Saturday, August 28, 2010

Canada Bans Toxic BPA - First in World

Such a beautiful morning, the balloons are out.

They did it, finally, bravo Canada! An entire country, Canada, banned the use of BPA by declaring it toxic. Bisphenol-A (it just sounds toxic, eh?) , known as BPA, was banned two years ago by Canada for baby bottles. I think it was their idea of baby steps back then, but we'll take it today.

In the event that you have been sailing the South Pacific for 2 years and need some updates on BPA, I have some previous posts about the toxic chemical. (toxic is not just my word, it is now Canada's)

Several countries around the world have been dabbling with various partial bans, but Canada is the first country to label BPA toxic which requires it to be removed from products that humans come in contact with, like canned foods, water bottles and, oh wow, cash register receipts.

This will be a tall order for sure but it's a start. It is also a message to the chemical industry to clean up their act and stop using cheap hormone disrupting, gender-bender chemicals in the name of progress. (there are alternatives, they just cost a little more) Lucky for Canadians, the money hungry chemical companies just couldn't squash this move. Unlucky for us, the all too powerful chemical industry has, well, just too much power. Some would say, follow the money.

Kudos to Canada. May we benefit from Canada's ban on BPA and give strength to our own legislatures to do the right thing. Are you listening America?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BPA in Cash Regsister Receipts or Not

3 H's - Hot, Hazy and Humid.

BPA, bisphenol - A, is back in the headlines, this time about its presence on thermal paper cash register receipts and its ability to rub off onto your skin. (and yes, then be absorbed)

EWG broke the news report and research, and if you google the subject, a plethora of articles will appear including the ACC's paid Google advertising trying to protect their plastic turf. No need in repeating what has already been said. I would like to take the discussion to the next level.

I've been considering an alternative to BPA thermal paper knowing the cause for concern. What little efforts I had made came to roadblocks since BPA Free paper is not well publicized. So it wasn't until the EWG article appeared that I was able to find a source for BPA-Free receipt paper. Appleton Paper Company turns out to be the world's largest supplier of thermal paper and made the switch in 2006 to ditch BPA, supposedly "out of concern for their workers." I suppose it didn't have anything to do with Japan's Paper Association and their phase out of BPA which began in 1998 and ended in 2003. Japan, the world leader in banning or phasing out BPA, may not have official laws, but Associations and corporations take it upon themselves before government intervention. (Just like Japan voluntarily changing their food cans to non-BPA linings.)

Whatever the true motivation was for Appleton to go BPA-Free, they did, and we are better for it, probably.

So they managed to take BPA out of the paper formula. But I don't see any one talking about what they replaced it with. (Just like no one talked about what SIGG used to replace their BPA lining) So after a call to Appleton, I received my answer from a lovely customer service person with a cute Wisconsin accent. The replacement chemical is diphenyl sulfone.

Next question - is it safe? and the answer is... who knows? Diphenyl sulfone is probably safer than BPA but there is so little information out there, that there are no guarantees. It is a polymer (nice word for plastic). It has been listed (though not widely used) as a pesticide. (so it kills things) One article did say it is non-mutanigenic. (oh thank goodness) So after lots of research, the conclusion I have come to is diphenyl sulfone is one of the 80,000 chemicals listed by the EPA that they have not tested. Oops, sorry, I misspoke. The EPA has tested 200 of the 80,000 chemicals they have in their data base. And a lot of other people have not tested it either.

What I also find interesting is that this paper cash register BPA story broke in August. Back on July 15th, the EPA, under their "Design for the Environment" program held a conference titled"Meeting Materials for BPA Alternatives in Thermal Paper Partnership" assessing alternatives for BPA. Now if the EPA is bothering to hold a conference on the subject, I can only ascertain that the inside scoop is that this is a serious issue.

So now what? If you are a retailer, you might consider switching to Appleton papers. Forget going to Staples, they source from all sorts of companies and you may never know which ones.

As a customer, you can say no thank you to your receipts, or touch quickly without wet hands. Do not store them touching other items that you may handle. The BPA is in powdery form and comes off easily.

And do not put receipts into the recycling bin. Recycling BPA receipts is probably why BPA is showing up in recycled paper and also in our water. Instead, throw them out (where they can be incinerated and go into the air.)

Replacing bad stuff is good. As a consumer, try to always ask yourself, "What did they replace it with?" I think we need to be asking more of those questions.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tips for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Naturally

A few clouds on the morning horizon. Looks to be a great day.

People are starting to talk about bedbugs. You can hear the fear in people's voices. Some anxiously want to know how to avoid them; others are in panic mode - how to get rid of them? Before you reach for toxic bombs, let's talk about naturally getting rid of bed bugs.

There are lots of websites about bed bugs so I won't go over the basics about them. But just to put some fears to rest, bed bugs do not carry diseases. They bite for sure (yes, they suck your blood - ick) and people vary in terms of their reaction. Some don't react at all while others welt and itch like crazy. Oh, and they do not fly, and that's good news. You are not a dirty person nor a bad house keeper if you get bed bugs, you're just darn unlucky.

So, what are some things to do if you think you have bed bugs? Here are some tips and sensible ways to prepare yourself for battle:

1 - Have a vacuum ready before you begin searching. That way if you find any bugs, or suspicious eggs, you can suck them up immediately.

2 - Upon finding any, first vacuum. Then deal with whatever it was they were on. Mattresses, take out side and continue to vacuum if you can.

3 - Wash bedding, all of it, in hot water - it will kill them. Also dry in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. (tough for me to suggest using a dryer, but I do hate bed bugs) The heat will kill them.

4 - While the mattress is off the bed, wash down the entire bed frame. If your mattress is directly on the floor, go get yourself a bed frame.

5 - If your mattress was heavily infested, get a new mattress and follow prevention.

6 - If you have recently traveled, vacuum, clean and wash anything associated with your bags.

7 - Think about gutting your room, apartment and house if you are infested. Vacuum and clean every corner starting where you found them and then working away from that point. Using vinegar and hot water is fine. Let it set for a few minutes (good dwell time) before wiping off.

8 - Cold kills bed bugs. If you happen to have winters that get below 25 degrees F, putting your stuff and mattresses outside will kill them.

9 - Throw out the vacuum bag after you suck them up.

Now for the prevention of bedbugs - naturally.

1 - Grease the legs of your bed's frame. That's right, right out of the dark ages but this really is great prevention. You can put petroleum jelly up and down the legs (do not miss a spot). Or you can place the legs (all of them, you might have some in the middle of the bed if it is big) onto a saucer or in a tin can and put petroleum on, around and inside either. This really works and is the best prevention for your bed. The bugs can not walk through it and might even get stuck. Consider greasing sofas and chairs too if you are surrounded by infestation.

2 - Keep the bed away from the wall, several inches.

3 - Herbs can be used as a repellent. They do not like lavender, thyme, rosemary or eucalyptus or mint. (at least that is what I have read) You can either used dried herbs in a sachet, which is great for traveling, or in your drawers. Or you can use real essential oils and create an herbal spray. Be careful with the oils, they can stain. You can spray door thresholds and perimeters of rooms. There are some articles that do say these do not work and to go to a professional exterminator. Herbs are meant as a deterrent only. (so maybe they'll find another home)

4 - Check and clean all fibers attached to the ground - meaning chairs, sofas, clothing, bedding in closets, etc.

5 - Keep clothing off the ground.

6 - When traveling, do not put anything on the ground. Keep your bags up high, maybe on top of a TV, or in the bathtub.

For more information about bed bugs, good photos and all the information you may or may not really want to know, here are some great bed bug links:

EPA Bed Bug Summit

Harvard's Bed Bug Info

Bedbugs by Wikipedia

I grew up hearing "Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite." I also used to say it to my children. (well, not one of them since she was terrified of bugs) Unfortunately this fun, old, little good night ritualistic saying has taken on a new meaning. Who would have guessed?

Let me know if you have any ideas to add so others may benefit from your advice.