Turn Off Computers to Limit Flame Retardants in Your Home

A recent study highlighted the prevalence of flame retardant chemicals coming off electronics in our homes—especially with devices that are always on. By law, electronic products must have chemicals added to them to protect against fires. The chemicals that are added to the plastic enclosures around electronics are not bound to the plastics. They can come off into the air and dust in our homes (also read our article about the chemicals found in our household dust: Toxic Chemicals in Indoor Dust).

The Study, Its Findings, & What to Do

Recently, The Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment conducted a study to understand how much of the flame retardants on our electronics are coming off into our inside spaces. The Czech-based organization evaluated air and dust samples in rooms of a newly constructed building in the Czech Republic. Samples were taken both after the computers were installed and after the computers were switched on.

We were surprised to learn that after the computers were installed, no significant increase in levels of flame retardants in the air was found. However, after they were switched on the emissions of halogenated flame retardants increased by 886%. (From 167 pg m-3 to 1480 pg m-3.) This shows that the effects of electronics (at least computers) on our indoor air quality, is determined by how often they are on. Remember to turn off your home computers when you aren’t using them. Also keep any turned-on electronics out of spaces where our babies spend time, when possible.

Read the full study in the Environmental Science & Technology article, “Changes in Flame Retardant and Legacy Contaminant Concentrations in Indoor Air during Building Construction, Furnishing, and Use“.

Learn More & Help Support Green Science

This information was shared with us by the Green Science Policy Institute. They have done some of the most important work to date on flame retardant chemicals. Visit their site to learn more about this work or please donate directly to help support what they do.

Related Articles

Toxic Chemicals in Indoor Dust
Flame Retardants Chemicals: What We’ve Learned
Protect Your Family from Flame Retardants
What Flame Retardant Chemical Regulations Mean to You

Toxic Chemicals Found in Squishies

You’ve probably seen them – Squishies are the current toy craze for elementary school kids. They have the texture and feel of “stress balls”, but come in all sorts of kid-themed designs, and kids love to squish them. Sensing that the odd smell coming off of them could be a sign of something dangerous, the Danish government recently tested Squishies and found them to be full of toxic substances.

Toxic Squishies

The Danes tested 12 Squishies for the offgassing of toxic chemicals. All 12 Squishies were found to emit toxic substances (including dimethylformamide, xylene, and methylene chloride). The chemicals are thought to cause reproductive problems, cancer, liver and nervous system damage, and irritation to the mucous membrane and eyes. They concluded that the high concentration levels found may pose a significant risk if children spend a lot of time near them, for example sleeping with Squishies near them or having many of them in their rooms.

Throw Out the Squisies

The Danish government estimates that the likelihood of children getting lasting effects is very low. They suggest that the damage will be the greatest if the child plays with these toys for a prolonged period of time. However, the body has an ability to repair damage when the impact stops. Therefore, they recommend throwing away Squishy toys now.

New Squishies Banned in Denmark

The evaporation of the harmful substances from the products decreases over time. The release of the hazardous chemical substances is by far the largest when the Squishy is new and afterwards it decreases. Therefore, it is recommended that no new squishies should be brought into the home. In fact, it is now illegal to sell these products within Denmark.

Remember to Ask in the USA

We wish our government agencies in the US were as proactive about researching the products our children are exposed to. Since they are not, make sure to ask questions about the products your children are bringing home, especially if it has a weird scent or feels funny. At Sprout we will do our best to stay on top of the latest research on products for children, so if you aren’t sure about something, please feel free to reach out and ask us!

Details on the Chemicals Found

According to the CDC, exposure to the three chemicals listed (dimethylformamide, xylene, and methylene chloride) can cause the following effects:

  • Dimethylformamide — Irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory system; nausea, vomiting, colic; liver damage, enlarged liver; high blood pressure; face flush; dermatitis. In Animals: kidney, heart damage.
  • Xylene — Irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, and throat; dizziness, excitement, drowsiness, incoordination, staggering gait; corneal vacuolization; anorexia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain; dermatitis.
  • Methylene Chloride— Irritation of the eyes and skin; lassitude (weakness, exhaustion), drowsiness, dizziness; numb, tingle limbs; nausea; [potential occupational carcinogen].

See the full report (in Danish).

Lowering the Risk of Future Breast Cancer in Prepubescent Girls

We recently hosted a discussion led by Dr. Sharima Rasanayagam, Director of Science with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP). BCPP is the only national organization focused on the prevention of breast cancer and is unique in its focus on a science-based approach to prevention.

Throughout the discussion, Dr. Rasanayagam walked us through the known causes of breast cancer outside of genetics, which accounts for less than 20% of breast cancer cases. She also explained specifically why prepubescent girls are especially at risk of outside exposures.

Higher Risk of Future Breast Cancer in Prepubescent Girls

The breast is the only organ, other than the brain, that isn’t fully developed at birth. It is also the ONLY organ that continues to develop after childhood. The main stages of development are pre-birth, puberty, and pregnancy and lactation. Each of these developmental stages can be affected by the hormones in our environment. That is why BCPP worries about the hormone disruptors found in our environment that look like estrogen to our bodies. The breast is particularly affected by these chemicals as the prolific growth in breast tissue during these developmental stages is precisely controlled by hormones.

It is not only exposures to large quantities of hormone disruptors that matter, as some might assume. Due to the preciseness of hormones’ control on our bodies, very tiny amounts of exposure have been shown to have an effect. Mixtures also matter, as we are not exposed to chemicals one at a time. We are confronted with a soup of chemicals daily, and it is not known how these interact with each other. Most chemical safety tests have been performed with a single chemical at a time, and until recently, only on male rats.

Environmental Exposures

One result of changes in our lifestyle and environment can be seen is the earlier ages of puberty. In the past forty years, the average age of menstruation has dropped by 6 months. The average age at which girls begin to develop breasts has dropped by TWO YEARS! Thus, the timeframe of puberty has also gotten longer, leaving girls exposed to outside forces on their development for even longer as well. There is a longer timeframe in which the division of cells is happening, in which those cells are vulnerable to developmental disturbances.

One reason hormone disrupting chemicals may have more of an effect on breast tissue than menstruation is that breast development seems to be more sensitive to estrogen signals than menstruation. Cleaning and personal care products that are filled with hormone disruptors (and often not even disclosed, rather hidden as “fragrances”) could be adding to this environmental change.

Risks Resulting from Early Puberty

Girls who develop earlier suffer both long and short-term effects. In the short term, they have higher rates of anxiety and depression. In the long term, they have higher rates of reproductive related cancers. For every earlier year that a girl gets her period, her risk of breast cancer is increased by 5%. That’s up to 30% for girls getting their period at age 8 vs. 14.

What Can You Do to Reduce Risk?

The biggest thing a parent can do to decrease the risk of early puberty is keep their children at a healthy weight. The percent of children who are obese has greatly increased over the last 30 years. Fat cells produce enzymes that can take testosterone (produced by the adrenal gland), and convert it to estrogen. There are also a number of chemicals, some commonly used in pesticides, that are obesogens. These chemicals have been shown to make rats who are otherwise healthy become obese. Limiting red and processed meat for children is also suggested. Currently, most American beef is not allowed to be sold in Europe because of the added hormones in the U.S. supply.

Social stresses can also be a trigger for early puberty. Absent biological fathers and depressed mothers were correlated with increases.

Other factors, like an individuals’ genetics and stress level can have an effect on breast cancer rates. Lifetime exposure to estrogen (more cycles) increases the risk of breast cancer. Having babies earlier and more of them decreases the risk. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol increase the risk of breast cancer.

What Breast Cancer Prevention Partners are Doing

Breast Cancer Prevention Partners has made huge strides towards protecting us from these risk factors. For example, they recently convinced the government of California to require ingredient labeling of cleaning products. You will see these disclosures, and hopefully some resulting ingredient changes, over the next couple of years. Read more in our article, Clear Labels for Cleaning Products (Finally!)

To learn more about BCPP’s work and how to support them, visit. www.bcpp.org.

Testing Our Daughters for Banned Phthalates

I recently got together with a couple of friends and we had all five of our daughters (between 6 and 12) tested for phthalates in their bodies with a simple urine test.

What Are Phthalates?

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in plastics and in personal care products. They have been proven to affect the reproductive systems in lab animals. These effects have been seen even in very small doses. There is strong evidence that these chemicals can also affect the development of our children, leading to reproductive issues and diseases down the road.

The DEHP Phthalate

Each of the compounds detected (on the horizontal X axis above) represents a metabolite in the urine of the phthalate DEHP. DEHP is used in PVC applications, toys, cosmetics, food, and food packaging. Some examples of uses are dolls, shoes, raincoats, clothing, medical devices (plastic tubing and intravenous storage bags), furniture, automobile upholstery, and floor tiles. It is the most widely-added phthalate to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to make products flexible.

Surprising Results

One surprise from the testing came in the high levels of DEHP found in a couple of the kids. It is the most widely used phthalate in toys, and so (sadly) it might make sense to find it in young children (who may still be putting things in their mouths sometimes). However, phthalate exposures are thought to be mostly short-term. This means that it is likely that the DEHP found in these children came from something they were exposed to in the few days leading up to the test. (It also means these levels are just a snapshot of one moment in time and some high exposure just the day before could have spiked the results.)

What is shocking to me is that DEHP was federally banned for use in children’s toys in 2009! These results show how prevalent it must still be in our environment. This baffles me. I wonder if there are still DEHP phthalates lurking in plastic toys that these children are exposed to today, even though there shouldn’t be. If the DEHP is coming from toys, then where is it coming from? And if the federal government recognized the danger of DEHP enough to ban it years ago, then why is it still allowed to be included in so many products surrounding my children? Why can it still be in their clothing and backpacks and products that hold the food they’re eating?

What Can We Do?

As our children are school age, there is only so much we can do to control their environments. However, doses matter. These results motivate me to control my home environment to the best of my ability and to buy the safest products for my children. This way, I can help reduce their exposures.

Related Articles:

A New Ban on Phthalates in Plastic Toys
Throw Out Your Old Plastic Toys!

A New Ban on Phthalates in Plastic Toys

On April 25th, 2018, a new federal regulation went into effect banning phthalates in plastic toys. As this made almost no news, we wanted to explain it to you.

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates are a class of chemicals used in many plastics. They are often used to make plastics soft, hence their use in many children’s toys. Phthalates have long been identified as endocrine disruptors, changing the reactions of hormones in the body and effecting development. Specifically, the most recent study found that phthalates produce a syndrome of abnormalities in male offspring when administered to pregnant rats during the later stages of pregnancy.

The 2009 Banned Phthalates

In 2009, the CPSIA (Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act), banned 3 specific phthalates for use in toys and in children’s products marketed to babies under 3 years old. Five additional phthalates were placed “under review” and nothing further was heard about them until recently. The original rule only temporarily banned 3 of these phthalates in toys that “can be placed in a child’s mouth.” Read the ruling on cpsc.gov.

The 2018 Banned Phthalates

After a lawsuit by a number of organizations including Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) has finally ruled that the additional 5 phthalates cannot be included in products marketed for use by children and mandates testing of the products to ensure compliance. The new rule prohibits the sale of children’s toys and child care articles that contain concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of:
1. diisononyl phthalate (DINP)
2. diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)
3. di-n-pentyl phthalate (DPENP)
4. di-n-hexyl phthalate (DHEXP)
5. dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP)

A children’s toy is defined in the rule as “a consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer for a child 12 years of age or younger for use by the child when the child plays”. A child care article means “a consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children age 3 and younger, or to help such children with sucking or teething.”

What this Means to You

This is wonderful news because, not only was the ban extended to 5 additional phthalates, it now covers all children’s toys, not just the ones that can be placed in a child’s mouth. Many people have not realized what that technicality means in practice. Up until now any toy made of squishy plastic that is not easily put inside a child’s mouth could still have contained the originally banned phthalates.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine managed to suck and chew on everything they could in those early days, not just toys that were meant to be sucked on. I remember receiving squishy, princess shaped bath toys as a gift when my daughter was 2. The packaging said 3+, but the gift giver said, “but it has no small parts.” I wonder if the 3+ was needed because the plastic had phthalates in it and the manufacturer did not want it to be considered a child care article for a child under 3.

The law did not then and still does not extend to clothing. Around that same time my daughter received a pair of jelly sandals, the kind I also wore as a kid. There was nothing stopping my two year old from sucking on her soft plastic sandals. When I noticed they smelled like PVC (that new shower curtain smell), meaning the plastic was likely softened with phthalates, those shoes had to go!

Notably, the “child care article” definition does not extend beyond the age of 3. This means that a product designed to “facilitate sleep or the feeding of children” OVER 3 does not need to eliminate the  otherwise banned phthalates. If the federal government recognized the danger of these chemicals enough to ban them, then why are they still allowed in so many products surrounding my children? Why can it still be in their clothing and backpacks and food containers?

What Can You Do?

Take a look around your house and note any soft plastic toys that aren’t meant to be sucked on or any child care articles for kids over 3. There is a good chance these have phthalates in them that are now banned under this new ruling. This is one area where Sprout’s advice may not be so “eco-friendly” because we believe it is better for you to throw away these plastics rather than to donate them to someone who may not know they contain harmful chemicals.

One other thing to note: no “phthalate alternatives” are banned at this time. Another plasticizer with equally harmful effects could already be used as replacement chemicals in children’s products today.

Overall, our advice is to avoid plastics when possible. Children are just has happy with wooden toys, and they will look nicer in your home as well!

Related Articles:

Testing Our Daughters for Banned Phthalates

Throw Out Your Old Plastic Toys!



Our Visit to the Naturepedic Factory in Ohio

Recently, Sprout’s head buyer, Andi Rothfeld, visited the factory of Sprout’s long-time partner, Naturepedic. Naturepedic makes GOTS-certified organic mattresses and bedding for the cribs and beds we sell at Sprout. We have long believed that Naturepedic was the ideal partner for Sprout as they seemed to have the highest quality standards in this important product category, and now we got to see it all for ourselves.

The Naturepedic factory is located outside of Cleveland in an area that has one of the largest Amish populations in the country. Their workforce is made up of hardworking Amish and non-Amish people who provide high levels of craftsmanship. All mattresses, pillows, and other accessories are handmade in the factory and each product is individually sewn by the factory workers.

The Naturepedic factory is one of a very few GOTS-certified mattress factories in the country. The factory is set up to handle the intense audit process required by GOTS. Unlike a typical industrial setting, there were no chemical smells in the factory, something Sprout team members are especially sensitive to.

Naturepedic uses almost no petroleum-based plastics in their products. The only place that the mattresses have regular plastic is a thin layer of polypropylene mesh deep inside the mattress to keep the cotton from sinking into the coils. The waterproof mattresses are brushed with a food grade polyethylene from sugar cane that’s melted onto the cotton.

Andi’s visit helped us to understand better the somewhat confusing topic of mattress requirements and how Naturepedic’s mattresses can pass flammability standards with organic cotton. Below are some notes from Barry Cik, Naturepedic’s CEO:

There are two flammability requirements for mattresses – 16CFR1632 and 16CFR1633

1. 1633 is an open flame test that measures heat release (i.e. flammability).

We pass with flying colors because we don’t use highly flammable materials like polyurethane foam in our baby products to begin with. (As a side point, all our Naturepedic products are approximately 97% free of any petroleum based materials or components.)

2. 1632 is a smoldering (or “charring”) test.  In this test, cigarettes are placed on the mattress (yes, even on a baby mattress) and there can’t be any charring (beyond 2” from any point on the cigarette).  Organic cotton (whether fabric or batting) does char (even though it’s not flammable in any significant manner). So if you don’t add flame retardant chemicals to the organic cotton fabric, you have to find another way to pass the charring requirement.

We do that with food-grade polyethylene foam and PLA (Polylactic acid or Polylactide), made from sugar cane. These materials have other uses in the mattress as well, but they also block charring.

Said differently, cotton naturally blocks the spread of flames and heat release. But that doesn’t make cotton a “flame barrier” in the sense of how flame barriers are used because the cotton is a part of the mattress materials and not something that is added just to block flames. Ditto for polyethylene and PLA. We use polyethylene to create a firm surface for a baby mattress, and we use PLA to create a cushion firm surface (for the toddler side of the mattress). So cotton is not a flame barrier (even though it naturally blocks flames), and, similarly, polyethylene and PLA are not flame barriers (even though they naturally don’t smolder/char).


(a) We use no flame barriers or flame retardant chemicals.
(b) Our cotton naturally allows the mattress to pass the government flammability requirements.
(c) Our polyethylene and PLA allow the mattress to pass the government smoldering/charring requirements.

For all of these reasons, and especially the transparency through which the company shares these details, Naturepedic has always been our go-to for crib mattresses. The company also makes incredibly high quality mattresses for big kids and even adult beds.

Learn more in our articles: Children’s Product Safety – Thoughts from Naturepedic and How to Choose a Mattress.

Check out all our Organic Mattresses or inquire at your local Sprout!

The Question of Lavender

March 2018 Update:

For the past 9 years, we have been wary of lavender at Sprout for all of the reasons expressed in our initial article below. A recent study by the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences), a part of the United States NIH, confirms these concerns. It showed that regular exposure to lavender and tea tree oil can lead to breast development in young boys. This is because these ingredients, when used topically, can disrupt the body’s hormones. The good news is that reducing exposure was seen to reverse the effects.

Look for unscented personal care products for your little ones, or at least products that do not contain lavender or tea tree as a main ingredient. Sprout has a wide selection of personal care products that do not contain lavender and tea tree oil in our Personal Care section.

For more information, read a recent article on the NIH study on Endocrine.org “Chemicals in lavender and tea tree oil appear to be hormone disruptors

The Question of Lavender & Tea Tree Oils  [original 2013 post]

Since opening Sprout in 2009, we have faced a dilemma when it comes to Lavender and Tea Tree oil. Both are believed to be estrogen mimics, but they are used in many of the organic personal care products on the market, especially lavender. We decided to get to the bottom of this controversy. We sought out both the original article that introduced this concern and an explanation from an expert on children’s environmental health.

The Article

”New England Journal of Medicine Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils,” by Derek V. Henley, Ph.D., Natasha Lipson, M.D., Kenneth S. Korach, Ph.D., and Clifford A. Bloch, M.D. (n engl j med 356;5 www.nejm.org February 1, 2007)

The article describes three young boys who grew breasts after using products with lavender and tea tree oil. The breasts disappeared after no longer using the products. The products were then tested and found to have estrogenic properties.

The Executive Summary

“Most cases of male prepubertal gynecomastia [the benign enlargement of breast tissue in males] are classified as idiopathic. We investigated possible causes of gynecomastia in three prepubertal boys who were otherwise healthy and had normal serum concentrations of endogenous steroids. In all three boys, gynecomastia coincided with the topical application of products that contained lavender and tea tree oils. Gynecomastia resolved in each patient shortly after the use of products containing these oils was discontinued. Furthermore, studies in human cell lines indicated that the two oils had estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities. We conclude that repeated topical exposure to lavender and tea tree oils probably caused prepubertal gynecomastia in these boys.”

Our Investigation

Most of the personal care companies that use lavender with whom we have discussed this concern have dismissed it. They usually respond that, “It’s only been seen in one study.” This is true, but we didn’t know if that meant anything or not.

We reached out to one of the country’s most renowned experts on children’s environmental health, Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the head of the Children’s Environmental Health Center. We forwarded him another author’s blog post that attempts to discredit the lavender study.

Dr. Philip Landrigan’s Review (italics)

1. The blog states:  “Looking at the footnotes of the study, you’ll notice that all of the doctors who conducted the research are sponsored by numerous drug companies. ‘Nuff said.”  This is not true. In fact, only one of the four authors report receiving drug company support and this support is noted in a footnote at the end of the article. The other three authors are staff scientists on salary at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the EPA, as noted on page 1 of the article on the right-hand side, and legally prohibited from accepting such support.

2. The blog states that, “Product names were not provided.This is correct with respect to the three clinical case reports. But in the laboratory portion of the study, the authors state that they used pure lavender oil and tea tree oil, both of which they obtained from Sigma Chemical, a highly reputable supplier of chemical reagents.

3. The blog states, “None of the hormonal testing showed abnormal results, except in Patient 2, who had elevated levels of testosterone (not estrogen).”  This is true, but irrelevant. This comment  misses the point that the authors tested the three patients for normal hormones to make sure that they were not missing a diagnosis of a pituitary tumor or other endocrine disease, which can produce elevated serum hormone levels. In other words, the authors performed these tests to exclude certain diagnoses and to demonstrate that there was no internal factor in the children’s bodies that could account for the effects that they observed.

4. The blog asks, “Might the patients’ gynecomastia have reflected another pathophysiological process that resolved spontaneously? That is possible, but when three separate cases of gynecomastia all resolve themselves shortly after exposure to lavender oil is removed, it seems to be stretching reality to invoke the spontaneous disappearance of some undiscovered endocrine disease in each of these three patients. And as noted above, the investigators looked for other causes and found none.

5. The blog states, “If you look carefully at their study, you’ll notice they didn’t apply pure lavender or tea tree essential oil on the cells they were testing, they used a solvent to dilute the oils. The solvent is dimethylsulfoxide—which, as it turns out, is an estrogen mimicker!This is true, but the blogger misses the point that the cellular responses increased as concentrations of lavender oil and tea tree oil increased—a classic dose-response reaction to a toxic chemical. Unless levels of DMSO increased at the same time, DMSO is not a likely explanation for this strongly positive dose-response effect.

6. The blog states. “Traditional use and clinical trials have not suggested estrogenic effects of tea tree or lavender oil.” Have these effects ever been sought in properly conducted clinical trials?  This is unlikely because FDA approval is not required for these products.

7. The blog asks, “Are occupational exposures to lavender and tea tree associated with estrogenic symptoms?” This is a good question. Last year an epidemiological study of bladder cancer was conducted among pharmacists in Taiwan. Scattered case reports of bladder cancer among patients who took a Chinese herbal medication, aristolochic acid triggered this study. The study found an extremely elevated rate of bladder cancer among pharmacists who handled aristolochic acid, and this risk increased with increasing degree of contact, a positive dose-response relationship. Aristolochic acid is a naturally occurring product derived from plants that had been used for centuries and never properly tested. The World Health Organization has declared aristolochic acid a “proven human carcinogen.” Natural is not necessarily safe.

My bottom line here is that I would be cautious in using lavender oil and tea tree oil. I would be especially careful about allowing pregnant women or small children to come into contact with these materials. So far as I am aware, there is no information available on the possible developmental toxicity of these materials to the developing fetus. But given the string of evidence of estrogenicity reported in this article, I am worried that prenatal exposure during windows of vulnerability in early fetal development could produce some serious effects.
Until more testing has been done and until these chemicals have been found to have no developmental toxicity, my philosophy is, “Better safe than sorry”.

Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc
Dean for Global Health
Ethel H. Wise Professor and Chairman
Department of Preventive Medicine
Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Children’s Environmental Health Center
Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Sprout’s View

We at Sprout agree with Dr. Landrigan’s “better safe than sorry” approach and, as a result, we are working to eliminate lavender and tea tree oil from the personal care and cleaning products that Sprout carries.

Will Quats Be Banned Next?

At Sprout, we’ve done our own extreme vetting to ensure that the Household Cleaners and Personal Care Products we carry do not contain quats or any other harmful additives.

Quats could be the next group of chemicals to be banned from soaps and cleaners. In 2016, the FDA finally banned triclosan from hand soaps. Triclosan is a common ingredient used in disinfectants. Sprout has never carried any product with triclosan, as it is a known endocrine disruptor (a product that can mess with the body’s hormones and harm a child’s development). The FDA determined “manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections”. However, the ban only applies to hand soap—triclosan can still be found in antibacterial sprays and toothpastes.

A (little reported on) provision of this rule allowed for a one year delay on the ruling of a chemical called benzalkonium chloride, as well as two others: benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol (PCMX). Benzalkonium chloride is part of a group of chemicals called Quats (Quaternary Ammonium compounds), thought to be allergy and asthma enhancers. If the industry cannot prove that the benefits of these chemicals outweigh the risks, then antibacterial washes containing these specific chemicals will be the next to be removed from the market.

In the meantime, you should research the ingredients in your hand sanitizers and cleaning products before purchasing them. Benzalkonium chloride can even be found in some products that you may think are “organic”. Currently, this could take some work, but it will soon become easier as California forces cleaning product companies to disclose ingredients on their packaging. Read about that in our article: Clear Labels for Cleaning Products (Finally!)


Read more about quats in our article: CleanWell Founder Dr. Larry Weiss on Household Cleaners.


Clear Labels for Cleaning Products (Finally!)

Sprout's growing selection of Household Cleaners & Personal Care Products has been thoroughly vetted to ensure every item is free of all harmful chemicals.

For years, there has been no transparency regarding what is in the cleaning products we use in our homes. California has finally passed a law that will change this. The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017, signed in October, requires the ingredients in cleaning products to be listed on both product labels and online. In particular, this includes chemicals whose ability to harm human health or the environment has been recognized by established scientific authoritative bodies. Under this law, the mandatory disclosure also applies to ingredients in fragrance mixtures, which have been considered protected trade secrets until now.

Workers—particularly janitors and housekeeping staff—are exposed to chemicals in cleaning products every day. Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of problems they can pose for workers: some cause acute allergic reactions, while others are associated with chronic or long-term effects such as asthma and cancer.  Work-related asthma among California’s janitors and cleaners is nearly double the rate of the overall workforce.

The EPA has long declared that the air quality in our homes is 3-5 times worse for our health than the air outside. Much of that is due to the products we use. This law will start to reverse that effect. Once people become aware of some of the harmful additives that have been previously hidden, companies will be forced to upgrade the quality of their ingredients. We expect that companies manufacturing products sold throughout the country will not make special formulations for California. Thus we believe this California law will, within a few years, improve the air quality of homes around the country.

In the meantime, check your labels and research the ingredients used. Chemicals found in some ordinary cleaning products are known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, asthma, and other serious health effects. Ingredient transparency will allow you to make the right choices for your family’s health. 

One of the leaders in the fight for disclosure in cleaning products was a San Francisco based organization called The Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. The Breast Cancer Prevention Partners is the leading national organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease. Learn more or make a donation to support future achievements like this.


The Importance of a Positive Learning Space at Home

Eileen Lamb is a mother of two boys: Charlie (4) and Jude (2). Charlie has severe classic, nonverbal autism. Eileen has high-functioning autism, also known as Asperger’s syndrome. Her mission is to raise autism awareness and give readers a better understanding to the many facets of autism.

Below is an extract from her recent blog post, The Importance of a Positive Learning Space at Home


The importance of a positive learning space in the home.

It’s important for kids to have a positive learning environment at home. Even if your children aren’t school-aged yet, it’s a good idea to create a space in your house dedicated to learning educational skills. There are many benefits for both children and toddlers alike.

For instance, Charlie likes to do puzzles and Jude likes to color, so it’s great for them to have a place to do so. Jude isn’t very good at coloring only on the paper, so having his own little desk to put the paper on has helped him (and helped us keep our home clean). He likes routine so we explained to him that “coloring is at the desk” and now he just knows. Do yourself a favor and get this amazing desk from Sprout San Francisco. Your walls and couch will thank me.

Modeling dough is also a great activity. Jude sits longer and focuses longer if he’s sitting at the desk, which are great skills to prepare kids for school. As your kiddo gets older, you can switch the activities to more age appropriate ones like flashcards, memory games, or puzzles.

When your children are finally in school and they come home with assignments, they’ll have a place to sit: their dedicated “learning corner”. At home, we use our learning area for therapy purposes too. Due to Charlie’s autism he needs many hours of therapy each week and his therapists use the learning corner to work on different skills like matching, sorting, puzzles, and IDing items.Modeling dough is also a great activity. Jude sits longer and focuses longer if he’s sitting at the desk, which are great skills to prepare kids for school. As your kiddo gets older, you can switch the activities to more age appropriate ones like flashcards, memory games, or puzzles.

Which toys to encourage your toddler development?

I’m partial to wooden toys. We’re trying to replace all our plastic toys with wooden toys. First of all, it’s better for the environment but the toys are usually better learning toys too. Nowadays, it’s possible to let kids spend too much time watching TV and playing on their tablets. I’m guilty of this sometimes so when it comes to toys, I make a point of only getting them toys that will stimulate their senses and imagination.

Sprout San Francisco

Sprout San Francisco has the most amazing toy selection I’ve ever seen. I got the toys pictured in the article here. They’re pretty much the only toys Jude plays with at the moment. Sprout San Francisco is a natural and organic children’s boutique. Everything they carry has been meticulously evaluated by their team. All products are free of BPA, phthalates, parabens, toxins, pesticides and other harmful chemicals. The rainbow is great for fine motor skills and learning colors. It’s gorgeous! The stacking cups are great because it encourages kiddos to think by themselves and try to figure it out, like a puzzle. It doesn’t fit? Well, try the next one! It’s versatile too. You can make a tower, teaching children to use their creative skills allowing them to discover that there’s more than one use for a toy.

Jude’s favorite is the yellow sorting bus. It’s so cute. I love it too. Jude loves running around the house pulling his bus behind him, and it’s also a shape-sorter which is a great tool to teach your child fine motor skills and shapes.

My personal favorite are these amazing blocks. I’m currently applying to be a US Citizen so I want to learn as much as I can about the United States. These blocks have been a fun way to learn about presidents. For now, the boys use them as stacking blocks but I know we will use them for years.