While truly every day is a good day to say “I love you” to the special people in your life, Valentine’s Day is a beautiful moment where we may go the extra mile with a special gesture. With over an estimated $18 billion spent annually for the holiday nationwide, it is a wonderful opportunity to vote with your dollars and support healthier options for farmers, workers, and our loved ones who are all a part of this global love story.
We are excited to share our suggestions for a healthy, safe, and sweet holiday!
- Chocolate – Cocoa is a powerful antioxidant and has numerous proven health benefits, including some research that points towards the prevention of some cancers such as ovarian by preventing DNA damage, lowering inflammation, and inhibiting cell proliferation. It certainly is encouraged to enjoy some high quality dark chocolate now and then! If you are leaning towards some sweet treats for the holiday, opt for products that are organic and fairly traded so that you know that the cocoa and additives were produced by workers who were not exposed to harmful pesticides associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Green America’s Chocolate Scorecard and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Food Scores provide excellent guides to help navigate all the options that are on the market right now for your loved one.
- Fresh Flowers and Fruit – While it is beautiful to receive a large bouquet of roses for Valentine’s Day, the health implications producing these flowers on the workers and their families are great. The organophosphate pesticides used in rose production in Ecuador have been associated with neurobehavioral disorders among the children of workers as well as increased risk for breast cancer in farmers’ wives here in the United States. Many pesticides that are used abroad have actually been banned in the United States due to their negative health implications, but are still allowed to be imported. Especially if your loved one is sensitive to chemicals, you do not want to bring these beautiful flowers into your home. Additionally, fruit, such as chocolate covered strawberries, is also another area where additional discernment is needed due to the high pesticide use for the production of these delicious treats – EWG has listed them yet again at the top of their 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce due to their extreme chemical load. Instead, look for organic fruit and flowers that are sold near you, from companies listed on Green America’s Green Pages or Organic Bouquet. Call your local florist and ask what options they have, you might be surprised to hear that there are organic options! Also, you can opt for flowers that are growing naturally in your are at this time of year – I personally would love to receive a bouquet of daffodils from my husband, knowing that they came from down the road.
Beauty Products – When you think pampering, lotions, candles, bubble baths, and perfumes may come to mind. Unfortunately, more often than not, if you go to a store looking to purchase these items they contain ingredients that are toxic to our health. According to Breastcancer.org, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and Toxic-Free Future, common ingredients to look for when shopping for that special gift are carcinogens or hormone disruptors. Some may fall under the “fragrance” heading without additional clarification, while others are listed, such as parabens, phthlatates, perfluorinated chemicals, and 1,4 dioxane. Luckily, there are numerous product options available that do not contain toxic ingredients, some of which have been created by breast cancer survivors themselves in an effort to provide safer products for the conscientious consumer. Checking out the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and Safe Cosmetics, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, are two additional helpful sites with a wealth of information regarding the ingredients and health concerns of a wide range of cosmetics and personal care products. They provide easy to navigate and understand data that can help you quickly understand if your gift choice is a healthy one.
Overall, because there are so many different chemicals out there that have not even been tested for their carcinogenicity or how they interact with each other, let alone how they impact breast cancer risk specifically, it can be very overwhelming to go through each product and make sure that there is no increased risk with your purchase. At the same time, as ZBC has shared often, stress IS a known risk factor for breast cancer and we do not want to cause any additional stress as we enter this holiday week. Just how to navigate the marketplace to find good gift choices that do not cause harm by increasing the risk of breast cancer with their use of certain pesticides and chemicals is what we are excited to help highlight. We abide by the precautionary principle, or a “better safe than sorry” approach towards chemicals. For example, DDT was once used on street corners to shower children and now we know that a girls’ exposure before age 14 increases her risk of breast cancer five fold. Even if concrete evidence is not available yet to say that something is risky, if there is concern grounded in science, it is better to avoid exposure until something is known to be safe, not only proven not to cause harm.
This Valentine’s Day, try to shop with this approach in mind and explore how your gift choices will also show love to others, knowing that people and the planet were less harmed in the cultivation or manufacture of these gifts!
Do you have a favorite non-toxic company or product? Let us know!
Happy Shopping and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Helaine Alon, ZBC Communication Coordinator