It's been more than two weeks since the California Attorney General's Office filed suit against four manufacturers of green-branded products for not warning consumers that they contain a toxic chemical [link], and I'd like to share with you the responses I got from the companies.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that I contacted all four companies the same day I broke the story, two of them—Avalon and Whole Foods—have not responded to me. I am distinctly unimpressed.
I did speak to both Beaumont and NutriBiotic, however.
Beaumont, which makes Citrus Magic 100% Natural Dish Liquid, deserves a pat on the back. It forwarded me a statement from marketing VP Bill Stone saying that in March, after finding out about the Organic Consumers Association study that blew the lid off the 1,4-dioxane affair, Beaumont sent samples of the dish liquid to an independent laboratory, which verified the OCA's results. Further tests revealed that eliminating a surfactant called Sulfochem ES-60 would eliminate the problem, so the company immediately reformulated Citrus Magic sans the offending ingredient.
"In summary," the statement says, "upon being notified that there was a problem with our product, we verified that the problem existed, then took immediate action. We reformulated the product and are currently producing and marketing the product, Citrus Magic® 100% Natural Dish Liquid, having eliminated the problem in the new formula. There are no ethoxylated ingredients in the new reformulated product."
NutriBiotic, whose Super Shower Gel Shampoo with GSE was found to contain 32.2ppm of 1,4-dioxane, appears to be headed down the path of doing the right thing. I spoke with Pam Lausten, part of the company's marketing team. After repeatedly telling me that "we wouldn't knowingly put [1,4-dioxane] in there," she said that NutriBiotic had commissioned its own study, "and obviously, if the ingredients are in there, we intend to eliminate them."
Which means that for the time being, Super Shower Gel Shampoo with GSE presumably still contains 1,4-dioxane (assuming the OCA study's results are valid).
And, of course, so do Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value Dish Liquid (1.6ppm) and Shower Gel (20.1ppm), and Avalon's Alba brand Passion Fruit Body Wash (18.2ppm) and Replenishing Shampoo (.7ppm). Your guess is as good as mine as to whether those companies will reformulate.
It's a strange and wonderful thing to have your first Mother's Day or Father's Day as a parent. Mr. Wallet Mouth and I celebrated his day with a delicious South Indian brunch and some poking around in bookstores. Mini Mouth was remarkably well behaved.
Speaking of the baby, maybe it's because of her that I responded so quickly to a recent email from the Environmental Working Group's Ken Cook appealing for money to help fund the organization's Kid-Safe campaign, which officially launches today. Turns out Cook is also a new parent. "It's my first Father's Day," he wrote, "and we couldn't be more excited, but
I definitely don't want a tie covered in stain-proofing chemicals. Instead I want to start fighting for a law that will protect kids
from dangerous toxic chemicals, including the stain-proof kind."
So I slung them some cash for an e-card to Mr. Wallet Mouth. Happy Father's Day, and may we look forward to a less-polluted world in the future.
Think your "green" soap is squeaky-clean? Maybe not. The California Attorney General's Office has filed a complaint against four makers of green-branded personal-care and cleaning products, stating that they are violating the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65)—and the state's unfair-competition law, to boot.
Products made by Avalon Organics (owner of the Alba brand), Beaumont (Citrus Magic), NutriBiotic, and Whole Foods (specifically, its private-label brand, 365) were recently found to contain the toxic contaminant 1,4 dioxane (which I've blogged about before). The AG's suit states that the companies have known that their products were exposing users to 1,4-dioxane since late May of 2004, yet they did not provide "a clear and reasonable warning," as required by law. Violations of the safety law and the unfair-competition law each carry penalties of $2,500 a day.
1,4-dioxane is not an ingredient per se but rather a by-product of a process called ethoxylation.
Citrus Magic 100% Natural Dish Liquid is the product with by far the highest level of the contaminant (97.1 parts per million), according to the Organic Consumers Association's study (whose results, according to my sources, were confirmed by tests the AG's office had done). NutriBiotic's Super Shower Gel Shampoo with GSE was found to contain 32.2ppm, Alba's Passion Fruit Body Wash contains 18.2ppm, and Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value Shower Gel contains 20.1ppm.
Some contend that a little bit of dioxane probably isn't anything to worry about (specifically, TreeHugger writer Karin Kloosterman in this post, and Ecover, whose dishwashing liquid was found to have 2.4ppm). For context, I looked at the EPA's webpage on the chemical. There, I learned that 500ppm is the ceiling recommended by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to avoid "immediate damage to life or health," and that according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 100ppm is the concentration to which most workers can be exposed without adverse effects "over a normal 8-h workday or a 40-h workweek" (which? I wondered).
One can't help but observe that 100ppm is pretty close to the 97.1ppm in Citrus Magic... but fortunately, even with my exacting standards, I don't (quite) spend eight hours a day scrubbing our dishes.
Those of you who have spent all your time online poring over every pixel sent home by the Phoenix lander may be interested to learn that Steve Jobs opened the curtain on the new iPhone at the Worldwide Developer Conference today. My ears perked up at the mention of the 3G's lower price tag ($199), faster Internet browsing, longer battery life, and cool attributes like GPS support.
Woo woo, the 3G even comes in two colors... but alas, neither of them is green. I was hoping to hear some details on how it will improve on the mediocre environmental credentials of its predecessor. But as with fanboy hopes for an upgraded camera and a 32 GB model, no such luck (at least, nothing was mentioned on MacRumors.com's coverage).
Still, as Greenpeace reported last month, there is some good news from Cupertino: Apple has decided to phase out the worst chemicals in its product range, brominated fire retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), by the end of this year. Whether that's the case for the iPhone, I don't know.
Apple is also expanding its take-back program. A message from Jobs on the Apple site says the company is offering free take-back shipping within the U.S. and that iPods can now be turned in at any Apple store worldwide—not just in the U.S.—for free, responsible disposal.
Of course, the company still has room for improvement, as Greenpeace's comments on Jobs's message show...
Ah, the drive to consume. Is anyone immune? I'm certainly not, as this anecdote shows.
Last week, after going to mom-and-baby yoga class, a friend and I, infants in tow, stopped in at Natural Resources, our local pregnancy-and-baby-stuff shop, so I could pick up a pacifier. As we stood at the register, my friend inquired about a toy called Sophie the Giraffe. "We don't have any in stock right now, but we're expecting some soon," the employee told her. "Do you want to put yourself on the waiting list? They tend to fly off the shelves once they come in." Soon a binder appeared on the counter, and my friend was adding her name to the list.
"What's Sophie the Giraffe?" I asked her.
"Oh, they're just these cute toys that are popular," she replied as the cashier put the binder away. "They're supposed to be all-natural and safe for babies."
"Excuse me, can I see that binder?" I heard myself say. "I think I'll put my name in too."
That night as I told Mr. Wallet Mouth about my succumbing to consumer whim, I was forced to admit that I had no idea why Sophie the Giraffe was all the rage, nor did I even have the slightest idea what she looked like. I just figured that any toy with a waiting list at Natural Resources must be worth something. Besides, our cub needed a new enrichment item.
"We call it baby crack. Infants just love it, for some reason," the cashier told me yesterday when I asked what the deal was with Sophie. The order had come in, and the giraffe was now in my hot little hand. While Sophie is cute and soft and made in Europe of safe materials (and endowed with a squeaky noisemaker inside), I wouldn't necessarily have pegged her as the be-all-end-all for babes. But what do I know? The true judge will be Mini-Mouth, who was presented with her new treasure this morning.
I just learned, via the blog Fake Plastic Fish, that not long after my post about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, another journey to the North Pacific Gyre launched, this time on a vessel made in large part of plastic bottles. Read all about the educational effort buoying it here.
And enjoy this related graphic from Klas Ernflo, via Digg:
December 2010 I haven't actually bought anything from Po-Zu yet, but I appreciate their awareness of the fact that many vegan shoes are made of petroleum products and aren't necessarily better for the environment than leather footwear. Po-Zu seems to set a high bar for itself when it comes to ingredients and supply chains.
March 2010 After running out of dish soap, I started using our good old bars of Sappo Hill out of necessity. But you know what? Our dishes are just as clean, and when I pick up the soap at our grocery store, the only packaging on the bars is the price tag. And did I mention the soap is awesome? We love the oatmeal bar.
February 2010 TMI alert: If you're a squeamish guy, read no further. I'm done with tampons! Instead, I'm using the DivaCup.
January 2010 Mr. Wallet Mouth and I both love Pact. Its underwear is made of organic cotton, and the company donates 10% of its sales to worthy environmental causes. Not only that, but the company is serious about eco-friendly packaging. Each pair of undies comes not in a plastic bag but in a little cloth pouch made from fabric remnants. I'm also impressed with how responsive Pact is over email; when I asked a packaging question, I got a nice reply from the CEO.
December 2009 After reading about Skoy Cloths, the biodegradable paper-towel alternative, on Fake Plastic Fish, I bought a bunch for stocking stuffers and my own kitchen, and I'm now a fan. They're lasting a long time, despite repeated washings in the laundry, and they arrive with minimal packaging.
October 2009 I was already of fan of Straus yogurt (see June 2007), but now I love it even more. According to Michael Straus, a son of the company's founder, Straus yogurt "is made, cooled, and set in stainless-steel vats, unlike most yogurts, which are poured while still hot into plastic cups to cool and set." As someone who's concerned about plastics and chemical safety, I'm happy to hear that!
July 2009 I'm using a lot more baking soda now that I'm making more of an effort to clean the house in a nontoxic way. But from now on I'll be buying Bob's Red Mill, since Arm & Hammer engages in animal testing.
July 2008 Started feeling extra-good about buying one of my fave meat substitutes, Tofurky, after learning that its maker, Turtle Island Foods, is an independent, family-owned company (Unlike Boca Foods, which is a subsidiary of Kraft, and Morningstar, which is owned by Kellogg).
April 2008 I'm going to start buying my canned beans from Eden Foods, for two reasons: it uses custom-made cans that don't contain bisphenol A, and it's an independent, family-operated company.
February 2008 From now on, whenever I order takeout or ask for a doggy bag, I’ll make sure to avoid #6 polystyrene containers (and, of course, Styrofoam).