How to avoid harmful chemicals: just pick up your iPhone

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Happy New Year! My first post of 2011 will be a cheerful one: I’ve made a new and potentially very useful discovery. I frequently harp on the fact that household and personal care products are rife with nasty chemicals (even the ones that say they’re not!), but I’ve never found an easy way to avoid them. How can you tell which products are the safest when you’re browsing the drug store aisle without your computer?

Well, turns out there’s an iPhone app for that. The GoodGuide, a database that ranks household products according to their health and environmental impacts, has a new feature on its free iPhone application that uses the phone’s camera as a barcode scanner. Simply pick up a product, use the camera to scan the barcode, and within seconds you can see its GoodGuide score (the higher the number, the better the product). I discovered this new feature yesterday and ran around my apartment scanning barcodes like a mad woman. I’m proud to note that most of what I scanned scored quite well—but that’s probably because I do my homework before I go shopping. Now, though, I won’t have to. Yet another excuse to be lazy.

Download the Goodguide’s free iPhone app here.

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