Stories about: Environmental toxins

Greenwashing your kids: Advertisers target green parents

Cigarette manufacturer Reynolds American Inc. recently released a new ad campaign for its American Spirit line, touting the eco-friendliness of the brand. The ads boast that the company uses recycled paper, electric hand dryers and ceramic mugs instead of paper towels and disposables cups. It even goes as far as to point out that their sales team drives hybrids. Thankfully it stops short of saying that America Spirits are a healthier cigarette than non-green alternatives, but the message is pretty clear: if you smoke and care about the environment, American Spirit is the brand for you.

Hopefully most people will recognize these ads for what they are, a green tinted smoke screen devised to push an otherwise unhealthy product. But regardless of the campaign’s success, the fact that these ads exist at all says a lot about how the eco movement influences people’s buying habits. If something as unhealthy as tobacco is rebranding itself as green, then it’s safe to assume that phony green marketing has infiltrated other markets as well.

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Understanding the FDA's new sunscreen rules

Sun safety
Wide-brimmed hats are one way to keep your baby's skin safe from the sun

Long, lazy beach days, backyard barbecues and pool parties are all part of the perfect sunny summer day. But while we’re soaking it all up, we should also take in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new sunscreen regulations that were announced on June 14 – the first change the organization has made to its recommendations in the past 30 years.

Up until now, sunscreen makers could claim that a product offers  “broad spectrum coverage,” but that phrase wasn’t clearly defined. Starting in 2012, this definition will be clearer:


  • Sunscreen can only be labeled “broad spectrum” if it protects people from both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultra violet-B (UVB) rays.
  • Because sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of less than 15 offers less comprehensive protection, it will now come with a warning label explaining that it may not protect skin from cancer, burn or premature aging.
  • Since sunscreen can be washed and worn off, the words “waterproof,” “sweatproof” and “sunblock” will no longer appear, and instead we’ll see the term “water resistant.” It’ll also offer directions on how frequently it should be reapplied.
  • SPF numbers will be lower. The SPF numbers had been confusing in that they’re not actually proportional. (SPF 30 is not actually twice the coverage as 15.) The FDA will cap sunscreens at SPF 50 (which is near 100 percent coverage), since SPFs 70-100 were doing little more than SPF 50.

Because the regulations won’t be in place until 2012, Stephen Gellis, MD, program director of Dermatology at Children’s Hospital Boston, suggests using common sense and keeping your own skin’s burning potential in mind when choosing a product. He says that sunscreen should be a second or third defense, and that staying out of the sun or covering up is a much more powerful way to keep your skin healthy.

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Plants, positivity and pediatrics: Celebrating nature’s role in childhood development

Happy Earth Day! As people the world over take time to recognize the importance of protecting the natural world, I wanted to reflect on recent efforts Thrive has made to explore the ways the environment is linked to the healthy development of children. Not surprisingly, we’ve had a lot to talk about.

Lately Thrive has touched on topics like how air pollution increases ear infections in kids, the dangers of using environmental toxins like bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s products and how parenthood can sometimes change a person’s outlook when they think about the planet’s future. At the center of these discussions is Ari Bernstein, MD, MPH a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston and faculty member at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.

When not working as a pediatrician at Children’s, Dr. Bernstein spends much of his time thinking about how the environment shapes kids’ health. He’s also passionate about finding ways to improve the environment, which would support the well-being of children everywhere. That type of dedication makes him a great source of information for parents wanting to know more about how nature influences the healthy development of their family.

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Naturally influential

Written by Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston and faculty member at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment.

In the Middle Ages, people concocted mixtures of wormwood, mint and balm to treat stomach problems and applied rubs made of rose and lavender to alleviate chronic migraines. Considering how far medicine has come since, many people assume that modern science is the driving force behind today’s powerful drugs. It may surprise them to learn that he world around us is still the source of most of our modern medicines.

For the past 30 years, only 1/3 of the drugs approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration were created in labs, based on human resourcefulness alone. The remaining 2/3 were given to us, more or less, by nature. Although most of these medicines were made safer and in some cases more potent with the help of human ingenuity, most of what makes them medically useful comes directly from mother nature.

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