By JEANINE BEHR GETZ
Photography By CHICHI UBIÑA
Do you or your children have food or chemical allergies?
Has your life been touched by cancer?
Do you think your government protects you against harmful chemicals in your water, food, and consumer products?
Do different “certification” labels on food, consumer goods, and personal care products confuse you?
Do you want to know your products are MADE SAFE?
Meet Amy Ziff, founder of MADE SAFE, an extraordinary woman who leveraged her multiple internet start-up successes to launch an organization that puts raw materials, final products, and brands through rigorous science-based testing before receiving the MADE SAFE stamp of approval. We were thrilled to interview Amy and find out more about MADE SAFE.
Her personal motto — “know more, buy better.”
FCL: What was the impetus for you to take action put together your business plan and launch MADE SAFE?
AZ: When I gave birth to my twins in the year 2010, I found that unlike their older sister they were allergic to seemingly everything. Things that frankly, I didn’t know were possible to be allergic to- like diapers, wipes, allegedly-hypo-allergenic creams, washes the hospital sent me home with, and even the breast feeding pillow I was using. Their little bodies broke out in red rashes and uncomfortable irritations. They’d vomit whenever I used that breast-feeding pillow. I just wanted to understand what was happening, and as a former journalist, I put my research skills to work.
FCL: What did you find?
AZ: I was horrified to learn about all of the chemicals, materials and synthetic ingredients considered “chemicals of concern” that were being used in our daily things. It was hard to believe that there were no rules around using ingredients or materials in products that are linked to neurological impairment, fertility issues, auto-immune disorders, cancers, ADD, asthma and so many other diseases and conditions that are rampant today. The few laws that do exist have loopholes and are inadequate. I couldn’t believe more people weren’t enraged.
FCL: Why do you think more people are not enraged?
AZ: I realized it was because people didn’t know. And if they did know, they needed help finding answers and alternative solutions; otherwise, it’s just too much to handle. That’s where the MADE SAFE idea began. I’m solution oriented, and I wanted to solve the problem. The science exists; I didn’t need any more proof to get started. What I needed was a way to identify products that have been third party vetted to a rigorous scientific standard, looking at human health impacts above all else—but there wasn’t anything like that for things we use everyday. Now there is. That is why I created the MADE SAFE seal.
FCL: If I buy a MADE SAFE labeled product, what can I be assured of?
AZ: We have a very detailed screening process. MADE SAFE certification goes beyond where many standards stop.
First we screen against known toxicants that should be avoided. For example, we don’t think there should be known carcinogens, endocrine disrupting compounds, synthetic flame retardants, heavy metals, high-risk pesticides, toxic solvents or harmful VOCs used in products. So if something falls into one of those categories, we disqualify (or reject) the product right there.
This is where many standards stop.
But we press on by working with a chemist to conduct predictive modeling and assess ingredients to see if they build up in the body, break down in the environment, or harm aquatic life.
We err on the side of caution and use what’s known as the Precautionary Principle. Where we have questions, we assume ingredients are guilty until research can prove that ingredient or material innocent.
FCL: Doesn’t the government already protect us from harmful chemicals?
AZ: Sadly, no. The United States is far behind other countries, including some Asian countries and most EU countries where there is much more regulation around chemicals of concern.
FCL: I recently learned that the United States restricts 11 chemicals from consumer products and Europe restricts the use of 1300!
In my research I have found some misleading certifications. I uncovered some which are designed and sponsored by chemical companies and are just “bought” by brands with the intent to make the consumer feel like they are buying a safer product. Labeling, certifications, and seals of approval can be so deceiving.
AZ: We’ve heard this too! Shocking but true. I would urge people to dig deep when they explore claims that any product or seal makes. Consumers hold so much more power than they realize. It’s time to exercise that power wisely.
FCL: What are three important take-aways for our FCL readers?
AZ: 1) Your body, brain and organs are interacting with chemicals on a frequency and scale that has never before existed. We are literally living labs because there aren’t studies about the interactions of all these chemicals. At face value that can sound scary, which leads to… 2) There are things you can do to protect yourself and your family and to lower your risk for disease. Many chronic diseases today are, at least partially, being spurred by things in our environment, so start making a conscious decision to clean up your environment and buy items more carefully. If you don’t know where to start let www.madesafe.org be a guide in your journey. 3) We are the consumers with the power to change the marketplace. Our choices and our dollars ultimately control the market. Learn about the companies you are buying from: support the better ones and boycott the bad ones.
FCL: Why are you so passionate about environmental and human health?
AZ: This is about our future, about our living legacy. We are raising the first generation of children who are less healthy than their parents. The costs of chronic diseases at the current rates are going to cripple societies, including and especially America. We have to change this.
FCL: Is there a list of top baby products that are MADE SAFE musts?
AZ: We are constantly adding new products, so it’s important to keep checking madesafe.org for updates. That said, for babies a big item is a healthy, nontoxic mattress. Babies spend more than half their time sleeping, developing, and growing. Most conventional baby mattresses are wrapped in PVC – a known carcinogen that makes them virtually indestructible but not particularly healthy. We prefer more natural mattresses and suggest one of Naturepedic’s options. Also, go with a baby bottle system free from plastics that can leech. We love Pura Stainless for their line that uses lab-tested silicone components to ensure safety. We recently certified a brand called Pleni Naturals for baby bath products, and there’s also Alaffia, which makes very good, well-priced personal care items for babies as well.
FCL: How about top products for everyone else?
AZ: Well, as an aging woman I’m particularly keen on good skin care. I love True Botanicals, who is making everything from scents to skin care to shampoo – every single item is MADE SAFE Certified. I love their commitment to making quality and performing products. There is also Annmarie Gianni Skincare, a very carefully sourced and crafted skincare product line. Their beauty line smells incredible and is sourced from organic, wild-crafted ingredients with absolutely no synthetic fragrance. I’m very excited about some of our newest products focused around one of the dirtiest secrets in beauty: hair dye and hair care products. Check our site and social feeds for an upcoming announcement!
FCL: Your web site is very easy to read and understand. What if I have a product that I want to get certified, why would I choose MADE SAFE certification over the many others? Including the EPAs?
AZ: We are the only comprehensive product certification program. The EPA’s government label is focused on cleaners; others focus on beauty, or being environmentally green. We focus on all items in your home and look at both human health and environmental impact. So no matter how you look at it, we are the most comprehensive, which means once you learn about our seal, you can find it across store aisles. It’s designed to guide consumers for easy shopping, from baby and household products to personal care and cosmetics.
FCL: How can our readers influence Brands to engage with MADE SAFE?
AZ: Please tell brands that might be interested to contact us – we have a section on our website for how brands can work with us. We’d love to hear from them!
FCL: On the business plan performance side, how is MADE SAFE tracking? What are your 2017 goals?
AZ: We continue to beat our plan. We’re still a very new organization. With a small team, we’ve certified over 400 products from 30+ brands in the 7 months since our launch! We have a long way to go to have all the items you need in your home, but we will keep at it. Our big goal for 2017 will be to increase our baby product offerings, to engage with more retailers, and to grow our platform and reach – all of which requires more funding.
FCL: Best recommended reads on environmental and human health?
AZ: If you haven’t read it yet you should read Our Stole Future. It will astonish and horrify you. That book has been out for 20 years and very little has been done to address the problems that science documents in that book. If you have kids, read A Compromised Generation by Beth Lambert. If you’re interested in taking your health back, read The Dirt Cure by Dr. Maya Sheatreat-Klein and Strategies for Protecting Your Child’s Immune System by Dr. Rodney and Janice Dietert.
FCL: How can we stay up-to-date on these topics?
AZ: Follow @MadeSafeHQ and @amyziff! We’ll keep sharing great links from organizations we admire and others doing very important work in this field. Also, take a look at our Science Advisory Board for some trusted experts.
FCL: Thank you Amy and MADE SAFE! We covered a lot of important ground in our interview. Where can our readers buy MADE SAFE labeled products?
AZ: Our products are rolling out in stores across the nation but the best thing to do is come to our website (www.madesafe.org) and sign up for our newsletter in order to keep up with news of new products as soon as it’s available.