Don’t Buy the Advertising Hype for These Products

By ecoRI News staff

Madison Avenue’s stealth use of labels to market everything from cologne to jeans has been co-opted by K Street. Candidates are elected or not based on catchy labels produced by pundits, political advisers and marketing agencies. Flip-flopper, insider, outsider, moderate, pro-choice, pro-family, flaming liberal, bleeding heart, ultraconservative and hawk are among the empty tags we affix to Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens and Cool Moose.

Candidates are seldom elected based on their ideas, honesty, integrity and intellect. The same could be said for many of our purchases. Advertisers spent $144 billion in 2011 to entice us to buy more and more stuff, much of it unnecessary and bad for public health and the environment.

The following is a list of some products you don’t need, but are advertised as if they are essential to our existence:

Bottled water. Americans buy half a billion bottles of water weekly. Many people buy bottled water thinking they’re avoiding any contaminants that may be present in their tap water. Bottled water, however, can be just as, or even more, contaminated than tap water. In fact, some bottled water is tap water – overpriced and packaged in plastic that can leach chemicals into the water. Also, from manufacture to disposal, bottled water creates an enormous amount of pollution and waste. Our elected officials spend about $18,000 of taxpayer money annually to provide bottled water at the Statehouse. Perhaps they too should invest in reusable stainless steel water bottles.

Fragrance products. Chemical fragrances found in everyday products such as air fresheners, dryer sheets, perfumes and colognes can trigger asthma. Some of the chemicals mimic estrogen, a process that may increase the risk of breast cancer. For example, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is absorbed through the skin and can accumulate in human fat tissue. Phthalates are suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors that are increasingly being linked to reproductive disorders.

Canned food. Food cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA). Most experts believe this is our main source of exposure to BPA, which has been linked to early puberty, cancer, obesity, heart disease and depression in young girls. Many food brands have gone BPA free, including Campbell’s Soup. However, some companies have switched to BPS, BPA’s chemical cousin, which has been linked many of the same health effects. To be safe, opt for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred foods.

Toxic cleaners. It’s a bit odd to “clean” your oven, floors, counters and toilets with toxic chemicals. Corrosive or caustic cleaners, such as the lye and acids found in drain cleaners, oven cleaners and acid-based toilet bowl cleaners are dangerous cleaning products because they burn skin, eyes and internal tissue easily. It’s simple and effective to use non-toxic cleaners or to make your own.

Pesticides. This is a huge category of products, but they deserve inclusion in their entirety because of how extremely toxic they are. They are made to be. That’s how they kill things. But, solving your pest problem may leave you with another problem — residual poisons that linger on surfaces, contaminate air and get tracked into the house on the bottom of shoes. There are many non-toxic ways to eliminate pests and weeds.

Triclosan. This antibacterial agent is found in soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes and deodorants. Studies have found triclosan may harm the human immune system, which makes people more likely to develop allergies, and reduces muscle strength in humans and animals. The FDA warns consumers to read labels for triclosan and recommends using plain soap to clean up. Instead of using antibacterial hand sanitizers made with triclosan, choose an alternative made with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Nonstick cookware. Studies show that perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which make products stain and stick resistant, are linked to cancer and low birth weights. They are incredibly persistent and can now be found worldwide, including in the bodies of polar bears. PFCs also are found in microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, some dental flosses, furniture and clothing. To steer clear of PFCs, avoid products made with Teflon or list ingredients beginning with “fluoro” or “perfluoro.”