruptor in animals, including early onset of sexual maturation, altered development and tissue organization of the mammary gland and decreased sperm production in offspring. It may be most harmful in the stages of early development.
"We found that drinking cold liquids from polycarbonate bottles for just one week increased urinary BPA levels by more than two-thirds. If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher. This would be of concern since infants may be particularly susceptible to BPA's endocrine-disrupting potential," said Karin B. Michels, associate professor of epidemiology at HSPH and Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study.
The researchers, led by first author Jenny Carwile, a doctoral student in the department of epidemiology at HSPH, and Michels, recruited Harvard College students for the study in April 2008. The 77 participants began the study with a seven-day "washout" phase in which they drank all cold beverages from stainless steel bottles in order to minimize BPA exposure. Participants provided urine samples during the washout period. They were then given two polycarbonate bottles and asked to drink all cold beverages from the bottles during the next week; urine samples were also provided during that time.
The results showed that the participants' urinary BPA concentrations increased 69% after drinking from the polycarbonate bottles. (The study authors noted that BPA concentrations in the college population were similar to those reported for the U.S. general population.) Previous studies had found that BPA could leach from polycarbonate bottles into their contents; this study is the first to show a corresponding increase in urinary BPA concentrations in humans.
One of the study's strengths, the authors note, is that the students drank from the bottles in a normal use setting. Additionally, the students did not wash their bottles in dishwashers nor put hot liquids in them; heating has been shown to increase the leaching of BPA from polycarbonate, so BPA levels might have been higher had students drunk hot liquids from the bottles.
Canada banned the use of BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles in 2008 and some polycarbonate bottle manufacturers have voluntarily eliminated BPA from their products. With increasing evidence of the potential harmful effects of BPA in humans, the authors believe further research is needed on the effect of BPA on infants and on reproductive disorders and on breast cancer in adults.
"This study is coming at an important time because many states are deciding whether to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. While previous studies have demonstrated that BPA is linked to adverse health effects, this study fills in a missing piece of the puzzle—whether or not polycarbonate plastic bottles are an important contributor to the amount of BPA in the body," said Carwile.
The study was supported by the Harvard University Center for the Environment and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Biological Analysis Core, Department of Environmental Health, HSPH. Carwile was also supported by the Training Program in Environmental Epidemiology.
Carwile et al. Use of Polycarbonate Bottles and Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations. Environmental Health Perspectives, May 12, 2009; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.0900604. Adapted from materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
Plastic Water Bottles May Pose Health Hazard
By Emily Sohn, Discovery News
Scientists in Germany have found that PET plastics -- the kind used to make water bottles, among many other common products -- may also harbor hormone-disrupting chemicals that leach into the water.
It's too soon to say whether drinking out of PET plastic bottles is harmful to human health, said lead researcher Martin Wagner, an ecotoxicologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt. But it now appears possible that some as-yet unidentified chemicals in these plastics have the potential to interfere with estrogen and other reproductive hormones, just as the infamous plasticizers BPA and phthalates do.
"What we found was really surprising to us," Wagner said. "If you drink water from plastic bottles, you have a high probability of drinking estrogenic compounds."
The study adds to growing concerns about products that span the plastic spectrum, added Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York.
"This is coming at a good time because the use of bottles for consuming water is getting very bad press now because of its carbon footprint," she said. "It's just another nail in the coffin of bottled water, the way I see it."
Wagner and a colleague used genetically engineered yeast to analyze 20 samples of mineral water. Nine samples came our of glass bottles. Nine were bottled in PET plastic. And two were in cardboard, juice-like boxes.
The specialized yeast -- which change color in the presence of estrogen-like compounds -- revealed estrogenic activity in seven of the nine plastic bottles (and both cardboard samples), compared with just three of the nine glass ones. Overall, Wagner said, levels of these compounds in the water were surprisingly high.
German mineral water comes from natural springs. So, to see if the estrogenic compounds were actually coming from the water itself, Wagner emptied the bottles and replaced the water with a pure snail medium and a tiny species of snail that is especially sensitive to estrogenic compounds.
Eight weeks later, female snails living in plastic bottles had more than twice as many embryos inside their bodies compared to the glass-grown snails. "Something from the plastic," Wagner said, "must have leached out and changed the reproductive patterns of our snails."
Wagner cautions against jumping to conclusions. Water is still a healthy beverage, he said. And until the compounds at work in the snail study have been identified, it's just not possible to know if PET plastics pose a human health risk.
Still, tests in his lab have shown far less estrogenic activity in tap water than in even the most "ultra-pure" bottled waters.
"Having done all of these experiments, I started drinking tap water," Wagner told Discovery News. "It might have other stuff in it, but at least it doesn't have estrogenic compounds."
It may also be time, Swan said, to reconsider how safe the so-called "safe" plastics really are.
"I used to say: '4, 5, 1, and 2. All the rest are bad for you,'" she said, referring to the recycling codes on plastic products. "Now, I'm not saying that anymore. We don't know about 4, 5, 1, or 2. This raises questions about all plastic bottles."