Could Your Organic Food Be Making You Sick to Your Stomach: Carrageenan and Food Labels?

The back of the food label on your organic product may be as free range as the ingredients inside it. Indeed, you may have already found that the back label isn’t even in the back anymore; it may be at the top; sometimes it’s been strategically moved to the left or right side of the box, or deep underneath where you only once looked for a hole. That the ingredient list may not be where the whole world would think to find it could be just an attempt to make things more interesting for the consumer, like the engine that’s been moved to the trunk on a Porsche (but with oatmeal and soba noodles and sour cream). On the other hand, it could just be a stylistic choice, why presume an insidious motive where it comes to food labels? After all, no one wants too much in the back; or, perhaps, market studies may have shown that consumers overwhelmingly prefer to tilt their heads sideways when reading their box labels, or to hover the milk carton directly over their face.


Ingredient lists matter to people, according to 86% of consumers surveyed. However, studies have also found that only 57% report regularly checking the ingredients list before purchasing products. The problem may be more complex with “organic” or “all-natural” products. Even if one does scan the labels on a USDA Organic product, there may be very little to tip one off to a bad ingredient. On such products one might still be looking for those voluptuous key words that make us all feel stupid (not the small words that make us feel stupid). The multi-hyphenate, multi-syllable words, like polyhydrococopuffs, may be a dead give-away that someone far smarter than you has been tinkering inside of your cereal box. You may prefer someone of your own level or less (I’d prefer me exactly, since I’d at least know my hands were clean). But what happens when the ingredient sounds perfectly harmless, and has as few syllables as in avocado?


For one example, lets say you turn your organic yogurt, sour cream, turkey breast or almond milk to find the ingredient “Carrageenan.” To be fair, it’s hard to get anything out of a word like Carrageenan. It lacks a certain carcinogenic spice that comes across with more savory terms, such as Butylated Hydroxyanisole or Ammonium Sulfate. Those sorts of terms sound too flavorful or exotic to go down easily, certainly enough to give you heart burn or a tumor.


But what about Carrageenan? The term hardly rings alarm bells. It sounds like it was coined by a vegan or could be hummed during tree pose. It even has a reference to the word “care” in it, which sounds pretty polite to ingest. And gee may sound like butter, while nan may be Indian flat bread, so we put the whole thing together, like we did with our reading letters in grade school, and it sounds like grandma has made us a piece of bread with butter to go inside of our sour cream. That the harmless sounding Carrageenan may be on the label of a product that’s been USDA Certified Organic may make us even less likely to ask questions. Indeed, the USDA has put “carrageenan” on its approved list of non-organic additives to organic products, so it is happily used by numerous “organic” companies, which only means you won’t cringe when you see it again and again and again.


So what is Carrageenan? If you see the ingredient listed on a food label you might see it written this way: “Carrageenan (From Seaweed).” Carrageenan is not seaweed. Seaweed is a plant and its good for you, but that Carrageenan is derived from seaweed doesn’t mean that it too is good for you. Opium comes from parts of the poppy seed that also can be enjoyed on your bagel. Carrageenan does not float in the ocean. It isn’t eaten by sea turtles and manatees. It’s not wrapped around your maki roll (nor would you want it to be, cause it’s the consistency of a sap or a gum).


Carrageenan is indeed extracted from red seaweed, and it is predominantly used in food as thickening agents in place of fat or to prevent separation. It is often used in dairy products such as milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and whipped cream. It also is used to make meats juicier, such as deli cold cuts, and prepared meats, and even in virtually every liquid baby formula on the market, to name just a few. Those drinking dairy alternatives such as (1) rice, almond, soy, hemp, flax, hazelnut, oat and coconut milks, (2) rice and soy vegan cheese or (3) dairy-free frozen desserts, may also find carrageenan adding substance to the otherwise thin liquids. It is often used in organic products because it adds thickness to fat free or low-fat foods. In other words, it is a “fat” substitute for those who have been scared away from fat. It also is used in foods labeled “low-sodium.” In products that separate, like chocolate milk, it can keep the chocolate settling away from the milk (so you have to shake it together).


Thus, for example, Pacific Organic Almond Milk contains Carrageenan, as does Applegate Organics Turkey Breast, Organic Valley Cream, 365 Whole Foods Cottage Cheese, Natural by Nature Whipped Cream, Horizon Sour Cream, Trader Joes Ice Cream, Stonyfield Yogurt Squeezers, So Delicious Coconut Milk, Rice Dream Frozen Dessert, Tempt Hemp Milk, Silk Soy Creamer, O Organics Soy Milk, Annie’s Organic Frozen Pizza. A more complete list is available through the Cornucopia Institute, which recently published an extensive report on Carrageenan, and has a Shopping Guide listing products that do and don’t use Carrageenan. (See,


While it may be less costly or easier to use Carrageenan as a food additive, rather than perfect an organic product with pure ingredients, it is by no means necessary. For every organic maker reliant on Carrageenan to make its product more palatable, there are numerous others who produce excellent organic products without it. Nancy’s Cottage Cheese contains no Carrageenan, while being lowfat at that. Neither does Heidi’s Hens Organic Turkey Breast (which is low fat and salt free), Wallaby Greek Yogurt, Strauss Cream, Three Twins Ice Cream, Clover Sour Cream, Westsoy Almond milk, Vegan Gourmet Cheese, or Trader Joes Frozen Pizza.


So what exactly is the problem with Carrageenan? As discussed at length in the Cornucopia report, Carrageenan has been shown in numerous animal studies and human cell studies to create inflammation by triggering the body’s own immune response. Inflammation is, of course, linked with a host of diseases that develop overtime from continued-exposure to irritants, including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. Carrageenan is particularly linked in studies to gastrointestinal illnesses ranging from discomfort and bloat to full out irritable bowel disease, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, ulcers, lesions and tumors, including especially colon cancer. In fact, Carrageenan when mixed with acids (not unlike those already in existence in the stomach) has been used for decades to induce gastrointestinal inflammation in laboratory animals to test new anti-inflammatory drugs. The mechanism by which Carrageenan triggers such harmful immune response is unclear, but studies have shown that it may interfere with vital enzyme and insulin production, and trigger the same biological pathways as bacteria, like Salmonella (which also comes from the earth).


A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that rates of colon and rectal cancers have grown in younger adults over the last decade. In fact, it has increased by more than 2% each year in younger adults, with rectal cancers jumping nearly 4% each year and colon cancers rising nearly 3% per year. Why young people in their 30’s and 40’s are experiencing such an unusual increase in these traditionally older-population cancers may require closer scrutiny about what exactly is being eaten. A market research study conducted by Tabs Group, found that those in the 40 and under category purchased considerably more organics than those in the 60 and older group. In fact, people under 30 bought on average 4.6 different organic products compared with 2.9 different products purchased by people 60 and older.


How utterly absurd and unfair would it be if the younger population, who are health conscious and more likely to purchase low-fat and organic products, may be inadvertently getting something that is known to cause gastrointestinal and systemic inflammation and colon cancer (of the very sort this younger age group is suddenly already seeing notable increases in).


So why you might ask is Carrageenan allowed in Organics? Carrageenan is money to big companies, and so are organics. It’s produced and used by huge conglomerates. It involves farmed seaweed, often in the Philippines, and more recently China (not typically too organic). Complex extraction methods using alkali chemicals, such as sodium and potassium hydroxide, are used for hours to create chemical changes, and include centrifuges, and other heavy machinery. The process is anything but natural, much more organic, but has become cheaper and cheaper to make, while organics sell for higher prices. Money talks. It’s why GMO’s aren’t labeled in California. It’s precisely why you will probably need to read labels for as long as there are labels. And hopefully there will always be labels, even if they may never be in the same place twice.



With the Holiday Season already here, navigating the aisles of potentially “toxic toys” will once again require parents to make careful choices to avoid exposing kids to unwanted, dangerous chemicals.


A few years back news about toxic lead levels, a developmental toxin, in Chinese made toys, as well as the use of hormone-disrupting phthalates as plasticizers, raised public awareness about the dangerous side-effects of merely playing with an otherwise perfectly harmless looking toy.


Since that time, however, the issue seems to have faded out of public awareness, perhaps, as a result of the false impression that lead and phthalates have been legislated out of children’s products with the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (“CPSIA Law”).  Unfortunately, this is not the case.


A just-released report from a consumer advocacy group, U.S. PIRG, titled 2011 TROUBLE IN TOYLAND REPORT, highlights the continuing presence of toxic LEAD, PHTHALATES, CADMIUM in toys standing right now on store shelves (many of which will inevitably be destined for your homes, and even kids bedrooms).


Laboratory testing of children’s products by researchers from Duke and UC Berkeley, as well as advocacy groups, like HealthyStuff.Org revealed the presence of hormone disrupting fire retardant chemicals, like bromine (as well as mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium) in toys and baby products.


Limiting the unknowns presented by chemicals this Holiday Season doesn’t mean empty packages for kids.  Genuine natural toys, as discussed, offer healthy alternatives.






While the American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization comprised of 60,000 pediatricians, declares that kids products should NEVER contain more than TRACE amounts of lead, if at all (maximum of 40 ppm), the 2008 CPSIA Law permits toys to contain lead levels up to 100 PPM.  In other words, it is perfectly legal to sell toys that contain MORE THAN DOUBLE the safety limit set by pediatricians.  Lead is, of course, a developmental toxin for children, scientifically documented to interfere with vital brain development in kids.


And not only is it legal to sell toys with lead levels more than twice that found safe by pediatricians, but it is also legal to sell toys that are MORE THAN 7.5 TIMES the safety limit set by these pediatricians.  Under the CPSIA Law, manufacturers are permitted to sell off merchandise still containing 300 PPM’s, so that they don’t have to take a financial loss for already existing inventory.  While this is a very generous gift to toy manufacturers, it unfortunately is no great gift to kids or parents.  Of course, there is no way to tell whether the toy you are buying on a store shelf today contains up to 300 PPM of lead, or 100 PPM, but either way that is already an unsafe amount for just ONE TOY according to our kids pediatricians.


If the average child plays with multiple toys each and every day – already containing lead in amounts found unsafe by pediatricians – how much exposure does that add up to from these multiple items?  And how much over the vital years of childhood development?




Picking random toys from store shelves in September and October of 2011, U.S. PIRG found no trouble finding LEAD in children’s products way above the 40 ppm established by the American Academy Pediatrics, and even higher than the maximum 300 ppm allowed under federal law for remaining OLD inventory products (of course, no one can tell if these products are actually old inventory or brand new products that are taking advantage of the strange loophole in the law).


1. The Little Hands Love “Touch and Feel” Book for Babies was found to have a staggering 720 PPM lead. This far exceeds the 40 ppm limit set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  It also violates even the 300 ppm set for older products under the CPSIA federal law.  In other words, this product intended for babies to “touch and feel” is actually breaking the law.


2. A Whirly Wheel Toy (where the wheel goes up and down between metal rods) – was found to contain 3700 PPM lead.  To say that this violates the law is an understatement.  300 vs. 3700?  40 vs. 3700?


3. A Bag of Gold Metals (On a Rope) (by Spritz) contained 140 ppm of lead.


4. Hello Kitty Keychain contained 100 ppm of lead.


5. Disney’s Tinkerbell Watch contained 91 ppm of lead.


6. Peace Sign Bracelet contained 74 ppm of lead.


7. Honda Motorcycle Toy contained 89 ppm of lead.


To read the report, and see pictures of these products, see






Phthalates are used in plastics to make them softer and more flexible.  Unfortunately, this nifty chemical trait also comes with a host of documented human health harms, including reproductive defects, especially genital malformations in males and lowered sperm count; early puberty in girls, as well as premature delivery of babies etc.,


Far from banning all phthalates outright, the CPSIA Law only limits them to 1000 PPMs.


USPIRG tests found phthalates THOUSANDS OF TIMES above even the too generous safety limit set by the CPSIA Law, including


  1. Funny Glasses (nose attached to eye glasses toy) by Joking Around – at an unbelievable 42,000 PPM (1000 ppm vs. 42,000????)
  2. Sleep Mask by Claire’s (Labeled with BFF) – 77,000 PPM.





Cadmium became the favored “replacement” for those companies limiting the use of lead, making the jewelry heavier.  Unfortunately, its not a better alternative, as Cadmium is a heavy metal that is a known CARCINOGEN, developmental toxin linked to learning disabilities, kidney damage, and bone problems etc.,


In September 2011, prominent retailers, including Gap, Forever 21,Target and 26 other retailers reached a settlement with the California environmental group, Center for Environmental Health, agreeing to limit the use of cadmium.  Under the Settlement terms, however, by December 31, 2011, children’s (and adults) jewelry sold by these companies will have no more than 0.03% cadmium.


Unfortunately, by December 31st 2011, the Holiday shopping season will be over, and many parents may have already filled their kids rooms with enough high-level Cadmium jewels to create unnecessary risks for serious health problems.






Soft stuffed toys and upholstered kids products often carry a high chemical load of fire retardants.  In fact, kids and fetuses have shown high levels of flame retardants in their blood – at levels that have NOT accumulated in older people, reflecting how much exposure younger generations are getting of previously unheard of flame breaking chemicals.


Flame retardants are known to cause cancer, birth defects, hormone problems, neurological damage, ADHD, retardation, and have even been linked to autism.  Some have been banned in certain children’s products, such as the chemical known as TRIS in kids pajamas, only to reappear secretly in others, such as kids mattresses, changing pads, positioners etc.,. TRIS has just been added to the Prop 65 Lust of chemical known to the State of California to cause CANCER (however, this will only require that products going forward that contain TRIS at certain levels need to be labeled).


These flame-retardant chemicals are often hidden inside of the soft yellow foams commonly found in soft toys/kids products (as well as mattresses and upholstered furniture etc), otherwise known as polyurethane foam.  A study lead by researchers from U.C. Berkeley and Duke University found that 80% of children’s products tested were loaded with more than one chemical fire retardant in concentrations that were MORE than 5 times (5x) the safety limit for children set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.   These products included bath toys, mats, rocking chairs, kids mattresses, baby walkers, nursing pillows, baby carriers, high chairs, sleep positioners, changing pads etc.,


Fire retardants also appear in more solid toys, like an Animal Planet Stretch Dragon[1] sold at Toys R Us (contained 2566 PPM of Bromine, a toxic fire retardant linked to thyroid disruption) as well as stuffed animals, for example an adorable bear sold at Target, which was found to contain not only Bromine, but also Arsenic, Lead and high levels of Chlorine.[2]





Most children’s toys labeled “wood” or “wooden” are actually not made from solid wood, but rather particle board, plywoods, composite and engineered woods.  This means that these so-called “woods are really wood scraps or pieces of wood that are then bound together using toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde (used as a binder & glue).  Formaldehyde, like other VOCs, is a Carcinogen that turns into inhalable vapors, poisoning indoor breathing space.


Moreover, if the fake-woods aren’t toxic enough, they are also sealed with finishes and stains that contain other known carcinogens and developmental toxins, such benzene and toluene.


Buying solid wood (including in the bottoms) products that do not come sealed with toxic stains/finishes would alleviate one of the main sources of indoor air pollution (and risk to human health) according to the EPA.






To avoid chemicals, choose plastic-free toys and kids goods:


Buy Made in the USA.

Buy 100% Solid Wood (sealed WITHOUT petroleum finishes or any stains),

Buy Organic Cotton & Wool (Make Sure the Inside/Stuffing is Also Organic Cotton/Wool Without Additives, Not Just the Exterior Cover);

Buy Natural Play-Dough (Made from food ingredients such flour, beeswax, tapioca, and colored with vegetables such as beets).

Buy Paints Made from Food Coloring.



Avoid metal jewelry, due to unknown heavy metal use (i.e., cadmium, lead, mercury)

Avoid plastics to cut down on hormone disrupting & developmental toxins, like phthalates, lead, and fire retardants.

Avoid conventional stuffed toys, which may contain fire retardants, as well a formaldehyde-based stain treatments.

Avoid ALL products labeled fire-resistant or which say that they are in compliance with Technical Bulletin 117 or 16 CRF Part 1633 (unless the ONLY fire retardant used to meet these laws is documented to be untreated WOOL).

Avoiding Chinese made products altogether, as this will dramatically help cut the risk of exposure to dangerous chemical toxins, including those not yet tested for.

Avoid Pressed-Woods, Particle Boards, Plywoods, Engineered Woods, etc., due to the use of carcinogenic formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and other VOCs.


Happy Holidays From Our Family to Yours,

The GreenCradle








Brazilian Blowout Violates Federal and State Laws By Containing Formaldehyde, A Carcenogen

At $250-$600 a treatment, the Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatment, may be a pricey way to get cancer in your hair.  So says the FDA, the California Attorney General, and the environmental non-profit, EWG. 



The FDA issued a legal letter to the makers of Brazilian Blowout warning them that their product violates federal law because it improperly contains Formaldehyde.   Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen according to the NIH’s National Toxicology Program.  It is also considered a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC), and California Prop 65.    


According to the FDA’s letter to Brazilian Blowout, the Company violated Section 601(a) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act: 


“because it bears or contains a deleterious substance that may render it injurious to users under the conditions of use prescribed in your labeling. Specifically, based on FDA sample analysis, Brazilian Blowout contains methylene glycol, the liquid form of formaldehyde, which, under the conditions of use prescribed in the labeling, releases formaldehyde when hair treated with the product is heated with a blow dryer and then with a hot flat iron. Methylene glycol is a deleterious substance, which at the levels present in this product, may harm users under the conditions of use prescribed in the labeling thereof. FDA analysis of approximately 50 mg samples of Brazilian Blowout confirmed the presence of methylene glycol, the liquid form of formaldehyde, at levels ranging from 8.7 to 10.4%.”



 The FDA noted that the immediate health consequences of exposure to this level of formaldehyde from inhalation of the Brazilian Blowout product, include “eye disorders (irritation, increased lacrimation, blurred vision, hyperaemia); nervous system disorders (headache, burning sensation, dizziness, syncope), and respiratory tract (dyspnea, cough, nasal discomfort, epistaxis, wheezing, rhinorrhea, throat irritation, nasopharyngitis).  Other reported symptoms included nausea hypotrichosis, chest pain, chest discomfort, vomiting, and rash.” 


These conditions are of course only part of the problem.  As inhalation of a legally-recognized human carcinogen obviously carries long-term health consequences associated with cancers such as leukemia and respiratory cancers years after exposure, according to the National Institutes of Health, which classified the chemical at the highest level possible, namely a “known human carcinogen.”  (See


In addition, the FDA stressed that Brazilian Blowout also violated Section 602(a) of the federal la by falsely claiming on the packaging that its product contains “No Formaldehyde” or is “Formaldehyde Free,” even though FDA tests found that the product actually “contains the liquid form of formaldehyde, methylene glycol.”  This sort of deceptive and misleading advertising has led to much confusion among women, who use the Brazilian Blowout treatment to straighten their hair, but have paid for what they thought was a formaldehyde-free version of the product.






In an investigation conducted earlier this year by the environmental non-profit, the Environmental Working Group, otherwise known as EWG, which also initiated a complaint against Brazilian Blowout with the FDA, found:


   15 of 16 companies tested, which claimed little to no formaldehyde, actually contained substantial amounts of the carcinogen, including— 


1) Brazilian Blowout (up to 11.8%).

2) Coppola (up to 2.3%)

3) Marcia Teixeira (up to 3.4%-5.8%)

4) Global Keratin (up to 4.4%)

5) Silkening Technologies ( 2.8%)

6) IBS Beauty (2.3%)

7) Cadiveu (7%)

8) R & L (more than 0.2%)

9) Tahe (more than 0.2%)

10) Brazilian Gloss (up to 7.3%)

11) Keratin Express (1.2%)

12) QOD (up to 3.5%)

13) KeraGreen (up to 1.6%)

14) Simply Smooth American Culture Hair  (up to 0.93%)

15) Goleshlee (more than 0.6%)

16) Spazzola Progressiva (more than 0.6%)


      According to the Cosmetics Industry Review, which is the cosmetics industry’s own safety review body, any product that creates formaldehyde vapors/gas in ANY AMOUNT should not be used, because it presents a safety hazard — as noted by EWG “effectively prohibits the use of these ingredients in hair-straightening products at any level.”


       lTests of salon air find powerful formaldehyde fumes.  Hair straighteners can contain up to 11.8 percent formaldehyde (the FDA found levels from 8.7% to 10.4% in Brazilian Blowout).  Products containing a  more than 1 percent are so dangerous that federal law requires employers “to provide medical monitoring for workers with symptoms, quick-drench showers for immediate use if solution touches skin and  emergency eyewash stations.”



            l Wide Spread Salon Use: Only three of the 41 top-rated salons did not offer hair-straightening services because of health dangers, the remainder felt confident that the products were safe, or formaldehyde free, even when they were not.  (None presumably complied with the law in terms of medical monitoring, quick-drench showers, and emergency eyewash stations).  See EWG,




It’s a bad year to sell formaldehyde.   The California Attorney General has filed suit against Brazilian Blowout for violations of Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, for failing to warn consumers of the presence of formaldehyde, a chemical known to the State to Cause Cancer.  The suit also asserted violations of the Safe Cosmetics Act, which requires cosmetics companies to notify the government about the use of chemicals known to cause cancer in their products, as well as for unfair business practices and false advertising for advertising the products as formaldehyde free and “safe”, when they were not.  See Complaint here: 



EWG has a brilliant summary of the safety of other available hair straightening treatments on the market, from the Japanese Hair Treatments to Keratin to Hair Relaxers etc., most of which are far from safe.   See here for more info:’s-the-best-option/


“100% Natural” Really Means GMO’s, Hormones, Antibiotics & Formaldehyde: Cooking Oils, Chicken, Beef & More

>While the demand for certified “ORGANIC” products continues to grow at an impressive pace (up nearly 10% to $28.682 billion in 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association), so-called “Natural Products” dominate health-food store sales, taking away precious market share from genuine USDA certified organics.  Products bearing “natural” claims outsell “organic” products by a factor of 4:1 (Nielsen).


According to the Organic Consumers Association, approximately 2/3 rd’s of the foods sold in Whole Foods are indeed conventional products, confusingly labeled “natural,” “local,” “sustainable,” “responsibly farmed,” etc.,  but which are grown and/or processed with chemicals and genetically-modified organisms/plants.  The term “Organic” is regulated by the USDA under the National Organic Program, created by federal law, and under various state laws, such as the California Organic Products Act of 2003.


Natural on the other hand has no genuine definition, no true regulation, or certification under the USDA or any other organization.  The term “natural” with almost no exception is left to creative license of the businesses that choose to use it, often “repackaging” conventional products with health-conscious labels to appeal to consumers looking for cleaner and greener products. Consumers mislead into believing that “natural” is just as good as organic, but cheaper, however, may not be getting what they expect (and in the end paying a lot more for a conventional product).  What is perhaps even more distressing is that the consumer may, in fact, not even be getting anything that remotely even occurs in nature.




As a recent California federal lawsuit highlights, foods labeled “100% Natural” are indeed made from genetically modified plants and organisms.  The lawsuit filed against the corporate giant, Con-Agra, for violations of California’s Business & Professions Laws, among other causes, asserts that Wesson’s Canola, Vegetable, Corn & Soybean Oils Labeled “100% Natural” are actually made from GMOs.  Digging deeper into the Con-Agra website (and deeper than any reasonable consumer would or should drill for such key information about the foods they are buying) indeed discloses that the Company admits to using “biotechnology” — a buzz word for plants that are genetically modified to enhance certain supposedly desirable traits, such as resistance to pesticides or higher yield.   As the lawsuit points out, genetically modified organisms and plants are not “natural” in that they do not naturally occur outside of a laboratory — in other words they necessitate artificial, high-tech, genetic intervention to create them.  They are, thus, man-made.  That is, nature, despite its many years in business, never created such organisms or plants on its own.  As the lawsuit further asserts, most consumers purchasing oils labeled “100% Natural” would not reasonably expect that genetically modified organisms and plants are used in those cooking oils.  To see the Court Complaint, click here.




The lawsuit may be the first (tiny) step in changing the ongoing abuse of the term “Natural” and perhaps the unfair consumer confusion that has caused many more consumers to buy “Natural Products” as opposed to USDA Certified Organic ones.  A shift in food labeling options would mean that Whole Foods might not be able to label its conventional chickens, as “All Natural,” even though the birds are fed the same genetically modified corn and soybeans that are also used in those Wesson cooking oils.  According to the Organic Consumers Association, “what most green consumers don’t understand yet, is that most of the so-called “natural” processed foods and animal products…Either they contain GMO ingredients like soy, corn, canola, cottonseed oil or sugar beet sweetener, or else the animals have been force-fed fed a steady diet of GMO grains and drugs.”




As for as red meat and poultry, for example, the USDA has a bare bones definition for “natural,” which leaves out all the key attributes of what consumers would typically consider natural, including:


i)  WHAT THE ANIMALS ARE FED:  It is perfectly permissible under Federal Law for Beef or Chicken to be called “natural” even though the animals are  fed Genetically Modified Food/Organisms and Chemicals.  In fact, the following chemicals, are all approved by the government as additives in the feed of beef and dairy cattle:


  • (a) Formaldehyde (allowed under 21 CFR 573.460).  Formaldehyde  has been classified as a Known Human Carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the National Institutes of Health and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  In humans, the chemical leads to leukemia and respiratory cancers.  It also causes cancer in animals exposed to it, including leukemia, lymphoma, nasal tumors, testicular tumors, rare tumors of the breast, stomach and intestines.  (See also



  • (c) Ammonia (21 CFR 573.180), a poison according to the NIH, and a Known Human Respiratory and Skin Toxin;


  • (d) Other Cattle, disturbingly turning vegetarians into carnivores and cannibals (21 CFR 573.200),


  • (e) Cyanuric acid, found in urine, which chemical led to kidney failure and death in children and pets due to its presence in milk and pet food in 2007-2008. (21 CFR 573.220);


  • (f) Heavy Metals, such as Lead and Arsenic (21 CFR 573.870), which are both listed as a carcinogens and developmental toxins under Prop 65 Law.



  • (h) Vinyl (21 CFR 573.870) and Petroleum (21 CFR 573.720) etc.,




(ii) HOW THE ANIMALS ARE RAISED (i.e., it doesn’t matter if they are confined in their own feces, and not free to roam, the government says they can still be called “natural”),


(iii) THE USE OF ANTIBIOTICS (which by law can be freely used through-out with “natural” animals, and even the day or two before slaughter).  See 21 CFR Part 558.


(iv) THE USE OF HORMONE IMPLANTS under the cattle’s skin is fulling permissible under Federal Law for s0-called “natural” beef.  The implants regularly release estrogenic (Estradiol, Progesterone, Zeranol) and androgenic growth hormones (Testosterone & Trenbolate Acetate) into the cattle’s bodies for years on end, introducing the elevated hormones into animals of the opposite sex. (See fn 1 for a statement from the USDA on the specific hormones allowed to be used in cattle).



(v) RADIATION:  Animal feed is exposed to radiation as a disinfectant,  and this too is perfectly permissible, (21 CFR 579.22).  According to EPA, “ionizing radiation, including that of cobalt-60, is known to cause cancer.”


The definition of “natural” also permits the use of “minimal” processing, but which is indeed still processing.   And unlike the accredited third-party certifications that are required for USDA organics, manufacturers making “natural” claims are essentially taken at their word, making it very profitable to attach a natural label and an increased price tag.  Moreover, where it comes to every other product on the market making “natural” claims, even these meaningless gestures aren’t necessary.  Anything goes.


The Solution: Look for the USDA Organic Seal.



According to the USDA, where it comes to cattle, “Estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone (three natural hormones), and zeranol and trenbolone acetate (two synthetic hormones) may be used as an implant on the animal’s ear. The hormone is time released, and is effective for 90 to 120 days. In addition, melengesterol acetate, which can be used to suppress estrus, or improve weight gain and feed efficiency, is approved for use as a feed additive.”




What if you had two girls born together who had the exact same DNA in every way, and yet only one of them came down with autism, wouldn’t this rule out genetics as the sole cause of the disorder?


Lets make that dozens upon dozens of such girls, born as identical twins — meaning they came from the very same egg fertilized by the very same sperm, and thus shared IDENTICAL DNA in every way – if half the time one twin came down with autism, but the other DID NOT, wouldn’t this conclusively establish that environmental factors outside of genes were a significant cause of Autism?  Well that is indeed what 2011 studies have proven.


Multiple recent studies have indeed provided more groundbreaking proof that environmental toxins are a significant cause of autism.  Indeed, scientists in the field now believe that environment plays a MUCH GREATER role than genetics, accounting for 55% of the cause, while genes are considered only a “moderate” factor explaining only about 37% of who comes down with the condition.


So many parents have placed great emphasis on the idea that it’s simply a matter of genetics and thus, nothing can be down but take a flip of the coin.  Genetics after all cannot be changed.  But with a statistic like 1 in 100 children with autism, those genes would have to be quite clearly extremely common in the population to begin with.  But as studies conclusively show, genetics is only one factor, placing the focus on minimizing environmental exposures represents the best way to tackle at least 50% of the risk of autism.





Twins, because of their shared genetics represent a goldmine of information where it comes to understanding the root causes of Autism, particularly if you believe that genetics is key.


In a groundbreaking study published in July 2011 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers from Stanford working on a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that identical twins surprisingly do not BOTH come down with autism, despite their IDENTICAL genes.


Identical twins are produced when one egg splits and therefore the two share IDENTICAL genetics in every way.  They are 100% the same people in terms of their DNA.  If genetics alone determine autism, then if one identical twin has autism, the other one should have it too.  They are, after all, true genetic replicas of each other – pure carbon copies at the DNA level.


But the study found that only 50% of identical female twins both had autism, while 77% of identical male twins both became autistic.  The implications from this are extremely compelling.


Since identical twins have the exact same genetic makeup, the fact that 50% of female identical twins DID NOT get autism, and 23% of identical Male twins also did not, means that genetics simply cannot be the entire explanatory variable in terms of autism.


How could the very same genetics only produce autism half of the time?


According to the Stanford Study, environmental factors accounted for more than 55% of the cause of autism, whereas only about 37%% could be explained by inherited genetic traits.  In other words, environmental factors mattered MORE than genetics as a cause for the disorder!  In fact, environmental factors were the MAIN determinant of whether a given child will become autistic or not.


In sum, the study concluded that the twins problem was more of being in the same place at the same time or, in other words, at the wrong place at the same wrong time – as opposed to merely sharing the same problematic inherited genetic traits.





Similarly, in the largest study of its kind, published August 15th in Pediatrics, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (an organization consisting of 60,000+ pediatricians), which followed 664 infants with at least one older sibling with autism, researchers found that only about 19% of those younger siblings ended up getting Autism themselves.  In other words, 81% of those younger siblings DID NOT get autism.  The reality is that 8 out of 10 children with older siblings with autism WILL NOT come down with the disorder themselves, despite sharing around 50% of their genetics.


This information is even more compelling when you consider it in conjunction with the Stanford’s study findings on fraternal twins — who no differently than regular siblings, are produced from two different eggs and sperm, and, thus, share around the same 50% of their DNA as any siblings.


What would it mean if siblings sharing only half their DNA but born together had much higher rates of autism than siblings sharing the same only half their DNA, but born years apart?  Why would timing matter?





The most surprising finding by the Stanford study was that fraternal twins had strangely high rates ofboth getting autism.   The governing wisdom till then was they didn’t.


Fraternal twins come from two separate eggs, fertilized by two different sperm.  Like any other siblings in a family, they share no more genetic material than siblings born years apart — namely only around 50% of their DNA is shared.  But fraternal twins do share the same womb, birth event, and early childhood.


In the recent study fraternal twins BOTH ended up with autism at around 31% and 36% of the time, boys and girls, respectively.


These numbers are quite higher than expected, and considerably higher than the 19% found in the separate Pediatrics study with respect to younger siblings born AFTER an older child with autism.  If genetics was the determining cause, one would expect the numbers to be more similar, since both fraternal twins and brothers/sisters born separately are merely ALL siblings with only around 50% shared DNA – they all represent different eggs fertilized by different sperm.  But yet, there is an appreciable difference.


The results of the study are considered highly surprising.  When you consider that 36% of siblings born together have autism, but only 19% of those born at different times came down with the same condition — this merely reaffirms that genetics cannot solve the mystery of who indeed comes down with Autism.  In other words, if siblings born together, but sharing no more genetic materials than those born years apart, tend to have much higher rates of autism, this supports that construction that outside environmental factors acting on the shared womb, at shared birth, or shared early infant development indeed are fundamental in determining which child will come down with autism and which child will not.


According to the lead author of the study, a doctor from Stanford, the high shared rates of autism in fraternal twins “who share only half their genes relative to those who share all of their genes implies a bigger role for shared environmental factors.”  Genetics the study concluded constituted only a “moderate” factor in determining likelihood of autism as compared to the far more important environment. Thus, the study wrote that “environmental factors common to twins explain about 55 percent of the liability to autism…The finding of significant influence of the shared environment, experiences that are common to both twin individuals,” appeared to comprise the most important part of the equation where it came to coming down with autism.


See also





Of course, if someone told you, you could reduce your child’s likelihood of getting autism by 55% by making changes to your environment, for most people that would be enough motivation to do just about anything.  Whether that environment is related to the time of pregnancy or the immediate surroundings during infancy, either one presents more than enough worrisome toxins that have been documented as harmful to human health and development.  The EPA, after all, confirms that most of our exposure to toxic chemicals occurs inside of our own homes.  But where to start?  The start is the most difficult part of anything, isn’t it?  How to prioritize and not drive yourself crazy?


Previous studies have pointed to various environmental toxins as related to autism, including fire retardants, phthalates, heavy metals and solvents, and so can help in guiding your choices to help minimize environmental risk.


 Fire Retardants.


Beginning in the latter part of the 20th Century manufacturers began to replace natural materials such as cotton, wool, wood, and metal with petroleum-based products such as polyurethane foam and plastics.  Such petroleum-derivatives, as might be expected, were a lot more flammable as a result.  In turn, in the last 25 years the increasing use of fire retardants in upholstered furnishings, mattresses, baby products, toys, carpeting, fabrics, bedding, electronics, etc., have led to Americans having the highest blood levels of fire retardant chemicals in the world.   There are now over 175 flame retardant chemicals in use today.  These chemicals simply did not exist when most of us were born.  In fact, while the accumulate in our children and pregnant women etc.,, they have not accumulated in older people over time, revealing how new of a poison we are actually dealing with.


Studies have shown that fire retardant levels in American’s blood and tissue are 10-100 times greater than human tissue levels in Europe.  Likewise, fire retardant levels in the breast milk of American mother’s have shown “extremely elevated” levels that far exceed that of European mothers.


Fire retardants are serious chemicals, and have been linked not only to Autism, but other serious health disorders such as cancer, birth defects, hormone problems, infertility, neurological and reproductive damage, ADHD, hyperactivity and retardation.


Fire retardants are used through-out the nation and under national law, but California, in particular, represents one of the worst offender in terms of the use of toxic chemical fire retardants in everyday home products.  In the 1970’s in the misguided effort to prevent cigarette fires from smokers falling asleep in their beds, California enacted far-reaching flammability standards in Technical Bulletin 117.  The 1975 California law resulted in the addition of millions of pounds of flame retardants to the polyurethane foam used in everyday products.  Polyurethane foam is the soft, yellowish foam found in mattresses, upholstered furniture, pillows/bedding, kids products and toys, and just about anything else that’s soft to the touch in your home.   Like the petroleum this foam is made from (but unlike natural materials like cotton and wool) polyurethane foam burns easily (and incidentally releases toxic smoke when it does, something implicated in the high cancer rates among fire-fighters).


Most people now easily regard such foam as a familiar, everyday presence in their homes – without suspecting the dangerous chemicals that lurk within it.  Fire retardants impregnated into home products indeed escape from the foam through various routes.  Most prominently, people are exposed to them by contact, such as lying on a mattress or couch surface.  In addition, they escape into the air and household dust, only to be transferred inside the human body by absorption through the skin (by touch), inhalation, and ingestion through the mouth (e.g., fingers in the mouth after touching an object or the floor).



Fire Retardants In Pregnant Women


A just released August 10, 2011 study led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco found that pregnant women in California have the highest level of flame retardants in the U.S. and the World.  According to the scientists “blood levels of flame retardant chemicals are two times higher for California residents than for people in the rest of the country.”  As noted in the study, California homes have the highest levels of fire retardant chemicals stemming from their use on “polyurethane foam-containing products used in the home,” including products like “crib mattresses, carpet padding and upholstered furniture” reaffirming that the bulk of exposure for pregnant women comes from inside their own homes.


In relation to Autism, the study concludes that the fire retardants “disrupt thyroid function” and “have been linked to neurodevelopmental problems in children following prenatal exposure.”  Autism is of course, a neurodevelopmental disorder.




An earlier January 2011 study of 268 pregnant women by UCSF researchers found dangerous chemicals in 99%-100% of pregnant women, including fire retardants known as Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), as well as  “organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phenols… phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate,” plus BPA. The study noted that “several of these chemicals in pregnant women were at the same concentrations that have been associated with negative effects in children from other studies.”



Fire Retardants In Children Lead to Neurodevelopmental Harms



American children have long been found to have high levels of fire retardants inside their bodies – in fact, in amounts higher than their own parents!


Because Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, and fire retardants are recognized to cause serious neurodevelopmental disorders in fetuses/children, limiting exposure represents the most prudent approach to decreasing Autism risk.


In a January 2010 published study from researchers at Columbia University, the researchers analyzed umbilical cord blood from 210 newborns for the presence of fire retardant chemicals.  Researcher then followed those children to assess any neurodevelopmental effects at 12-46 months and 72 months of age.  The study found that children with higher concentrations fire retardants in their cord blood at birth scored lower on tests of mental and physical development later in life, concluding that cord blood concentration of fire retardants at birth was associated with neurodevelopmental effects.


Similarly, a 2009 study from the Netherlands found that higher levels of fire retardants in cord blood had effects on child’s development by school age.



In a more recent study published April 2011, levels of fire retardants in California children “were three times higher than their mothers’ levels during pregnancy and seven times higher than concentrations in the children living in Mexico.”  In fact, as the lead author noted, “Only Nicaraguan children who lived and worked on hazardous waste sites had higher reported levels of PBDEs in their bodies than the California children.”   In effect, California children were living in a hazardous waste site in their own homes, albeit without knowing it.



In a June 2010 study by the Environmental Working Group, children had 2.8 times higher levels of fire retardants than their own mothers. EWG studies found 11 different fire retardants in kids, and 86% of the time the levels in children were higher than their mothers living in the same home. EWG studies have also found high levels of fire retardants in human breast milk, household dust, and umbilical cord blood of 100% of infants tested;



Types of Products Leading to Dangerous Exposure to Fire Retardants




Where are children and pregnant women being exposed to such dangerous levels of fire retardants, damaging to brain development?  The answer is closer to home than might be expected.


Exposure from Baby Products.



Children’s products, particularly those for developing newborns and babies, are some of the worst offenders in terms of toxic fire retardants.  A typical baby is quite literally brought home to a cocktail of chemicals doused on to all the brand new baby products that have just been showered on the family.  These products, however darling to the eye, are documented by science to be harmful to brain development and reproduction, not to mention often carcinogenic.


One recent 2011 study led by Duke University researchers found that 80% of children’s products tested were loaded with more than one chemical fire retardant in concentrations that were MORE than 5 times (5x) the safety limit for children set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


Actually, as the study concluded, where baby products are concerned, exposure to infants would beMANY TIMES MORE than just a mere 5 times the safety limit.  For one, the CPSC only assessed the risk of exposure to fire retardants to older children who spend about 3 hours a day on upholstered furniture, such as their family sofa – this sort of exposure alone led these older children to exceed the safety limit by more than 5 times.  Newborns are not only a lot smaller, breath more, and are less capable of riding their body of toxins than older children (in the CPSC analysis, children weighed 24-30 lbs, a lot more than any newborn).  Newborns (and older children) also spend way more than 3 hours a day exposed to not just ONE, but MULTIPLE fire retardant products from crib to stroller to toys, not just a single piece of upholstered furniture as assessed by the CPSC.  In other words, it might be safe to say that babies would be extremely lucky to only have exposure at 5 times above the safety limit, and easily could reach into the double digits, if not much higher.


Note that in the earlier CPSC study of fire retardant exposure from upholstered furniture, older children exceeded safety limits by doing very regular activities for short periods:  (1) sitting on the fire retardant treated surface, like a couch, in a short-sleeved shirt and shorts, meaning they only touched the surface, (2) hand-to-mouth transfer after touching the surface and putting fingers in their mouth, (3) Mouthing on the couch, as small kids tend to do, (4) spilling something wet onto the surface, thus, bringing up a HIGH quantity fire retardants to the surface (as might be the case with a wet diaper spill or spilled water or formula, as well as cleaning fluids applied to the clean up any messes) and


(5) breathing in the air at home in the vicinity of upholstered furniture, as couches etc., off-gas the chemicals into the room air, polluting indoor air quality



The CPSC study concluded that skin contact was “the primary exposure route from for FR [Fire Retardant] chemicals in upholstered furniture.”


The fire retardant chemicals were found in the following:


* Children’s Mattresses,


* Changing Pads,


* Nursing Pillows,


* Sleep positioners,


* Car Seats,


* Baby Carriers,


* Rocking/Nursing chairs,


* High chairs,


* Infant Bath Mats,


* Strollers,


* Bath toys,


* Bumbo chair and more.


Quite literally, everything a baby touches, uses, sleeps in or eats in during the formative period of its brain development are indeed doused with multiple fire retardant chemicals that are KNOWN to interfere with brain development as in Autism, if not also cause cancer.




AVOID buying baby products that have any polyurethane foam


AVOID all products that come with a TB117 label, meaning a label on the product saying it meets the flammability standards set by the California Technical Bulletin 117.


BUY products made ONLY from organic cotton and wool.  Be aware though that just because a product says its made with “Organic Cotton” does not mean that it does not contain toxic fire retardants.  The trick is often to slap on an organic cotton shell while using conventional materials on the interior, indeed petroleum foam, chemical fire retardants, including Fire Master 550, Antimony (toxic heavy metal), Boric Acid (roach poison), Silica, and Fire Barrier fabrics made from synthetic Rayon and impregnated with fire retardants into the material etc.,.


*  MATTRESSES:  Be especially careful in making sure all mattresses on which baby or mama sleeps on do not contain ANY fire retardants, including cribs, bassinets, play yards, and the PARENTS bed.  Note that genuine organic mattresses, use wool as the only “fire retardant” and the wool is not treated with anything, naturally passing fire safety laws due to its own low-burning properties when used in sufficient quantities.  Unlike petroleum based foams, wool and cotton do not explode into flames.  Because a baby can spend 18 hours of its day sleeping on its crib mattress or in the parent’s bed, this sort of exposure to fire retardants in all likelihood exceeds safety limits for all health effects, including cancer.


*  CHILDRENS PRODUCTS:  Pay careful attention to other high-use products, such nursing pillows, sleep positioners, head positioning pillows, changing pads, toys etc., — these are almost always FOAM based.  These products do in fact now come made from natural rubber and without any fire retardants whatsoever.  Toys are now also made from natural rubber or organic cotton and wool, as well as wood.  Chose more natural materials of the sort that you were raised with.


*  VENTILATE:  Studies have found that the highest concentrations of flame retardants inside the air/dust were in homes with poor ventilation.  As the EPA separately advises, ventilation is vital for diminishing the mass of chemicals that pool inside the home from everyday furnishings, including faux woods, which off-gas carcinogens like Formaldehyde, among other chemicals.  Especially in home with babies, the tendency is to keep windows closed, but that traps toxic chemicals, and allows them to pool close to the floor, and near the crib-level where babies sleep.  SIDS cases, in fact, rise in winter when windows are more closed.  Studies have shown that simply having a fan in a bedroom to circulate air, decreases the incidence of SIDS by 72%.  This reinforces that air quality may play a vital role in children’s health.  Although SIDS and Autism are obviously quite different, the fact is they may share a common cause in the air – namely from indoor chemicals vaporizing from home furnishing surfaces.  Open that window.  Install an air purifier.  Have fewer objects in a baby’s room.


Exposure from Mattresses.


Fire retardants are a bedroom accessory more common than any throw pillow.  Indeed these class of chemicals made their way into the American home  to purportedly save the sleepy smoker, who fell into a peaceful slumber while still puffing on a Marlboro, thus, inadvertently setting fire to his own bed and thereby himself.  If that sounds like an accident that doesn’t happen too often these days, that’s quite accurate – in a country of 300 million people, about 300 have this very problem.  More people die falling out of bed each year than in mattress fires.  But that doesn’t stop the government from mandating the use of chemical fire retardants that by their own calculations give thousands of people cancer and other serious health effects, including by CPSC estimates giving 500+ children cancer from 2 years of exposure.


Fire retardants are in virtually every mattress on the market or in a home. Polyurethane foam is most often the standard component no matter whether you are buying the most expensive product or the least expensive.  But its not just polyurethane foam.  Every mattress on the market, no matter its construction or components, must meet federal and state flammability standards.  In nearly all cases this is done with chemical fire retardants applied to or built into fabrics or foams.


Of course, chemicals aren’t the only alternative, just the cheapest one.  There is one genuinely natural fire retardant material and that is wool.  Wool is, of course, used in a tiny percentage of mattresses and furniture on the market – namely in Organic mattresses.  It is indeed entirely feasible to rid the crib or family mattress from ALL chemical fire retardants, and even all chemicals whatsoever, by simply using the same materials that mattresses were originally made from – cotton, wool and natural rubber.  (But just because a bed says its organic, does not mean that its not using chemical/synthetic fire retardants and poisons – if its not ONLY using wool, it is using chemicals 100% of the time!).


Because virtually every bed and piece of furniture in the American home today is covered with fire retardants, a baby or child today is living in an environment filled with fire retardants and other chemicals that simply did not exist when his or her own mother was a child.  That much HAS CHANGED.  Another thing that has also changed in the same period is the rate of Autism.


In 2006, during the Bush Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) put out a “Quantitative Assessment of Potential Health Effects From the Use of Fire Retardant (FR) Chemicals in Mattresses” purportedly assessing a few fire retardants in theory, but only really focusing on three: antimony, boric acid and Deca-BDE.  Its conclusion was that all the FR were safe.  The Assessment concluded, in conservative terms, that each night a 5 year old child absorbs 0.50829 mg/d of antimony, 0.08765 mg/d of boric acid, and 0.04440 mg/d of Deca-BDE by merely sleeping on a mattress containing these fire retardants.  An adult absorbs 0.802 mg/d of antimony, 0.081 mg/d of Boric Acid, and 0.07314 of Deca-BDE from sleeping on a mattress. (One would imagine these numbers might be higher for a pregnant woman given increased respiration, and sweating.)


It assured the public that these figures were no cause for concern.  Since that time the government has changed its mind.


Taking a look at the chemicals highlighted by the CPSC, reveals their dangers where it comes to Autism, and other health risks:


Antimony Trioxide – Antimony is a heavy metal and is listed as a human carcinogen under Proposition 65.   Studies have found that autistic children have 5 TIMES more antimony in their bodies than non-autistic children, and that 100% of autistic children tested had antimony in their bodies, whereas only 50% of non-autistic children did.  It is also classified by the EPA under Hazardous Air Pollutants, as a known human respiratory system toxin.


Boric Acid – this is roach poison.  As the National Institute of Health concludes “it is a dangerous poison,” warning that “the infant death rate from boric acid poisonings is high.”  The National Library of Medicine classifies it as having evidence of being a reproductive toxin, and in the European Union, it is classified as hormone disruptor.


Decabromodiphenyl Oxide, also known as Deca-BDE is part of a notorious class of highly toxic brominated flame retardants known as PBDE’s, and one of the most popular fire retardants in use. The EPA effectively forced manufacturers to phase out certain PBDE’s. Since the CPSC assessment, several states have indeed banned the use of Deca-BDE in mattresses.  The flame retardant was found to be a developmental toxin, causing neurodevelopmental effects. The EPA thus set a safety limit for it of 2.22 mg/kg, finding that exposure neonatally led to a “neurotoxic effect” and “behavioral disturbances,” as well as motor skill problems later in life.  The EPA also lists it as “possible human carcinogen.”



The CPSC study also provided assurances as to the safety of other FR, so confident of their safety that it didn’t even bother legitimately assessing their migration from mattresses into the human body.  The three were Ammonium Polyphosphates, Melamine and Vinyldene Chloride.


1. Ammonium polyphosphates:  This is a chemical created by reacting phosphoric acid with ammonia.  The chemical decomposes to ammonia.  Children with autism have been found to have high levels of ammonia in their bodies – ammonia depletes vital molecules in the brain necessary for brain neurons to function normally.;


2. Melamine:  The fire retardant resin is produced with formaldehyde and impregnated into textile fabrics etc., to create the fire retardant properties. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, and also a developmental toxin. Studies further show that when applied prenatally, formaldehyde creates developmental toxicity, by breaking DNA, as well as causing maternal toxicity.


3. Vinylidene Chloride is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the EPA.. According to the EPA, it damages the central nervous system, leading to “symptoms of inebriation, convulsions, spasms, and unconsciousness, and respiratory effects, such as inflammation of mucous membranes.”



How to Avoid All Fire Retardants From Mattresses:


Buy Organic Mattresses, which contain only wool, organic cotton, natural rubber or innersprings.  This one step will immediately remove exposure to fire retardants and other toxic chemicals used in conventional mattresses.  Not only will the child’s mattress be free of these chemicals, but so will your own bed for your own health, and those times when a child shares your bed.


Exposure from Upholstered Furniture.


Several years later, the CPSC also issued a Preliminary Risk Assessment of Flame Retardant Chemicals in Upholstered Furniture Foam, discussing only four of the many toxic fire retardants in use.  Just from one of these few chemicals alone, the CPSC expressed that upholstered furniture alone represented an “appreciable health risk to consumers,” especially children as to both CANCER, and non-cancer chronic health effects.


The finding should not have been surprising.  Years earlier, the CPSC years had already issued an assessment of the health effects of use of fire retardant chemicals as surface treatments on furniture fabric.  In other words, the danger to human health is not just in the treated foam, but also in the upholstery fabrics.  These chemicals according to the CPSC present an “appreciable health risk to consumers.”  Note that these treated fabrics are then used in curtains, bedding and accessories, only further compounding the amount of chemicals in a home and the health dangers related thereto.


Two of the several fire retardants the CPSC specifically intended to study were Tris (also known as TDCP) and FireMaster 550, a blend of various chemicals, including phosphates, “proprietary” brominated aryl esters and other “proprietary” chemicals that are concealed by the manufacturer.  In the end, the CPSC only legitimately was able to render an assessment of Tris.   Because of the way fire-retardant manufacturers hide their ingredients as “proprietary” information, the CPSC could not even genuinely assess the health effects of most of what it was attempting to assess.  Thus, for example, the CPSC admitted that where Fire Master 550 was concerned there was “No toxicological data on the mixture is available.”  In other words, taking into account just ONE of the fire retardants in use, already exceeded safety limits for cancer and other health effects.


Tris is not a new chemical.  In 1977, the CPSC banned the use of Tris as a flame-retardant in kids pajamas as a result of carcinogenicity (only to see its use continue not only in upholstered furniture, mattresses etc., but also secretly reappear on other children’s goods).  Where it came to TRIS or TDCP, the CPSC noted that it is a “probable human carcinogen” and “also induces non-cancer chronic health effects.”  The CPSC found that “TDCP in some upholstered furniture could pose an appreciable health risk to consumers.”


The CPSC estimated, in what many would no doubt say was a truly conservative estimate during the Bush Administration, that for adults the “cancer risk for a lifetime of exposure to TDCP-treated upholstered furniture was 140 per million,” meaning for every million people who sit on the family couch, 140 of them will get CANCER just from the simple activity.  Sitting on the family couch is apparently a high-risk activity.


In children, the risk was 7 per million in two years – meaning for every 2 year period a kid over one is exposed to ONE fire-retardant treated product, from his family sofa, an additional 7 per million of those children will get cancer.  There are over 75 Million children in the U.S. according to the last Census, so there would be an additional 525 cases of cancer in children for every two years of merely sitting on a sofa for 3 hours a day?


According to the CPSC, cancer risk of more than 1 in a million “represents an appreciable risk to consumers” and warrants government intervention as a “chronic hazard” to public health.


With respect to non-cancer long term health effects, such as might be implicated in developmental problems, asthma, allergies, etc., exposure in kids likewise exceeded the safety limit.  For adults, the CPSC conservative estimate put the exposure at close to the safety limit.  Note that the assessment itself only took into account the family couch, and not all the other exposures also present in a home, such as the mattress, draperies, carpet, wall coverings, electronics, baby products, toys etc.,


With respect to Tris, most of the exposure occurred merely from skin contact with a FR treated surface, but the highest exposure came when a liquid was spilled on the surface of the foam product. Hand to mouth contact after touching the surface and putting fingers in the mouth was the next most significant route of exposure.  As to the mysterious Fire-Master, hidden under its manufacturers proprietary information, the CPSC found that inhalation of fumes from the product amounted to about 50% of the exposure in kids, and 38% in adults (kids breath more).


Buy An Organic Couch:  There are indeed organic couches on the market, made with natural rubber instead of foam, and wool instead of fire retardants.


Phthalates In Personal Care, Vinyl Etc.,


Phthalates are another category of chemicals implicated in Autism, and other disorders.  Phthalates are used to stabilize plastics, but are also included under the term “fragrance” in personal care products to hold the scents. Although recent legislation has tried to address phthalates in certain children’s plastic products, their undisclosed use in personal care and adult products used by kids means the exposures are still commonplace.


In a 2009 study by Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the CDC, 400 women in there third trimesters were tested for phthalates in their urine.  The study found that higher concentrations of prenatal exposure to phthalates was associated with impaired social skills characteristic of autism by age 8 (date of measurement).  Phthalates interfere with hormone-sensitive aspects of neurodevelopment.



In a 2009 Swedish study, researchers found that children living in homes with vinyl or PVC floors were 5 TIMES MORE LIKELY to have autism than those who did not.         The autistic children’s’ homes were also more likely to contain

“condensation on the inside of the windows, which…may be seen as an indicator for deficient ventilation.”  Vinyl flooring is known to emit phthalates, chemicals used to soften plastics.



In a 2010 study by researchers from Mount Sinai and the CDC, the researchers found that “prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors has the potential to impact early brain development. Neurodevelopmental toxicity in utero may manifest as psychosocial deficits later in childhood.”  Exposure to phthalates during pregnancy, as measured by pregnant mothers urine, led to social impairment later in life.



Phthalates notoriously interfere with male hormones, and thus, are particularly problematic for boys, which tellingly comprise the vast majority of those affected by autism.



*  Avoid all personal care products, including creams/lotions/ointments, body washes, perfumes, room sprays, etc., that list “fragrance” on the label.  This is not only for children’s products, but the products you use yourself, which will inevitably come off on the child when you touch him/her, or through inhalation off of you. Choosing USDA organic products made with essential oils for scents will avoid phthalates.



Avoid vinyl in flooring, mattress pads, shower curtains, swim toys, or anything else that has that characteristic “plastic” PVC smell.



Heavy Metals & Solvents Around the Birth Home


Research from the California Department of Health Services involving nearly 1000 children in the San Francisco Bay Area found an association between autism and the presence of heavy metals and solvents at the birth residence.  These metals included mercury, cadmium, and nickel.


The solvents included trichloroethylene, used a paint remover, spot removers, carpet-cleaning fluids, and varnishes, as well as a metal cleaner from nearby factories, and vinyl chloride, used to make PVC plastic and vinyl products.


*  Avoid brining chemicals into the home, particularly in carpet cleaners, spot cleaners, and wood treatments.   These are serious chemicals.  Either invest in a steam cleaner, or use USDA certified organic cleaners, as well as such natural antibacterial/antifungal treatments as lemon juice, tea tree oil, castile soaps, oregano oil, or even hydrogen peroxide.



Not All Chickens Are Created Equal: Conventional Chickens Fed Antibiotics Carry More Dangerous Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Than Even Newly Organic Chickens. (The Same Might Be Said For The People Who Eat Them?)

Ask almost anyone even modestly familiar with organics (or any mom) and they can probably point you to the list of dirty dozen in fruits and vegetables that are best bought organic because of high pesticide content.  Milk is another big ticket item in terms of consumer awareness, with buyers more often choosing organic to avoid unwanted growth hormones like rBGH and antibiotics.

But what about chickens?  When the conventional wisdom is that a skinless chicken breast is a health food, how healthy is that food exactly when it’s in fact raised conventionally?

Conventional chickens, no differently than conventional cows, are indeed raised with antibiotics in their feed, often times as a preventative measure to counteract the confined quarters these chickens are raised in on big factory farms.  These antibiotics in turn create antibiotic resistant bacteria that contaminates their housing, bodies, litter, feed and water, and then quite logically your kitchen counter, hands, sink and even your family, if any of you should handle these surfaces or consume undercooked chicken.  According to the USDA, most foodborne illness outbreaks are a result of contamination from those preparing or handling the raw food.

A new study released in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that 42% of one type of dangerous bacteria, known as E. Faecalis, from conventional poultry houses was multi-drug resistant, meaning the superbugs were resistant to at least three (3) types of antibiotics, such as erythromycin etc.,.  On the other hand, poultry farms that had just RECENTLY begun to convert to organic showed only 10% prevalence of the antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Even more staggeringly, 84% — meaning NEARLY ALL — of a second resistant superbug known as E. faceium found in the same conventional chicken farm houses were indeed antibiotic resistant to multiple drugs, including to such antibiotics as Cipro, Penicillin and Tetracycline.  In comparison only 17% of bacteria retrieved from newly organic chicken houses contained these harmful resistant strains.

Note that in the study the farms in the comparison group had only recently gone organic – they were not farms that had maintained organic farming principles from the very beginning, or for a prolonged period — meaning that even though these farms had been conventional and only recently adopted organic principles, the immediate benefits in terms of a dramatic reduction in antibiotic resistant bacteria was evident.  Indeed the difference from 84% to 17% incidence is not only a 67% decrease in the prevalence of antibiotic resistant superbugs, but in other words, an organic chicken breast is 5 times less likely to bring in dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria into your home, and, thus, inside your family’s stomachs.   The statistics can only be expected to be even more compelling when you compare long-established organic as opposed to recent converts.

There is another point not worth mentioning.  Organic chickens that are raised “free-range” don’t spend long periods in cramped quarters standing in their own droppings like conventional birds, and thus, there just isn’t the same need for antibiotics.  Moreover, because they spend their lives in confined filthy quarters, conventional birds are indeed considerably more likely to come covered in their-own antibiotic resistant superbugs.  An organic free range bird on the other hand is supposed to have regular access to the outdoors (although the amount and quality of outdoor spaces vary dramatically depending on whether we are talking about small scale family organic farms or corporate factory farms, see earlier post:Not All Eggs Are Created Equal).  In any case, even with large-scale corporate factory farms, there is still some benefit as compared to conventional farms, in terms of confinement and thus, antibiotic-resistant bacteria exposure.  In other words, organic chickens aren’t as subject to the contamination problems because they don’t stand for prolonged periods in their own feces.  Moreover, organic chicken tends to be a lot less fatty as a result.

Studies have also found that chicken eggs from such free range birds, as opposed to conventionally raised chickens, have twice as much vitamin E, more than double the Omega-3’s, less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3fatty acids and 38% higher concentration of Vitamin A. In other words, raising chickens with organic principles brings numerous significant health benefits.

The organic chicken breast clearly wins out as a public health matter on many accounts. In some sense, what an organic piece of meat brings into your home is at least 5x better than what a conventional bird brings in.

Indeed, the recent study concluded that even large-scale chicken farms transitioning to organic decreased the incidence of antibiotic resistant superbugs dramatically, and did so remarkably quickly to boot.  (See Sapoka et al., Lower Prevalence of Antibiotic-resistant Enterococci On U.S. Conventional Poultry Farms That Transitioned to Organic Practices. Environ Health Perspect August 2011).

Change does not have to be incremental.  Buying organic can make an immediate and overwhelming difference for the environment and human health.

Not All Organic Eggs Are Created Equal.

You might presume that so long as you are buying eggs labeled “USDA Organic” at your local Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or other health food market, you are indeed getting much the same thing no matter the exact brand.  However, as with previous scorecards concerning milk and dairy,  the Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting true organic, family-farming released a scorecard showing that some of the biggest names in Organic Eggs are not living up to what might be presumed by the public to be true organic farming standards.  While under the scorecard, their are over 38 organic farms in the US producing USDA organic eggs with the top-rated 5 egg standard, there are over 33 others who produce their USDA Organic eggs on industrial-sized factory farms in which the chickens are stockpiled indoors in close quarters, as opposed to allowed free access to open pastures, leading to possible questions as to how they can be differentiated in this respect from their notorious counterparts on non-organic factory farms (See e.g, Food Inc). 


With respect to the top tier, the 38 top organic farms allowed their hens access to genuine pastures on smaller scale family-owned farms (meaning no-factory, corporate owned, industrial sized farms).   The top organic eggs came from Lazy 69 Ranch in California, with Coon Creek in Wisconsin, Kingbird Farm in NY, Krause Farm in Michigan, Neversink in NY, and Organic Pastures from California coming in second to sixth respectively.   For those residing in California, where GreenCradle is located, the top California based farms from the top tier 5 Egg Standard consisted of:  Lazy 69, Organic Pastures, Alexandre Kids, Amsterdam Organics, Full Circle Dairy, and St. John Family Farm.


Other more famous names such as Organic Valley and Clover actually got “Three Eggs,” meaning they fell under the third tier, which while still listed as good, is a considerable drop from the five egg standard awarded to over 38 farms, plus the four that received 4 Eggs in the Second Tier. 


Why only 3 Eggs for Clover and Organic Valley?  Its hard to tell exactly from the scorecard, as the nine farms in the third tier apparently suffer from variable drawbacks, at least in comparison to the farms in the first two tiers.  Thus, Cornucopia notes that while some of the nine farms in the third tier, do use family-sized farms, others clearly are “larger-scale farms” with some of these larger scale farms apparently only in the stages of having their meaningful outdoor space “under construction.”  As for the smaller family-scale operations that still end up in the Third Tier, it would appear that the difference is that they provide “outdoor runs for their chickens” as opposed to the First Tier farms which provide “mobile housing on well-managed and ample pasture or in fixed housing with intensively managed rotated pasture,” and the second tier farms, which provide “ample outdoor space and make an effort to encourage their birds to go outside…often either rotated pasture or well-managed outdoor runs with an adequate number of popholes/doors for the chickens to reach the outdoors.” 


Thus, by deduction, it would appear that Clover and Organic Valley at best use outdoor runs for chickens with questionable access points to the outdoors, or use larger scaled non-family owned farms (meaning corporate farms) where only the “minimum outdoor space” is provided or, worse yet, where meaningful space is only now being constructed.


As for the bottom tier, consisting of the 33 farms given the ONE EGG Rating, including Chino Valley Ranchers (who are now prominently selling Organic Soy Free Omega 3 Eggs, Eggology (makers of the well known egg whites in a plastic container), Horizon, Eggland’s Best etc.,  their problems would seem to render them as having more in common with conventional farming principles than genuine organic ones.  These farms use “industrial-scale egg operations that grant no meaningful outdoor access…mean[ing] a covered porch that is barely accessible to the chickens” and small exits that intentionally keep the birds from going outside, as well as refusing to provide access to their facilities, which undermines the transparency that is “viewed as the hallmark of the organic food movement.”


With respect to fifteen Private Labels, such as 365 Organic, Trader Joes Organic, O Organic by Safeway, Great Value by Walmart, and Kirkland Signature for Costco, the Scorecard gives them  the lowest one egg rating as well, noting that the makers fail to disclose the true farms that produce these eggs, with the “vast majority” secretly using “industrial farms that house hundreds of thousands of birds and do not grant the birds meaningful outdoor access.”


For a full list of the Cornucopia Score Card for Organic Eggs, see here.


For their ScoreCard on Dairy, including milk, cheese, butter, ice cream and yogurt, see


Eating fresh foods with limited packaging for just a few days may substantially cleanse your body of dangerous hormone disrupting chemicals.  Studies show that by avoiding plastic wrappers and plastic food containers, and eating fresh, rather than canned or frozen foods, FOR JUST THREE DAYS, people can cut their bodies levels of hormone disrupting chemicals like BPA and DHP phthalate by at least 50%-95%.  Plastic wrappers, food cans and plastic storage containers are the major source of exposure to BPA and DEHP Phthalate studies conclude.  One study published recently in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, monitored the dietary habits of 20 California families-of-four for 8 days, taking urine samples from family members, including children.  For three days in the middle of the study, families were prohibited from pursuing their normal routines of drinking from polycarbonate water bottles, storing food in plastic storage containers, microwaving food in plastic containers, using plastic utensils or non-stick cookware, and eating canned foods or frozen dinners.  The food they were permitted to eat had to be fresh rather than canned or frozen, and the only storage containers that were allowed were made from glass or stainless steel.  The results were compelling.  During the three-day break, the study found that average levels of BPA in people’s urine dropped by 66 percent, with some levels dropping by 75 percent. For DEHP, levels dropped by an average of more than 50 percent, and as high as 95 percent.  The study concluded that food packaging constituted the main source of exposure to toxic BPA and DEHP chemicals, both of which are known hormone disruptors that have been linked to developmental and reproductive problems, diabetes, obesity, as well as cancers, heart disease and more.  (See Rudel et al., Food Packaging and Bisphenol A.. Environ. Health Perspectives 2011) .


I.  Cleaning is Bad for Your Body.


YOUR MOTHER WAS WRONG: cleanliness is not next to godliness.  


In fact, it appears more often than not, clean may be far worse for your health than merely filthy.  More than just a good excuse for not cleaning more often, however, are the startling facts behind why a more spic-and-span home may be a bona-fide liability from a family health standpoint, particularly where it comes to cancer, asthma, and allergies. 


For one, a mom’s steadfast dedication to cleanliness in her home may be as carcinogenic as smoking inside of it.  In fact, studies have shown that housewives have a 55% greater risk of developing cancer compared to women who work outside of the home.  The conclusion is that exposure to household cleaners routinely filled with carcinogens may account for the dramatically higher rates of cancers among homemakers. (See W.E. Morton, Further Investigation of Housewife Cancer Mortality Risk, Women and Health, 1982, 7:43-51; Dr. D.A. Sterling, Comparison of Risk of Chronic Conditions and Cancer Between Homemakers and Otherwise Employed Women, National Center for Health Statistics Conference, Washington, DC, July 15, 1991). 


Studies have also found that breast cancer risk DOUBLED in those women who used the most cleaning products as compared to those who used less.  (Zota et al.,Self-Reported chemicals Exposure” Environmental Health 2010, 9:40). 


Likewise, published European studies have determined that “children coming from cleaner homes might be more likely to develop asthma” by nearly DOUBLE. The study concluded that expectant mothers who used a lot of household cleaning products during pregnancy, and shortly after birth, increased the risk of their child developing asthma.  In fact, children exposed to these cleaning products had up to a 41 percent increase in the risk of persistent wheezing by age of seven, as well as impaired lung function.




II.  Ordinary and Green Household Cleaners Pollute Indoor Air and Lead to Disease.


            A cleaner home may, in fact, be one of the most toxic environments to spend your day in, more toxic than an office building or anywhere outdoors in the most industrialized city even if you are using so-called Green or Eco-Friendly cleaning products in your home. 


            According to the EPA, ordinary “cleaning, disinfecting…[and] degreasing” products are known to emit dangerous “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)” that turn into toxic gasses in our homes during use and even during storage in closed containers. A can or bottle in a cupboard may be the equivalent of a small smokestack puffing out carcinogenic fumes, like formaldehyde and benzene, that seep into your air from the cracks under your kitchen sink and the gaps in your cupboards.   A dose a day adds up, particularly when you account for how much time is spent inside of your actual home.


             EPA studies have found that VOC pollutants emitted from ordinary household products can “average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors” and “for several hours immediately after certain activities” can exceed up to 1000 times outdoor toxin levels.


            Because ventilation is far worse indoors than outdoors obviously, this means your chances of exposure to dangerous pollutants, reproductive and developmental toxins, allergens and known carcinogens is far greater INSIDE of your home than outside of it – a fact that is recognized by our own government.

Most of the toxins you will be exposed to in your lifetime will come from your own carefully selected home products.


            What are the possible health effects of exposure to cleaning chemicals in the home?  The EPA itemizes a significant list of harms from indoor exposure to VOCs from everyday household products.  In addition to CANCER in humans and animals, asthma, and cold and flu-like symptoms, according to the EPA, other health problems stemming from exposure to household cleaning chemicals include:


i)             Eye, nose, and throat irritation;

ii)            Headaches,

iii)           Loss of coordination,          

iv)           Nausea;

v)            Damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system…          

vi)           Allergic skin reaction (otherwise known as Eczema),

vii)         Dyspnea (difficulty breathing),

viii)        Declines in serum cholinesterase levels (nerves can not send signals),

ix)           Emesis (Vomiting),

x)            Epistaxis (Nosebleeds),

xi)           Fatigue

xii)         Dizziness . . .

xiii)        Visual disorders

xiv)        Memory impairment.”



            Many people, including children, may suffer from such symptoms and yet never be able to trace them back to the everyday chemicals that have been used in their homes for years, if not a combination of them. 


III.        What Sort of Chemicals Are in Brand-Name Cleaning Products?


            Turn the label on your cleaning product and you are unlikely to find anything that makes you nervous or angry.  The terms will be generic and vague.  Cleaning products very often fail to disclose the complete ingredients list, relying instead on hidden, loaded terms such as “odor neutralizers” and “non-ionic cleansers” and “plant derived surfactants” plus, blanket warnings concerning poisoning and proper disposal, as if this is a sufficient warning for families about everyday chemical exposure.  (This is fully legal, by the way: no disclosure is necessary. In addition, the government does not require companies to test cleaning products for safety before sending them out to store shelves.)


            To be fair, most people have become desensitized to “poison” warnings, assuming that the products are healthy and safe just as long as you use them according to the label, rather than say drink them straight out of the bottle.  The sad reality is this couldn’t be further from the truth. 


            As the EPA itself confirms, ordinary household products used as directed on the product label spread toxic chemicals around your household surfaces and into your indoor air.  Children, pets, and we ourselves then absorb these chemicals not only be inhalation from fumes (masked as pine or lemon or spring breezes), but also absorption through mere skin contact, as well as oral ingestion (after we or our kids touch a cleaned floor or counter and then put our hands in our mouth; eat from a plate from the dishwasher; use a scrubbed bathtub or sink; or consume a meal from a cleaned oven or microwave, not to mention smell our “fresh” laundry scent coming from our laundry room or from our clothes as we wear them all day long etc.,).  The chemicals, as mentioned, are even spewed into indoor air while standing in CLOSED containers in cabinets.  It goes without saying that chemicals quite easily escape plastic bottles; a plastic cap does not trap carcinogens (if they did then disposal in landfills wouldn’t be a soil and water pollution problem – and it is).  Once loose in our homes, VOCs also easily penetrate into the nasal passages and often into the skin, and get into the brain, as well as store themselves long term in body fat.  (Ergo, the more body fat, the more storage space for built-in, lingering carcinogens and toxins).  Because children have less developed elimination systems, and breath more air than adults, studies have repeatedly shown they tend to absorb the highest doses of toxic chemicals inside their own homes – sometimes nearly 3 times that of their parents.  (See e.g., Lunder, Significantly Higher Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether Levels in Young U.S. Children than in Their Mothers, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2010, 44 (13), pp 5256–5262).


            For example, laboratory tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group, a environmental non-profit, found numerous undisclosed carcinogens, including FORMALDEHYDE, BENZENE and CHLOROFORM, in popular brand-name cleaning products commonly used around children in homes, not to mention also in schools, compounding the daily toxic dose, including the following:


            • COMET DISINFECTANT CLEANSER Tests found it released 146 Air Contaminants, MORE THAN ANY OTHER PRODUCT TESTED, even though only 6 ingredients were actually disclosed on the product label, including:


            Seven Chemicals on California’s Prop 65 List as Known to Cause Cancer and Reproductive Toxicity, as well as hormone disruptors, reproductive toxins, asthmagens, allergens, brain and nervous system toxins:


(i)            FORMALDEHYDE, (a chemical known to cause cancer under CA law; a known human carcinogen under the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); a known human system toxin under the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); known human respiratory toxin per the EPA; studies show as a reproductive/developmental toxin, asthmagen, and allergen),

(i)            TOLUENE, (carcinogen, reproductive/developmental toxin, neurotoxin allergen)

(ii)          ACETALDEHYDE, (carcinogen by Prop 65 law; known human respiratory toxin according to the EPA; known human immune system toxin per the National Library of Medicine of the NIH);)

(iii)         CHLOROFORM, (carcinogen, reproductive/developmental toxin, neurotoxin allergen, used to render people unconscious)

(iv)         BENZENE, (carcinogen, reproductive/developmental toxin, neurotoxin allergen, linked to leukemia in children)

(v)          1-CHLORO-2,3-EPOXYPROPANE  (this petroleum based chemical is listed as a known human immune system toxin per the National Library of Medicine of the NIH; Proposition 65 states that there is strong evidence it is a reproductive toxin; the European Commission on Hormone Disruptors provides there is strong evidence it is a human endocrine disruptor; the EPA, the IARC, the National Toxicology Program of the NIH and the California EPA, the European Union, and Canada, all list it as a possible carcinogen.  It is also designated as a known human respiratory toxin in accordance with the EPA’s regulation of Hazardous Air Pollutants).

(vi)         N-ETHYL-N-NITROSO-ETHANAMINE  (reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen under the National Toxicology Program of the NIH; probable human carcinogen per the EPA, and Cal Prop 65 law; toxic under the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory; mutagenic to DNA;



            • FEBREZE – Tests Found 89 Air Pollutants, even though the label read only “Odor eliminator, water, fragrance, non-flammable natural propellant, quality control ingredients, including:

(i)            ACETALHYDE  (a chemical known to cause cancer under California Law, Prop 65; a known human respiratory toxin according to the EPA; ; known human immune system toxin per the National Library of Medicine);

(ii)          BHT (a neurotoxin and hormone disruptor) and

(iii)         ETHYL ACETATE (a chemical toxic to the brain and nervous system).



            •  PINE-SOL BRAND CLEANER – Tests found 18 Air Contaminants, even though only 4 ingredients disclosed on product label, including:


(i)            FORMALDEHYDE, (carcinogen under CA law, reproductive/developmental toxin, asthmagen, and allergen),

(ii)          1,3-DICHLORO-2-PROPANOL (evidence of carcinogenicity and mutagenicity)

(iii)         ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL (brain and nervous system toxin)


            • CLOROX BLEACHTests found it released 8 Air Pollutants, although the label disclosed only one ingredient, including


(i)                 N,N-DIMETHYLFORMAMIDE (a hormone disruptor and chemical toxin to the brain and nervous system)

(ii)               1,3-DICHLORO-2-PROPANOL (mutagenic and evidence of carcinogenicity)

(iii)             DIETHYLCARBAMOYL CHLORIDE (evidence of carcinogenicity and classified as irritant by European Union).



IV.       Green Cleaners Still Have Toxic Chemicals Known To Cause Cancer In Them


            Many consumers seek out “green” and “eco-friendly” cleaners precisely to avoid toxic chemicals in their homes.  The cost of these cleaners is usually higher, but people are willing to pay the increased cost in pursuit of greater health for their families.  The sad reality is that with the exception of genuine USDA certified organic cleaners – which are few and far between – the vast majority of products claiming to be green, eco-friendly and/or natural still contain chemicals, toxins and carcinogens.  As “green” products have become more in vogue, manufacturers have merely repackaged their products and slapped a green label on them, if not an empty certification, even while continuing to use known carcinogens, such as Formaldehyde.


            For example, EWG studies found that green cleaners contained undisclosed known carcinogens, immune system and respiratory toxins, skin toxins etc, including:


            • SIMPLE GREEN CONCENTRATED CLEANER –  the supposedly “green” product released 93 Air Contaminants, second only to COMET CLEANER, even though no ingredients were disclosed on the label, including:


            (i)         FORMALDEHYDE, (a chemical known to cause cancer under CA law; a known human carcinogen under the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); a known human system toxin under the National Library of Medicine; known human respiratory toxin under the EPA; reproductive/developmental toxin, asthmagen, and allergen),

(i)            ACETALHYDE  (a chemical designated as known to cause cancer under California Law, Prop 65; a known human respiratory toxin according to the EPA; known human immune system toxin per the National Library of Medicine);

(ii)          ALLYLANISOLE (a chemical known to cause cancer under California Law – contains BENZENE)

(iii)         PHENOL (Known human respiratory toxin per the EPA; neurotoxin, developmental/reproductive toxin; hormone disruptor)

(iv)         2-BUTOXYETHANOL (This primary ingredient in Simple Green is a possible human carcinogen specifically prohibited in certified green products).


            • WAXIE GREEN FLOOR POLISH – the product label states it is certified green by ECOLOGO, while displaying a green leaf pattern that is meant to assure the consumer that they are indeed buying a clean green product.  However, notwithstanding the claims of greenness, tests found that the product contained 58 Air Contaminants, even though NONE were disclosed on the label, including:


(i)            ACETALHYDE  (a chemical designated as known to cause cancer under California Law, Prop 65; a known human respiratory toxin according to the EPA; known human immune system toxin per the National Library of Medicine);

(ii)          METHYL METHACRYLATE (a known human immune system toxin according to the National Library of Medicine; a known human respiratory toxin according to the EPA; chemical known to be toxic to the brain and nervous system).


            • ALPHA HP MULTISURFACE CLEANER – even though the product carries the GREEN SEAL certification, tests detected 6 Air Pollutants, including:



            (i)         TOLUENE – a chemical designated by the State of California to be a known Carcinogen; reproductive toxin; toxic to brain and nervous system; human developmental toxin; known human respiratory toxin per the EPA; human irritant; skin irritant)



            As for big name brands such as SEVENTH GENERATION, taking a look at their ingredients labels reveal a whole host of assorted chemicals, including petroleum based chemicals, although the main ingredient is surprisingly WATER.  For example, the Seventh Generation Natural All-Purpose Cleaner indeed contains Seven disclosed chemicals, as well as a nifty disclaimer that  states “Trace materials are commonly present in cleaning product ingredients.”  You might wonder what sorts of “trace materials” they are referring to but not openly disclosing?  Could they be carcinogenic Nitrosamines?


(i)            WATER–  Water may not be toxic, but as the first ingredient on the label of a cleaner, this means that there is by far more water in this product than anything else.  In fact, from the MSDS, it would appear the product is at least 2/3rds water.  Water is not a disinfectant of course, but it is cheap.  To the contrary, it’s a great medium for bacteria and fungus to grow in – which is why both favor the shower.  In other words, this costly $4.00 bottle is made mostly of tap water.

(ii)          LAURAMINE OXIDE – the label explains this is a “plant-derived cleaning agent” but that is not the full story.  Lauramine Oxide is a tertiary amine oxide, a derivative of AMMONIA, a known human respiratory toxin.  Lauramine Oxide has been found to be a primary skin irritant in humans.  It is also indeed a precursor to Nitrosamines. (See Hair and Hair Care, Cosmetic Science and Technology 17 (Dekker) 1997).  In other words Nitrosamines are a contaminant that is created during manufacturing of Lauramine Oxide.  Nitrosamines are considered to be possible human carcinogens by the EPA, the IARC and the National Toxicology Program of the NIH.  California Prop 65 considers there to be strong evidence that Nitrosamines indeed cause cancer.  So the “trace materials” warning may be a legal way to cover the Company without disclosing what exactly they may not want you to “trace” back to their products.

(iii)         METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE – this is an actual Pesticide that is registered and controlled by the EPA.  It is an antimicrobial agent that is a “Known human immune system toxin” according to the National Library of Medicine of the NIH.  Lab studies on the brains of mammals have also shown it to be neurotoxic.  There is also strong evidence according to the CIR that it is a skin toxin, and causes allergic reactions. According to the EPA,  “It is highly acutely toxic when applied dermally or to the eye and is considered to be corrosive.” It is also toxic to ocean life, and so not all that environmentally friendly.

(iv)         BENZISOTHIAZOLINONE  — this is another chemical Pesticide registered with the EPA. It is a “Known human immune system toxin” according to the National Library of Medicine of the NIH (that makes two in one product). Studies have found it to be Mutagenic, meaning causing DNA damage in humans, as well as a primary human skin irritant.  In fact, in the European Union, it is classified as an irritant.  It is also highly toxic to fish, sea life, and ocean plants.


 In effect, products that are often touted as the leaders in natural/green household cleaners may in fact be filled with toxic chemicals nonetheless.



IV.       How to Truly Clean Without Chemicals


            The fact that cleaning-as-usual represents a high-risk activity in terms of chemical exposure, of course, does not mean that you cannot rid your household effectively of germs without introducing toxic chemicals into your home.


            The most obvious solution is to choose cleaning products that are USDA Certified Organic, meaning they are certified to contain only ingredients that are allowed in organic foods under the National Organic Program.  Like organic meat and vegetables and dairy products to qualify for the USDA organic seal, a cleaning product needs to contain no toxic chemicals pursuant to Federal Law.  Note that the word “organic” itself, without the USDA certification is NOT sufficient.  In fact, the term “organic” is overwhelmingly abused on most non-food products, including cleaning and personal care items.  If you don’t see the USDA Organic seal, you need to investigate why, because in most cases you will find chemicals that are not allowed in organic products under federal law.


            USDA Organic cleaning products will most likely include Saponified Liquid Soaps, also known as Castile Soap, which can be used to wash dishes, clean laundry, and clean surfaces.  Soap and hot water indeed clean many pathogens. 


            There are also USDA Organic Multi-Purpose Cleaners that rely on Vinegar, Lavender, Lemon, Baking Soda, Nettle and Peppermint.   In addition, other cleaning products known to kill bacteria and viruses, include Vinegar, Tea Tree Oils (anti-fungal and antibacterial), Lemon, Rosemary and, of course, Alcohol. 


            Although not organic, hydrogen peroxide is another alternative. 


            However, at the other end of the spectrum, there is also another extremely impressive alternative in the form of certain patented TANCS steam cleaners that use nothing but tap water and have been proven in studies to kill germs BETTER than chemicals.


V.        Steam Cleaner With Patented Tancs Technology Kills Better Than Detergents, Soap, Bleach Or Regular Steam Cleaning (But Without Any Chemicals)


            Steam Cleaners built with patented TANCS technology are not anything like the steam cleaners you might routinely find at Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond or Target.  Rather, the TANCS system of steam cleaners represents Patented Technology whose novelty and scientifically-proven efficacy have been verified by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  This is no small seal of approval.  Very few technologies are novel enough or can be scientifically proven effective enough to meet the heavy burden necessary to satisfy Federal Patent Law.   


            Reading through the Patent itself reveals that the TANCS technology kills bacteria, molds, viruses, spores, fungi, dust mites, biofilm etc., BETTER than conventional detergents, toxic bleach, soap, or any regular steam cleaner.  This means that ordinary tap water can be made to be MORE effective than chemicals when it comes to killing germs, deodorizing and disinfecting.  In fact, the technology is so effective that it is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a disinfection device.  This means the same technology that you can use to clean germs in your home is even strong enough for sanitizing and deodorizing hospitals, medical offices, laboratories, nursing homes, and emergency vehicles.


            The technology is truly invaluable for those of us who have long sought a way to clean effectively while avoiding chemicals.  It is also a real win for the environment and human-health at the same time.


            Using only ordinary tap water without the use of ANY CHEMICALS, the technology causes invisible crystals to form on tap water — crystals that disrupt the protective envelopes that surround germs, allowing the steam to penetrate their covering and get directly at the heart of the germs, killing them. Tap water passes through a boiler with metal plates that changes the crystal structure of the minerals in the tap water, energizing them, so to speak – the steam can then penetrate the protective jacket around germs that allows them to attach to surfaces and replicate.  The TANCS steam can not only destroy microorganisms, but also prevent the growth and multiplication of future organisms – because new germs cannot easily attach to the energized crystal structure of the minerals in the TANCS water, new organisms and biofilms are discouraged from growing.  


            Regular steam cleaning alone, of the sort found in the Shark or Hoover Steam Cleaner or the Bissel Steam Mop system etc.,, cannot penetrate this protective germ membrane anywhere even close to as effectively (as patent studies discussed below demonstrate).  TANCS technology uses regular cold tap water (not the bottled water that is required for some steam systems), and the machine uses the hard water minerals in the tap water plus heat to kill germs literally within a few seconds.  What sorts of germs?


            Laboratory testing has found that TANCS kills MRSA to 99.9999 percent within 5 seconds, trumping anything chemicals can achieve.  MRSA is the superbug STAPH infection that is resistant to antibiotics, and includes the flesh-eating bacteria that has been much publicized recently.  In addition, recent lab testing has confirmed that TANCS kills Pneumonia causing bacteria.


            Not only is the TANCS technology so effective that is even registered with the EPA as a disinfection device, but the technology has even been lauded in published articles, like in the American Journal of Infection Control, which noted that the TANC technology killed bacteria in only 5 seconds. Here is the abstract to the published article:   


            Moreover, Patent records from the United States Patent and Trademark Office reveal the technology’s extraordinary capabilities at destroying bacteria, STAPH infections, ECOLI, Yeast, Salmonella, Viruses, Mold etc., 


            In Example 1 from the Patent, tap water was sprayed on one side of a shower curtain, while the other side of the curtain was sprayed with tap water that came OUT from the TANCS steam cleaner (meaning tap water that had gone through the boiler, had its minerals energized, and came out of the nozzle as steam).  After 24 hours, the side of the curtain with the tap water had millions of micro-organisms growing on it (because micro-organisms are in the water that comes out of the tap, and need water to live and multiply, plus are dispersed to surfaces in the air and by touch), while the side sprayed from the TANC cleaner had NONE detected. The results are staggering.  The TANCS boiler kill the millions of micro-organisms, rendering new meaning to the term “cleaning house.”


            Example 2 from the Patent: Testers put the following bacteria and fungi on a clay tile:


(i)            Two types of Staph infections (staph epidermidis, which is antibiotic resistant, and S. Aureus, which is the most common staph skin infection),

(ii)          E Coli

(iii)         Psuedonomas Aeroginosa bacteria, (

(iv)         Salmonella Cholearsis from SWINE

(v)          Listeria — (food borne illness)

(vi)         E. Faecium — meningitis bacteria, and

(vii)        C. Albicans, otherwise known as a yeast infection.


            Putting all these bacterial contaminants/pathogens together on the same clay tile, the testers applied the nozzle of the TANCS machine with a towel for either 7 seconds or 10 seconds, and here is the percentage of the bacteria/fungi killed:


            • S. Aureus: 99.89% (7 Seconds) and 99.999996% (10 seconds)

            • Staph Epidemidis: 99.999991 (7 seconds enough)

            • Salmonella Cholearsis (from Swine): 99.9999993 (7 seconds was enough)

            • P. Aeroginosa: 99.999994 (7 seconds enough)

            • E.Coli: 99.999994 (7 seconds enough)

            • Listeria: 99.99966 (7 secs) and 99.999978 (10 secs)

            • E. Faecium: 99.999995 (7 seconds enough)

            • Candida Albicans (yeast): 99.999993 (7 seconds enough).   


 In short, the TANCS technology killed nearly 100% of every single bacteria and fungus tested with just a few seconds of one-time application, including STAPH infections, E-COLI, SALMONELA, YEAST, LISTERIA and SWINE infections.  


            Example 3 from Patent — MOLD: Testers put fungus, otherwise known as MOLD, on a wet carpet treated with dust for 24 hours, then 7 days, and finally 30 days.  Three cleaning methods were then applied to the mold on the carpet.  The first was conventional chemical detergent and hot water.  The second with high flow pressure and hot water, otherwise known as a regular steam cleaner.  And the third was the steam cleaner with the TANCS technology.


            • The TANCS removed 99% of the mold/fungi after 24 hours, then 92% after 7 days of mold growth, and 99% after 30 days of growth.

            •The detergent and hot water combo only killed 81% after 24 hours, and then dropped to 60% after that.

            • The hot water and pressure (meaning the regular steam cleaner) killed 82% after 24 hours, and then dropped to just 43%.  The ordinary steam cleaner thus cleaned worse than the chemicals where it came to eradicating the mold.  BUT neither came even close to the TANCS steam cleaner’s ability to kill Mold.


            The Tanks technology removed 99+% of the mold after only one treatment, reflecting a dramatically superior success rate to even detergent and hot water or regular steam cleaning — which is precisely why it was granted the federal patent when other steam cleaners would not be.


            Example 4 of the Patent:  Assorted viruses were put on a tile (related to the Norwalk Virus, which, of course, is a notorious cause of the stomach flu).  The TANCS machine was used on the virus-contaminated tile for 7 seconds.  The results were that 0.000 of the virus was left on the tile after just 7 seconds.  The TANCS would quite literally kill the stomach flu virus from surfaces everywhere in the home, school, office, or daycare etc.  (The Patent is available for public viewing on the USPTO website).



            In a recent University of Michigan Study, TANCS even destroyed microbial BIOFILMS completely in seconds.  As opposed to individual free-floating organisms, biofilms are a collection of organisms – bacteria, fungus, viruses, protozoas —  that bind together creating a more powerful matrix or protective skin that is far more resistant to antibiotics and disinfectants.  A single bacterial organism may not be able to attach well to a surface and can be easily wiped off.  However, once a colony has formed, connecting securely to each other, the outside surface created in laying germ upon germ forges a protective film or biofilm against disinfectants and antimicrobial agents.  Biofilms can be 1000 times harder to remove than suspended microbes, and according to the National Institutes of Health are responsible for as many as 80% of infections in the body.  These infections are far more difficult for the immune system to battle off, including respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, middle ear infections, gingivitis and teeth infections, stomach infections, eyes, peritoneal membranes and infections of the heart, etc., Biofilms thus represent a significant health concern in homes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, gyms, and anywhere else where germs can band together into colonies.


            The University of Michigan study showed TANCS system rapidly destroyed highly resistant biofilms to 99.95%+ efficacy in just three seconds, and to non-detectable levels in ten seconds.  According to the study’s main scientist, TANCS was able to accomplish in a few seconds what even “strong chemical disinfectants such as bleach” could not accomplish in 20 minutes of continuous application. 




            In addition to its obvious documented superiority in actually killing germs and biofilms, how much greener can a technology be than one that spares every home the use of tons of harmful chemicals, as well as the petroleum production and disposal that is necessary for the production and storage of such cleaning chemicals?  So much emphasis is placed on plastic grocery bags affect on the environment, but what about the billions of plastic containers that are created to hold household chemicals each year?  How great would it be for the environment and human health for us to forego the production and disposal of millions of tons of hard plastics?  Furthermore, how much benefit would flow to our oceans and drinking water in not having toxic detergents and other chemicals seeping down the drain and into our water supply?


            According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average home uses nearly $700 worth of cleaning household products each year.  For many of us this is a conservative estimate, especially for homes with small children. Indeed if you have been buying so-called Green or Eco-Friendly Cleaners at $4.00 a bottle you have most likely been paying a lot more than the average household, which can get a product for a few quarters. Simple tap water can quite literally now replace  millions of tons of cleaning chemicals, many of which we know are recognized by our own government as carcinogens, developmental and reproductive toxins, allergens, and hormone disruptors. That’s the easiest fix for the environment you might ever encounter, not to mention human health care.


            Tap water can replace not one, but quite literally DOZENS of cleaning chemicals in the average American home.  The average person (not family) by some estimates uses more than 40 lbs of household chemicals each year – exposing themselves to 40 lbs of chemicals in the small confined space of their homes (that’s the size of a toxic kindergartner).  A TANCS system spares the average household the need for floor cleaners, window cleaners, bathroom and toilet cleaners, mold killers, disinfectants, carpet and upholstery cleaners, toy cleaners, dust-mite killers, oven cleaners, etc. 


            In addition, with the introduction of novel germs such as H1N1, antibiotic resistant MRSA (which is made worse by antibacterial cleaners) and resistant biofilms, as well of the hundreds of thousands of poisonings of children from household chemicals, having a patented germ killer that carries none of the dangers of chemicals and MORE proven efficacy than anything else on the market is certainly something of great value to most families.  Using less and getting more is indeed the epitome of green. 




            You might be picturing an old IBM Mainframe when thinking about all the extraordinary things TANCS steam cleaner can do.  That is far from the case.  The machine is small, easy to use, rolls behind you on wheels, comes with various optional attachments, and can reach from floor to ceiling, not to mention into crevices.  It does not expose anyone to hot water due to its novel two boiler construction, and does not require ANYTHING but tap water and an electrical plug to clean.  It produces a dry steam that disappears quickly. 


            Most importantly, you can clean an amazing breadth of surfaces and objects: textiles, carpet, upholstery, toilets, tiles, showers, bathtubs, sinks, counters, glass and mirrors, rugs, linoleum, hardwood, floor tile, mini-blinds, windows, ovens, oven racks, microwaves, refrigerators, grills, toasters and other appliances, ice makers, awnings, siding, bricks, sports equipment, upholstery, furniture, bedding, mattresses, toys, personal belongings etc…


            First hand experience has taught us it can even be used to remove the candle wax that nothing else can possibly get, not to mention get into tile grouts, dirty walls, dusty chandeliers, and mold on ceilings or windows.  You can steam a mattress free of dust-mites and bed bugs, or disinfect a pet bed in a matter of seconds (not to mention pet toys, bowls or accidents on carpets).  You can steam out your children’s stuffed animals, and  even their comforters and pillows.  You can spray a counter after cutting meat for immediate sanitization, or clean off the surfaces next to a sick person’s bed to help minimize exposure from surfaces for other family members, including babies.  You can clean a toilet seat in a fee seconds after a party or guests.  You can scrub off the kitchen table with a few bursts.  You can clean mirrors and windows and nets in seconds and watch them dry — you can even clean out your gutters or your car.  (Trust us, the machine is addictive and makes cleaning a good way for getting out your aggressions on germs).  The uses are really limitless and thrilling for those who welcome a clean home but don’t want any of the serious risks of cleaning with chemicals.


Canola Oil: Not As Organic or Natural As You Think

Many healthy and natural products in your local health food store may indeed contain canola as a main ingredient.  Everything from sauces to dressings to soups now tend to include canola oil, while espousing natural health claims.  The question is how healthy is Canola oil, or rather, what is it even?

There was no canola plant before 1974. It didn’t exist in nature, despite millions of years of evolution.  To be fair, there is really no such thing as a Canola plant today either, rather, its a Rapeseed plant.  The Rapeseed plant did not have a good reputation, indeed to the contrary, it was and is considered quite poisonous to humans and animals.  Rapeseed oils are comprised of 55% Erucic acid, which is a very toxic acid (studies have linked to heart problems, lung cancer etc,), and Canola is a Rapeseed plant that has been bred so it produces about 1% erucic acid.  Canola was man-made by scientists at a University laboratory in Canada, so that the genes in the plant were now bred to produce less of the toxic erucic acid that Rapeseed naturally produces. Another name for Canola is LEAR meaning “Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed.” You can read more in depth about it from the National Canola Growers Association, as even they admit that what they grow is just a “genetic variation of rapeseed” developed by “Dr. Baldur Stefansson, a University of Manitoba” scientist.

Here is an interesting summary of how Stefansson worked with other scientists, chemists, and plant breeders in the laboratory to create what is essentially a genetically engineered variation of the toxic rapeseed.

There is also a book called the Rape of Canola by Brewster Kneen.

After altering the rapeseed plant, Dr. Baldur Steffanson went to work for Calgene, which later became called MONSANTO.  In fact, Dr. Steffanso indeed also developed the Monsanto Round-up resistant variety of GMO Canola.  Canola has been Monsanto GMO’d to a stunning degree, not only are a considerable amount of the canola plants out there genetically engineered to be resistant to the toxic Roundup herbicides applied to them, but even approximately 80% of WILD Canola plant’s have been infected by the GMO variety, so finding a non-GMO canola oil is exceptionally difficult.

Why Canola?  In the 1970’s the Canadians were apparently in the market for a homegrown oil that could stimulate their economy.  They had a financial incentive to improve on mother-nature — a natural stimulus that seems to animate quite a few scientists in history, if not the present (See Monsanto Alfalfa).  When the Canadians decided to breed the rapeseed plant in the lab to decrease erucic acid content, they also decided they needed a new name for their new laboratory-enhanced crop. The reason why is readily apparent: the general public was perfectly aware that Rapeseed was toxic, so calling the plant Rapeseed would have been foolish from a marketing perspective.  Few people want to eat toxic plants that have been mutated to any degree — perhaps out of foolish distrust for beneficial laboratory-induced mutation.  The scientists were savvy enough to know not to highlight the drawbacks of their own product.   Instead the scientists made up a name for this genetically bred rapeseed plant. Since it was made in Canada and was genetically bred to have low erucic content, they decided to call it CANOLA, as in Canadian Oil Low Acid.  Its indeed a made-up name. The plant is still genetically bred Rapeseed plant. Depending on how strict your definition is of genetic engineering, Canola oil might well tread into the uncomfortable zone in terms of green product, in that it was produced in a lab by a scientists manipulating the genes in a toxic plant so it produced less of one undesirable naturally-occurring substance.  The question that might have been prudent to ask then — and is equally valid to contemplate now that we are using so much Canola — is what might be the unintended consequences of a man-made breeding program that selects out specific naturally-occurring traits?  In other words, how do such fundamental changes at the genetic level of a plant affect other processes/components of the plant itself?  To some, the history of Canola might not be quite up to natural standards — there is something familiar and deeply worrisome about foods that are created in a laboratory setting by a paid scientists bent on selectively enhancing/turning off certain genes deemed desirable from a purely financial perspective. Perhaps that fear comes from the middle-school reading curriculum that placed Brave New World into some of our subconscious — or it may be just plain old common sense fear of man’s good intentions.

Note that a little internet research may reveal quite a bit of comforting assurances that Canola was bred with traditional plant breeding techniques.   You might need to parse your definition of tradition.  Canola was created through a pioneer genetic methodology that could only be produced in a laboratory.  If you read the Rape book, Canola scientists actually took the unprecedented move of using gas chromatography to identify the genes that controlled erucic levels in the rapeseed, and then they seed-split to germinate a half seed.  It wasn’t like they planted two plants and cross-pollinated the species over time. They developed a new procedure known as seed-splitting to accomplish the genetic determinism and the scientists who invented Canola were one of the first to use the technology.  The plants they used represented an international patchwork of trial and error of combining parts that might seem a bit like the task of assembling Frankenstein, as opposed to gardening in the backyard.  The techniques indeed quite obviously paved the way for the full-blow genetic engineering that so many natural and organic supporters worry about today.  In fact, Monsanto’s GMO crops were built on the back of the Canola plant, by the very scientists who created the Canola out of nothing but gas chromatography, split seeds and erucic content.

And yet, a trip to your local health food store, or even Whole Foods, may find Organic Canola Oils sitting on the store shelves, but interestingly enough these “Organic” Canola Oils upon closer inspection may also say that they are REFINED.  Companies selling Canola claims the seeds are expeller pressed, but then they throw in that sometime after that the oil is also REFINED NATURALLY.  Perusing their website will not disclose what they are refining their oil with however.  Is it HEAT?  Some sources say that a refined canola oil is exposed to hydrogenation type heat, as well as precipitation and deodorizing w/minerals and potentially more?  Less information is rarely assuring, especially with products claiming to be organic.  At a minimum, if heat is indeed used, the concept that any cold-pressed organic oil is subsequently refined may sound contradictory.  Isn’t the purpose of expeller processing to avoid high heat and chemical treatments?  Isn’t the assumption the consumer is acting on when they are buying oils that say expeller pressed is that heat and treatments have been cut out of the equation?  So the question remains if you are applying high heat during refining of a Monounsaturated oil, like Canola, won’t you be oxidizing it more from the get-go, and thus creating more free radicals in it, so its quite like your OIL has been PRECOOKED before you even get to use it?

An excellent book on the topic of saturated vs. unsaturated fats, called the Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife explains the problem with applying high heat to monounsaturated oils like Canola Oil.  Monounsaturated fats have double carbon bonds, meaning they are missing 2 pairs of hydrogen atoms that force the carbon bonds to link together.  Whenever a pair of hydrogen atoms is missing, the adjoining carbon atoms must form a double bond to take up the slack, but this produces a weak link in the carbon chain. The double bonds are so weak that they are vulnerable to oxidation and free radical generation, which causes mutation of cells and disease. The more weak bonds there are in an oil, meaning the more unsaturated, the more the oil is susceptible to rancidity and free radicals.

This means that Polyunsaturated oils (like sunflower, safflower, soybean and corn) are the most unstable. Polyunsaturated oils turn bad the most easily when they are “oxidized” meaning exposed to HEAT, light, or oxygen. This means they are the most prone to free radical generation and also rancidity. The oxidation begins immediately when the oils are extracted from the seeds and exposed to light. The more processing the oil undergoes, the more it has a chance to oxidize (this is why you want expeller or cold-pressed oils, because each additional step of heating breaks more bonds and causes more oxidation & free radicals). The more minimal the processing (i.e. cold-pressed) the more natural antioxidants are left in the oil, so as to delay rancidity/free radicals). When oils are stored in factories, stand on store shelves, or your own home, they are exposed to light and heat, and this only oxidizes them more, producing more free radicals.

Canola, as a monounsaturated oil, with those two weak carbon bonds, is also open to oxidation and free radical generation especially in the course of application of heat.  If refining means adding heat then not only may there be a problem in undermining of the natural antioxidants in an oil, but also in the free radical generation that may be linked to increased incidence of many diseases.

The problem is you cannot tell when a Mono or Poly oil has gone bad. Spoiled oils, strangely enough, very often leave no foul taste, and yet they are spoiled and filled with free radicals that will attack the body, causing disease. This is why oils should be cold-pressed (not heat processed), and stored in dark bottles (so less light gets in), and kept in your fridge where its cold and dark. Leaving them out on the counter may indeed cause rancidity and free radical generation — and you won’t even know it.

Cooking is obviously extreme heat — and this will inevitably break those weak carbon bonds, potentially causing free radical generation, which is why you might hear increasingly that cooking with mono and poly unsaturated oils at high heat is often discouraged.

As an aside to the Canola issue, Bruce Fife’s book makes a compelling case that there are benefits to saturated fats.  Saturated fats have no weak carbon bonds — all of their chains are saturated with Hydrogen, and so they are strong.  The gist is that they can hold up better to oxidation, as in exposure to oxygen & light, and especially heat, which includes cooking in high temperatures. This is why Fife, who advocates for Coconut Oil, says you can keep Coconut Oil out on your counter, and also why its packaged in transparent glass.

Coconut oil is 90+% Saturated Fat.

Butter is 60+% Saturated Fat.

Beef Fat is 40+% Saturated Fat.

So, for cooking, coconut oil, butter, and animal fats may have some advantages worth considering.  If you buy cold-pressed organic olive oil for dressing, it might also be prudent to buy it in a dark glass container, and store it in the fridge.

As for Canola, on the whole, as far as natural and organic products go, this product may not have the sort of pedigree that some would think desirable.  Less might be more.  Or none.