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The Blog Cabin

Learn about the toxins in your personal care

2 July 09, 2010
Check out this brief video for a good primer on what may be lurking in your personal care. Environmental Working Group has become an awesome resource for consumers and is spearheading the movement towards a healthier, more accountable personal care industry. Bring it on! We're incredibly excited to be working in this field right now, creating a robust natural alternative for people who know better and are actively rejecting impersonal, chemical-intensive "personal care". Pretty soon you'll be able to buy our initial products via our web site and at selected retailers nationwide :)

What'll it be then?

2 June 10, 2010
This is our first post on the new blog/web site so I guess it's a test! I'm somewhat familiar with Wordpress due to a previous blogging endeavor, so it shouldn't bee too difficult to make the switch from our initial blogging effort over at Blogger which we'll refer to as the Start-Up Diary. We've been told by our talented web crew (more on those guys later) to post images that are in a 3:2 aspect ratio, and we're not quite sure what that means, but let's give it a try with this close-up of a beer mat we encountered at a pub nearby. It caught our eye because you can substitute "shave" for "pint of the usual" and it still works quite well...

Awareness re: rampant use of toxins on the rise

2 May 12, 2010
In case you missed it, one of the most popular articles on the NY Times web site this week, New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer, cites a new report by the President's Cancer Panel linking the widespread use of suspect toxins in personal care and other industries to the alarming rise in cancer rates, notably among children. A few sobering excerpts:
“Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” the report says. It adds: “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”...
Some 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and they include Democrats and Republicans alike. Protecting ourselves and our children from toxins should be an effort that both parties can get behind — if enough members of Congress are willing to put the public interest ahead of corporate interests...
One reason for concern is that some cancers are becoming more common, particularly in children. We don’t know why that is, but the proliferation of chemicals in water, foods, air and household products is widely suspected as a factor.
Can't wait to get our products and brand out there. Pretty soon we'll have lab samples ready to send out if you're curious to try our products. Email us if you're interested.

75% of so-called natural personal care not so natural

Oliver Sweatman March 29, 2010
75percent-river Some telling snippets from CGI's recent article, Naturals Market Maintains Strong Global Growth:
... Nearly 75% of so-called natural personal care products are not so natural after all. The overwhelming majority are considered “natural-inspired,” comprised mostly of synthetics with just enough natural ingredients thrown in to take advantage of low consumer differentiation. Unfortunately, the lack of explicit standards that define the degree of naturalness in most markets makes it possible for manufacturers in some countries to call their products “natural” just by adding a flowery label to the package. ... In the United States, consumer demand for naturals is growing, but so is the skepticism that should incite marketers to develop truly natural products that deliver more than marketing hype.
This is one of the reasons why we're adhering to - and plan to use - the relatively stringent Natural Product Association's Natural Product Standard seal.

Men: be aware of what's in your personal care

Oliver Sweatman March 09, 2010


Here's a sobering snippet re: the potential harmful effects of certain ingredients on men's health from the January 2009 edition of Not Just a Pretty Face - The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry by Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

"Harvard School of Public Health researchers Dr. Russ Hauser and Susan Duty studied men in an infertility clinic and found that men who had higher levels of DBP [a pthalate used in the manufacture of cosmetics] in their bodies had lower sperm quality and lower sperm motility. In a separate study of 379 men from an infertility clinic, the Harvard researchers correlated diethyl phthalate (DEP) with DNA damage in the men's sperm, a condition that can lead to infertility and miscarriage. DEP is the pthalate used most widely in cosmetics. The chemical appears to be getting into people's bodies from the products... Men who used cologne or aftershave within 48 hours before urine collection had more than twice the levels of DEP in their bodies as men who did not use cologne or aftershave... For each additional type of personal care product used, the DEP metabolite in their bodies increased by 33%."
It's important to point out that pthalates are not listed on the ingredient lists of personal care products; if they're there they're usually buried in the term "fragrance". Fragrance is considered a "trade secret" so manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients that make up "fragrance". A 2007 study conducted by Consumer Reports "found phthalates in 72% of personal care products, including fragrance-containing shampoos, deodorants and hair gels. None of the products listed pthalates on the label." This is a good example of how opaque and toxic the incumbent personal care industry has become over the years... But the tide is turning, with concerned consumers gaining the upper hand, thanks in large part to greater transparency ushered in by the web. We're doing our best to understand these issues without sensationalizing them, and we'll share key learnings here as we go... Please let us know if you come across any insightful articles or news on the matter.

New York Times article re: toxins in the environment

Oliver Sweatman February 25, 2010
Here are a few sobering excerpts from the most-emailed column on today's regarding the possible serious health concerns resulting from a build-up of toxins in the environment, in part due to the widespread usage of these chemicals in personal care (Do Toxins Cause Autism?):
"Concern about toxins in the environment used to be a fringe view. But alarm has moved into the medical mainstream. Toxicologists, endocrinologists and oncologists seem to be the most concerned." ...
Senator Lautenberg says that under existing law, of 80,000 chemicals registered in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency has required safety testing of only 200. “Our children have become test subjects,” he noted.
One peer-reviewed study published this year in Environmental Health Perspectives gave a hint of the risks. Researchers measured the levels of suspect chemicals called phthalates in the urine of pregnant women. Among women with higher levels of certain phthalates (those commonly found in fragrances, shampoos, cosmetics and nail polishes), their children years later were more likely to display disruptive behavior. ...
“There are diseases that are increasing in the population that we have no known cause for,” said Alan M. Goldberg, a professor of toxicology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. “Breast cancer, prostate cancer, autism are three examples. The potential is for these diseases to be on the rise because of chemicals in the environment.”
We've noticed an uptick in mainstream media coverage on the subject of toxins in the environment and we hope this serves as a catalyst for greater consumer awareness around the issue and ultimately improved public health. It also underscores the reason we started Ursa Major Natural Care LLC (aka, the Big Bear!) - to provide a spirited natural alternative to toxic, mainstream personal care.

Ursa Major featured in Burlington Free Press

2 February 15, 2010
One of our informal advisers, Greg Strong of Spring Hill Solutions, wrote a column for the Burlington Free Press this weekend about the importance of harnessing "the power of business, markets and human resourcefulness to help address an increasingly urgent set of local and global challenges..." in which he mentioned Ursa Major as an example of a Vermont-based start-up that is trying to "to be a net-positive contributor to the environment, the economy and society at-large from the outset." We knew something was coming and he gave us a heads up that the piece was going to print a day before it ran and we had a brief window to verify facts and suggest changes to the original draft, most of which were picked up in the print version (but not the online version). Here's the excerpt that talks about Ursa Major:
Ursa Major is trying to get it right from the beginning. This Stowe-based start-up is creating a new line of men’s personal care products —sunscreens, soaps, shaving creams, lotions — from the ground up. The founders and sole employees, Oliver Sweatman and Emily Doyle, are working hard to develop products, design packaging, secure key strategic partners, raise capital, map supply chains and put it all together to create a livelihood for themselves, their families and their employees-to-be. In other words, everything you’d expect from a start-up — with one important twist: Oliver and Emily are designing their young company to be a net-positive contributor to the environment, the economy and society at-large from the outset. This means grappling with big questions and setting real goals around things like waste production, climate impact, use of natural and organic ingredients, values-alignment with investors and making a tangible contribution their local economy and community — along with how best to measure success and progress toward their company’s goals. I believe Ursa Major’s work to expand their awareness, commit to ‘doing the right thing’ from the outset and build lasting values into their DNA is the future of business. Traditionally dubbed sustainability, social responsibility or triple-bottom-line thinking, Ursa Major and enlightened organizations like it (including nonprofits, for-profits, institutions and municipalities) represent a new model — one that aims to harness the power of business, markets and human resourcefulness to help address an increasingly urgent set of local and global challenges including climate change, depleted resources, toxin build-up in the environment, expiring species, failing ecosystems, weakening economies, and social inequities.
We think it's a mistake for young brands to toot their horns too early and our strong preference is to do, and then speak to the media from the vantage point of having done something of value, but this one sorta fell into our lap so we'll take it. Thanks to Greg and the Burlington Free Press for the coverage. Now it's time to get back to work and make good on our intentions! ?


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