Category Archives: Health & Beauty

Toxins on the Tack Store’s Shelves – Part 1

Turpentine,

Copper Sulfate,

Formalin,

Parabens,

White Spirit/Stoddard Solvent

These were some of the most prevalent ingredients I read on the labels of various antifungal, antibacterial and hoof conditioning products at the local tack stores.  Many of these things have been used for years to treat skin and hoof conditions, but has anyone recently taken a closer look at these remedies?  If you do an Internet search for the chemical properties of these ingredients you’ll find descriptions like solvent, paint thinner, carcinogen, mutanogenic, pesticide, and environmentally toxic.

I am actually quite dismayed that we commonly use these toxins on our horses.  I went looking for an antifungal treatment for thrush which had recently shown up on my mare’s hoof.  After going to 4 different stores, I still really didn’t find any decent treatment options.  What was even worse, many brands were actually “greenwashing”.  One locally made line of products claims to be natural and green, but when you read the label it is loaded with parabens as preservatives!  Not so natural after all.

The regulations for cosmetics and health products for people in North America are loosely regulated.  Basically, companies that manufacture these products are allowed to self-regulate, and the Canadian government has not tightened regulations to keep companies accountable for their products and manufacturing processes.  If human grade products are so poorly regulated, how do you think products for use on our animals are regulated?  I have found the regulations for pet food and agricultural products for use on animals used for human consumption – those were scary enough.  We’ve all heard of the pet food scares that have surfaced in recent years with cats and dogs dying from ingesting foods made with toxic ingredients.  If the pet food industry is so loosely regulated, do you think that pet care products are regulated?  The answer seems to be that they aren’t.  I haven’t been able to find any guidelines, let alone laws, that protect the well-being of both our pets and ourselves when it comes to purchasing and using pet health care products (shampoos, skin remedies, coat conditioners, detanglers, etc.).  I am still looking for some sort of direction on this matter, but for now it is truly buyer beware.  Read the labels, demand the information from the companies that make the products, and be aware of your ingredients.  You’re not just putting it on your beloved pet, you are exposing yourself to these products as well.

Over the next few posts, I’m going to review some of these products that we commonly use on our horses and try to shed light on some of the toxic ingredients that we have been paying money for.  We need to demand more of the companies responsible for manufacturing the products.  At the very least, full disclosure of the ingredients so that we can make informed choices.

Greenwashing

Going green at home has never been easier!  there are a ton of products out there that are eco-friendly, natural and green – right?!  Well, maybe.  Greenwashing can be described as misleading marketing claims, product names and packaging that suggest to the consumer that their products or services have environmental benefits. This is really a grey area in marketing in my opinion.  Many of the big multinational companies have jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon, but are their “green” products any better for the environment?  Some of the products have changed one or two ingredients from their regular line and then re-packaged it as “green” or “natural” when in reality the ingredient list is pretty much the same.  It kind of ruins the “natural” qualities of a product when all of those lovely botanical extracts are preserved with parabens.  So, what’s a shopper to do?  Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any regulations in Canada with respect to greenwashing or labeling of products.  Consumers really must do their homework and educate themselves on what is eco-friendly and what is toxic.

As a concerned (and somewhat annoyed) consumer and eco-friendly advocate, I decided to call out one of the Canadian home retailers that has recently been promoting a new “Eco” line of products for building and home care.  After visiting the local store, and examining the line of home cleaning products I decided to ask some questions.  I first approached the store staff to inquire if they has product ingredient lists for the cleaners.  My answer was “no”, and no one seemed to know much else about their product line.  “OK – I’ll talk to the customer service at head office”.  So, off I went.  I promptly sat down to write an email inquiry at home as I wanted to know what was in the product line.  I was already doubting that the products truly were eco-friendly (I know, skeptical at heart), my reasoning being that if they were, they would have all of the product ingredients proudly displayed.  I did receive a prompt email reply with some information for one of the products in their line (which was pretty green, so great!).  However, one product does not make the entire “Eco” collection a “better choice”.  The company would not give me any further ingredient listings, somewhat confirming my suspicion that their “Eco” line is not really that great.

Thankfully, there are places to help!  Check the following links for some valuable information:

http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/

http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/lousylabels/

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/projects/whats-inside-that-counts/

http://www.cosmeticdatabase.com

The morale of the story?  Do your homework.  Know your ingredients.  Ask questions.

Understanding Nanoparticles

Over the past year, there has been a lot of discussion about the use of nanoparticles in skin care and cosmetics. Nanoparticles are particles that have a dimension that is 100 nanometers or less in size.

While they are very widely used through the Health and Beauty industry, much of the controversy surrounding them is due to the lack of knowledge regarding long term effects on a consumer’s body. The nano-sized particles have the ability to absorb into skin  and blood stream much faster compared to regular ingredients.

“Nanoparticles are unbelievably tiny, man-made chemicals. They are so incredibly small that tens of thousands of them can fit on the point of a needle. Remember how we were taught that the atom is the smallest component of matter? Well, nanoparticles of various substances are made to be so small that they can be inserted into atoms. Once there, they may undergo a change in the way they normally function, and sometimes their toxicity can be enhanced with a potential for more severe action than normal chemicals.” (ewg.org).

Many lobbyist groups are now fighting to ensure that companies that use nano technology in their manufacturing will be forced to disclose that information on the labels of their products. Right now there is no distinguishing between products which contain an ingredient in a nano-size versus a full particle size.

Reposted from OnlyGreen EcoBits Newsletter – February 2011 Issue.

www.onlygreen.com/ecohorse

I Am NOT A Hippie

What does it mean to be “Green”?  I asked my 5 year old son.  His answer?  “Well…it means to wear a green shirt”.  Then we talked a little bit about what it meant to me.  “Oh, so being green is good for the Earth!” he excitedly proclaimed.  If a five year old can understand the concept, why don’t many North Americans?

My realization that I wanted to do better for my family and our planet didn’t come overnight, but now that I have chosen this path I want to share my knowledge and teach others what I have discovered.  Sometimes I think that many of my friends, particularly those that have known me a long time, are unsure of what to make of this relatively new outlook on life and what I want for my family – I used to work in the petroleum industry, for a big oil company, so I can’t really have jumped on this environmentally friendly bandwagon right?  Maybe moving to BC has addled her brain a bit – it is the “left coast” after all.

So, have I become a Vegan, granola-loving, Birkenstock-wearing, non-leg-shaving, organic, recycling, Greenpeace touting, bra-optional, hippie Earth-Mother?  Not exactly.  I still shave (I’m actually a bit OCD about that one!) and haven’t owned a pair of Birkenstocks since university.  I don’t eat much granola, and I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination.  Greenpeace does some good work, but often times they seem to wreck their own credibility because their members are out on the fringe of acceptable public behaviour and tend to disrupt the peace.  So, how would I describe myself?  I think that I am an Earth and health conscious stay-at-home mom who wants to do what’s best for her family and our planet.  What more motivation does one need to adopt a green lifestyle than looking at that little gummy smile that my youngest son gives me every morning when he wakes up in his crib?  Why wouldn’t I want to make sure I did the best I could for them, and the world that they, and their children will grow up in?