Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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Must-Reads for Pregnancy & Birth August 27, 2009

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 3:57 pm
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As soon as you began thinking about getting pregnant (or realized you already were!) your mind was filled with a million questions.  There’s a lot to learn about pregnancy and birth.  Here’s a book list to get you started:

Healthy Pregnancy

  • The Mother of all Pregnancy Books: The Ultimate Guide to Conception, Birth & Everything In Between by Ann Douglas.  A great introduction and resource for first pregnancies.  Lots of information on common problems of pregnancy.
  • Mothering Magazine’s Having a Baby, Naturally by Peggy O’Mara.  “We’ll inform, you choose”  Having a Baby, Naturally reflects this spirit with straightforward, uncensored information about pregnancy and childbirth, addressing common concerns and questions in a compassionate, nonjudgmental style.
  • Eating for Pregnancy: The Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook by Catherine Jones and Rose Ann Hudson.  A practical book from a perinatal nutritionist on proper eating and weight gain goals, with a large collection of recipes.  It’s a cookbook in its own right.  Also addressing the requirements of diabetic, vegetarian and vegan diets during pregnancy.

Safe Childbirth

  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.  A classic, full of positive birth stories to prepare you mentally and physically for natural childbirth.
  • The Doula Guide to Birth: Secrets Every Pregnant Woman Should Know by Ananda Lowe & Rachel Zimmerman.  Insights from experienced doulas and real moms for birth and the welcoming a newborn.
  • The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.  A truly empowering resource covering the many procedures and tests available during pregnancy and birth.  Offering data and advice so you can make informed decisions regarding your care. 
  • The Doula Advantage by Rachel Gurevich.  Why and how to hire a doula, with interviews from more than 235 women and birth professionals.  So much good information, and real life tools to help women choose the best doula for their birth.
  • Pushed:  The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block.  “The United States has the most intense and widespread medical management of birth” in the world, and yet “ranks near the bottom among industrialized countries in maternal and infant mortality.”  This provocative, highly readable expose raises questions of great consequence for anyone planning to have a baby in U.S.

Fun, Encouraging Reads

  • Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent.  This fun, lighthearted book is chock-full with Peggy’s experiences delivering babies in Berkeley, California, including 40 birth stores from a wide-range of diverse, interesting women.  It’s the perfect prelude to your own labor, sure to leave you with realistic expectations for your own birth and some inspiration too.
  • The Girlfriend’s Guide to Prengnacy by Vicki Iovine.  Although I don’t share the perspective of the author, this book is so hilarious that I had to include it here.  The author’s sassy writing style will have you laughing at your pregnancy woes. 
  • Pregnancy Stories: Real Women Share the Joys, Fears, Thrills, and Anxieties of Pregnancy from Conception to Birth by Cecilia Cancellaro.  A collection of honest short-stories written by real mothers about the ups and downs of pregnancy and birth.  Support for the journey.

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.


“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. 


Hormone Disruptors and Your Health February 12, 2009

Filed under: Breastfeeding,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 6:06 pm
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Girl, Disrupted: Hormone Disruptors and Women’s Reproductive Health is a new 35 page report designed to explain what we know today about hormone disrupting chemicals to regular people like you and I.  It was published by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment and focuses, specifically, on how several synthetic, hormone-disrupting chemicals are destroying women’s health.  The report details studies that link hormone disruptors to early puberty, infertility, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer and others. 

I know I’ve written time and agan about dangerous chemicals Americans are commonly exposed to, such as BPA, pthalates and more.  I tend to focus on what we should do to protect our health.  Rather than giving a list of to-do’s, this report gives you clear, concise reasons why you should be concerned about hormone disruptors. 

I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the 35-page report.  Who has time for that?  Fortunately, they also published a concise summary brochure that gets right down to it:  Hormone Disruptors and Women’s Health: Reasons for Concern.  Go here, download the PDF and share it with your friends.  If you’re pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive you’re at a particular vulnerable point.  You should take steps now to protect the health of your baby.


Mercury, Fish and Pregnancy – The FDA Scandal December 18, 2008

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 4:21 pm
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Have you heard the latest sad story about corruption in the FDA?  Here’s an excerpt from the good folks at the Environmental Working Group:

On Friday, December 12, the Environmental Working Group made public internal government documents disclosing the Food and Drug Administration‘s secret plans to reverse federal warnings that pregnant women and children limit their fish intake to avoid mercury, a neurotoxin especially dangerous to the fetus and infants… The Washington Post broke the story, and other national stories followed.

Reaction from Capitol Hill was swift and sharp. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT., denounced the FDA: “Now, in the administration’s 11th hour, they are quietly trying to water down advisories for women and children about the dangers of mercury in fish, disregarding sound scienceon this issue. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin capable of impairing childhood development at very low levels.”

I read the full Washington Post story, and the whole situation is just sad.  The last thing that pregnant woman need is more ambiguity about what is or is not safe to consume while pregnant.  I absolutely agree that pregnant and nursing women (and young children – ok, all of us) should severely limit consumption of fish known to carry dangerous amounts of mercury.  In fact, after doing some research I didn’t eat tuna at all during those critical times.  And, now, I still don’t eat canned tuna because all tuna cans are lined with BPA-emitting plastic.  It’s just not worth a tuna sandwich!

It’s true that fish is a unique source of extremely important omega-3 fatty acids, which are rare in the average American diet.  These omega-3’s are important for brain growth.  BUT, you can provide these nutrients for your family with a high-quality fish oil supplement (we use Nordic Naturals), by eating wild-caught Alaskan salmon (which is unlikely to contain mercury) and by eating walnuts, another food packed with omega-3 fatty acids.


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. 


Made in China October 22, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 7:32 am
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If you’re pregnant or nursing, you’re well aware that what you put in your body has the power to nurture or harm your baby.  Do you buy products Made in China?

The recent melamine scandal has given Americans one more reason to worry about the safety of products Made in China.   If you missed it, authorities found melamine in Chinese infant formula and milk products, which caused the deaths of four Chinese babies, the sickening of 54,000 Chinese babies and recalls world-wide of many international products that are made with Chinese milk (Cadburry chocolates, Nabisco Ritz cheese crackers and Lipton Green Tea). 

There has been a growing concern amongst American consumers about products Made in China, and for good reason.  It is sad, but true that China does not have a good track record.  According to this article in The International Herald Tribune:

“Chinese products have been failing food inspections for years. Hundreds of Chinese shipments have been stopped by inspectors in Europe, the United States and Asian countries in recent years because they contained banned chemicals or were unfit for consumption, government data show.

In the European Union alone, Chinese fish and shrimp were rejected because they contained fungicides, antibiotics or other banned drugs; dried fruit and vegetables were found to have more than the allowable level of the preservative sulfite; peanuts had excessive levels of fungus-related toxins; and packaged foods tested positive for heavy metals that leached from their packaging.

Although only the world’s eighth-largest exporter of food, China ranked in first place last year for the number of hazardous imports detected by regulators in the European Union. China had 352 notifications, its highest level ever, compared with 191 for the United States, which is the world’s largest agricultural exporter.”

I have been on the fence on the issue of buying products Made in China.  I hate to reject everything exported from China, because some things must be made safely and responsibly.  And, yet the simply truth is that authorities cannot possibly test all products for toxicity.  If a country does have a consistently bad track record, why am I willing to take the risk? 

As of today, I am off the fence.  Given the state of our economy, I say it’s time to make the effort and spend the cash to buy Made in the USA whenever possible.  If things are rocky at home, why send our money overseas?  We help ourselves by helping our neighbors who have continued to produce products in the USA despite higher costs due to paying a fair wage and not cutting corners on product quality.  Quality = safety.   What do 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!


How to Eat Organic and Not Go Broke July 31, 2008

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 3:14 pm
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There’s no question that organic foods are healthier for your family, especially during vulnerable times such as pregnancy and childhood.  If you have yet to make the switch to shopping organic, cost is probably the main deterrent.  Can eating organically really be affordable enough for the average family?  I think the answer is “yes”, but it’s not easy to see why. 

First off, making the choice to eat organically means more than just buying organic produce.  It should also include taking steps to reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet.  If you don’t recognize the ingredients, don’t buy it.  Processed foods are even more expensive than organic foods!  For example, my husband loves to snack on popcorn.  We used to buy bagged microwave popcorn that was loaded with junk.  Now we buy organic popping corn and he pops it on the stove, which is far cheaper, though more time-intensive.  Other quick snacks include: fruit, cream cheese on whole wheat crackers, organic granola in plain yogurt, etc.  All these options are far cheaper than granola bars and other packaged snacks. 

Besides avoiding processed foods, here are some tricks to saving money on buying organic foods:  

  • Avoid the grocery store!  Really, the grocery store is the most expensive way to shop.  At the farmer’s market, organic produce costs the same as pesticide-laden produce at the grocery store.  Cutting out the middle-man makes a big difference.  To find a market near you visit this site.  You can also buy direct from farmers by joining a local CSA (a program where a variety of in-season produce is delivered each week for shareholders).  
  • Buy in bulk!  When it comes to meats, organic gets pretty pricey.  Besides limiting your meat intake to make more room for those desperately needed fruits and veggies, you can buy organic meat in bulk directly from farmers for the most reasonable price.  This practice also allows you to support local farmers, which helps keep those rolling pastures in your area, rather than another new subdivision.  Buying “half a cow” will typically save you $2+ a pound!  For produce buy in bulk at Costco (if you have one), which has an extensive organics section.
  • Drink better!  Your body needs water, what do you drink?  Juice, soda and milk quickly bulk-up your grocery bill.  Fruit is healthier than juice, because fruit provides fiber.  Soda is definitely a no-no.  Milk is great, but drinking it all day (like my husband does) at the exclusion of water is not healthy or affordable.  Replacing some beverages with water is free!
  • Grow your own food!  Well, we’re not there yet, but next year I intend to plant a least a few easy growers like tomatoes, potatoes and corn.  Even if you have a tiny backyard, a garden can be compact and fruitful.  Plus, home-grown food tastes so much better than super-market fare.
  • As a last resort, shop selective!  If you’re worried about your budget, start by buying the most pesticide-laden produce organic.  You can download and print a free wallet guide produced by the EWG (Environmental Working Group), which details which fruits and veggies are loaded with pesticides or relatively low on pesticides.  The same link includes a full list of 43 fruits and veggies ranked by pesticide danger.  It takes into account washing and peeling too. 

Non-toxic, Safe Sunscreens that I love July 22, 2008

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 5:22 pm
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After trying a bunch of safe, chemical-free sunscreens this summer, I have landed on two that are my absolute favorites: Badger SPF 30 and California Baby SPF 30 Bug Blend. 

Badger sunscreens are hard-to-find.  I ordered mine here where you get free shipping on 2+ bottles.  Badger SPF 30 Sunscreen is effective with 20.5% Zinc Oxide.  Of all the natural sunscreens I tried, this one seems to go farthest and absorb fastest.  Since safe sunscreens aren’t cheap, this is a big bonus in my book.  My husband commented that it applies a lot like conventional sunscreens like Banana Boat or Coppertone.  I love that Badger has a sweet, herbal scent from the lavender, lime and orange oils in the blend.  Very nice!

California Baby is more readily available from online drugstores galore.  I like the Bug Blend because it has natural citronella to combat the mosquitos that are rampant here in the South.  California Baby SPF 30 Bug Blend uses micronized titanium dioxide for sun protection.  As per Healthy Child Healthy World, larger sized micronized particles appear to be both safe and effective, unlike nanoparticles.  Nanoparticles are 1000 times smaller than micronized particles and many questions still linger about their safety.  In my experience, California Baby’s sunscreen absorbs relatively quickly as compared to other natural sunscreens. But, in comparison to dangerous chemical sunscreens (aka Banana Boat), it does take quite a bit more rubbing and doesn’t go as far.

If you’re only going to use one sunscreen, I recommend Badger.  Still, California Baby Bug Blend is a close second runner up and does help with summer pests.  Also, California Baby has safe sunscreen sticks and natural, DEET-free bug sprays which are worth considering.