Friday, April 18, 2008

Sorry it's been so long, but let's talk ethanol

So I want to take a bit of a break from chemicals - but I'll be back, oh yes, I will be back - and talk about ethanol. This issue is a bit of a thorn in my side right now for a number of reasons. From what I've pulled together after reading Newsweek, listening to MPR, and grasping bits and pieces from other sources, something just doesn't add up. Worse, we may look back at the ethanol movement as one of the worst humanitarian blunders in recent memory. I realizet that's a strong statement, but consider the following points I've gleaned from recent news reports (and I will post my sources at the end of this post so you can interpret the information as you like):

1) Ethanol is, at best, no worse than fossil fuels when it comes to greenhouse gases. This is due to the enormous amount of fertilizer to grow enough corn to make ethanol, and the fuel needed to drive the tractors and process the corn into fuel. Furthermore, no one knows for certain whether the fumes that ethanol emit out the exhaust pipe are actually better for the atmosphere than gasoline.

2) Because farmers are making so much money from ethanol, many farmers are switching from other crops to corn. So not only does the demand for corn go up due to increased demand, but the prices of wheat, rice, soy and so forth go up as supply goes down. And as you may have noticed, your grocery prices are soaring. Don't think these two things are not related.

3) Not only are our grocery prices going up, but so is the cost of staples like rice and wheat in the rest of the world, including for those who have to live on $5 a day. They cannot afford to eat, so they are going hungry. In turn, they are protesting in ever increasing numbers, riots are starting, people are starving.

Conclusion: Ethanol is being incorrectly touted as the environmental and economic alternative to fossil fuels. Since no one seems to care that it's apparently doing nothing more than making farmers rich, the gov't insists we have to make more. Grocery prices go up, staple foods become more expensive around the world, people starve. And for what exactly? This is the part where I become confused, and if someone can't provide an explanation that actually makes sense, I will have no choice but to become very angry (you can practically feel the collective American government tremble in reaction to my threat).

Want to check out the information for yourself? Please do.

and one more

And by the way, I heard about this last one - the EU debate - on NPR the other evening.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My birthday party

What a lovely coincidence - my birthday happens to be the same day as the Living Green Expo here in the Twin Cities! While it's not the hottest date ever, my husband and I are pretty excited about it. Ok, honestly, I'm way more excited than he is, but then again, it's hard to know what excites him (with a few notable exceptions, upon which I will not expand). Anyway, here's the link, for any of you living in the Mpls-St. Paul metro area:

Best of all, the thing is free! How often do you get to go to anything fun, exciting, cool, inspirational, and free?!


From Ms. Duckworth at Laura Mercier, dated April 8th:



I will let know to email you when there is a change made in our Products.

Sandra Duckworth
Customer Service

That's good stuff right there.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I heart Corporate America

7 April, 2008

To whom it may concern at Laura Mercier cosmetics,

I have been using your products for years, with no idea that any of them could be dangerous, especially during pregnancy. After all, there is no warning label (not one that I could find, anyway). Now I find out, on the Skin Deep database, that the foundation In Style magazine tags with their "Best Beauty Buy" award every year received a Highly Hazardous rating, as do many of your other products. I have since learned that there are safe and effective alternatives to the potentially dangerous chemicals in your products. Does your company plan to switch over, especially considering the new EU regulations? I'm very disappointed in all of this, as I will no longer be ac ustomer of yours (and will discourage my friends and family as well) until this changes, and I can be guaranteed (not just told) that my cosmetics are safe. I look forward to your response.



Thank you for your feedback on our products. I will forward your email to our Product Development Team to make them aware of your suggestion and the changes we need to make to our Cosmetics!

Sandra Duckworth
Customer Service


I followed up with an additional email, asking if I could expect to hear from someone in Product Development. No reply. But I'm sure they'll take my feedback to heart. Right?

Friday, April 4, 2008

How about some liver failure with your make-up this morning?

So before going to the Dow Chemical website to learn more about Trethanolamine, I was only moderately concerned. Then I read this. Just a little something to down with your morning coffee.

Health Information20,21
Based on the uses of TEA, the principal route of exposure is through skin contact, with some exposure occurring by inhalation of vapor and aerosols. If TEA is not used properly and contact does occur, it can occur and cause eye and skin irritation. It can also cause corneal injury. Inhalation of vapors or mists may cause irritation of the respiratory tract, experienced as nasal discomfort and discharge, with chest pain and coughing.
Prolonged or widespread contact with TEA may result in the absorption of potentially harmful amounts. Repeated overexposure to TEA may cause damage to the kidneys and liver. Skin contact may cause sensitization and an allergic skin reaction in a small proportion of individuals.
TEA is moderately toxic when swallowed. It may cause burning or painful sensations in the mouth, throat, chest and abdomen and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It may also cause dizziness, drowsiness, faintness, weakness, collapse and coma.
Findings from the National Toxicology Program 22 demonstrated an increased incidence of liver tumors in mice dosed dermally with TEA for their lifetime. However, TEA did not cause tumors in similarly treated rats or genetically engineered sensitive mice, nor does TEA damage genetic material, an important determinant of potential cancer causing risk. Research has demonstrated that the most likely means by which TEA caused tumors in mice is by causing a deficiency in choline, an essential nutrient for proper cell growth and functioning.23 Chronic deficiency in choline is known to cause tumors in test animals.24 Significantly, humans appear resistant to development of choline deficiency compared to rodents. The relevance of the mouse tumor findings to humans has thus been questioned.25
TEA has not been identified in a screening study as having potential toxicity for fetuses.26

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A shaky foundation

I like visual aides. So I found this fabulous new program that allows me to upload my picture, enter the product I'm using, and it produces an image of what my face will look like after years of using the product. Let's give it a whirl, shall we?

Here's a picture of my face this morning, after applying Laura Mercier oil-free foundation:

Here's what my face will look like down the road if I continue slathering it all over my goofy mug:

The program takes a while.....


just a few more seconds......

OK, so as you probably guessed, I made up that part about the new program. Even if it existed, I probably don't have the computer skills necessary to use it. But you get the drift. The safety rating of my foundation?

8 out of 10!!!!
In case you're keeping track, that puts it in the "High Hazard" category. Awesome. The mystery toxin? Yet another name that simply rolls off the tongue and sounds oh-so-friendly:
According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review people, there is strong evidence that this stuff is, and I quote, a Human Skin Toxicant. I don't know exactly what that means yet, but I plan to find out, and anything with "toxic" in it feels like a red flag to me. Apparently it's safe for use in rinse-off products but, um, that clearly does not include FOUNDATION. Yes, people, I will be phoning the good people at Laura Mercier cosmetics tomorrow to hear what they have to say about putting a known Human Skin Toxicant in my foundation of all things.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


This is the user-friendly name for the most hazardous chemical in my Eucerin. What makes it potentially hazardous? It releases the same stuff that your lab frog was floating in before you dissected it in 9th grade biology. Formaldehyde. The Big F is apparently released in small quantities by this DMDM stuff, and in large doses, F causes all sorts of problems. Supposedly, my Eucerin does not have enough of the junk to cause problems, and is approved by the EU's most recent laws governing which chemicals are allowed in cosmetics. The other problem, though, is that DMDM Hydantoin causes allergies in susceptible individuals, one of whom is my husband. Which means my daughter may be a future candidate for allergies to the same chemicals (she already has some of his other allergy issues). I guess that means maybe I shouldn't be slathering it all over my face and then ask my family members to kiss me.

Another usual suspect in my lotion is PEG-40 Castor Oil. Also apparently safe in small quanities, in large amounts it is a neuro-toxin and at lesser amounts can trigger an immune response, leading to itching, burning, and other pleasant side effects.

So far, this is a really uplifting journey I've embarked upon. And this product is a 3 out of 10. How much do you wanna bet I use plenty of products that have earned a higher number?

Item Numero Uno - My daily face moisture lotion

I'm pleased to announce to myself that the first thing I put on my face in the morning only has a few potentially hazardous ingredients, putting it at the low end of the Moderately Hazardous category (a 3 out of 10). What's kind of sad is that a 3 is pretty good, comparatively speaking. While it's not the safest of its kind on the market, it's better than most, so I'm not sure if I'll change. Maybe I'll try one of the safer ones out there (Vanicream with SPF30 is supposedly a 1, making it almost as safe as you can get).

If you're interested in my daily moisture lotion with sunscreen (SPF30), this is it:

I tried to paste a picture of it, but surprisingly, manufacturers don't seem interested in making it easy for you to rip out a pic of their product and post it on your blog.

A rogue faux journalist takes on Big Make-Up

OK, I realize they don't call themselves Big Make-Up. I just like how that sounds. Makes me giggle a little, and when dealing with something this enormous and depressing, a little giggle here and there is helpful. Anyway, the point of this entry is to explain my strategy for answering some key questions I have about what I've been reading in Exposed, particularly those related to my every day beauty routine. While I put a high priority on looking good, I'm not sure as I'm willing to kill myself to do it. So here goes.

Goal: To figure out which cosmetics and personal hygiene products are least hazardous.
Plan: Go to the Cosmetic Database and research every product I use to find its safety rating.

Goal: To find out what's keeping the make-up companies I use currently not using the safest ingredients from switching to safer ones (sure seems like an obvious change to make, from my non-business perspective).
Plan: To call and/or email every company I currently buy from and get a direct answer from somebody (I'm not kidding - this is the rogue part).

Goal: To learn about the potentially hazardous substances I can't seem to avoid because they even exist in the "natural" and "organic" product lines.
Plan: Lots of research.

Goal: To explain my findings to you, the reader.
Plan: To explain my findings to you, the reader.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

JGM Book Club - Exposed Part I

"Trust no one." - Fox Mulder

At risk of sounding like I'm one renegade neuron away from wearing tinfoil on my head to stop the government from reading my thoughts: The government, I think, is out to kill us. Or perhaps more accurately, they aren't all that invested in preventing the premature death of American citizens. This book has left me a little speechless - which is saying something. I wish I knew where to begin, how to even discuss my reactions to the book so far. Instead, I think I'll talk about what I intend to do about it. I want this blog to be about more than pissing and moaning about what all is wrong with our government and the world in general. I want this to be about action.

As an avid consumer of cosmetics and hair products, this seems like an obvious place to start. I'm going to find out where the U.S. is at in terms of adopting the newer regulations now in place in the EU (discussed throughout the book), what is keeping us from benefiting from the safeguards protecting our friends across the pond, and how I can take matters into my own hands, purchase the best available products, and protect myself and my family from the chemical bath we are all taking every day.

In the meantime, I'd highly recommend checking out and