“BPA is illegal now, isn’t it?” NOPE.

From Healthy Child, Healthy World and AP:

“Better labeling news comes to us from Washington state, where a new law went into effect this week that forces manufacturers of toys, cosmetics, jewelry and baby products to report to the state if their products contain hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde, bisphenol A and phthalates, according to the Associated Press.

P.S. On the BPA front, California is well on its way to passing a law banning the substance from baby bottles, sippy cups, infant formula and baby food.”

Know what that means?

  1. California has NOT YET banned bisphenol A from baby bottles, sippy cups, infant formula and baby food. (Please tell me that means formula and baby food containers!)
  2. In Washington state, you can use “formaldehyde, bisphenol A and phthalates” in baby products. You just have to LABEL it, now.
Let’s start with BPA. I talked about it in an earlier post, but let’s look at why parents should definitely pay attention and the rest of us should feel concern. I even found a nice little picture for you! The National Toxicology Program has a handy website with no alarmist rhetoric (this blog is TAME, people, compared to what else is out there) devoted to educating us, the public, about BPA and how to avoid it, if we want to.

Concerns about BPA are on the left. The level of concern is in handy stoplight color. This is the most conservative statement about concerns surrounding BPA, from the National Toxicology Program.

In case that’s hard to read, there is “some concern” (that’s orange, or yellow-turning-to-red: consider stopping!) for “Developmental toxicity for fetuses, infants, and children (effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland).” How? Well, it’s an “endocrine disruptor.” Which means that it messes with hormones (endocrine system). And here’s another tip from the NTP–if you’re concerned, avoid plastics with the recycle codes 3 and 7. The ones that look like this:

See the 7? Recycle it now. See a 3 in there? Recycle it. Just don't risk it.

These charming folks would like to assure you that your BPA intake is very low, and that there is therefore, no need to worry. Not true. As Annie Murphy Paul writes, in her book Origins, in this case, traditional views are not helpful, because with endocrine disruptors, “the dose does not make the poison.” In fact, a tiny amount might be more dangerous than a large amount. According to Paul, a tiny amount of an endocrine disruptor fails to trip immune system “alarms”–it looks a lot like a natural hormone. If you drank it, undiluted, I’m not sure what would happen, but your body would definitely say “That’s a foreign substance!” and fight it. But we’ve known for awhile now that endocrine disruptors are more dangerous in smaller amounts because they sneak past those alarms and make it straight into breast tissue, umbilical cord tissue, and other scary places.

And just in case you thought you were safe because you use a stainless-steel water bottle and avoid plastic dishes, there’s one more dirty little BPA secret: it’s in your soup can. I have signed two petitions trying to get Campbell’s to stop putting it in their cans; they refused to respond to either. And guess what’s got the highest concentration? Chicken soup. That’s right, the stuff with the character-themed noodles marketed directly to children. Also, ravioli and BABY FORMULA. Okay, enough yelling. But seriously, if you don’t believe me, read this from the Environmental Working Group.

So if you’re one of the people who told me, after my earlier post, that it’s okay to relax, BPA has been banned, this one’s for you. It has not even been banned from baby bottles in all states. True, far fewer baby bottles have BPA in them, but chicken soup and infant formula cans still have it.

Send a letter to your senator. Ask that our kids be protected from BPA. The smart people at MomsRising.org, “where moms and people go to change our world,” have already written a great letter for you. All you need to do is sign it.

Going Plastic Free

It started with paint. Or whatever that stuff is that OXO GoodGrips uses to label its plastic measuring cups and spoons. One humid day, I was happily measuring flour, when I looked down to find that my thumb was now green and the formerly labeled handle was now blank. I guess I had just assumed that whatever markings were faded had come off during washing. But we don’t have a dishwasher anymore. So then I became obsessed with the idea that the paint was ending up in our food. I wrote angry letters but got NO information about the content of that paint. I did get (for free) a set of measuring cups with stainless cups and the same “grips” for handles. Which did not solve my problem AT ALL–same paint. I also got a patronizing assurance that OXO products meet safety standards in Europe, and since those are higher than any standards in the US, that was actually sort of comforting.

Being in this my-therapist-is-on-vacation-so-I’ll-obsess-over-cookware mental place means that I am now worried about everything plastic in our kitchen. Anxiety is more of a hyper, compulsive kind of thing that incites activity, if not always rational activity; obsessive-compulsive disorder is actually an anxiety disorder, although thankfully not one that I deal with. (Depression, however, did not put me in any sort of place even to write angry letters or, well, to do anything except sleep.) No, I did not throw everything plastic away. But I immediately go to Amazon to look for stainless measuring cups and spoons. Wow, were they expensive. On to etsy! There, I found some awesome and charmingly dented vintage stainless measuring cups.

Enter, Super Mom-In-Law, to the rescue! Be jealous, those of you with less awesome mothers-in-law–the day after reading about my disgust with my measuring cups and my hope to switch them out for stainless, she called me to tell me that she had found some for a good price (the woman is a magnet for a good deal). I now have two sets of nothing-but-metal measuring cups and the most awesome set of measuring spoons ever. Seriously. They fit inside spice jars and go from 1/8 tsp all the way to, get this, 1 1/2 tbsp. Little things make me oh so happy! So, the “green” things in my kitchen now include:

sifter (wood handles), measuring spoons, cups, ice cream scoop (for muffin batter--try it! no spills. less waste.)

I also LOVE these plastic free kitchen items we got as gifts, mostly wedding gifts: ceramic nesting mixing bowls from Nigella Lawson & Bliss Living, bamboo cutting board, chicken-shaped wooden cutting boards from Martha Sterwart (they were a joke, but I use them! hilarious!), stand mixer. We also have pyrex bowls, a wooden rolling pin and, my pride and joy, an all-wood drop-leaf table. It even has two drawers and the all-wood stools fit in spaces under the drawers. Our kitchen is so tiny, and it makes a huge difference. But I’m also amazed at how good it feels to roll out dough on a wood surface, sit and eat at wood and just plain have wood around. It’s nice! It’s the background to all those photos, by the way. Oh, and the “greenest” purchase I have ever made? My vintage cast iron skillet made by Le Creuset. The enamel on the outside (was it originally red or orange? it’s both, now!) is all beat up, but after a good scrub with coarse salt and one seasoning in the oven (rub pan with oil, put in oven upside down for 1 hour), it shines. The best part is that someone else did all the original seasoning for me. Tip: rust on a cast iron skillet can be easily removed with a good scrub–use coarse salt because soap will take off the oil that makes case iron an almost entirely non-stick but chemical free pan. Mine was $24, including shipping. A new Le Creuset can go for well over $150. The star of my kitchen really deserves its own photo:

Good for the planet. Good for my family. Best deal ever.

So far, so good, right? Right. But if I’m going to plan for Baby, I want to have an (almost) entirely plastic-free kitchen. And nursery. I don’t want plastic toys, teething rings or baby bottles. I don’t even want plastic food storage. That’s right, I want glass baby bottles. Is this necessary? Depends on who you ask. Why do I want it? I am the kind of person who will end up thinking “plastic is toxic, plastic is toxic” every time I go to heat up a baby bottle or send a lunch to preschool, knowing the food will be warmed in a plastic container. The toxins in plastic (BPA and many, many others) get released when the plastic is damaged, and, often, heating it up is enough to damage it. The regulations in the US are just not good enough. “Phthalates are common in soft plastics, like baby teethers and bath toys, and can affect the endocrine, immune and reproductive systems.” (Read more about safe feeding products at the hilariously named Granola Babies.) And if you think I’m crazy, then you haven’t read the blog posts out there about how truly terrible it must be that breast milk is pumped through plastic tubes, stored in plastic bags in the freezer and warmed in plastic bottles. This is not, in the scheme of things, high on my list of the truly terrible. If I pump, I’ll see if we can afford a green option. I’m not that deep into this research yet. But I assure you, I am not even close to the crazy end of this particular spectrum.

This is a breast pump from the 1830s. Plastic and rubber free? Yes. But would YOU use it? I looks like a medieval torture device! And probably felt like one, too.

As my mother pointed out, some things must be plastic: nipples/tops for the baby bottles, lids for the glass containers, the baby-proofing cabinet locks and outlet covers, the shower curtain. Even the glass baby bottles have silicone “protectors” (although I’m not sure what they’re protecting–maybe they prevent the bottle from slipping?). Plastic is part of modern life, and it’s a great invention. As I mentioned before, I LOVE my BPA-free, built-in-filter Water Bobble. The idea, here, is to keep it away from my food as much as possible, especially if I’m going to keep throwing it out at the slightest scratch–talk about bad for the planet! I have no desire to go back to the days when we had cast iron but used cleaning products laced with arsenic, cyanide, mercury and any other poison you can think of. (I just read in The Poisoner’s Handbook about an entire household of servants who died because the cook forgot to rinse out a pot after polishing it. Why? The polish everyone used at that time contained cyanide as a main ingredient. She cooked the stew in cyanide. I do not long for history’s kitchens! I love my freezer!) It’s expensive, I know, but it gives me peace of mind, and it lasts a lot longer than plastic in my kitchen and a lot less long in the landfill. Glass is 100% recyclable. And for the record, I have thought about the fact that glass shatters, but assuming we don’t start throwing stuff against the wall or feed the baby from wine glasses, the food-storage-grade glass should hold up just fine.

It’s all about balance. We live in an old building with beautiful wood floors. Pro: no chemicals from icky, gross wall-to-wall carpeting. Con: God only knows what’s under the paint chipping off that radiator. So I’ll put some sort of barrier to keep Baby from the radiator and hope the kid doesn’t ingest lead from, oh, I don’t know, chewing on the walls. You can’t take care of everything–I know this because I have tried to take care of everything and went nuts in the process. I have papers to prove it. So plastic bugs me, while glass, wood and metal just feel good. What bugs you? What will you absolutely not have in your house?