On Friday, New York State Governor David Paterson signed a bill into law that prohibits babies’ and children’s food and beverage containers from containing Bisphenol A, or BPA. Under the legislation (S 3296H/A 6919D), sippy cups, baby bottles, straws, and pacifiers containing BPA can no longer be sold in New York State. The law goes into effect on December 1, 2010.

Working under the  “JustGreen” umbrella, a coalition of at least 45 advocacy groups worked together for passage of the bill; they included mainstream environmental organizations, consumer groups, health and cancer networks, women’s groups, academic institutions, and environmental justice groups.

According to a press release issued by JustGreen, “New York is now the seventh state and by far the largest in both population and economy to pass phase out of BPA in young children’s products, joining Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. It will be one of the first state laws to go into effect, however. In addition, Maine has declared bisphenol A (BPA) as a ‘priority chemical’ and will institute regulations to phase out its use in children’s food and beverage containers and infant formula containers.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is moving forward with similar regulations to cover children’s beverage containers. California has BPA legislation pending.”

BPA has been associated with a wide range of children’s health problems, including “early onset puberty, polycystic ovary syndrome and breast and prostate cancer,” said Senator Antoine Thompson, Chair of the New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

Because children’s bodies are smaller and metabolize more rapidly than adults, toxins build up in their bodies quickly, and infants have been detected with high levels of BPA in their bodies. JustGreen cited connections between low doses of BPA and “obesity, infertility in males and females, brain dysfunctions, thyroid disruption, heart disease, and diabetes.”

Stephen Boese, Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of New York State, said that BPA has been implicated in learning disabilities and other neurological impairment.

The full press release, and a list of advocates, can be viewed on the Just Green website.

Wee-Go glass bottles

Green Depot Founder Sarah Beatty testified in support of the bill in May, prior to it being passed unanimously in both houses of the NY State legislature (download her testimony here). Since the opening of Green Depot’s flagship store at 222 Bowery in February 2009, Green Depot has put an emphasis on healthy green products for babies and children, including certified organic cotton clothing and bedding, diapers without harsh chemicals, and BPA-free baby bottles. One of our most popular sellers has been the Wee-Go, a glass baby bottle with a soft silicone sleeve that’s easy to grip and prevents breakage. It’s available in 4- and 9-ounce sizes, in six different bright colors.

Green to Grow

Another is the Green to Grow nurser–a bottle that’s phthalate-free, BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and comes in 100% recycled packaging.

We all know that breastfeeding is best, but when bottle feeding is necessary, at least now there are safer ways to do it in New York State.

Yesterday the Associated Press reported on a serious bedbug infestation in New York City. According to the AP story, one out of every 15 New Yorkers (or about 400,000 people) is harassed by bedbugs, and the annoying bloodsuckers “have rapidly multiplied throughout New York and many other U.S. cities in recent years.” According to CNN, New York City’s Bed Bug Advisory Board is launching a $500,000 initiative to combat bedbugs, through education and other eradication efforts.

Bedbugs don’t spread disease, but they can bite your body up pretty well, leaving red spots and scratches and making you itchy, if not bordering on insane. There is a plethora of disgusting photos showing bedbug insult and injury on the web: search “bed bug bites” on Google Images, and prepare to be revolted and have fear instilled in your heart.

Some people decide to throw out all their bedding, clothes, carpet, and upholstered furniture in an effort to get rid of the little buggers, but this is not usually effective because the bugs can re-emerge from their tiny hiding places behind furniture and in walls, and can go for a whole year without eating. Discarded furniture may be picked up by others looking for freebies, and can spread the bugs farther. Some people move in an attempt to escape the bugs, often unwittingly spreading them to other apartments, or even workplaces as the bugs can hitch a ride on clothing. And

Rest Easy Bedbug Spray

Rest Easy Bedbug Spray

not all professional exterminators are adequately educated to deal with bedbugs, says Harold Harlan, a bedbug expert extensively interviewed for this lengthy article on MSNBC.

If your infestation is not totally out of control yet, a number of green products exist to help you tackle bedbugs. Rest Easy Bedbug Spray is one product that offers some respite. It kills and repels bedbugs using all-natural, plant-based ingredients including oils of cinnamon, lemongrass, cloves, and mint.  It won’t harm you, your kids, or your pets either.

EcoZProducts for Bed Bugs is another option; it targets bugs and eggs using an EPA-exempt minimal risk pesticide, and leaves no residue. Like Rest Easy, it’s safe to use around children and pets. Download info here.

If you’ve been afflicted and have tried something successful, please post a comment here so others can learn from your experience.

In a previous post, I talked about how allergy sufferers can get some relief by using green products including air purifiers in the home. Today, I’d like to talk about diagnosis and prevention. Sure, it’s great to have more access than ever to over-the-counter and prescription medications to control allergy symptoms (the inventors of Zyrtec are my heroes), but it’s also important to learn exactly what allergens you’re most at risk from so you can avoid or treat them.

One way to do this is to visit an allergist, who may conduct scratch tests to determine what your allergenic or asthmagenic triggers are, and lung function tests to establish a baseline for your pulmonary heath. Allergists can customize a desensitization injection regimen to directly attack the things you’re allergic to: different types of plant and tree pollen, animal dander, etc., and they keep an extremely close watch over your dosing frequency and levels. They can also advise you on what materials or places to avoid, or how to allergy-proof your house. For example, if you’re very allergic to dust, they might suggest that you limit the amount of carpeting or curtains in your house, as these attract and retain dust, or that you purchase hypoallergenic linens and bedding.  The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology can help you find a board-certified allergist. Your health insurance company or primary care doc can provide referrals, too.

Another way to get a handle on your risk is to test your house for common allergens. The Family Air Care  Indoor Allergens and Mold Test Kit tests for 5 common triggers of asthma and allergies:

Family Air Care test kit

Family Air Care® Indoor Allergens and Mold Test Kit

  • Cat allergen (carried indoors on clothing, it can be present even in homes without cats)
  • Dog allergen (also carried on clothing, although to a lesser extent)
  • Dust mite allergen
  • Cockroach allergen
  • 13 species of mold—evaluated using EPA’s American Relative Moldiness Index

The kit was developed by National Jewish Health in Colorado—the nation’s leading respiratory hospital—and retails for $299.

Since we spend 90% or more of our the time indoors, it pays to determine which allergens bug us most so we can try to eradicate or control them. The FAC test kit is easy to use: you just attach a small filter to your vaccum to collect a sample, mail it in, and view your house’s results on-line using a private access code.

The results will tell you whether the levels of the 5 types of allergen above are high, medium, or low in your house. Then you can decide what type of green products to buy to control them. I’ll discuss these in subsequent posts. For now, I just want to emphasize that getting your body and your home tested is a diagnostic combination that packs a punch.

If you’re like me, the dog days of summer usually find you toting around a box of tissues, clinging to your Allegra or Zyrtec bottle like a security blanket, and blushing each time you sneeze loudly in a public place. There are so many allergens we’re routinely exposed to—dust, pet dander (on our friends’ clothing—even if not in our own houses), tobacco smoke, cleaning chemicals, molds, and a host of flower and tree pollens.

Quick: before the ragweed blooms

When I was a kid, my mom uttered the word “ragweed” like it was a swear. There was venom in her voice directed at this feathery plant who made her kid wheeze and sneeze uncontrollably. Turns out I have a lot of company. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 30 to 60 million Americans suffer from ragweed allergies—many miss school and work due to their discomfort, and many have trouble sleeping. The ubiquitous plants bloom from mid-August through October, each one releasing around a billion potent pollen grains, making us miserable in what can seem like a billion different ways. Itchy throat. Watery eyes. Coughing. Sneezing. Sniffling. Aggravated asthma.

Thankfully, there are a host of green products and practices that can bring us relief. Top among them is closing the windows, and cleaning your indoor air with an

Austin Air HealthMate Jr. Alen Paralda air purifier air filter

Healthmate Jr, and Alen Paralda

air purifier.  We really like Austin Air’s HealthMate Jr. that uses 6.5 pounds of activated carbon and over 30 square feet of medical-grade HEPA to filter 125 cubic feet of air per minute. It will remove chemicals odors, pollen, dust, mold spores, and other allergens. Put one in the bedroom with the door closed to give you (or your sneezy kid) a good night’s sleep.  Larger models are available for open areas like greatrooms and kitchen-dining.  If you want

Allerdust allergy dusting aid

Allerdust Dusting Aid

something with a bit more style, check out the Alen Paralda purifier.

You can also tackle allergens that have settled on furniture and hard surfaces in your house by using these cool products from Allersearch, such as dusting spray, carpet treatments, and upholstery spray that neutralizes allergens on contact.

In a future post, I’ll take on vaccums with HEPA filters, and test kits that can help you determine the allergy levels in your home. For now, check out those air purifiers and allergen neutralizers, and get yourself some summer relief.

ants

Ants. We all have ‘em from time to time. In our kitchens. In our patios and porches.  Around the BBQ. In our pants. (Just kidding.) And despite what magnificently interesting social creatures they are (read what famed biologist E.O. Wilson has to say about them), we want to get rid of them when they get too close.

But how many of us want to use a product with a label like this?

“Caution: Harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin. Avoid breathing spray mist. Avoid contact with skin orRaid ant killer spray clothing. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. Provide adequate ventilation of area being treated. Do not apply to humans, pets, or plants, or contaminate feed, foodstuffs, dishes, or utensils. Cover and avoid spraying fish aquariums. Cover or remove exposed food, dishes, utensils, and food handling equipment. Keep out of reach of children. …If on skin or clothing…call a poison control center or doctor for treatment advice. “

YIKES! That’s RAID.  We’ve probably all used it at one time or another. Many of us may have a can under our kitchen sinks right now. This is one product where using it up isn’t best; you’d be better off disposing it at a household hazardous waste collection day (call your local Public Works Department to see when one is offered).

AntEater Bug Power Ant Killer St. Gabriel Organics

AntEater by St. Gabriel Organics

Thankfully, there are alternatives. Green Depot just picked up some cool new green products that won’t have you pressing the panic button. One of them is AntEater, made by St. Gabriel Organics. It contains food-grade diatomaceous earth: a white, chalky natural mineral that was formed in shallow seas millions of ago from the remains of single-celled algae called diatoms.  These silica-shelled creatures still exist today, and look beautiful under a microscope.

Diatoms

Diatoms under an electron microscope

Diatomaceous earth (see if you can close your eyes and spell “diatomaceous”) has the effect of absorbing the lipids (fats and waxes) from the ants’ exoskeletons and dehydrating them. So they die. It’s not toxic to pets, or children, or to aquatic ecosystems. It won’t hurt your skin if you touch it. (But do not apply it directly ON pets’ coats; it can dehydrate their skin.)

Diatomaceous earth also has many other interesting commercial applications, including filtering, acting as an abrasive, thermal insulation, and as an ingredient in dynamite. AntEater is simple to use as an insecticide; you just sprinkle the powder in the areas where ants are trafficking: indoors and out.

There are other purveyors of insecticides containing diatomaceous earth–including Safer and Concern. Planet Natural also carries an ant killer that uses the mineral borax as its active ingredient.

So the next time you see them marching two by two in your cereal cabinet, reach for an ant killer that won’t make your skin crawl.

JeansHave you heard of the insulation made from blue jeans? UltraTouch 100% cotton batt insulation has actually been a very popular seller at Green Depot, and at other purveyors of green building products, for years. When Bonded Logic first started producing the stuff, they sourced the cotton scraps from Mexican textile mills. They were the end-cuttings from making denim blue jeans, and other clothing. I used to have to explain to customers that they weren’t really from old blue jeans themselves, but from post-industrial (pre-consumer) recycled blue jean scrap material.

blue jeans on conveyor belt

Jeans on conveyor belt

Rivets & snaps removed

Not anymore! Bonded Logic is now getting ALL their insulation feedstock from actual used blue jeans. Apparently the Goodwills and Salvation Armies of the Texas area cannot sell all the used jeans they take in to enough American kids looking for their grunge fix. And the market for exported textiles

Bonded Logic Installation

Can I make fun of his hair?

(to Africa and Asia, for example) has dropped off, so there is this huge supply of faded blue jeans that might otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere. Bonded Logic’s suppliers figured out a way to remove (and recycle!) the copper zippers and rivets so that all that’s left is soft, luxuriant shredded blue jean fluff.

People love to smush their faces into its blue, soft pile. At trade shows, women come to my booth and ask me if they can make a futon out of it, or stuff the sofa cushions with it. Kids want to make pillows out of it, or throw the cushy sample blocks at each other. Well, I suppose you can buy a few batts and take a stab at any of those craft projects, but what I’d really recommend is stuffing it into your walls and ceilings. It comes in a range of widths and thicknesses, so no matter what the configuration of your wall, there’s a size for you. Thinnest is 3.5” (R-13), and thickest is 8” (R-30). The R-value is a measure of how well a material insulates; the higher the number, the better. (Read more about R-values here.)

UltraTouch

Bubbele! Let me get you a pillowcase

Here are some other nifty facts about UltraTouch:

  • You can handle it with bare hands. It won’t irritate your skin like fiberglass.
  • Treated with borate: a natural mineral that repels insects and inhibits mold growth
  • Great as a sound dampener, too. Teenagers with drum kits, anyone?
  • Doesn’t contain formaldehyde (a carcinogen)
  • Can contribute to up to 12 LEED credits.

Adian Grenier! How cool is that?

Tax credits available

You may be eligible for a 30% federal tax credit for your insulation project, up to $1.500. See the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star website to learn more. So whether you’re building a new home or an addition, or renovating your existing space with green products, consider using UltraTouch. Summer is a great time to get those insulation projects wrapped up (no pun intended!) before winter falls and you really need it.

You can install it while you’re listening to Dala’s song “Levi Blues” (watch the video!). Great harmonies from a young female duo with a bright future. My 8-year old’s new favorites!

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