Information! It’s everywhere, and is one of the few things that isn’t in danger of going extinct in the 21st century. Every day, we’re subjected to a constant stream of information, some of it good, some of it not so good. How do you tell the difference? Here’s a site that can remove some of the guesswork…

You’re already trying hard to make healthy choices. To make informed healthy choices, you obviously need to have information and facts at hand, and it can take a lot of work. Even when you’ve done the best research you can, and have gathered the information on a subject that matters to you, you still have to filter through the conflicting statements in order to make a decision.

There are plenty of great websites that you can access; take a look at Ruth’s recent NutritionFacts.org post for one. Another really useful site is called ewg.org (Environmental Working Group). The Environmental Working Group’s mission is to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.” It is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. That’s a big (and worthy) mission!

Environmental news

Their website is a rich source of posts about the latest environmental news as it pertains to public health. For instance, one of the recent “Latest News” topics was about the use of oil-field wastewater to irrigate crops in California. (Yikes!) Another topic described a recent new initiative aimed at bolstering children’s environmental health.

Consumer guides

Even if you’re not interested in the environmental information, there’s a great “Consumer Guides” section. The consumer guides provide risk- and rating information on a wide range of products. You’ll find guides on many categories of products, ranging from cosmetics and house cleaning products to safer school supplies for your kids. In addition, you’ll see guides on topics such as safer cell phone use, on creating a healthy home, healthy childcare, and men’s health.

Each product in a consumer guide is rated according to the EWG’s hazard assessment. The rating system differs depending on the product category – for instance, cosmetics are rated numerically (1-10, with 1 being the best), whereas laundry cleaners are rated alphabetically (A-F, with A being the best).

All products use a similar color coding to help you easily see which items you might be interested in. Green icons represent a low hazard product, and the icon color changes from green through amber to red as the hazard risk increases.

What you can learn from a consumer guide

As you drill into a category of interest – cosmetics, for instance – you can choose a specific type of product, such as skin care, and then a specific type of skin care, such as facial cleanser. The resulting list of facial cleansers constitutes the consumer guide. The list indicates a rating and a “health hazard” assessment for each product identified.

From the list of products, you can click on a specific item to learn more about the hazard concerns. You’ll also see the rating of each individual ingredient in that product. Interestingly, a product with an overall low rating might contain individual ingredients that score higher. (The overall rating number appears to be the average of the total rating points divided by the number of ingredients. For example, I looked at one product that had a rating of 3. The product contained 40 ingredients. Two ingredients were rated as 4 and 5. However, the vast majority of ingredients were rated at 3 or less (most were rated as 1). Hence the overall rating of 3.)

How to find the information you want

Let’s say that you want to know about the healthiest household laundry detergents you can use. Click on the link for EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and then click Laundry, and you’ll see a list of items similar to this, showing the number of products by rating. 

This screen shot shows a list of laundry items rated from A - F by the ewg.org, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

Click on any row to see the individual products in that rating level; in the example below, I clicked on the row for products rated B:

This screen shot shows a list of laundry items rated B by the ewg.org, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

Click on any individual product to see the ratings by hazard and by ingredient:

This screen shot shows a rating of hazards associated with a particular laundry item rated by the ewg.org, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

This screen shot shows a rating associated with ingredients in a particular laundry item rated by the ewg.org, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

If you want to know how your favorite cosmetics rate, click on EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database. Choose the category you’re interested in (use the skin care, hair, nails, etc., options across the top of the page, and then refine your choice accordingly (hand cream versus moisturizer, for instance)). When you make your selection, you’ll see a list similar to the following. The low hazard products are at the top of the list; if you scroll down far enough, you’ll find the high hazard products. 
This screen shot shows a list of hand creams, as rated by EWG.org, described in this post on CALMERme.com

Click on any individual product to see the ratings by hazard and by ingredient:

This screen shot shows a rating of hazards associated with a particular hand cream item rated by the ewg.org, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

This screen shot shows a list of ingredients in a hand cream, each of which is rated by EWG.org, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

If you want to take it one step further, you can click on any individual ingredient to see its ratings:

This screen shot shows a rating information about a single ingredient in a hand cream, rated by EWG.org, as described in this post on CALMERme.com

You can probably tell that this site is crammed full of information, so don’t get overwhelmed by it all! Take your time to explore it and see how you can benefit from it. It has become my go-to reference for so many of the things I use.

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