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Check your plastic water bottle

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/15 at 11:41 AM
Tips and How-to'sGeneralPermalink

Updated April 2nd 2012

Many of us are becoming aware that harmful chemicals, such as BPA (Bisphenol A), can leech out of the plastic water bottles we have been using, but not all plastic is equal. If you have a good plastic water bottle that you simply cannot part with, then just check the recycling number on the bottle to make sure that the plastic is a safe type.

The three plastics to avoid are:

  • #3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) commonly contains di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), an endocrine disruptor and probable human carcinogen, as a softener. #3 plastic is frequently used in cling wraps for meat. The manufacture and incineration of PVC release dioxin,  a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Vinyl chloride, the primary building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen that also poses a threat to workers during manufacture.
  • #6 Polystyrene (PS) may leach styrene, a possible endocrine disruptor and human carcinogen, into water and food. Extruded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is used in take-out containers and cups. Non-extruded PS is used in clear disposable takeout containers, disposable plastic cutlery and cups. Both forms of PS can leach styrene into food; styrene is considered a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction.
  • #7 Polycarbonate contains the hormone disruptor bisphenol-A (BPA), which can leach out as bottles age, are heated or exposed to acidic solutions. BPA has also been linked to a wide variety of problems such as cancer and obesity. #7 plastic is found in baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, water-cooler bottles and the epoxy linings of tin food cans. 

The safer plastics are:

#2HDPE, #4LDPE and #5PP: These three types of plastic seem to be the healthiest, as they transmit no known chemicals into your food and they are generally recyclable.

  • #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), the most common and easily recycled plastic for bottled water and soft drinks, has also been considered the most safe. However, one 2003 Italian study found that the amount of DEHP in bottled spring water increased after 9 months of storage in a PET bottle.  It's also best to avoid reusing #1 plastic bottles; water and soda bottles in particular are hard to clean, and because plastic is porous, these bottles absorb flavors and bacteria that you can't get rid of.
  • #2 High Density Polyethylene
  • #4 Low Density Polyethylene
  • #5 Polypropylene
  • PLA (polylactide) plastics are made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content. The starch is converted into polylactide acid (PLA). Although you can't recycle these plant-based plastics, you can compost them in a municipal composter or in your backyard compost heap. Most decompose in about twelve days unlike conventional plastic, which can take up to 100 years.

Some things to consider when choosing a plastic water bottle:

  • If there's a hint of plastic when you sniff or taste your water, then don't drink it.
  • Heat promotes the leaching of chemicals, so keep your water bottle cool. 
  • Ask retailers how long water has been on their shelves. Don't buy if it's been months, as chemicals may migrate from plastic during storage.
  • Do not reuse bottles intended for single use. 
  • Hand-wash reusable containers gently with a nonabrasive soap. Dishwashers and harsh detergents can scratch plastic and invite bacteria.
  • Rigid reusable containers are a better first choice. Thermoses with stainless steel or ceramic interiors are a better choice for hot or acidic liquids.

Originally taken from The Green Guide at http://www.thegreenguide.com/products/Kitchen/Plastic_Containers (Site no longer exists). We have included the original content here as a reference:



What To Look For

Plastic is the most widely used material in the United States, and it crops up in everything from toys to clothes to food containers. But not all plastics are created equal, particularly in regards to food storage: Some plastics can transmit chemicals into your food, while others are perfectly safe.

Before you know which type of plastic container to buy the next time you hit the store, you first need to know how to tell them apart. Plastics are typically classified by a number from #1 to #7, each number representing a different type of resin. That number is usually imprinted on the bottom of your container; flip it upside down, and you'll see a recycling triangle with the number in the middle.

Here's a quick breakdown of plastic resin types:

  • #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
    Product examples: Disposable soft drink and water bottles, cough-syrup bottles
  • #2 high density polyethylene (HDPE)
    Product examples: Milk jugs, toys, liquid detergent bottles, shampoo bottles
  • #3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
    Product examples: Meat wrap, cooking oil bottles, plumbing pipes
  • #4 low density polyethylene (LDPE)
    Product examples: Cling wrap, grocery bags, sandwich bags
  • #5 polypropylene (PP)
    Product examples: Syrup bottles, yogurt cups/tubs, diapers
  • #6 polystyrene (PS)
    Product examples: Disposable coffee cups, clam-shell take-out containers
  • #7 other (misc.; usually polycarbonate, or PC, but also polylactide, or PLA, plastics made from renewable resources)
    Product examples: Baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food-storage containers, medical storage containers

Now that you know what each of the numbers represents, here are the kinds you should look for at the store:

Safer Plastics

#2HDPE, #4LDPE and #5PP

These three types of plastic are the healthiest. They transmit no known chemicals into your food and they're generally recyclable; #2 is very commonly accepted by municipal recycling programs, but you may have a more difficult time finding someone to recycle your #4 and #5 containers.

#1 PET

#1 bottles and containers are fine for single use and are widely accepted by municipal recyclers. You won't find many reusable containers made from #1, but they do exist. It's also best to avoid reusing #1 plastic bottles; water and soda bottles in particular are hard to clean, and because plastic is porous, these bottles absorb flavors and bacteria that you can't get rid of.

PLA

PLA (polylactide) plastics are made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content. The starch is converted into polylactide acid (PLA). Although you can't recycle these plant-based plastics, you can compost them in a municipal composter or in your backyard compost heap. Most decompose in about twelve days unlike conventional plastic, which can take up to 100 years.

Plastics to Avoid

#3 PVC

#3 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is often used frequently in cling wraps for meat. However, PVC contains softeners called phthalates that interfere with hormonal development, and its manufacture and incineration release dioxin, a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Vinyl chloride, the primary building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen that also poses a threat to workers during manufacture.

#6 PS

Extruded polystyrene (#6 PS; commonly known as Styrofoam) is used in take-out containers and cups, and non-extruded PS is used in clear disposable takeout containers, disposable plastic cutlery and cups. Both forms of PS can leach styrene into food; styrene is considered a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction.

#7 PC

#7 Polycarbonate (PC) is found in baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, water-cooler bottles and the epoxy linings of tin food cans. PC is composed of a hormone-disrupting chemical called bisphenol A, which has been linked to a wide variety of problems such as cancer and obesity.

About the author: Environment Smart

Top 9 reasons not to use Triclosan

Posted by TheGreen on 10/15 at 01:04 AM
NewsHealthPermalink

Related story

  • Recently, Health Canada recommended avoiding antibacterial products because they kill good bacteria that fight bad germs, and because of concerns over antibacterial resistance(1).
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered triclosan as a pesticide.
  • In the laboratory, triclosan-resistant bacteria can be produced fairly readily by serial passage in increasing triclosan concentrations(2).
  • Soap and water are as effective for hand washing as products containing triclosan(3).
  • Triclosan is appearing in human breast milk and poses potential toxicity to fetal and childhood development(4).
  • Reports suggested that triclosan can combine with chlorine in our city tap water to form chloroform gas(5).
  • Triclosan is weakly androgenic, causing changes in fin length and sex ratios of fish(6).
  • The chemical formulation and molecular structure of this compound are similar to some of the most toxic chemicals on earth, relating it to dioxins and PCBs. The EPA gives triclosan high scores both as a human health risk and as an environmental risk. Triclosan is a chlorophenol, a class of chemicals which is suspected of causing cancer in humans(7).
  • The American Medical Association draws this conclusion: "The use of common antimicrobials (triclosan) for which acquired resistance has been demonstrated in bacteria as ingredients in consumer products (antibacterial handsoaps etc) should be discontinued, unless data emerge to conclusively show that such resistance has no impact on public health and that such products are effective at preventing infection"(8).
  • List of Triclosan and Triclocarban free products.
  • List of products containing Triclosan.
  • Note that some companies are being pro-active and removing Triclosan from their products. Proctor and Gamble are on of those companies.

References:

About the author: TheGreen

No more Triclosan in our house

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/14 at 01:03 PM
NewsHealthPermalink

On the subject of antibacterial soap, our favourite no nonsense scientist, Dr. Joe Schwartz (Ph.D., director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society) has this to say: 

"Washing with soap and water is enough, except in a hospital environment ... You don't want to use a jackhammer to kill an ant when stepping on it will do". 

As soon as we started reading the reports on the damage that antibacterial soap can cause, we disposed of whatever we had left in the house. I actually found it rather disturbing that we were bringing our jug of "Softsoap" to the hazardous waste depot. It smelled so nice and seemed so clean. We had read, however, that there was cause for concern regarding the levels of Triclosan (the antibacterial agent used in the soap) on the development of tadpoles in our waterways. I did not want to start emptying my almost full jug down the sink.

It has been about half a year that we have not been using any antibacterial soap, whether at home or elsewhere. I often see dispensers in stores and restaurants labeled "antibacterial", and have started instructing our children to wash their hands with the regular soap whenever it is available. We recently, however, stayed at a lodge where the choice was not clear. There was a soap dispenser on the wall and a bottle of antibacterial soap beside the sink. The kids naturally went for what was easiest to reach. In this case, we took a moment to explain our concerns to the lodge administration, and received a favourable response.

In the meantime, I have also discovered that Triclosan may be found in a couple of other household products that we use. Any products using Microban and Biofresh, for example, will contain Triclosan. According to Wikipedia, Triclosan is used in many common household products including Clearasil Daily Face Wash, Dentyl mouthwash, Dawn, the Colgate Total range, Crest Cavity Protection, Pepsodent, Softsoap, Dial, Right Guard deodorant, Sensodyne Total Care, Old Spice and Mentadent. I also found a research paper by M. Angela McGhee, Ph.D., Biology and Marine Sciences, that provides clear brief description of the damaging use of Triclosan. The Beyondpesticides.org and Grinning Planet websites provide detailed information and lists of products containing Triclosan. Please note that these product lists may not be entirely up to date. 

One of the products on the Grinning Planet site is Old Spice High Endurance deodorant. This is a product that we use. We put in a call to the 1-800 number provided and were informed that as of 2007, Old Spice no longer contains Triclosan. We suggest that as you go through the lists of the products mentioned on the websites above, you might also take a moment to call the manufacturing companies. 

Related Story 1


 

About the author: Environment Smart

Toilet paper roll holiday wreaths

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/10 at 12:40 PM
Tips and How-to'sFor KidsPermalink

Halloween wreath

autumn wreath

We are always collecting toilet paper rolls. Often they go with the kids to school for their art class, but we do keep some at home for our own crafts. This year I thought it would be fun to make an autumn wreath and found instructions for a lovely one that makes use of toilet paper rolls. Since this one is so nice, we may just make one for Halloween as well. Both wreaths are great family projects. Everyone gets to add their own pieces of art to the overall outcome.

As well as reusing the toilet paper rolls, we will also be reusing colourful paper from wallpaper sample books instead of using construction paper. These books are quite easy to obtain from your local hardware or home decorating store. Stores just throw them away when they are out of fashion.

About the author: Environment Smart

Canadian scientists urge: vote for the environment

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/08 at 11:36 AM
NewsGlobal WarmingPermalink

More than 120 of Canada's top global warming scientists joined to call for "strategic voting" in next week's federal election. An open letter was sent to major newspapers across the country on Tuesday, in which the Conservative governments' record on climate change was heavily criticized. 

The letter is signed by Canada's top climate experts, many of whom contributed to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that earned a Nobel prize. It outlines the urgent need for the federal government to take action and pleads with voters to take the environment seriously.

"While it's clear the public accepts that global warming is a threat, it seems people have simply no idea how serious this issue is," the scientists write. 

The scientists believe that "the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere has already reached levels that will cause significant effects to the Earth's ecosystems". 

"Global warming is a problem that must be dealt with now, before it's too late," says the letter. "Any further delay will only increase the risks of damage and costs of action."

The letter criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to focus on emission intensity, not emissions reductions.

"Reducing emission intensity means that you continue to pollute, but do so more efficiently," it says.

"The overall net effect of the federal regulation would be to allow a tripling or more of greenhouse-gas emissions from the oilsands sector by 2017, and possible continued increases after that. Frankly, no matter how you try to spin it, that is not a reduction."

The scientists support the implementation of a carbon-tax like that proposed by the Liberals, and/or a cap-and-trade system such as the one offered by the New Democrats.

"The carbon tax provides price certainty, is easier to implement, more transparent, easy to make revenue-neutral and less open to abuse," the letter says.

Andrew Weaver, a major contributor to the 2007 IPCC report, helped co-ordinate the letter's distribution. He said that it was meant to highlight the risks posed by the Harper governments policies.

"I think extraordinary times take extraordinary measures," said Weaver in an interview. "Scientists don't agree on a lot, but there is a real great sense of urgency within our community and we have witnessed Canada move from a position of international leadership to a position of international obstructionism over the past few years and we're worried."

The letter has been posted online, in English and French, at: site.climateletter.org.

About the author: Environment Smart

You Have a Choice: Stop Harper!

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/08 at 10:51 AM
NewsGlobal WarmingPermalink

The call continues to ring out for Canadians to vote strategically for the environment. The latest action comes form AVAAZ to make the

Stop Harper Pledge:

"I pledge to vote smart to help prevent a Harper majority government from devastating our climate. If the election in my riding is close and could elect a Conservative, I will come together with other Canadians across party lines, vote for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservative candidate, and encourage my friends and family to do the same."

Several artist have united in this cause to record the musical message "You Have a Choice". Give it a listen and then make your pledge to vote smart.

Ricken Patel and the Avaaz Canada Team recommend the following websites to help you with strategic voting:

For an outstanding guide to how to vote strategically where you live, visit this great website:
http://www.voteforenvironment.ca
For a great analysis of the Parties' environmental records:
http://elections.desmogblog.com
And here is another good strategic voting environmental website:
http://www.voteforclimate.ca
If you want to double-check that who you should vote smart for, this is a highly impartial guide from Greg Morrow, who does not support strategic voting:
http://democraticspace.com/blog/strategic-voting-guide

About the author: Environment Smart

Composting Tea

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/07 at 10:55 AM
NewsGlobal WarmingPermalink

Our family has been progressively more proficient at composting. We used to have just a big pile of leaves composting on top of an old log. As this pile composted, it became our vegetable garden and a new compost pile was started. The open pile was not something we could use for our food scraps (visiting raccoons), so we got a compost bin with a lid. Our town provides the bins for a small fee of $5.00 each spring. Our next step is to build a proper enclosure for our compost pile. We found some great compost bin design ideas that we will use for this.

With all of this increased interest in composting, we are continuously looking for information to help us move forward. Today we learned that we can add bread to our composter, as well as some of our toilet paper rolls. More interesting, however, is composting tea. A lawn-care specialist friend of ours had once mentioned using compost tea as a fertilizer. He is always experimenting with alternative methods to replace the use of chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides.

We did not realize that compost tea is not difficult to make ourselves. We found some instructions today. You basically steep your compost in water. We will be trying this and will keep you posted on our success.

About the author: Environment Smart

Calculate your carbon footprint

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/04 at 11:59 AM
Tips and How-to'sGeneralPermalink

Here are two websites that will help you to calculate your carbon footprint.

Earth Lab offers a basic calculation. A simple profile is built as you answer a few questions. This determines your carbon footprint rating. I was a bit surprised to see that I still rate a bit above the Canadian average. This may be because there are several things that we do at home that there seemed to be no questions for (ie. our own vegetable garden, dual-flush toilets, general low water consumption, purchase of fewer packaged goods).

Eco Action is a government of Canada environment website that offers a variety of carbon calculators. Here you can calculate your fuel, water and energy consumption at home and as an organization. There are also several very useful and educational tools on this site that will help you to reduce your carbon footprint. I was impressed with the amount of information available through the Eco Action tools and calculators

 

About the author: Environment Smart