Safer Cosmetics and Personal Care Products: Avoiding the Dreaded “Icky 11”

IMG_1559If you’re on a search and destroy mission for toxins in your home (and you are — right, friend?), a pretty good place to start is the bathroom.

Personal care products are rife with nasty and suspect stuff. If you still harbor any doubt we’re all citizens of a Chemical Age, just try reading aloud the ingredients of a typical bottle of shampoo. Then, when you’ve finally untwisted your tongue, you may want to reconsider your beauty routine.

Not So Pretty in Pink

In 2007, Stacy Malkin sounded the alarm with her landmark book about the “ugly side” of the beauty industry, linking common products to cancer and a host of other serious health problems. Since then, the cosmetics industry has been on notice that consumers want better, safer products in cleaner, greener packaging. The good news is that even in comparison to a few short years ago, many better options now exist, some of which are listed below.

Still, many products are still loaded with suspect chemicals. An environmental health group just last week sued several retailers for allegedly failing to label shampoos and otherproducts that containing a known carcinogen, cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA). The Center for Environmental Health said it has a list of 100 offenders which allegedly run afoul of the excellent right-to-know label laws under Prop 65 in California.

For another example, here’s the list from a “natural” oatmeal lotion marketed for use on babies that contains at least 4 chemicals of concern (the “ick” you’ll soon learn how to spot yourself!):

IMG_1618 Under the government’s watch, tens of thousands of chemicals have made their way to store shelves. While many of them remain untested, some of them have known links to cancer and reproductive health impacts. Shockingly, the FDA can’t require companies to test for safety.

Some unlucky folks also have far greater exposure to harmful beauty products on the job. Salon workers, for instance, face many of the nastiest chemicals—formaldehyde, pthalates and others—hour after hour, day after day. Grassroots groups have started pushing for safer working conditions in salons, and wonderful, active coalitions like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are doing great work to make products safer for consumers. Congress is taking note, though the bill currently being proposed to fix the problem still needs some work.

IMG_1573Revenge of the Nerds: Becoming a Label Scanner

In the meantime, you should know what’s safe and what’s, well, not so much. So I’ve compiled my own list of the worst offenders, as a rough guide. I also recommend checking on stuff in the incredible database on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep website. It allows you to search for products, providing a detailed analysis of ingredients and any chemicals of concern. You can also search by ingredient if a product’s not listed.

Because it’s hard to shop for better products when you have a toddler nagging at you, I’ve found that committing a few key abbreviations for certain chemicals to memory and learning how to do a quick label scan is an invaluable asset. Although its not an exhaustive list, the below is a half-decent crib sheet for when you’re standing in the makeup aisle cursing under your breath. (That’s probably me next to you, squinting at the teensy print and cursing audibly.)

Like with food, better products these days often have fewer ingredients, and organic ingredients, labeled as such. Their labels tend to include parentheticals with real words in them like (coconut) or (flax oil). On the other hand, if you see a long list of chemicals (especially those with numbers or a string of capital letters), that tends to be a good product to avoid. I read up from the bottom of the list, because that’s where the worst offenders often hide out.

IMG_1575 Key Chemicals to Avoid: The “Icky 11”

1) Phthalates

Phthalates are widely used in perfume, nail polish, soap, shampoo, moisturizers, soap and hair spray. They’ve been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption and can cause reproductive and developmental disorders. They are listed under a variety of names, and two of them—dibutyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate—are banned from cosmetic products in the European Union but are still used in products in the U.S.

Pthalates are also used to make plastics more pliable, including in polyvinyl choloride (PVC), as in this staggering list from the National Library of Medicine:

flexible plastic and vinyl toys, shower curtains, wallpaper, vinyl miniblinds, food packaging, and plastic wrap. Phthalates are also used in wood finishes, detergents, adhesives, plastic plumbing pipes, lubricants, medical tubing and fluid bags, solvents, insecticides, medical devices, building materials, and vinyl flooring.

So they’re everywhere, and worth avoiding when you can. As to cosmetics, here’s what’s tricky: sometimes they’re added to products under the generic term “fragrance,” so in addition to avoiding any ingredients with “phthalate” in the name, you should also steer clear of products containing “fragrance.” This is especially true for pregnant women, pre-teens and young adults, and babies, who are more vulnerable to their health hazards. Pick “no-scent” or “no fragrance” as your go-to whenever possible, and stay out of the department store perfume aisle! 

2) Parabens

Like phthalates, parabens come under a variety of names. The four that most commonly appear in cosmetic and bath products are methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben and butylparaben. They’re added to shampoos, conditioners, body washes and lotions to kill microbes.

Parabens are found in adundance on store shelves and have been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation. They’re absorbed through the skin: U.K. researchers found detectable levels of six different parabens in twenty human breast tumors in a 2004 study.

3) Lead or Lead acetate

Lead acetate is a toxin that affects reproduction and development. It’s not as common as parabens or phthalates, but it’s a doozy. It scores a terrible “10” in the Skin Deep Database, and has been linked to cancer and is banned from cosmetics in Canada. Currently the FDA allows it in the U.S. except in products applied around the eyes. Do not buy any products containing this chemical and toss any you might own.

In addition, a recent study found shockingly high levels of lead in lipstick (especially the dark reds and browns I wore all though the late 1980s and early ’90s, trying in vain to steal Molly Ringwald’s look from “the Breakfast Club”). I will just note that this puts a potent neurotoxin on your lips, kinda’ close to your brain.

Kids shouldn’t play with your lipstick, either. And while we’re on the subject of lead, I have more bad news. Face-painting make-up used for kids has been found to have dangerous lead levels and should be avoided: a 2009 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found lead in 10 out of 10 face paints tested. This is a hard one, as it’s on offer at every durn festival we go to and is popular at Halloween. If you want to pack your own safer stuff or have it on hand for dress-ups at homes, you can make your own or buy this product, which looks to be the safest I’ve found.

4) Formaldehyde and toluene

Formaldehyde and toluene are found in nail products like polish, treatments and strengtheners. They’re also found in hair dyes and the now-notorious hair-straightening products called “Brazilian Blowouts.”

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen as well as a skin and respiratory toxin. Toluene is a neurotoxin that can impair breathing and irritate the skin. They’re both terrible for you, and pregnant women should be especially careful about exposure because of the threats they pose to developing fetuses. Staying out of salons while pregnant is a great idea for a number of reasons.

5) Coal tar

Coal tar is found in a number of dandruff shampoos, hair dyes and skin lotions. It’s a black, viscous liquid that’s produced during the distillation of coal. It’s a known carcinogen and bioaccumulating respiratory toxin, but despite these health concerns, it was deemed safe for consumers at typical levels of use. Because it poses such grave consequences for health, I would highly recommend avoiding it.

IMG_15706) Aluminum chlorohydrate

Aluminum chlorohydrate is used in anti-antiperspirants. It’s suspected of causing breast cancer, and subject to restrictions in Canada. While EWG only gives it a 3, a raft of finding linking effects on breast cancer tumors to aluminum are worrisome enough to include it as a precaution.

7) Triclosan

Triclosan is an anti-bacterial agent found in many deodorants and soaps. It’s been linked to endocrine disruption, organ toxicity and skin irritation. It also can encourage development of drug-resistant bacteria. Definitely to be avoided.

8) Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA), Triethanolamine (TEA)

These chemicals are used to adjust the pH in products like shampoos and hair dyes. Each carries a number of concerns, but DEA (including cocomide DEA mentioned above), is a likely carcinogen as well as skin and respiratory toxin, and is the most dangerous of the three.

9) Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)

EDTA is found in shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, soap, body wash and moisturizers, to prevent spoilage and as a way of keeping clear liquids from getting cloudy. It makes chemicals more absorbable through the skin, which is a reason to avoid it as well. It has a low hazard rating from EWG but has been classified as expected “to be toxic or harmful” by Environment Canada. It is known to cause liver damage and skin irritation. It has killed patients in large doses using it for chelation in alternative medicine and appears to increase lead absorption in patients.

10) Sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate (SLS)

Along with other sulfates with very similar names–sodium lauryl sulfate, for instance—SLS is used in soaps, shampoos and toothpastes to cause the product to foam and remove debris. SLS has a bad reputation but EWG gives it a relatively low hazard ranking. Though it can cause skin irritation, the primary concern is that SLS can be contaminated with two really nasty chemicals—ehtylene oxide, which is a known carcinogen, and 1,4-dioxane, which has been linked to cancer and is banned in Canada.

11) Polyethylene glycol (PEG)

Polyethylene glycol can be found in makeup, sun screens and body washes. While it gets a relatively low hazard score from EWG, like SLS, there’s a chance of contamination with ehtylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which pose grave health concerns. It’s often followed by a number.

IMG_1561Weird Science: The Label Lies

So there are a lot of nasty chemicals out there. And the “good guys” are hard to find. Due to lax marketing laws, many items labeled as organic actually contain few organic ingredients. Even worse, some more natural products, like those deodorant stones, are not as green as they seem.

Second, there is massive greenwashing in this area: terms like “all natural,” or “green” or “nutrient rich” are not defined in law, and therefore should not be taken seriously by you at all. (Just do as I do and pronounce aloud “wah wah wah wah” like the teacher in Charlie Brown’s class while standing in the aisle. Stores love that.)

Third, some prominent “natural” brands have actually been acquired by much larger companies, including Burt’s Bees and Tom’s of Maine, and some of the products have been reformulated to be less of a sure thing (though both companies remain far better than the average).

Sadly, the medical establishment is of little use here. When I took Maya to a skin doctor recently, I was shocked to see that the lotions with medication in them the doctor was handing out samples of all contained some of the worst offenders on the Ick List. Then I went home and read the bottles of our other children’s products, like the liquid suspensions of ibuprofen. All of them had suspect dyes and parabens. Nothing like dosing children with a sip of potentially hazardous yuck to fix a minor health problem!

toxic-docBecause of all this, the best approach is to simplify your routine. Just decide what products you really need on a daily basis and for the occasional special event, and toss the rest. I use much less stuff than I used to, and really, truly don’t miss it.

Then you’ll also have more time to look up the facts on what you do need: just check in the EWG database. They have great lists by product category starting with 0, or no known risk from chemicals. I aim personally for nothing higher than 2, and mostly 0s and 1s. I’m even stricter with kids’ stuff, and prefer 0s or 1s for that. I also check the individual listings for each product so that I know all of the ingredients are a-OK.

Of course, you can always make stuff yourself. There are a ton of great recipes on the interwebs for everything from toner to lotion, bath salts to body scrubs. There are also suggestions about cleaning your skin with honey, which was lovely when I tried it, or with food-grade oils, which I also found to be easy and effective when I gave it a go. And it works for babies too!

Olive and coconut oil make great hair conditioners (and detanglers for kids’ hair), and organic shea butter has been a life-saver for us for treating Maya’s mild eczema. Farmer’s markets are another good source for simply made products and home remedies.

IMG_1568Some Kind of Wonderful: Products We Actually Like

Below are a few of my favorite companies. These are items we’ve actually used and liked. In addition, I’ve indicated some more widely available and affordable substitutes from major retailers as stuff I’ve used in a pinch or when I wasn’t feeling spendy.

The blog for one of my favorite companies, Bubble & Bee, is amazing and very much worth checking out for its wealth of interesting information from Stephanie, the company’s thoughtful founder.

Baby and kid products:

Adult Personal Care and Cosmetics:

Companies that I have not yet tried, but hear good things about:

A few better brands from big retail stores (but check by product!):

Note: None of these links are commissioned, though Sappho Cosmetics was kind enough to send me free samples of their make-up when I returned to work. While much appreciated generally, this did not influence my evaluation of their products.

Additionally, for reasons that elude me, the headings all ended up referring to ’80s movies. If you have more to suggest on that score, or products you personally use and like — no commercial posters allowed — then please weigh in! If there are other chemicals you avoid, I’d love to know that too.

IMG_1569Other posts you may like:


Hot Reads: Toxics, Parenting and Other Interesting Stuff

Colorado Meadows

Colorado Meadows (Photo credit: QualityFrog)

It’s a two for one! After some radio silence, I’m kicking off a new regular feature with a bonus double-feature. Lucky you. Every Friday or Saturday going forward, I’ll post links from the week before that grabbed my attention from the week.

To make up for my lost time up in the lovely mountains of Colorado last weekend, this week I’m posting two weeks of news you can use.

From last week:

  • Derailed: I’m sure you were as horrified as I was about the deadly train crash in Lac-Megantic involving 46,000 barrels of oil and 47 deaths. I was saddened by the crash, and then angry when I read an op-ed by a former Lac-Megantic locomotive engineer detailing the decay of government regulations and industry practices he witnessed on the job. Could such an awful thing happen here? Sadly, yes. As I learned when I worked at Public Citizen years back, trains carrying hazardous materials pass near city centers every day. Just two months ago, a train operated by the railway-giant CSX exploded in a Baltimore suburb. From my past work, I know that CSX routinely fights common-sense measures to reroute hazardous materials around densely populated areas. Years ago, when we worked with the D.C. city council to ban hazardous materials from tracks passing within four blocks of the Capitol building, CSX sued, successfully, to overturn the measure. The ban would have required CSX to reroute fewer than five percent of its trains in order to safeguard the safety of DC. Let’s just hope that federal regulators are on the case.
  • Explosions in the sky: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is positioning itself to call out the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) foot-dragging on a number of recommendations concerning chemical plants and refineries. The safety board, an independent federal agency, has issued numerous recommendations disregarded by OSHA (the regulator) for years now. After the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas this past April that killed 14 people, there should be a renewed urgency to act.
  • European make-over: A 2009 European Union rule requiring considerably more transparent labels for personal care products and cosmetics just fully entered into force on July 11th. The rule includes specific restrictions of nano-materials used in products like sunscreens, as coloring agents, or other uses, and requires that where they are used, they must be identified on the label. Given the active scientific debate and level of uncertainty over the safety of nano-particles in products, transparency is really the least that consumers should have. While certain “greener” items here in the U.S. do specify when they do not contain nano-technology, for the most part consumers are in the dark about their use in a wide range of common products. As usual, Europe’s in the lead on an important chemical safety issue: so, er, pass the freedom lotion? Or something…
  • Parents, please follow the directions: While it’s sadly self-evident that kids don’t come with an instruction manual, Resources for Infant Educarers just published a truly wonderful list of tips to help new parents. They suggest common-sense, helpful concepts to guide your approach, including nurturing a child’s innate curiosity, creating a safe play place and connecting with your child through caregiving tasks.
  • Trayvon could have been my child: I was moved to tears by this local mom blogger’s passionate and eloquent response to the verdict in the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. She writes: “Like with much of parenting, I suppose I will stumble my way through this with as much love and good intention as I can manage. With Trayvon’s mother in my heart, I can promise that I will do what I can to teach my son and my daughter to not fear different faces. Not to be afraid of someone else’s child. So that child may live with a little less fear that my child might do him harm.”

This past week:

  • The royal treatment? There were lots of babies born, but only one had the whole world squealing. The frenzied, round-the-clock coverage of the royal birth was nothing if not obsessive. Me being me, I began pondering the odd status of women as combination sex symbols and baby-delivery devices, and wondered aloud via Twitter just how long it would be until we would start hearing about Kate’s plans to lose pregnancy weight. The pathetic answer? Not even a day. Within 24 hours of the birth, a British tabloid ran a story detailing the royal regimen to shed pregnancy pounds. At least I wasn’t the only one who found it offensive. And the issues it stirs up run deep: here’s a thoughtful piece on pregnancy, body image and the media obsession with obtaining a “post-baby bod[y],” which, IMHO, is about erasing the procreative possibilities of women’s bodies so as to unburden the male gaze. This attempt to erase the physicality of pregnancy comes at an incredible cost to women in manufactured self-loathing, and forms a bad model for our children, as this daughter writes in yet another tear-jerker of a post, entitled, simply enough, “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat.” For all these reasons, I adored this gorgeous photo-essay of real moms in all their glory, many with their partners and kids. I’d love to see more of that kind of art, please, and less of the mawkish hyper-monitoring of the mom-bod.
  • And nailed down: Having forgone my beloved mani-pedis for several years now due to the serious concerns they trigger about salon workers’ health, I was delighted to hear about a new program in Santa Monica, California, that could produce healthier conditions in nail salons. Many salon products contain dangerous toxins: oluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde are the nastiest. Salon workers face long hours of exposure, and even OSHA admits many of them can cause long-term health impacts. The Santa Monica program rewards salons that choose safer alternatives. Let’s hope it signals the beginning of a national trend. (While I’ve found that most so-called “green” nail salons are anything but, there are some exceptions. If you’re ever in downtown Philly, there is a truly organic nail salon there: Mi Cumbia in Rittenhouse Square. Mi Cumbia is a wonderfully relaxing place owned by a pioneering couple in green nail salons. If you know of others like this in your city, please do tell in the comments, as I would love to know when I travel where I might get a truly better pedicure!)
  • Targeting toxins at Target: Basically everyone, including me, occasionally shops at Target. So please consider signing onto this important petition to call on Target to remove toxin-laden products from their shelves. It’s organized by one of my fave coalitions, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which tirelessly advocates for toxics reform and also manages to publish a great blog.

Hope this was useful! Feel free to suggest what I’ve missed in the comments…

Persnickety Letters on Products

Perhaps because of my history as a consumer advocate, I derive a rather sick enjoyment from writing emails in which I ask persnickety questions of companies. Below is a sampling, with more to come.

Given the extent of “green-washing,” I also try to ask hard questions of friendlier companies, sometimes with gratifying results.

Coming next: The anatomy of a consumer brush-off: how companies do (and don’t really) answer our questions.

Exhibit 1: Plastic Bath Toys and Vinyl Wall Stickers from Giggle

Several months ago, I wrote these two letters to Giggle to ask what was in the soft plastic bath toys and wall stickers I bought (or requested as gifts) for Maya. The answer? PVC, or polyvinyl chloride.

PVC is problematic for a number of reasons. First, the process to make it produces a potent carcinogen, dioxin, which gets everywhere — in breast-milk, in the air, and in our food. Second, if it’s in your house, and there is a fire, PVC becomes hydrochloric acid and is highly toxic to breathe. Third, PVC is often softened with pthalates, and tests show it contains lead. So calling it “non-toxic” is a stretch. (Though at least the promise below is that both of these items are pthalate-free.)

In addition, plastics tend to break down over time. I was not particularly reassured by the notion that it’s fine if children put these toys, after playing with them in hot water repeatedly, in their mouths, or, in the case of the stickers, that kids move them around on the wall and play with them. We tossed the bath toys (great, more toxics in the landfill!), but the wall stickers are still up. When Maya figures out they can be moved, then out they’ll go.


PVC in Bath Squirters sold by Giggle, Inc.

Q: Hi there,

We purchased these, but I am still concerned about the safety of the plastic. What number and kind of plastic are they? Is there any vinyl? Heightening this concern is that they come in a vinyl bag, which is PVC, and are used in warm water.


A:  Elegant Baby’s responsible commitment to children’s safety means that their Sea Creatures Bath Squirters meet and/or exceed several safety regulations, including the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA); the Federal Hazardous Substance Act; the American Standards for Testing and Materials (ASTM-F963), testing for toxic elements; and the European Standard EN- 71 that specifies safety requirements for all toys sold in European nations. In addition, these extensive third party acts test for hazards such as lead, phthalates, and toxins, as well as potential choking hazards.

The Bath Squirters are made of non-toxic, BPA-free, and phthalate-free PVC. They contain no VOC’s, and are safe enough for a little bather to put in their mouth.

Parents can be confident that giggle’s commitment to children’s health and safety includes eliminating exposures to any potentially harmful chemicals and substances contained in our product assortment so we can help build healthier environments for children.


PVC in Dottilicious Wall Stickers sold by Giggle, Inc.

Q: Hi there,

I have had these up in my nursery for over a year. I was upset in retrospect to consider that these are vinyl, which means PVC, which is toxic and off-gasses, similar to the news about shower curtains and liners.

In addition, other heavy metals are used in PVC manufacturing. Please tell me:

1) How long the off-gassing lasts from these stickers?
2) Whether the stickers contain other substances, including lead, chromium or other heavy metals?


A: WallCandy’s responsible commitment to children’s safety means that their Dottilicious Wall Stickers meets and/or exceeds several safety regulations, including the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), and the Federal Hazardous Substance Act. These extensive third party acts test for hazards such as lead, phthalates, and toxins, as well as potential choking hazards.

WallCandy decals are made of non-toxic PVC Vinyl with a low tack adhesive that allows for the reuse of the decals. They contain no VOC’s or pthalates, which means no off-gassing in your home!

Parents can be confident that giggle’s commitment to children’s health and safety includes eliminating exposures to any potentially harmful chemicals and substances contained in our product assortment so we can help build healthier environments for children.

Exhibit 2: Haba Rolling Turtles and Fantasy Blocks with Arsenic and Bromine?

Date: Mon, 5 Sep 2011 05:11:09 +0200
Subject: HABA Contact form

After paying such a premium for non-toxic toys, I was shocked to learn that the rolling turtles and fantasy blocks have been identified as having arsenic and bromine in them. Please tell me what you have done specifically to address these serious problems.


From: Lea Culliton HABA
Subject: FW: HABA Contact – Laura MacCleery
Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 10:47 AM

Dear Ms. MacCleery:

Thank you for taking the time to write to us to learn more about your concern.  Would you mind sharing with me where you learned this information so that I may properly address your concerns?  It is at this time of year that many public interest groups post information about products without using the appropriate testing procedures approved by the CPSIA.

Please let me assure you that HABA is a family owned company and our wooden products are still produced in Germany at our wholly owned facilities.  The stains that we use are tested by 3rd party laboratories to not only meet the USA testing standards but to almost meet and exceed the European standards and all other standards from throughout the world.  We maintain the highest level of integrity of our raw materials and of our suppliers.  Feel free to learn more about us by visiting our website at and clicking on the About tab.  We have all of our Certificates of Compliance to the CPSIA on our website for consumers to see/download.  We have films about our production and about our testing.  We try to be as transparent as possible.

The owner of our company Mr. Habermaass has children and grandchildren himself and so do over the 1,300 employees working for HABA.  We care about our children and what products we are giving them to play with (and chew on) each and everyday.

We appreciate your concerns and would like to be able to address them; again thank you for taking the time to write to us.


Lea Culliton

HABA USA, President

From: Laura MacCleery [mailto:]
Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2011 8:28 PM
To: Lea Culliton HABA
Subject: Re: FW: HABA Contact – Laura MacCleery

Thanks for your reply. The information on arsenic and bromine is here:

Related to your fantasy blocks — in particular, the one with the bell. We have a bell block from our “First Blocks” set and I would very much like to know whether it also could contain arsenic and bromine. I look forward to your reply —


From: Lea Culliton HABA
Subject: RE: FW: HABA Contact – Laura MacCleery
Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011, 9:58 PM


A couple of years ago this website had to recall a report on another one of our items that they reported.  It is important to know that this organization uses a XRF “analyzer” to perform approximate heavy metals in the materials.  This is NOT a laboratory certified test where the material is actually scraped off and tested.

Another important fact to note is that the solubility and possibility of transference from product to person is not examined and/or discussed on this website.

HABA did pay an independent, CPSC authorized, testing laboratory to test this item.  The item passed all ASTM F963 specifications and it passed the European EN 71 requirements; this item is absolutely, positively safe for young children.

Warm regards,

Lea Culliton

Hi Lea,

I’m not sure I follow — are you saying that the XRF method produces incorrect results? We just had lead measured in our home and that is what the technician used and my understanding is that it is very accurate.

In terms of the standards that the toy has passed, do those standards allow for or prohibit lead and/or bromine? If they allow it, at what level? Is transferrability to the child an aspect of those standards?


Friday, September 30, 2011 11:36 AM

From: “Lea Culliton HABA”


The XRF guns are reliable for quick passes.  They are not however allowed to be used as the final tests for 3rd party laboratories.  The labs physically scrape the surface and test the materials.

If you would like to learn more about the standards please visit the website.  The CPSIA that President Bush signed into law just before he left office made the mechanical ASTM F963 test mandatory instead of voluntary.  The CPSIA also set the gradual lowering of the allowable lead levels to less than 90 ppm.  Links to these laws and specifications can be found at the CPSC site.  You may want to click on the Business tab at the top to learn even more.

I can reassure you that all of the HABA products being sold into the USA marketplace are 3rd party lab tested and approved to meet and/or exceed all of the required American and European standards.  HABA toys are safe.

Warm regards,

Lea Culliton


Exhibit 3: Skiphop Play Mats with Formamide?

From: Laura MacCleery [mailto:]
Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 9:16 PM
To: Info
Subject: formamide in mat tiles?

Please let me know asap whether your EVA foam tiles contain formamide, a substance of concern since foam mats have been banned in Belgium and France since Dec 2010.Thanks–Laura


Thank you for contacting us – we understand your concern. All Skip Hop products, including the Playspot, meet or exceed regulatory safety standards in the USA and Europe, without exception.

We do not add Formamide to Playspot, although it can be a byproduct of the EVA foam manufacturing process (which includes such items as flip flops and many bath toys). That said, due to these concerns, we have tested Playspot using ISO 16000 methods.

We are pleased that our Playspots received the lowest possible score, <2ug/m3 (less than 2 millionths of a gram per cubic meter) for Formamide emissions, the lowest measurable result with this testing method.  These tests show that – within the limits of the test – its presence is essentially not detectable.

Therefore, the Playspot is a safe EVA floor mat option for children and you should feel confident that we have specifically tested for this issue.

Feel free to contact us with further questions.

Lilia Rodriguez

Customer Service

Skip Hop, Inc.

Exhibit 4: Preservatives in Method brand cleaning products

On 7/28/2010 5:39 PM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Please let me know, as a prospective customer, what is the “preservative” on your label?



Thursday, July 29, 2010 9:13 AM

From: “Tim Barklage”

Hi Laura —

Thanks much for your interest in our products.  Below is some information about how preservatives are used in cleaning products and information on our specific system:

  • Cleaning products are mostly water and have long shelf-lives and therefore must have some agent which prohibits the growth of bacteria
  • Anyone who claims there is no such agent is either:
    • Not disclosing information
    • Has a natural agent, such as lactic acid, at such high levels (low pH) that it will damage the surfaces you are cleaning and is certainly not safe to have around children.
  • BETTER LIFE has chosen a preservative system which is approved in skin care products
  • Our preservative is put in at 7 parts per million.  This is incredibly low and is would probably not be traceable under general analysis
    • Additionally these are at comparable levels of foreign substances contained in many municipalities tap water systems.

For further clarification, here a detailed statement from our chief scientist:

General Answer:

Preservatives are often a “hot topic” especially within the skincare products industry. All consumer products must have some system in place for preservation of the product in order to give it a shelf life.  However, there are a lot of options when it comes to which system/materials you use.  I have employed systems adapted from both the food and skincare industry to preserve the BETTER LIFE products instead of using the harsh, industrial type preservatives found in most cleaning products.  Depending on the specific product, we use things like fruit acids and essential oils/extracts.  In certain cases when these will not offer enough protection to ensure quality we use a completely biodegradable synthetic ingredient at less than 0.01% to supplement the system.  These systems that we have developed are safe, environmentally responsible and ensure quality in our products.

Detailed answer:

Preservative systems are always tricky since it is necessary for product shelf life, but needs to be closely evaluated to make sure the safest most responsible ingredient is used in the formula.  We use MIT and  I have chosen this preservative for the following reasons;

a.       Able to use at incredibly low amount (7 ppm)

b.      More than 30 years of safety data on this material.  It has achieved worldwide registrations (including Japan ) and complies with all safety regulations for use in skin care and cosmetic applications.

c.       Tested “readily biodegradable”, not bioaccumulative, and not persistent in the environment according to US and European standards.

d.      Not a formaldehyde donor!

Most competitive products utilize preservative systems that must be used at MUCH higher levels (in many cases 10x’s higher levels), pose serious health risks (formaldehyde donors, lack of safety testing, etc.) and are persistent in the environment. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.  We appreciate your interest and support!

Tim Barklage
Better Life

Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:44 PM

From: “Laura MacCleery”

To: “Tim Barklage”

Thanks for this information, Tim. Please give me the full name of MIT. I assume it’s not the Massachusetts Institute of Technology!

Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:55 PM

From: “Laura MacCleery”

To: “Tim Barklage”

Never mind — I found it:

Shame on you for playing hide the ball on your packaging and your Web site! At least list all of the real ingredients by name so that consumers can fully evaluate their exposure to toxics. Basic transparency — which you tout in the ad copy on your Website — demands no less.

Laura MacCleery

Friday, July 30, 2010 2:07 AM

From: “Kevin Tibbs”


While it is often difficult to personally answer many of the emails that we receive I saw your email and felt the need to respond.  I am surprised and sorry that you feel as though BETTER LIFE is not transparent.  As a company we have went to great lengths to empower the consumer – providing them with more information than they have ever been exposed to in the past (when it comes to household cleaners).   Not only are we one of the few companies that provide a complete listing of ingredients, we also have developed the “ingredient summary” panel which provides in depth information about the product and its ingredients.  Please know that we are not “hiding the ball” at all!  It appears that you inquired about the preservative and we provided you not only the INCI name but a lengthy description as to why products are preserved and why BETTER LIFE chose MIT.

I have been a formulation chemist for 14 years specializing in skin care and hair care products.  When my first daughter began crawling around and exploring, I took notice of the types of household cleaning products that were around the house.  The more I looked into these products the more frustrated I became!

–          All traditional cleaning products contain absolutely no information on specific ingredients in their products and customer service will not reveal this information.

–          Cleaning products are covered with warning statements.

–          The so called “green” cleaning products I evaluated contained only partial ingredient disclosures (I found that many of the ingredients were left off the labels).

–          Both traditional and “green” products are filled with heavy fumes, petroleum based ingredients, strong acids or bases, synthetic dyes and fragrances, etc. etc.

As a chemist, I know firsthand what types of ingredients are used in both tradition cleaners and other green cleaning products.  I do not want these chemicals around my home, or my family.  So, I did something about it.  Two years ago, I resigned from my job and co-founded BETTER LIFE.  At BETTER LIFE, I take great pride in developing the safest, most eco-friendly products on the market.  And the performance of our products is amazing!

If you would ever like to chat about what makes our products so much different than the others out there please feel free to contact me (all of my information is below).  I really would not want anyone to think that we are not completely transparent!

Thanks for your email,

Kevin Tibbs


From: Laura MacCleery

Sent: Friday, July 30, 2010 8:31 AM

To: Kevin Tibbs

Subject: RE: Re: What’s the preservative you use?


Thanks so much for your reply.

I would say that using the generic term “preservative” instead of MIT or, even better, the full name of the chemical on your labeling and Website, falls squarely into the category you criticize, here:

“The so called “green” cleaning products I evaluated contained only partial ingredient disclosures (I found that many of the ingredients were left off the labels).”

Its similar to Ecover’s use of the term “fragrance,” which most consumers will not know is an area in which there is scant research on health consequences.

It would be great if at least one company that sells widely available cleaning products to green consumers actually was 100 percent transparent. Your decision to use the generic term “preservative” is evasive and misleading and does in fact violate the spirit and letter of your claims to transparency and to more transparency than your competitors.

I note that Method also uses MIT, a harmful chemical, but openly notes and defends this decision on its Web site.


From: Kevin Tibbs

Subject: FW: Re: What’s the preservative you use?

Date: Friday, August 6, 2010, 2:58 PM


I am not sure we are on the same page.  What I meant by partial ingredient statements is that many companies that manufacture “green” products list only some of the ingredients and COMPLETELY leave out others.  You mentioned Method Products below so I will use them as an example:

Here is what there All Purpose Cleaner ingredient statement is (pulled directly from their website): Corn and Coconut derived surfactants, biodegradable emulsifier, purified water, soda ash, fragrance oil blend, potassium hydrate, color

There is no mention or listing of preservative, despite the product having one.  This is what I was referring to when I say partial ingredient statements.

Further, I expect that you know cleaning products are not held to any government standards or regulations when it comes to ingredient labeling.  This is why the majority of products in this category do not have any ingredient disclosure at all.  It is also why some products are not penalized for only partially disclosing ingredients.  At BETTER LIFE, we list all ingredients.  Apparently you are not happy with the way in which we list them.  I do apologize for this but I realize that you cannot please everyone.   Skin care is an area which is regulated by government (FDA) and there are regulations for standardized ingredient labeling.   If we use skin care as a guide,  you should know that “fragrance” is the correct  INCI terminology for an ingredient listing.  In fact, by listing it differently a company making skin care products could be fined by the FDA for not using this correct terminology.

Again, I hope you appreciate the great pride and sense of responsibility I take in the BETTER LIFE products.  We have gone to great lengths to make the safest, most environmentally responsible products available.  You will find that our products do not contain “colors” (a nicer way of saying synthetic petroleum based dyes), “fragrance oil blends/ synthetic fragrances”, petroleum based surfactants and ethoxylates (which is referred to as “biodegradable emulsifier” in Methods ingredient statement above), alcohols and petroleum solvents just to name a few.  I have developed these products to provide a safe and effective alternative to the common cleaning product for my family and yours.  I know that there will always be critics, but I take comfort in knowing how many people we have helped with the BETTER LIFE line of green cleaners.



To: “Kevin Tibbs”


I’m not sure why most of your email points fingers at other products. I don’t think that any manufacturer of household cleaning products is doing a good job.

Still, you have not explained why your label and Website both merely says “preservative,” rather than MIT or (better) the full name of the chemical being used. You claim to be more transparent than other companies, but this choice to conceal the contents of this aspect of the ingredients in your product is not.

Moreover, the decision to use MIT is troubling. While your other ingredients may be green, this chemical is dangerous and clearly so.

If you want Better Life to be recognized as an industry leader, start by only using ingredients that you are comfortable clearly stating on both your label and Website.


Dear Laura,

Thank you for you advice.  You refered to Method as an example so I simply helped you understand their labeling approach compared to ours.   Have a great weekend,


Exhibit 5: Nurture My Body: Clarifying whether essential oils are safe

New comment on your post “Fragrance Free Organic Beauty Products – Confused?”

Author : Laura MacCleery


I appreciate the post, but was hoping to find out about any scientific research that has been done on the safety and health impacts of essential oils and fragrances. Even though they are natural substances, you are affecting the potency, as you note, and many natural things may not be good for a person. Do you know of research on this subject? I would be very interested.

A: Thanks ever so much for your question about scientific research that has been done on the safety and health impacts of essential oils and fragrances. The best places for you to dig into would be these authority sites:




Quite sincerely,

Rich Arnold
Customer Care

Nurture My Body

your skin ~ our organics

P.S. Thank you ever so much for your patience for our response. We have been heavily engaged in creating our new website which launched yesterday.

Exhibit 6: Schylling Plastic Piano Horns

From: Laura MacCleery

Sent: Monday, September 12, 2011 9:53 PM


Subject: Piano horn

Hi there,

Please tell me the kind of plastic that the piano horn is made of, including the mouthpiece. I’m very concerned about the types of plastic my daughter might have in her mouth.



RE: Piano horn

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 2:56 PM

From: “Jennifer Thissell”

To: “‘Laura MacCleery'”

Thank you for contacting us. We care about the health and safety of our consumers. Our products meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards and the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards for lead and toxicity.  Our Piano Horn does pass all federal and state testing for phthalates, but I don’t have information on the specific material used.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns, thank you.

Jennifer Thissell, Customer Service

Schylling Associates

Exhibit 7: Chicco Car Seat: Flame Retardants

From: Laura MacCleery [mailto:]

Sent: Sunday, June 27, 2010 10:37 AM


Subject: Keyfit 30 car seat — safety of chemicals


Please provide me with any independent testing or information you have about the presence of any chemicals in your car seats — including lead, chromium, copper, formaldyhyde and aluminum.



RE: Keyfit 30 car seat — safety of chemicals

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 12:51 PM

From: “” <>

To: “‘Laura MacCleery'”

Dear Chicco Customer,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. Chicco is very aware of and concerned about recent studies which discuss the toxicity of certain chemicals or elements in child car seats.  ALL Chicco products meet or exceed the stringent safety standards in the U.S. and Europe regarding chemical content. Additionally all Chicco products are Phthalate-free.


Customer Service

Chicco USA, Inc

On Jun 27, 2010, at 7:21 PM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Hi there,

I am interested in a purchasing a Swedish car seat due to the lack of flame retardant chemicals in the products, which my research has shown to be banned in Sweden.

Would you confirm that the foam in these seats lacks bromides? If so, you should include this in your Web site, as its a major selling point!

Also, some of the Britax models sold in the U.S., including the Roundabout, have a rebound bar for rear facing seats? Which of the models that you sell include the rebound bar? This is an important safety feature in rear impact collisions.

Thanks so much!


On Jun 27, 2010, at 5:23 PM, “ (Info)” <> wrote:

Hello Laura,

Thanks for your email.  I need to double check on the issue of flame retardant chemicals. Same with the bromide questions. I’m impressed by your detailed questions:-)

No seats in US have a rebound bar.  Most of the Swedish seats have a support leg which is beneficial for avoiding over rotation in a collision.  Britax seats Multi Tech and Hi-Way have support leg as well as DuoLogic, Maxi Cosi Mobi and BeSafe Izikid.

It’s not really an issue in rear facing collisions and make little difference.  Rear facing collision only account for about 5% of collisions are are rarely severed due to speed and other factors.  The only seat which doesn’t have a support leg is Britax Two-Way but it’s just as safe as the other s since it’s installed leaning on front seat or dashboard.  This means a rock solid installation.  You can check out this report from a happy user of Two-Way who was rear ended at high speed….

Kind regards


Håkan Svensson

On Jun 28, 2010, at 4:17 PM, Laura Maccleery wrote:

Thanks for the responses! I will install the seat in the middle back seat–

Looking forward to your answers re the chemicals. The rebound bar is now available FYI on some US models– Britax only, it seems.

It’s also helpful for frontal collisions– and I don’t discount “rare” events– while the vast majority of rear crashes are fender benders, on highways they can be quite severe.

Does the Swedish government or any consumer group do crash ratings for the models you sell, similar to Consumer Reports? If so, I’d love to see the links.

Thanks so much!

Laura MacCleery

— On Mon, 6/28/10, (Info) <> wrote:

From: (Info) <>
Subject: Re: A few questions
To: “Laura Maccleery” <>
Date: Monday, June 28, 2010, 5:57 PM

Hello Laura,

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you mean with “rebound bar”.  Can you show me a US seat which has this feature?

We have some consumer groups but testing of car seat in Sweden is actually rare.  We know from experience that long rear facing time is very important, type of car seat is of less importance.  We do have a new car seat standard in Sweden called “Plus Test”.  This test is by far the strictest in the world which means no forward facing seats pass.

Currently DuoLogic and two BeSafe X3 seats have passed testing.  More seats will be tested shortly.

In Sweden we look very little at testing since it’s so biased, subjective and each test is performed differently.  This makes it impossible to compare seats  between tests.   Most of European testing is done In Germany which is basically clueless about rear facing……

Kind regards


On Jun 29, 2010, at 9:36 PM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Hi there,

Here is the link to the picture of the Britax rebound bar:

Any information on the issue of chemicals?

Here are some links about these concerns:

Thanks so much!


— On Tue, 6/29/10, (Info) <> wrote:

From: (Info) <>
Subject: Re: A few questions
To: “Laura MacCleery” <>
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 6:16 PM

Hi Laura,

I see what you mean now.  DuoLogic and BeSafe use the rebound bar.  Most European seats use a support leg instead of top tether since it’s a better solution technically.  We have seats with rebound bar and many without, lack of rebound bar doesn’t make RF our seats any less safe.  Sitting rear facing for a long time is what’s important.

I have no more info about the chemicals.  The sources you provided sound worrying but before making any judgment I would like to see peer reviewed independent research showing any downside to children in car seats.  Flame retardant items for kids do overall fill a very important function and save lives.

Here in Sweden we are probably a bit more “old fashioned” and like to use more natural products for our children.  Lots of wooden toys etc.  We are not so keen on the mass produced battery intensive toys out of China for example.

I will try to find out some more about the chemicals and get back to you.

Kind regards


On Jun 30, 2010, at 12:49 AM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Thanks for your response. I’m not sure I understand it completely — are you saying that top tethers and support legs replace (functionally) the need for a rebound bar?

I’m an auto safety expert, as well as an expectant parent, and do find the Britax videos on the benefits of the rebound bar compelling. How do top tethers or support legs work? Do they play the same role?

Chemicals in the U.S. are not well regulated in comparison to Europe — we use a much wider range of dangerous chemicals and in large amounts, even in childrens’ products. Here’s an NGO study on flame retardants and their risks:

While traditional foam materials are made of petroleum-based materials, there is no need for them to be, and hence no reason for such intense use of flame retardants, which are well demonstrated to be risky to reproductive health.

Moreover, in a car seat, I’m not sure that flame retardants are that useful. Fire is involved in catastrophic crashes, and smoke inhalation in that context is likely to be more dangerous– and to affect an infant far more quickly.

At any rate, it looks like at least one form of these chemicals is banned in Europe generally and that PBDEs are banned in Sweden. Here’s a few scientific studies:



— On Tue, 6/29/10, (Info) <> wrote:

From: (Info) <>
To: “Laura MacCleery”
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 7:22 PM

Hi Laura,

Sounds like you know a lot about this subject:-)  Out of curiosity what kind of auto safety stuff do you mainly work on?  Support legs are not used in US but they are used extensively in Europe.  Support legs can be found in infant seats with Isofix (your LATCH, except ours is rigid and easier to use) and also the Swedish rear facing seats.

Top tether and support leg fill similar functions but a support leg is considered a better technical solution.  The support leg is there mainly to avoid over rotation.  Our seats have a RF limit of 55 lbs so forces are quite a bit different compared to 35 lbs seats which are still most common in US.

As mentioned before, DuoLogic and BeSafe Izikid seats do have the rebound bar but we don’t consider these seats any safer than the ones without the rebound bar.  What works best is long rear facing time, rebound bar is not a big deal.  Beauty of rear facing is the simple solution and the way the whole back of car seats ( and baby) absorb the enormous impact forces.

Fire dangers are of course a very small percentage of car accidents, we refer to them as “catastrophic”.  We have been rear facing children in Sweden since 1965 and know from experience that children here don’t die while sitting rear facing unless an accident is catastrophic.  That means fire, hit by a bus at 60 mph or driving into a river and drowning. No seats will ever protect against these types of accidents.

I’ll speak to some manufacturers tomorrow and see what I can find out.

Kind regards


On Jun 30, 2010, at 1:35 AM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Hi there,

I worked for Public Citizen, an NGO here, for 5 years, on backover, power windows, rollover safety, side impact air bags and other issues.

Ok — I think I’m comfortable with ordering a seat — which work with our LATCH system, if any?



— On Wed, 6/30/10, (Info) <> wrote:

From: (Info) <>

Date: Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 4:47 PM

Hi Laura,

Interesting work.  Our Isofix seats are compatible with LATCH (DuoLogic and Izikid X3 Isofix).  Isofix is a great solution since it’s so easy to install.  Downside is higher price and also a RF weight limit of only 40 lbs.  This is the maximum for any Isofix seat.

Kind regards


On Jul 5, 2010, at 3:57 PM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

You’ve been so incredibly helpful! Thank you!

Were you able to get any confirmation on the chemicals issue? Just curious.

Also, I drive a Nissan Altima, which is a mid-sized car. Would the Izkid fit or would the Duologic, with its smaller base, be better? I do like the support leg on the Izkid.

With shipping etc, we want to get this right!

Thanks so much!


— On Mon, 7/5/10, (Info) <> wrote:

From: (Info) <>
Date: Monday, July 5, 2010, 2:07 PM

Hi Laura,

The only seat which detaches from the base is DuoLogic. It’s basically an infant seat which slides into an Isofix base. Izikid needs just a bit more space than DuoLogic when installed upright.  Izikid does install quite upright so most parents use the sleep position most of the time.  This adds another 3 inches of space required.  DuoLogic works well in small and large cars.  Both seats use a support leg and also a rebound bar.

I spoke to Britax and we do use less chemicals in the seats here.  Flame retardant is a good add-on to car sats but there are of course limits on how much will benefit safety. Britax Could not give me exact details on the Bromide.  In the beginning of the year they were audited/surveyed by a large organization specializing in issues with chemicals/allergies and the results were really great.

Flame retardant is important but there is something such as diminishing returns.  Flame retardant will save lives but adding three times as much will not really make a big difference. We feel like flame retardant is  a good safety add-on but there are limits on what’s practical, useful and rational.  Children dying in burning cars is extremely rare so it’s not a big issue and keeping retardants on a reasonable level seems reasonable.

Kind regards


Exhibit 8: Brita Water Filters and BPA

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 4:59 PM

From: “Brita Consumer Services” <>

Dear Ms. MacCleery,

Thank you for contacting us about the composition of the Brita Water Filtration System.

Our products do not contain bisphenol A and are all tested by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) for safety. The pitcher lids and filter housings are made of polypropylene plastic and the reservoirs and pitchers are made from either NAS (a styrene based plastic) or SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile). The soft-touch handles are made from an elastomer called Santoprene. Unfortunately, the pitcher materials are not recyclable and therefore do not have a plastic recycling number.

Please to not hesitate to contact us at or at 1-800-24-BRITA if you have additional questions or concerns.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact us.


Shelley Preston, Consumer Response Representative, Consumer Services

Exhibit 9: Kid Basix Safe Sippy 2 re: PVC

From: Laura MacCleery
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 6:43 PM
To: Susan Soja
Subject: Safe Sippy 2

Hi there, I just purchased two of these cups for my daughter. Please let me know asap the answer to the following 2 questions: 1) Is there any PVC in any of the parts of the cup, including interior parts and straw? 2) What are the numbers of the plastics used for each part? Number denote types of plastics. Thanks so much!Laura

From: Susan Soja
Subject: RE: Safe Sippy 2
To: “Laura MacCleery”
Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 7:47 PM

Hi Laura-

Thanks so much for your note.  There is no PVC in the cup or any of its parts.  The Cap, Lid, Spout and Handles are made of #5 Polypropylene.  The Straw is made of LDPE #4.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

All the best,


Susan Soja

Kid Basix, LLC

From: Laura MacCleery
Subject: RE: Safe Sippy 2
To: “Susan Soja”

Thanks very much!

Exhibit 10: Estrogenic properties of soy in Baby’s Only baby formula

Product Question email submitted on: June 6, 2011From: Laura MacCleeryI feed my baby your Baby’s Only Diary formula, which works well. But  I am concerned about the soy content — see — does the soy lecithin include genistein?



From: <>
Subject: RE: Product Question email from Contact page
To: Laura
Date: Monday, June 6, 2011, 3:49 PM

Dear Laura,

Thank you for contacting us with your concern. The issue about use of soy appears to be related to the protein portion of soybeans. As you are aware, Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy formula contains organic soybean oil and organic soy lecithin derived from soy oil. Soy lecithin is used as an emulsifier that keeps the fats in a product from separating out. It has been determined that soy lecithin is a safe ingredient for food products and, in fact, has been used for many years in many foods for this purpose. This ingredient, because it is not derived from soy protein, does not contain the phytoestrogen, genistein, that you have inquired about.

We do not know of another standard dairy-based formula that is completely soy free, including free of soybean oil and/or soy lethicin. Soybean oil is included in almost all infant formulas because of its specific fatty acids. When combined with other oils, the soy oil helps to meet the required essential fatty acids in the appropriate amounts needed by an infant.

As you may know, organic vegetable oils, in this case, organic soybean oil, are expeller-expressed. This is a process that basically presses the oil from the soybean. Suppliers of organic soybean oil and organic soy lecithin cannot guarantee that miniscule amounts of protein measured in parts per thousand or parts per million are not passed through the filters and into the oil during this process. Therefore, even though there may be miniscule amounts of soy protein in the soybean oil, Nature’s One® has added the soy allergen statement to our Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy Formula and Baby’s Only Organic® Lactose Free labels.

Conventionally processed soybean oils use hexane solvents to extract the oils so the oil is free of protein. This harsh process then requires the oil to be flashed with fire to burn off the hexane solvents. Hexane residues can remain in the finished oils. We believe that hexane has no place in a baby’s diet – even if only a residue. Also, USDA organic rules prohibit the use of solvent-extracted vegetable oils. So Baby’s Only Organic® Formulas would not be labeled organic if we selected conventionally processed vegetable oils.

We do believe that we are using the best organic ingredients currently available. We continue to monitor the availability of better organic ingredients that can be used in our products and can assure you that we will use them if they are, in fact, a better alternative than currently available ingredients.

Regarding the controversy about soy protein use, the following information may be of interest. There is a great deal of information and misinformation on the Internet regarding soy use in infancy. As I noted previously, The anti-soy literature mainly is concerned with the phytoestrogens in soy protein, specifically the isoflavones in soy. Phytoestrogens are proteins and not fats. The following reputable sources of information on use of soy in children may be of interest.

In 2006, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, US National Institute of Health, and the Center for the Evaluation of Risk to Human Reproduction (CERHR) of the National Toxicology Program convened a meeting of key pediatric nutrition and medical experts to review the use of soy formulas in infancy and addressed many of the concerns about soy and phytoestrogens. This prestigious group was unable to conclude, after exhaustive research and reviews of the medical and scientific literature, that soy products, including soy infant formulas, were unsafe or presented risk to reproductive and developmental health. The panel called for continued research on the role of soy in human health.*

Since that time, CERHR has determined that there are new publications related to human exposure or reproductive and/or developmental toxicity that were published since the 2006 evaluation. CERHR held a meeting in December of 2009 to review these new data and is expected to post the final report on its website and solicit public comment through a Federal Register notice. Nature’s One, Inc. will continue to monitor all reports on use of soy in infancy and will update our information as appropriate.

Furthermore, a clinical report co-authored by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and titled, “Use of soy protein-based formulas in infant feeding,” states the following: “In summary, although studied by numerous investigators in various species, there is no conclusive evidence from animal, adult human, or infant populations that dietary soy isoflavones may adversely affect human development, reproduction, or endocrine function.” (1)

Also, a recent study from the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center compared growth, development and health of breast-fed children with children fed soy formula or milk-based formula. Preliminary results indicate the feeding of soy formula to infants supports normal growth and development. The authors further state “early exposure to soy foods, including SF (soy formula), actually may provide health benefits rather than adverse effects, eg, improved body and bone composition and prevention of breast cancer.” (2)

References: 1. Jatinder Bhatia, Frank Greer, and the Committee on Nutrition. “Use of soy protein-based formulas in infant feeding,” Pediatrics 2008; 121; 1062-1068. 2. Badger, TM, et al, “The health implications of soy infant formula,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009; 89(suppl):1668S-1672S

Laura, I hope this information regarding the use of specific soy ingredients in our products has been helpful. Thank you for your interest in Baby’s Only Organic® and please let me know if you have additional questions.



Nature’s One, Inc.

10 free (or nearly free) ways to reduce your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals

Credit: Darren Higgins

Some simple principles can help you take action to reduce toxic chemicals in your home:

1)   Use less stuff.  Do you really need those dryer sheets? Or the umpteenth “miracle” cream just taking up space in the medicine cabinet? Go back to basics by figuring out what you use need on a daily basis, and chuck the rest. Save your fancy makeup for the evening out. And whenever you can, pick fragrance free or go without the smelly stuff. (Most fragrances are loaded with pthalates. Mmmm.) Also, treat the plastic you own more carefully — never heat plastic in the dishwasher or microwave (pop food out of the container and handwash the sippy cups). I find that having to hand-wash stuff becomes its own reason not to buy more plastic!

2)   Repurpose items.  Rather than buying new furniture for the nursery. convert that dingy old dresser into a changing table. (Ask relatives what’s in their attic or look on Craigslist or at yard sales for what you need.) The off-gassing from materials, if any, will long be over, and you can often even find deals on solid wood. Spend your dollars on what will really matter, like wooden teethers and a decent and safe new crib. And some of the cutest baby clothes, once out-grown, can be packed away to be used as doll clothes one day.

3)   Replace as you go. Instead of tossing everything out at once, replace items as they run out or wear out with safer ones. When that non-stick pan begins to show wear, replace it with an enameled or a cast-iron pan instead.  When the coffee maker starts to sputter, think about replacing it with a French press to avoid heating plastics every time you brew a cup. And when all those plastic food containers show stains, substitute glass containers with BPA-free lids. Lastly, when you need a new vacuum, buy one with a HEPA filter to reduce both allergens and toxins in the dust.

4)   Enlist help. Tell friends and family that for the baby shower, holidays and birthdays you would like “green” gifts that help your family to detox your home. Help them pick suitable toys through a registry or just a note with a list of things you’d prefer they get for your child or home. They may even want your research so they can make their own positive changes! (Or they may grumble and say you’re nuts, but really, do you want all those loud, annoying plastic gizmos?) And make your friends and family leave their shoes near the door (or better yet, the garage), which really reduces tracked-in toxins and pesticides.

5)   Scrounge a bit. Keep tabs on your local parents’ list serv or check out yard sales, book sales, and thrift stores for nicer items and used books. A little quick action in response to a post from a parent selling a premium toy can save a lot of money! (Our oh-so-fancy wooden Svan highchair came used off our neighborhood listserv for less than half the price of a new one.) Check ebay and craigslist as well for deals on a particular item you covet.

6)   Prioritize. Can’t afford to go all-organic? Just pick the dirty dozen (a list of the most pesticide-heavy fruits and vegetables), plus milk and peanut butter, and buy those organically. (Dairy, berries, apples, peanuts and potatoes are the worst.) Or start with cleaning supplies, which can be made simply with baking soda and vinegar or other homespun recipes.  Skip convenience foods and more processed foods, which contain less nutrition, are far more likely to have harmful preservatives and additives, and are less likely to be organic. Buying food from the edges of the supermarket (vegetables, fruit, dairy, and breads) will save you money and keep you safer and healthier as well. Besides, cooking with children is great fun, and teaches measurements, flavors, and how to help mom.

7)   Air it out.  It’s free and easy to roll down the window in your car for a minute or two whenever you start driving, to air out the VOCs (or volatile organic compounds, as in paints) emitted by all the plastics in cars, as well as the flame retardants in your kiddo’s car seats. It’s also a good idea to open your windows at home when you can to let the house breathe a little, and to run cold water from your kitchen tap for 10 seconds before using it for cooking. (Don’t use hot tap water directly from the tap for cooking, as it can contain heavy metals from the pipes.) And skip the vinyl cover for strollers — it’s better to get a little wet than to have the baby breathing flame retardants, PVC and nasty pthalates.

8)   Think ahead. When you go bargain hunting, think about what your child will need over the next few years, not just today. In thrift stores, I look for clothes that are like-new and good labels that are two, or even three, sizes ahead of where Maya is today. She’ll get there all too soon! And for toys, I invest in really nice toys if they will facilitate open-ended play that will enable them to grow with her – wooden blocks, imagination starters like animals, and cardboarc puzzles that are images now and a puzzle later. Hand puppets and finger puppets are wonderful ways to learn about animals, and lead to fun. Dress-up clothes can come from thrift stores around Halloween, when the costumes are plentiful. And even baby rattles can be kept for the box of musical instruments, or you can buy shakers that double as gorgeous rattles for baby.

9)   Buy in bulk. Many areas now offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) opportunities to buy directly from a local farm, usually for a season and often pay-ahead. This is terrific way to know much more about where your food comes from (and some have visiting days for kids). The food can be certified organic, or can be from a farm that uses farming practices that are very close to organic (or better) without certification, but do ask. Although you pay ahead of time, over the season,  costs may be lower than paying at the supermarket for premium meat, fruits and vegetables. The offerings are always seasonally appropriate, and will be very fresh. (To find CSAs near you, look here.)

10) Let it go. Small changes really do go a long way in reducing chemicals. But stress and anxiety are also not good for parents or kids. So if your efforts to reduce toxins are causing you late nights rather than peace of mind, pick your battles, make your choices, and let the rest go by.(Fifteen minutes of exercise or meditation also helps the body cope with hazards to our health.)We all just do what we can do to protect our children. That has to be enough.

And number 11 is: Stand with groups like Healthy Child, Healthy World in telling your member of Congress and the Senate leadership that you, as a parent, voter and citizen, support more reasonable standards for chemical safety. The best way to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals for every family, and every child, is to enact stronger rules in Congress.