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The latest news, food for thought, recipes you’ll love, great advice on everything from raising kids to nurturing bees, plus videos designed to entertain, educate and enlighten. If you’d like to find out what’s on our mind – or let us know what’s on yours -- this is place to be.

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Heavy Breathing

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If you’ve ever sat at a restaurant while someone cleaned the table next to you, and you experienced an unpleasant sensation in your throat, nose and eyes, that was likely your body telling you that the contents of the spray cleaner were bad for your health. Studies over the past several years have documented that the VOC’s like those found in conventional cleaners are asthma triggers for children. Now, the evidence that spray cleaners are linked to asthma in adults is back in the news.

VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds. They’re carbon-based chemicals that form vapors at room temperature, and these vapors are very easily inhaled by anyone nearby. Cleaning product manufacturers like to use VOCs because their tendency to evaporate quickly means they help the surfaces being cleaned dry quickly. The VOCs evaporate and carry away much of the rest of the moisture in a given cleaning product with them.

We can’t tell from this new study whether or not it’s the VOCs in cleaners or something else they contain that’s triggering asthma in adults. The study only says that the more you use conventional cleaning products, the greater your chance of contracting the disease. It could be another compound or family of chemicals that’s responsible. There’s also evidence, for example, that phthalates contribute to asthma risk, and just a week or so ago I was talking about how aerosols can carry all kinds of chemicals deep into our lungs.

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StepitUp 2007 in Montpelier , Vermont

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Step It Up 2 happened yesterday and organizers across the country creatively showed the world that they will hold their politic

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Step It Up Tomorrow!

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Author: the Inkslinger

A quick reminder that tomorrow is StepIt Up’s National Day of Climate Action. Find an event near you, and let your voice be heard. The stakes are as high as they get, and it’s up to each of us to do whatever we can and then some to pull this beautiful world back from the brink.

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Big Rays of Hope

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Author: the Inkslinger


Kaye Evans-Lutterodt/Solar Decathlon

Technology fetishists (like me) will recognize the name of David Pogue, technology writer for the New York Times. He can usually be found in the paper’s Circuits section opining on the latest gizmological gadgetry. That’s hardly a green subject, especially given all the crazy materials they put into e-things and iToys these days, but Pogue also has a blog in which the “e” in electronics occaisionally crosses paths with the “e” in environment and Pogue can be found ruminating on what happens when it does.

His latest post covers the Solar Decathalon, a biennial event in which design teams from all over compete to build a complete off-the-grid house that runs totally on renewable energy. The hitch is that in order to qualify each house must allow its occupants to live “normally,” i.e. be able to shower, cook, watch TV, do laundry, maintain a comfortable temperature, etc.

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USA Yesterday

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Author: the Inkslinger

We got some good ink in yesterday's edition of USA Today. More to the point, we got a nice photo and the issue of unhealthy chemicals in consumer products got some much needed mainstream media coverage, which I think we can all agree is even better.

Following the paper's sound-bite tradition of never printing more in any given article than can be digested between subway stops, the article doesn't t dive into the deep end of the subject by any means, but what really matters is that USA Today gave any ink to this issue at all . They did, and that's a good thing no matter what. Even more impressive, the piece generally falls on the precautionary side of things and rather than give manufacturers a soap box to spin the damning PR their way, it instead chooses to cite independent sources like the Environmental Working Group and Consumers Union. That's a positive development. Let's hope for the sake of public health that it's the beginning and not the end of paper's coverage of the subject.

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Making Accidents Hurt Less

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A recent news story about a baby who died after crawling into a bucket of bleach left me thinking about the refrain, “our products are safe when used as directed.” We hear this over and over and over again. But we also hear of many cases – most of them accidents – where people fail to use products as directed.

To me, these cases raise many questions about the responsibility of manufacturers of products that contain harmful chemicals. For example, why do some companies make bathroom cleaners that require open windows when so many bathrooms have no windows? Why are some dishwasher powders filled with chemicals that are harmful to children if swallowed? Why do some glass cleaners come with ingredients you wouldn’t want a child to breathe if she pressed her nose against the window? The biggest question of all is when will these products be replaced by ones that are safe even if not used as directed? While we can’t prevent accidents, we can certainly take steps to make sure they hurt a lot less.

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Every Body Loves Organic

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Author: the Inkslinger

There’s been a quiet controversy simmering for a bunch of years now about whether or not organic food is nutritionally better for us than conventional food. We know it’s healthier than conventional food where contaminants are concerned. There’s no debate, for example, about whether or not people eating organic food have to worry about weird hormones in their cheese or pesticide residues on their peaches. They don’t. But what about what’s inside organic foods? What about the vitamins and minerals and the other things that make food healthy in the first place? Is there more of the good stuff in organic food?

A bunch of studies have hinted that, yes, there is. But these research efforts generally haven’t been very big or they’ve only looked at certain nutrients or they’ve had some other issue that allowed Big Agricultural to always say, ‘Yeah, but…” and cast enough doubt on the evidence to maintain the status quo.

That may not last much longer. A new study in England, a big, comprehensive, hard-to-refute new study, has found that organic food is not only healthier for you, it’s much healthier for you.

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Weird Wire

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Author: the Inkslinger

The night is coming. The veil that separates the world of the living from the realm of the dead now grows thin. Spirits gather and soon will cross this dark divide to fill shadowy streets and abandoned yards with visions of the ghastly, the ghostly, and the ghoulish. Can’t wait! But while we do, here’s some news of the strange and the weird to mark the world’s spookiest holiday and the one of the its oldest pagan traditions…

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is back in the news with word that the feds want to study this maelstrom of muck with an eye toward a possible clean-up. Those familiar with the incredibly disconcerting and wholly freakish twice-Texas-sized patch of floating trash, however, say that not only is cleanup pretty much impossible even conducting basic research is likely to prove vexing. How about we just take the zillions of dollars and man-hours we might spend here and devote them to preventing garbage from entering ocean ecosystems in the first place?

Halloween marks the boundary between summer and winter, or light and dark, an important annual milestone given the impact we’ve learned light can have on human health. Indeed studies have shown that people who work out-of-sync with natural day-night cycles are at risk for all kinds of maladies from depression to breast cancer. The impact is so great that the World Health Organization will declare in December that shift work is a “probable carcinogen.” In other words, the graveyard shift could actually put you there. I think it’s time to shift our 24/7 economy back to something a little more civilized.

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Good Energies

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Author: the Inkslinger

This comment from Dani at EnergyBill 2007 came in late last week in response to our latest automobile mileage standards post. We wanted to promote it to official post status to make sure that everybody sees it and has the opportunity to lend a hand to the effort to get the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks where it needs to go.

It's is awesome that the public has responded so quickly to Toyota's campaign against the 35 mpg fuel efficiency standard set for 2020. Delaying the energy bill's effects by trying to lower the standards is not going to help anyone in the future. It's time for a change. I think that a great way to stop Toyota is to reach out to our government directly. They are the ones who are supposed to be serving out best interest, it is not Toyota's job. I'm working for a coalition that is trying to persuade Congress to stand strong against the tactics of Toyota and others who would like to see the standards lowered. It is easy to help by reaching out to your representatives directly through this petition: www.energybill2007.org. Thanks for bringing this important moment in environmental policy to your readers attention! We all have a chance to do something big here!

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