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Category Archives: Chemicals

The Dangers of the Foam Crib Mattresses

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During the in first years, infants and toddlers spend at least 50% of their time sleeping, so it is essential that the time is spent on a healthy and comfortable mattress. Here is a great article, “Keep Your Baby off that Foam Crib Mattress,” by Katherine Martinko from Green Home, that discusses the dangers of the foam used in many baby products such as crib mattresses, car seats and more.

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What do crib mattresses, cushioned car seats, and change tables all have in common? Yes, babies use them, but all of these items contain foam. This is problematic, since foam releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment. VOCs come from the variety of resins, catalysts, solvents, and adhesives that are used in the manufacturing process, and they continue to volatilize long after production.

Chronic exposures to low levels of VOCs have been linked in the past to infant allergies, asthma, and lung infections, but researchers have now done something different. They have measured the actual quantity of VOCs being emitted in a sleeping baby’s bedroom, and what they found is quite scary.

Researchers from the University of Texas, led by environmental engineer Brandon Boor, analyzed 20 new and used crib mattresses made from either polyurethane foam or polyester foam. In a bedroom-sized chamber with a heated steel cylinder to imitate the heat released by a sleeping infant’s body (which would speed up the release of VOCs), they compared measurements of VOCs within the room (10 feet away from the crib) and within the infant’s breathing zone (2.5 cm/1 in above the mattress).

According to Chemical & Engineering News, they found 30 different VOCs, including some that are classified as environmental pollutants and developmental disruptors. New mattresses released four times as many VOCs as old ones on average.

But most importantly, they found that VOCs were significantly higher in the infant’s breathing zone than in the middle of the room, which is serious when you consider that many infants sleep 12-14 hours a day in close proximity to foam.

The good news is that consumers don’t have to wait around for the industry to fix itself. There are alternative solutions that use latex, natural rubber, organic cotton, eucalyptus fibre, and/or coconut coir fillings, and are coated in organic cotton or wool, which are natural flame retardants. If you’re looking for a crib mattress, start by checking out this helpful list at Inhabitots. If you can’t afford a natural mattress, one of the study’s coauthors recommends setting aside a new mattress for six months before bringing it into the house, giving it time to off-gas sufficiently.

Check out our previous blog about OMI’s certified-organic crib mattresses, Providing a Safe Sleeping Environment.

For more OMI product information, click HERE

The Science and Value of Organic

There are (literally) tons of benefits of choosing organic products. Check out this report from The Organic Center recently released by the USDA about the impact you can have by making an organic purchasing choice.   

The Organic Center Organic Report

For the full report click HERE.

Should Americans Fear Their Furniture?

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James Redford and Kirby Walker, directors of “Toxic Hot Seat” at Napa Valley Film Festival in California

Airing tonight on HBO is a documentary that explores the chemical-laden flame retardants contained in much of today’s furniture.

Here is an excerpt from the article, Should Americans Fear Their Furniture? by New York Times author Jane Margolies:

The pet hairs and red wine stains on sofas across America, it turns out, should be the least of our concerns. The real issue is what is in the foam cushions we curl up on every day: up to two pounds of flame retardants.

In their HBO documentary “Toxic Hot Seat,” scheduled to be aired on Monday, the directors James Redford and Kirby Walker disclose that these chemicals, as used in home furnishings, do not stop fires. They do, however, whoosh out of seat cushions when we plop down, hitching a ride on airborne dust and ending up in our bodies. They have been linked to cancer and other health disorders.

The film explores how a 1975 California law requiring retardants (Technical Bulletin 117) became widely adopted. And it follows the firefighters, scientists, health advocates, state legislators and investigative journalists who brought attention to the chemicals, leading to a recent reform of the California mandate — which the directors, who spoke from their homes in the San Francisco area, applaud.”

For the full article click HERE.

This issue was previous explored in the OMI blog “Makers of Flame Retardants Manipulate Research Findings.”

We at OMI continue to use a safer system that allows us to use organic wool as our only flame retardant. As a result, our mattresses are able to pass federal flame tests without the use of toxic chemicals or silica barriers. To use any form of chemical flame retardant in our products would violate our ethical standards and integrity. We stand by our purity so you and your family can have a safer place to rest your heads at night.

To learn more about OMI and the certified products we offer, click HERE

House Committee Examines Senate Chemical Bill

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From the ISPA (International Sleep Products Association), regarding our government acknowledging the use of chemicals in products:

“The Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy held a hearing today on the bipartisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bill currently pending in the Senate. This is a significant action as the House rarely holds hearings on Senate legislation. The legislation would update the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), which governs the use of chemicals in consumer products in the U.S. ISPA is a member of the American Alliance for Innovation (AAI), which was formed to make sure that any legislation to reform TSCA did not burden the industry. ISPA joined members of the AAI in supporting the compromise legislation.

Despite broad support, there has been an effort by some Senators, states and environmental groups to make changes to the legislation because they are concerned with the bill’s preemptive effect on state chemical laws. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is leading this charge and spoke at a recent hearing about making changes to the bill because she fears the compromise bill will limit California’s Proposition 65 and other state chemical laws. The AAI and ISPA support the bill, in part, because of its preemptive effect. The hearing and further action by the house could put pressure on the senate to not make significant changes to the current bill.

Any action on the legislation is not expected until next year at the earliest.

Efforts to reform TSCA in the past have failed but those were partisan efforts. ISPA will continue to follow the progress on this legislation.”

Natural Mosquito Repellants

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Summer is (almost) here, along with all of those pesky critters that seem to have been hibernating over the winter– including my least favorite, the mosquito.

This year, I went on a hunt for a natural remedy that is less toxic and harsh than store-bought bug spray that usually includes DEET (http://www.nrdc.org/thisgreenlife/1006.asp). There are so many great remedies out there (some that I already knew about), and others that I am definitely going to try see which ones work for me.

Here are the top 9 ways I’ve found to keep from getting eaten this summer:

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1.  Know where they are.  You may notice that there are a lot more mosquitoes around water.  Lakes, pools, ponds, and any place there is standing water will attract the pests.  If you know you are going to be around water, be sure to plan ahead and carry your natural repellant with you.

2.  Don’t smell too good. Mosquitoes are attracted to floral and sweet smells, like perfume and body lotion. Reducing these as much as you can may help lessen your attractiveness to them.

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3. Spritz yourself with vanilla.  Simply dilute pure vanilla extract in water and spray it on.

4. Wear light clothing.  Mosquitoes are drawn to darker clothing and colors.  Wearing light colored clothing can be your first line of defense against these insects.

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5. Make a garlic paste. This is not something I can see people doing everyday, but it is definitely great for repelling those little critters. Make a paste with garlic powder and water and apply to pulse points, behind the knees, on shoes and ankles, and a bit on your cheeks or somewhere on your face and neck. (Keep it out of your eyes, it will sting!) You can also spray garlic powder and water around your yard and bushes for an extra preventative measure.  (Rumor has it it will also keep away unwanted vampires.)

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6. Dab on a little Eau de Vinegar: If you don’t mind the smell of vinegar (and neither do those around you),  dabbing on a little vinegar is a great way to repel mosquitoes. Put a little bit on exposed areas, or dilute with water and use as a spray.  Many people swear by this one!

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7.    Use essential oils. Citronella, lavender, catnip, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, tansy, basil, thyme, cedar, tea tree, peppermint, and lemongrass will all help keep the mosquitoes at bay. Mix with rubbing alcohol, witch hazel or water, (just one or any combination), shake well, and spritz on your body. You can also add a few drops to baby oil or olive oil and rub onto your skin, avoiding the mouth and eye areas.

8.    Eat up! Certain foods we eat are rumored to repel the bugs. B1 vitamins, brewers yeast, lemon and, of course, garlic have all been thought to  deter mosquitoes because of the smell that comes out of your pores after eating them.

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9. Exercise your green thumb. Potted plants, such as lemon thyme, citronella, lavender, basil, catnip, pennyroyal, tansy, and marigolds, will help keep mosquitoes out of your yard.  Place them around your porch or patio, and when you need a little more protection, break off a leaf and rub it on your clothes and skin.  You can also infuse the leaves in water and use as a spray.

Everyone has a different body chemistry that may make different methods work better than others. Try them out and let us know which of these natural remedies worked for you!

DCA Considers New California Fire Retardant Regulations

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SACRAMENTO – California Department of Consumer Affairs Advisory Board Member Walt Bader, President of Organic Mattresses Inc. (OMI), reviews public comments on proposed new upholstered furniture flammability standard.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs held hearings on their proposed California Technical Bulletin 117- 2013 on March 26, 2013, and the DCA Advisory Board reviewed all public comments in late April.

Among the comments made by Board Member Bader was a suggestion that there be an exclusion written into the new legislation allowing a consumer to opt out of having to purchase any products incorporating flammability treatments by providing a medical exception.

Bureau Chief Tonya Blood advised the board that they had decided to include this language in the new regulations. Bader provided significant input regarding the 54 individual public comments that were suggested, and the legislation will go forward with the recommendations and comments of the board.

Bader stated that he felt it was a good standard and one that was created with excellent input from industry stakeholders.

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OTA Reports 8 in 10 U.S. Parents Purchase Organic Products

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Check out this article from the Organic Trade Association:

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“U.S. families are increasingly embracing organic products in a wide range of categories, with 81 percent now reporting they purchase organic at least sometimes. This finding is one of many contained in the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA’s) newly released 2013 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study, conducted Jan. 18-24, 2013.

“More and more parents choose organic foods primarily because of their desire to provide healthful options for their children,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s CEO and Executive Director.

Not only are more consumers choosing organic products at least sometimes, but the majority of those buying organic foods are purchasing more items than a year earlier. New entrants to buying organic now represent 41 percent of all families – demonstrating interest in the benefits of organic food and farming is on the rise. Produce continues to be the leading category of organic purchases, with 97 percent of organic buyers saying they had purchased organic fruits or vegetables in the past six months. Breads and grains, dairy and packaged foods were also frequently cited (all scoring above 85 percent) among those who purchase organic. Families choosing organic foods are increasingly important to retailers of all types, with organic buyers reporting spending more per shopping trip, and shopping more frequently than those who never purchase organic food.

Consistent with findings from previous studies, nearly half (48 percent) of those who purchase organic foods said they do so because they are “healthier for me and my children.” Additionally, parents’ desire to avoid toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers (30 percent), antibiotics and growth hormones (29 percent), and genetically modified organisms (22 percent) ranked high among the reasons cited for buying organic products.

Awareness of the USDA Organic seal has also grown, with more consumers more likely to look for the seal when shopping for organic products. Moreover, over four in ten parents (42 percent) say their trust in organic products has increased, versus 32 percent who indicated this point of view a year ago. In fact, younger, new-to-organic parents are significantly more likely to report improved levels of trust in organic products.”

It is great to see the industry growing and more people becoming aware of the importance of organics.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA), which is the membership-based business association for the organic industry in North America.  The OTA represents over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states and has become the leading voice for organic trade in the United States.  For more news, articles and insight into the organics industry, visit the Organic Trade Association website HERE.

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