Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

advice, news & freebies

The Fact is I’m not the Weird One August 25, 2009

Health, wellness, long-life… not for the average American.  The state of human health in our country is disintegrating at an increasing rate.  As moms, we want to do something about it.  And, by golly, we will… even though it means we become the “weird” mom who refuses to buy Koolaid and rejects vinyl bath toys. 

I’ve been on this path for years now.  By now, my family is used to it.  But still, everytime I have to say “no” to an adult who offers my children food packed with high fructose corn syrup or a pthalate-fuming “scented” marker, I feel the rub.  The eyes say, “Why must you be so picky?” and “Your children are missing out!”  I want to exclaim, “Why should I be on the defensive?!?”  Here’s the facts, folks:

Asthma: incidence has more than doubled. It is the leading cause of admission of children to hospital and the leading cause of school absenteeism.
Cancer: after injuries, is the leading killer of children in the United States.
Leukemia and Brain Cancer: have increased in incidence, brain cancer by nearly 40% over the past three decades.
Developmental Disabilitiesand ADHD: Neuro-developmental dysfunction is now commonplace, with learning disabilities affecting anywhere from five to 10 percent of all children.
Birth Defects: The incidence of Hypospadias, a birth defect of the reproductive organs in baby boys, has doubled.
Autism: has jump 400 percent in the last 20 years to 1 in 150 children

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To me, as a medical detective, the increase in the incidence of childhood cancer alone is the first clue that something is going wrong. In fact, many chemical toxicants are known to contribute to causation of these diseases. They deserve special attention because most are preventable sources of harm. Children are at risk of exposure to over 15,000 high-production-volume synthetic chemicals, nearly all of them developed in the past 50 years. These chemicals are used widely in consumer and household goods like personal care products, cleaning supplies, pesticides, paints, toys, home furnishings, carpeting, electronics, plastics and even food and water. More than half are untested for toxicity and affect on human health.

We must understand an important fact: Children are especially sensitive to environmental toxins and more vulnerable than adults.

• Pound for pound of body weight, children have greater exposure to pesticides because they drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air than adults.
• Their unique behaviors put them at higher risk. They live and play close to the floor; and they constantly put their fingers into their mouths.
• Children’s metabolic pathways, especially in the first months after birth are immature. Generally they are less well able to metabolize, detoxify, and excrete toxicants than adults and thus are more vulnerable to them.
• Children are undergoing rapid growth and development, and their developmental processes are easily disrupted. From conception and throughout fetal development, exquisitely small toxin exposures can cause permanent impacts.

For the complete post, see Chemicals in Everyday Products and Children’s Health: A Small Dose of the Facts at Healthy Child Healthy World Blog.

So, I say, “Wake up, folks!  There’s reason for concern. There’s work to be done here.  And, I’m not the weird one.”  Obviously, weirdness is not really the issue.  It’s about education.  An informed consumer changes everything.  And, that’s what I’m trying to do here – spread the word one post at a time.

 

Probiotics for Infants and Toddlers August 4, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 7:00 pm
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Doctors are quick to prescribe antibiotics and other western medications, but slow to remember healthy supplements that work naturally with the body.  Besides breastfeeding, eating healthy and staying active, did you know that you may want to add probiotics to your baby’s “get better” strategy? 

My sister’s baby is only a few months old, but she’s been hospitalized twice for a kidney infection.  We’re trying to think of anything that may help baby Shyla to maintain good health.  Since the doctors put her on antibiotics each time she has an infection, I wondered if it would be wise to have her take a probiotic too. 

Probiotics are “good” bacteria that are ingested in some fermented foods (like yogurt) or via pill, powder or liquid supplement.  These health-promoting, live bacteria take up residence in the stomach to keep bad bacteria in check.  Breastfeeding automatically promotes the development of healthy bacteria.   But… taking antibiotics pretty much wipes everything out – the good, bad, and ugly.  That’s why progressive pediatricians are starting to prescribe probiotics along with antibiotics, as a balance.   Probiotics have been shown to boost immunity, combat yeast infection, shorten bouts of diarrhea, help colicky babies (even breastfed ones!) and even lessen some effects eczema, asthma and allergies (see this article at “Pediatric Views” and dramatic colic results in this article in “Pediatrics”).

You may wonder if it’s really safe to give tiny babies “good” bacteria.  In doing some research, I did find some concern with giving them to immuno-compromised people.  It’s definitely something you’ll want to discuss with your doctor first, if your child has a standing healthy condition.  However, the above article published in “Pediatric Views” (which is hardly natural-oriented) suggested they would be safe for babies over 1 month old.  Here is an infant probiotic made by Udo’s Choice, a well-respected name in health supplements.  This powder version can be mixed into milk or water.  A liquid infant probiotic  may be more convenient for breastfeeding moms.  However, the only one I found only serves 100 million cells per serving.  That may sound like a lot, but you really want to be measuring in the billions, when it comes to taking a probiotic.  I recommend using the powder – Udo’s Choice has 3 billion cells per serving!

 

“Baffling” Link between Vinyl Flooring & Autism April 13, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 7:29 pm
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Environmental Health News just reported on a Swedish study that accidentally found a strong link between vinyl flooring and autism.  Children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit phthalates, are twice as likely to have autism, according to a new study by Swedish and U.S. researchers. Scientists call the discovery ‘intriguing and baffling.’ Experts suspect that genetic and environmental factors combine to cause autism, which has increased dramatically in children over the past 20 years.” 

Yes, autism has increased suddenly…  it has increased seven-fold since 1990, which is far too fast to be attributed to genetics.  It makes sense that environmental poisons are at play, yet few studies have been undertaken to attempt to pinpoint  them.  Vinyl is toxic.  That’s not up for debate.  But, while manufacturers want you to believe that the toxins released by vinyl into the air are minuscule and harmless, I doubt these researches agree.  

“Of the study’s 4,779 children between the ages of 6 and 8, 72 had autism, including 60 boys.

The researchers found four environmental factors associated with autism: vinyl flooring, the mother’s smoking, family economic problems and condensation on windows, which indicates poor ventilation.   

Infants or toddlers who lived in bedrooms with vinyl, or PVC, floors were twice as likely to have autism five years later, in 2005, than those with wood or linoleum flooring.”

In the full article it is made clear that the findings are far from conclusive.  But, scientists have agreed that targeted studies need to be designed to look for a connection between autism and indoor air pollutants.

And, mamas, if vinyl flooring is dangerous for babies, toddlers and children, it’s not at all safe for your unborn baby.  If you’re pregnant, do what you can to avoid vinyl of all kinds at home and at work.  If you can’t escape it, open windows as much as possible to allow the toxins to disperse.  Also, think seriously about replacing your baby’s conventional mattress (which is covered with vinyl) with a non-toxic mattress.  Babies that nap on vinyl are breathing in those fumes day in and day out, just at a time when they’re so vulnerable. 

 

The Perfect Nursing Pillow March 31, 2009

Filed under: Breastfeeding — Rachel @ 6:21 pm
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Breastfeeding is being available, loving, stopping, resting and giving.  Breastfeeding is all the time, everyday and every night.  It’s something you may desire to do for months or years.  It’s a beautiful commitment, but not without it’s challenges.  I breastfed both of my children exclusively from day one.  Could I have done it without a nursing pillow?  I suppose so, but I liked it so much that I owned more than one!  Here’s my story.

I registered for a Boppy pillow.  Doesn’t everyone?  Moms and magazines praise it like a miracle device.  “It’ll save your back,” they say, “and baby will use it for tummy time and learning to sit too!”  My pretty pink Boppy looked nice in the nursery, but quickly showed its faults when baby was born.  Because it is so firm, the Boppy cannot mold to your body or your baby.  How do women keep it in place?  I felt that the moment I placed my baby on it things started sliding about.  Baby would slide towards my breast, face squishing in until I worried she couldn’t find air.  The Boppy would slide away from me, with the baby’s body finding its way into the growing space between me and the pillow.  I tried different positions for both of us, but nothing seemed to help.  Using a nursing pillow should be easy, right?  My arms shouldn’t be busy adjusting or securing the pillow.  Eventually I eyed the curved, rounded top of the Boppy with suspicion.  Why was it rounded?  How could my baby help but slide off of a curved, very firm surface?

My mom had brought home a My Breast Friend pillow, “Just in case.”  It was everything Boppy was not:  a little softer, but not too soft; a flat surface for baby to lay upon without sliding; and equipped with a strap that goes around your back, fastening with velcro so that the pillow stays right against your belly, where it belongs.  It was ideal, and I used that badly-named pillow every single time I nursed at home, even at night.  I could totally relax.  My arms where completely free.  Ahhh….  The Boppy was exiled to grandma’s house.

Along came baby #2.  My Breast Friend Pillow was back, times two.  I purchased a second so that I’d have one on each level of our new two-story home.  I used it constantly.  I washed the removable cover as needed, never realizing that the yellow foam core inside was entirely toxic.  It wasn’t until I was nearing baby #2’s first birthday that I found out about the dangers of polyurethane foam.  Most baby mattresses are filled with polyurethane foam.  We purchased a new, organic mattress for my baby, but I didn’t realize that my Breast Friend nursing pillows are made with polyurethane foam until it was too late. 

Of course, I felt guilty.  Day after day, hour after hour, I’d cozied up with my precious little one over a lump of toxic, air-polluting foam.  And polyurethane foam is that bad.  Really bad. I share the sordid details in my article Toxins in the Nursery at EuphoriaBaby.com.  But, one cannot undue the past.  We can only share the news with others.  To that end, I searched for “the perfect nursing pillow”, one that would work well, but was made of pure, safe ingredients.  emailpillowWe added the Blessed Nest nursing pillow to our website EuphoriaMaternity.com and never looked back.  It’s made entirely of organic cotton and filled with organic buckwheat hulls – pure, simple materials from nature – materials I can trust.  The Blessed Nest pillow is also flat.  The nature of the buckwheat hull filling is somewhat like a beanbag.  It molds to the body, but offers strong support.  As such, it stays still and no one slides off.. hooray! 

So that’s it, that’s my story of the perfect nursing pillow.  When you choose your pillow, just make sure to avoid polyurethane foam at all costs and to choose a pillow that’s relatively flat on top.  Babies aren’t meant to slide.  If you’re not sure about those buckwheat hulls, a flat nursing pillow that’s filled with organic cotton (like the Organic Caboose Nursing Pillow) is another good choice.

 

Hot Topic: Private Cord Blood Banking? January 4, 2009

Filed under: Healthy Living,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 8:57 pm
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Read any pregnancy magazine and you’ll see it, that huge 4 page ad for Viacord and maybe another for CBR too.  Has it occurred to you yet that these companies are making quite a profit on private cord blood banking?  Because, let me tell you, those ads are NOT cheap!!!  Well, they are making a killing.  Parents pay $1500 – 2000 to have their child’s cord blood collected and another $100 per year to keep it in storage for use at their discretion. 

Many parents don’t have a spare $2000 when baby is born, so why are they banking cord blood?  I think it’s the angle these companies take.  Banking that cord blood is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to buy a precious substance that might save the life of one that you love.  Given parent’s intense feelings of protectiveness at the time of pregnancy and birth, it’s no wonder many feel compelled to private banking. 

It’s true that cord blood can be used to treat many diseases, and it’s true that in the future it may become even more useful as science advances.  It’s also true that a parent or sibling is more likely to be a match to that new baby than anyone else, but does that really mean that private banking is the answer?  I say, “NO”!

Did you know that there are public, not-for-profit cord blood banks?  These organizations are taking cord blood donations and making them available to those in need NOW.  If everyone used public cord blood banks, we could save lives today, while at the same time making it likely that in 2050 some new baby’s cord blood will be available should the need arise in your family.  It’s much more efficient to see that cord blood used this year, instead of saving it for 50 years for some unkown, possibly non-existent use.  Unfortunately, public cord blood banks are not available everywhere.  But, if we start asking for them and stop private banking, they will be available in time.

In my opinion, private cord blood banking is not the right choice for a healthy family with no forseeable need for that blood.  I suggest parent’s use that $2000 to eat healthy, make non-toxic lifestyle choices and pursue good health today.  Give away that cord blood, just as you would give away your blood to the Red Cross, and help someone who needs it now.

 

Phthalates causing Birth Defects in Boys November 24, 2008

Filed under: Healthy Living,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 9:16 pm
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Phthalates are plasticizers (chemicals that make plastics soft) that are known to be dangerous hormone-disrupters for males and females of all ages, but especially in young children.  Recently, studies have documented that the risks are indeed serious for pregnant mothers.  Exposure to phthalates during pregnancy is likely behind the growing rates of birth defects in baby boy genitalia.

What birth defects?  Oh, you know, “the incorrect placement of the opening in the penis (hypospadias), undescended testes (cryportchidism) and defective sperm production” according to this study.  At Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, doctors repair the genitalia of roughly 300 baby boys every year – about double what they did 30 years ago. Which sounds right since hypospadias, nearly doubled in the United States between the late 1960s and early 1990s, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Hmm – that timing happens to coorelate with the plastic revolution…

Where are phthalates?  Sadly, they’re in the urine of just about every US citizen tested.  That’s because they’re added to countless everyday products that contain artificial fragrances (think dish soap, perfume, and candles) and are extremely common in nail polish, soft plastics (think vinyl shower curtains, vinyl purses and cling wrap), adhesives and finishes. 

You may have heard the good news that in 2009 phthalates are not permitted in toys and other products designed for children (UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Toy Safety Act was too poorly written, causing so much confusion that legislators decided to delay it’s implementation until 2010).  However, our little ones still get plenty of exposure in the womb or in daily life through products not designed for children (as in, your shower curtain).  The answer here lies in becoming a smart consumer, one who avoids plastic whenever possible.  

If you or someone you love had problems trying to conceive, phthalates and other hormone-disrupting plastics may well be the cause.   Let’s take steps in our own homes now to get the plastic out, so that the next generation is born and able to create new life again as nature intended. 

 

Children and Chemicals October 30, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler,Healthy Living — Rachel @ 3:42 pm
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It’s time to baby-proof your home.  What does the Pediatrician tell you?  Lock up those cleaning supplies!  That’s because every year hundreds of thousands of parents call poison control because their young child has drank or inhaled dangerous chemical cleaners. 

Here’s some better advice: replace those toxic cleaners with safe alternatives!  Did you know that your family is exposed to more VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) via conventional household cleaners when used as directed than via airborne exposure if you lived across the street from an oil refinery!?!  Yikes.  And while VOC exposure does not usually cause immediate life-threatening reactions, their cummulative damage is being felt in our society.

I just listened to clips from “A Conversation About Children and Chemicals” hosted this October with several experts and an Emmy award-winning journalist in Boston.  The peditrician shared sobering statistics about how many childhood diseases and disorders have dramatically increased in the past years.  Asthma (which is directly triggered by VOC’s) has doubled in the past 15 years to the point that it is considered epidemic.  We’ve also seen dramatic increases in childhood type 2 diabetes, autism and high blood pressure in children. 

What’s causing all this ill-health?  There are lots of theories. But, we know that unhealthy environmental conditions (VOC’s, plastic exposure, artificial fragrances) are contributing to the sad state of American health.  And, since there are environmental contributors, there are environmental solutions.

I encourage you to listen to “A Conversation About Children and Chemicals” and make changes to purify your home environment.

 

Melamine Children’s Dishes – Safe or Toxic? October 9, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 4:48 pm
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Last year when I rid our house of BPA-plastics, I wondered about melamine children’s dishes.  You know, those hard plastic kids plates and bowls with cute painted designs?  They are what everyone uses for kid’s tableware.  Safe or toxic?

I scoured the Internet for info on the safety of melamine for children, but came up with few hard facts: melamine is NOT dishwasher safe or microwave safe (something about the heat can cause dangerous fumes), melamine dishes are a polymer (that means combo) of melamine and formaldehyde, and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.  These few facts did not boost my confidence.  Since my thought is to err on the side of caution when it comes to man made chemicals and my children, I decided to donate the melamine.  Since then, my 3-year-old has been using ceramic plates (none broken yet!) and my toddler has been eating out of Bambu Bowls (available at EuphoriaBaby.com).

Now, months later, I received an interesting email from Healthy Child Healthy World.  They noted that the FDA states that no level of melamine is safe for infant formula.  Considering that the FDA thinks BPA-emitting plastics are safe (yah right!), this makes one wonder why they’re taking such a strong stand on melamine.  Any research will reveal that melamine leaches its constituents into food and beverages(especially those that are acidic or warm) when used.  In the past, experts have claimed that this chemical would be safe in small amounts.  However, those experts always seem to forget about the dangers of cumulative exposure and unpredictable reactions when different chemicals converge within the body.

This June, The National Toxicology Program declared that more research is needed on the safety of melamine and that a new public health recommendation needs to be developed.  I can see where this is going.  If you are still using your cute melamine dishes, you may want to consider donating them or relegating them to the play kitchen or sandbox.   For the youngest ones, use wooden or stainless steel dishes.  And, let your older ones use ceramic dishes – a few broken dishes is well worth their health, and your child may be more ready for it than you think!

 

All about Fire-Retardants September 4, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 3:46 pm
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People everywhere are growing concerned with chemical fire-retardant treatments.  And, rightly so.  Recent studies link fire-retardant chemical exposure to cancer, birth defects, autism, thyroid disorders, hyperactivity, learning disabilities such as ADD, and more.  Yikes, that’s a long list!

Sadly, fire-retardants are stored in our bodies and passed on to future generations via the placenta and through breastfeeding.  Virtually every American who has been tested has been found to have fire-retardants, with babies showing the highest levels (probably since their bedding, pajamas and toys are treated with fire-retardant chemicals).  In fact, when scientists examine North American women’s breast milk, they find that we have levels of fire-retardant chemicals at almost 10 times those found in European and Asian women’s breast milk.  Eeek!

So, what’s a parent to do?  We know that breastfeeding is best… so focus on reducing or removing your family’s exposures to fire-retardants and make it habit to buy products that don’t have these toxic chemicals.  Your buying power is the strongest way to send a message to big-business that they had better mend their ways. 

How do you know?  Manufacturers aren’t required to reveal whether their products are treated with fire retardants.  However, if a product boasts that it is flame-resistant or mentions flammability standards, take that as a big red flag that chemicals were used.  Wool is pretty much the only natural fire-retardant fiber.  That’s why wool mattresses and wool waterproof pads for baby’s bed are growing in popularity.  Innovative companies, like Haba Toys, are also finding that weaving polyester into cotton fabrics makes the cloth of their toys resistant to short-duration heat exposure.  Choose natural cotton pajamas for your children that fit close to the body.  Those are the only pajamas not required to undergo chemical treatments.   

The bottom line is – ask before you buy items such as soft furniture, carpets, mattresses, etc.  If a company is not able to answer your questions regarding the use of fire-retardant chemicals, consider taking your business elsewhere.  Fire safety should not come at the expense of poisoning our families and our environment, especially when safe, non-toxic alternatives exist!

 

Once Upon a Mattress September 2, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 3:47 pm
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I’m reading a wonderful book for creating a safe, “green” home, “Healthy Child Healthy World” published by a national non-profit by the same name.  This excerpt, written by actress Laura Dern, is long but worth reading: 

Once Upon a Mattress

“We hear the news that we’re having a baby and we want to be really healthy and careful.  So we eat organically, avoid mercury in fish, don’t drink, don’t smoke: we don’t use hair color or paint our nails.  We spend all this energy and time creating a really healthy environment – and then we totally switch gears.  We stop thinking about health and somehow lead ourselves to believe that the most important thing for the baby when it comes home from the hospital is… a pretty room…. And so we choose the coolest crib design, instead of the safest or healthiest crib.  We pick the absolute cutest linens, even if they’re covered in flame-retarants and other chemicals (never mind that baby can hardly see at first).  Unwittingly we put loads of toxic chemicals into the room as we strive to make it look right.

But think about it: A newborn baby is spending something like sixteen hours a day asleep.  And that newborn baby’s face is pressed against that space, breathing in what is probably a fresh-off-the-conveyer-belt mattress whose off-gassing is at its height.  On top of that you put a bleached, chemically treated cotton sheet that’s newly dyed – oh, but it’s really cute! – and perhaps not even washed first, or washed in a conventional detergent that’s high in chemicals.  Then ther’s the crib itself, which is often made of partical board, and which continues to off-gas for a long time.  Unbeknown to you, you’ve created an environment with risks when all you wanted to do was make your baby happy and safe.  But it looks good.  Even though the kid is not going to enjoy it for the first two years of his life. 

Most of us do it because nobody told us not to….”

The article goes on, but I’m sure you get the gist.  And, to confess, I’m guilty of exactly what Laura Dern describes.  I read and make careful choices about my pregnancy to give my children a healthy start, but I placed them on conventional, vinyl-topped mattresses and used cheap, chemically dyed and treated bedding without a clue.   

Laura’s right, nobody told met not to.  I would have listened.  That’s why I’m telling you.