Category Archives: Blog

The Poison in Your Laundry



The Poison in Your Laundry

 By Helene Forst

Have you ever wondered what’s in that bottle of detergent or softener you pour into your washing machine, or on that fragrant dryer sheet you throw into your dryer? Well, it’s time you did, because the truth about your laundry products might make you change your laundry routine forever.

Many of the common laundry detergents, softeners, and dryer sheets that sit on our supermarket shelves, like Procter & Gamble’s popular original Tide, and fragrance-free Tide Free and Gentle, contain high levels of 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogenic pollutant. Lesser amounts of the same contaminant were detected in Bounce, both original and Free and Gentle. It’s no wonder that this carcinogenic contaminant has been found in 39 Long Island water districts, many of them in the Town of East Hampton. It’s a shame and a disgrace that Procter & Gamble has consciously chosen not to reformulate these toxic products that people use every day.

Neither New York State nor the federal Environmental Protection Agency regulates dioxane in drinking water. According to Citizens Campaign for the Environment, “Once this chemical flows down your drain, it travels into our groundwater through our septic tanks and cesspools,” before flowing “outward into our surface waters or downward into our aquifers, which are the sole source of Long Island’s drinking water. Removing it is a difficult problem once it hits the groundwater and soil.”

Not only is this toxic chemical found in laundry detergents and soaps, it’s also found in shampoos and body washes. Citizens Campaign for the Environment reports that “approximately 46 percent of personal care products, including detergents, dishwashing soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, deodorants, and body lotions, contain 1,4-dioxane.” In addition, dryer sheets, a common part of many people’s laundry routine, are laden with a multitude of toxic ingredients.

Why would you expose your skin to such dangerous contaminants? If you look on the box of those dryer sheets, you’ll discover that none of the toxic ingredients are listed. Why not, you ask? Well, the current U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn’t require it.

Dr. Anne Steinemann, an expert on pollutants and human health at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has studied the chemicals that discharge from people’s dryer vents into the air and then into our lungs and found that “there are seven dangerous air contaminants and 25 volatile organic compounds that are emitted into the air from fabric softeners and dryer sheets, such as acetaldehyde and benzene. These contaminants are not safe at any level; they are the same pollutants that are emitted from the tailpipes of automobiles. Acetaldehyde is a common ingredient used in fake fragrance blends. It’s potentially carcinogenic to humans and adversely impacts the kidneys and nervous and respiratory systems.”

Just take a bike ride or a walk through any neighborhood in East Hampton and you can smell these noxious chemicals being blown out of your neighbors’ dryer vents.

In 2016, Dr. Steinemann conducted a study that found that “12.5 percent of people blamed scented laundry products spewing from dryer vents for health issues. These included migraines, respiratory issues, skin issues, asthma attacks, and gastrointestinal symptoms.” The scary thing is that Procter & Gamble, the company responsible for most of these products, touts them as being “ideal for newborns and babies.”

What can you do? Stop buying these contaminated products. Each of us as individuals, working together as a community of concerned citizens, can make a difference. All you need to do is say no to the use of these products and purchase eco-friendly detergents instead. There are several companies, such as Seventh Generation, that have come out with healthy but effective cleaning and laundry products.

In addition, the not-for-profit organization Earthjustice recently asked residents of New York to contact Gov. Andrew Cuomo because “he promised to make protecting the public and the environment from chemical contamination a top priority.” For your health, and the health of the environment, “tell Governor Cuomo to require disclosure of all cleaning product ingredients — not just those products the manufacturers add intentionally.”

We should be holding the governor to his promise. Let him know who you are, where you live, and that you’d like transparency for everything that’s being put into cleaning products, shampoos, and body washes that are being sold in New York State.

Remember, it’s never too late to take a stand for your health and for the health of our environment.

Helene Forst is a teacher, environmental activist, and the author of two young-adult novels, “The Journey of Hannah Woods” and “Stoked — 1969.” She lives in East Hampton.

East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Red Devil Swim 2017


August 23, 2017     Page A 16
Conditions Lead To Fast Finishes In Eighth Annual Red Devil Swim

“Aidan Forst, left, won the half-mile and Ethan McCormac won the quarter-mile races at the Red Devil Open Water Swim on Saturday at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett. The PEACE beach towel blankets were donated to EHVOR by Natural Life.”       Photo by Helene Forst.

Article by Drew Budd

“A heavy west to east sweep along the south shore of the East End, coupled with a decent breeze, helped swimmers finish the eighth annual Red Devil Swim in Amagansett quickly on Saturday.

Since the open water swim is a fundraiser for East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue, specific times aren’t that big of a deal, but EHVOR chief T.J. Calabrese said that with the first race beginning around 5:15 p.m., the final competitor of all three races was in by no later than 6 p.m. Usually the three races on the day are set apart by 20 minutes, but because they were getting done so fast, there was a 15-minute break between the first and second race and a 10-minute break between the second and third. 

“The first person out of the water of the mile race was in under 20 minutes. That’s unbelievable,” Calabrese said.

Amagansett’s own Tom McGlade won the first race, which was the mile, while Aidan Forst won the half mile race and Ethan McCormac won the quarter mile race. There were 70 swimmers total; 22 in both the mile and half mile, 26 in the quarter. All races began at Indian Wells Beach and wrapped up at Atlantic Avenue Beach.

Calabrese said that even though the races were done quickly there were some challenging conditions with some rough surf and crowded beaches. With EHVOR running the show there were plenty of lifeguards on hand assisting with the race. There were guards on jet skis setting up the buoys along the beach, guards on paddleboards and a number of guards in the water along with the swimmers for assistance.”





On Saturday, October 15th, 2017, Surfers Healing, an organization that travels around the United States offering children with special needs, specifically those with autism, the opportunity to experience the wonders and magic of surfing in the ocean, will visit our East End at Ditch Plains in Montauk.

Members of East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue will be in force to volunteer their time for this amazing event. From 8 am to 2:30 pm, they will assist the children onto surfboards or transport them by jet ski out to some of the most talented surfers waiting to take them for the ride of their life.

Surfers Healing is making a difference in the lives of families and kids living with autism and other special needs.

Thinking in ones is where an effective change takes place.

One day at the beach, making a difference, one ride at a time!


On Saturday, July 22nd, there will be an open water swim at Ditch Plains Beach.  This event offers a rare opportunity to swim in an ocean open-water race on the beautiful East End of Long Island. There will be three distance categories to ensure that swimmers of all ages and abilities can participate. The race is organized by members from East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad.  All proceeds benefit the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation.

Distance Categories:

1/2 mile – $25 (in advance) $40 (day of)

1 mile – $40 (in advance) $55 (day of)

5K – $55 (in advance) $70 (day of)

The top fundraiser will win an Xterra wetsuit!!!!

Start time – 7 am

Register in advance at: Keyword Montauk Playhouse

EHVOR is comprised of volunteer Suffolk County Certified Ocean Lifeguards who respond to 911 dispatched emergencies year-round in East Hampton





Fighting Chance hosted a swim fundraiser on Saturday, July 8th, at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor. The start time was 7 am. Swimmers of all ages were welcome to swim either a half-mile, full-mile, or two-mile course set up by members from East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue. The entry fee was $75 per person and $50 for children under the age of 12.  All proceeds will benefit local East End cancer patients and their families.



    Members of East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue

This year, National Beach Safety Week and Rip Current Awareness Week begins on Sunday, June 4th and ends on June 11th, the following Sunday.

 Our waters can be a wonderful recreational resource, but they can also be treacherous. Lifeguards are provided in an effort to reduce the number of accidents at our local beaches, but we cannot do the job alone. An informed public is essential to maintaining adequate levels of beach and water safety. The objective of National Beach Safety Week is to make citizens aware of the need to be safe while in and near the water with special emphasis on the hazards associated with Rip Currents.

United States Lifeguard Association’s Top Ten Safety Tips:

Learn to Swim – Promote the YMCA and the Junior Lifeguard Program.

Swim Near a Lifeguard.

Swim with a Buddy.

Check with the Lifeguards on daily conditions.

Obey Posted Signs and Flags – And know your location for 911 calls.

Keep the Beach and Water Clean – What you pack in, pack out!

Learn Rip Current Safety.

Enter Water Feet First.

Wear a Life Jacket when appropriate or mandated.

Use Sunscreen and Drink Plenty of Water.

 United States Lifesaving Association Lightning Safety Guidelines:
  • Beaches and bodies of water do not offer protection from lightning. Every year, lightning strikes and kills people on or near bodies of water. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur during the summer season. As a rule, lightning occurs most frequently within 10 miles of a thunderstorm, but bolts of lightning can travel as far as 20 miles away from the thunderstorm.
  • “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!”
  • Stop all activities and seek shelter in a solid building or hard-topped vehicle.
  • Wait 30 minutes after storm to resume activities.
Rip Current Survival Tips:

Rip Currents can be killers. They are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.


  • Never Swim alone.
  • Be cautious at all times. If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Swim at a lifeguarded beach whenever possible.
  • Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
  • If caught in a rip, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current, parallel to the shoreline.
  • If unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by facing the shore, waving your arms, and yelling for help.
  • If you see a distressed swimmer, get help from a lifeguard or have someone call
  • 9-1-1. Throw the victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape.

 Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA), a national non-profit organization, and your local chapter, Hampton Lifeguard Association (HLA), are dedicated to improving beach safety in America. Check out our website at:

 Lifeguards for life!




This past Saturday, March 25, 2017, between 8:30 and 9:30 pm, hundreds of millions of people around the world turned off their lights for one hour to show their commitment to the planet and our collective fight against climate change. There’s never been a more timely and important moment for the world to stand in solidarity for the protection of our planet.

From New York to New Zealand, from Paris to Paraguay, an unprecedented 187 countries and territories took part in this monumental environmental statement. More than 3,000 landmarks switched off their lights and millions of individuals, businesses, and organizations across seven continents stepped forward to change climate change.


WWF’s Earth Hour shows us how each of us can be heroes for our planet, our home. Our actions today can change our tomorrow – together, let’s #ChangeClimateChange.


Join the Movement!



On Sunday afternoon, March 5, 2017, members of East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue took part in a “Simulated Emergency Response Scenario Training” (SERS Training). The rescue swimmers were broken up into three groups and isolated in the gym area of the YMCA while an emergency situation was set up in the pool. Each group had five minutes to assess and rescue the multiple victims in the water.

The shallow end of the pool was considered the shoreline where Beach Command was stationed to give directions to their swimmers and to be in contact with Dispatch. The deep end of the pool was considered beyond the break. The winning group rescued all victims in under 4 minutes. The reasons – Good Beach Command directions and the fact that these rescue swimmers grabbed rescue equipment which consisted of the use of available torpes and rescue board to assist in their rescues.

This was a successful EHVOR training.

Lifeguards for Life!



New York State of United Teachers (NYSUT) is more than 600,000 people strong who “work in, or are retired from, New York’s schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities. The union is made of up of classroom teachers, college and university faculty and professional staff, school bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, cafeteria workers, teacher assistants and aides, nurses and healthcare technicians.”

The January 2017 issue of NYSUT United, a quarterly publications put out by NYSUT, featured a wonderful review of Stoked – 1969.

This is the review as it appears on page 11:

Stoked – 1969


Recommended by: Francine Silverblank, Professor Emerita, Dowling College, Retiree Council 37

Suitable for: age 12 to adult.

Why I chose this book: This book is a five-star, tender and moving read. Jake, an astute, competent 14-year-old, finds life hard because he constantly has to contend with his learning disability – dyslexia. He wants to be able to read, be accepted by his classmates and be like everyone else. His story draws in teen readers with significant issues of trying to keep a weakness hidden, being different, being bullied, friendship and academic and social difficulties.

What I liked best: The book deals with a teen’s disability and a singular time in American history – the Vietnam War. The peak of the United States’ involvement occurred in the President Lyndon B. Johnson administration, including 1969, when this story takes place. TV exposed people to daily images of war’s death and destruction for the first time. Few people understood what was happening and why it was happening, and the result was political turmoil. Some thought joining the armed forces was patriotic; others thought the opposite, and protested the war. Through credible, understanding characters, and plausible winning dialogue, Forst brings to life this tumultuous period in our history with relevance for today’s teens.

How teachers can use this book: The discussions that can follow are loyalty, patriotism, civil disobedience, our responsibilities and rights under the U.S. Constitution, zero tolerance for bullying, being proud of one’s uniqueness and the idea that we are all the authors of our own life stories. A teacher’s page at encourages students to make thoughtful connections between literature and life, an important strategy for reading comprehension.

“Check it Out” features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians and other educators.