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.

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“SafeMama Diaper Rash Cheat Sheet” August 22, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 8:06 am
Tags: ,

Diaper rash cream – it’s got to be effective, but what about toxic?  I’ve posted before on the evils of Balmex and Desitin.  I’ve also answered one common question, “Diaper Creams: What Can You Use with Cloth Diapers?”  But, SafeMama did one better.  She created a list of safe diaper creams, even separating out those that contain zinc and those that don’t (making them safe for cloth diapers). 

So, without further ado, see if your favorite diaper rash cream makes the SafeMama Diaper Rash Cheat Sheet.  And, if it doesn’t, run – don’t’ walk – over to the Cosmetic Database on Skin Deep to see if what you’re using to treat baby’s bum is causing more problems than it’s worth.  I’ve personally used Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Angel Baby Bottom Balm, which rates a ZERO on the toxicity scale at Skin Deep, with great results.

 

Toxic Tableware and Tainted Formula: Melamine’s Back in the Hot Seat June 18, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 4:59 pm
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“Last fall thousands of babies in China were hospitalized after drinking formula contaminated with melamine. Shortly thereafter, melamine contaminated foods were popping up all over the globe, from cookies in the UK to candy in Connecticut. The issue really hit home when the US FDA found American infant formulas tainted with the contaminant in late November. Parents were outraged. For a while. And then the issue just seemed to drop off the radar.

But it’s back.

Canadian health officials just found, once again, infant formula contaminated with melamine. And their theory of where that contamination is coming from is rather unexpected. According to Science News:

Chemists with Health Canada in Ottawa report they have yet to identify the source of the pollutant they’ve just turned up in 71 of 94 samples of infant formula. In a report of their findings, however, just published online ahead of print in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Sheryl Tittlemier and her colleagues do finger one key suspect: the insecticide cyromazine. It’s legal for use on food crops and animal forage — and melamine is one of its breakdown products.

So, the milk is tainted because the cows are tainted because the food the cows are eating is sprayed with a pesticide that breaks down into melamine. It makes a pretty good argument for organic dairy farming.

Still, it is important to note that the melamine levels detected were far below levels both the FDA and Health Canada have established as safe. In fact, Tittlemier’s group calculated that a baby’s ingestion of melamine would only come to about 1 percent of the allowable intake even if consuming the most contaminated product.

But this is just one source of exposure.

On the other side of the globe, melamine tableware is causing a stir with public health officials. According to The China Post:

In [a] recent experiment, all tableware made of melamine resin tested positive for melamine release, Wang said, warning that consumers should not use such products for hot food or for microwaving. Wang also urged melamine tableware manufacturers to clearly label their products with the warning that they “should not be used in microwave ovens, ” and to remind consumers not to use them for hot food or drink..”

The Taiwan News picked up on the story, as well, stating:

“Melamine levels in the plates, bowls and spoons reached values as high as 20 parts per million, far higher levels than recorded in foods…In daily use, the toxic can be released when the material comes in contact with hot food such as soup or when it is scratched.”

While it has been known for some time that melamine leaches from the plastic resin, the levels they’ve found are very concerning. And, even though it’s happening half way around the world, consider where many of our consumer goods come from.

Simultaneously, The Jakarta Globe in Indonesia just released a report regarding formaldehyde leaching from melamine tableware (formaldehyde is the other chemical combined with melamine to make the plastic resin). According to them:

Health officials warned on Monday that tableware made with melamine resin may release formaldehyde, a potential health hazard, under certain conditions. 
Roland Hutapea, the BPOM’s director for hazardous substance control, said long-term exposure to formaldehyde could cause kidney failure, bladder damage and cancer, and could eventually lead to death. “The safest way for now, as we still have no way to guarantee product safety, is to avoid using any melamine [resin] tableware with heat, acid or water,” he said. Husniah said that without a lab test, it was almost impossible to differentiate safe tableware from products that might release formaldehyde.

As I said back in the fall when we covered this issue

”At Healthy Child, we simply and fundamentally believe it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when the exposure is completely unnecessary. If you have melamine dishes for your kids, perhaps it’s time to retire them to the pretend kitchen play set, a decorative shelf on the wall, the craft supplies cupboard, the bath tub, or the sandbox. Opt for dishware that is made from glass, ceramic, bamboo, stainless steel, or safer plastics (which I’m starting to question even exist).”

What about the formula? It doesn’t seem quite as worrisome as the tableware since the levels are so low. But, organic dairy clearly appears to be a safer farming method for producing a cleaner product. Unfortunately, the recession is crippling the organic dairy industry and farms are folding across the country.  Vote with your dollar to keep organic dairy farms afloat. Buy organic milk.”

Courtesy of Healthy Child Healthy World: a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.

If you’re ready to replace your plastic or melamine children’s dishes with something completely non-toxic, I can recommend our tempered glass dishwear from Kidishes, available at EuphoriaBaby.com.  We’ve been using them at home, and they’re so convenient.   In the dishwasher, microwave and at the table, they wear and wash so well!

 

Are Swimming Pools Safe? June 9, 2009

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 3:14 pm
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Moms everywhere are starting to question the safety of the chemicals our children encounter in the average American lifestyle.  With June comes weekly trips to the pool, and one wonders if sweet little ones are marinating in a toxic soup.  After all, when you can smell the chemicals, that’s usually a very bad sign!

Healthy Child Healthy World, one of my favorite organizations, published Chlorinated Pools and Your Child’s Health, by Janelle Sorensen last year.  The article raises concerns about the safety of the air above the water, which in chlorinated pools will emit fumes that have been shown to trigger asthma, and the safety of the water itself, which will contain volatile compounds as a result of the chlorine coming into contact with hair, body products, sweat, saliva, or urine.  These volatile compounds are carcinogens (links to studies are included). 

Swimming is a wonderful, healthy past time.  This is not to say that we should keep our kids out of pools, but we can make choices that will minimize these risks. 

There are alternatives to chlorine.  If you have your own pool, consider using a mineral sanitizer, ozonization or ultraviolet light to sanitize the pool without dangerous chemicals.  Nature2 Express is a quick, affordable ($175) and eco-friendly sanitizer that uses the mineral elements of silver and copper, with a bit of chlorine, to keep your pool clean.  Read more about alternatives in this article at the Green Upgrader

If a chlorine-free pool is not available to you, be sure to swim in an outdoor pool, which will have exponentially cleaner air than an indoor pool.  Favor pools that have “shower before swimming” rules and be sure to follow them.  Even swimming in less popular pools or when few people are present does something to counteract the concerns.  If your community has a pool, talk to the management about how often it is emptied (which clears out some of the volatile disinfection bi-products) and about experimenting with greener sanitizing options.

 

Announcing Kidishes: The clear and simple alternative to plastic June 4, 2009

I was thrilled to discover Kidishes, a new line of tempered glass children’s dishwear made in France.  The bowls, plates and little cups are perfectly sized for little hands and oh-so-safe.  No dangerous chemicals.  No breakage.   And, no reason to avoid the dishwasher or microwave! 

We immediately added this great product to our store (http://www.euphoriababy.com/store/pc/Tableware-c6.htm), and I’m bringing home some much-needed bowls and cups for my kids today!  If you haven’t already ditched your plastic or melamine kids dishes, now’s the time!

 

Top 10 Toxic Baby Products May 16, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 3:44 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Overwhelmed by all the info?  Not sure which “non-toxic” items for baby are essential purchases?  Here’s my list of Top 10 Toxic Baby Products, in order of approximate danger.  Balance this priority list against your budget to determine what to buy for baby:

1.  Baby Mattresses:  for the crib, bassinet, cosleeper, etc.  avoid like the plague mattresses that are covered with vinyl, filled with polyurethane foam, and treated with chemical fire retardants.   Babies and toddlers spend 10-14 hours a day sleeping, inhaling air just inches away from these dangerous chemicals.  For more info see, What’s Wrong with Conventional Mattresses?  Organic mattresses are made with materials like cotton, wool and natural rubber.

2.  Waterproof Mattress Pads:  “Normal” mattress pads designed for babies utilize vinyl to provide waterproof protection against diaper leaks or accidents.  For the same reasons as above, these are definitely not safe.  A dense wool puddle pad can also provide waterproof protection, without the poisonous fumes. 

3.  Cheap Wooden Toys:  In general, choosing wooden toys over plastic ones is a win-win for the environment and for your child’s safety.  However, know your source.   Toys cheaply made (and often in China) often use lead-tainted paints.  Lead poisoning is so serious that it’s just not worth taking a single risk.  A responsible toy-maker has it’s paints tested for lead.  Testing is routine for European manufacturers and may become routine in the US starting in 2010.

4.  BPA-contaminated Bottles:  Baby bottles made with polycarbonate plastics (clear and hard) emit the toxin BPA.  While the seriousness of BPA exposure to young infants is debated in our country (Still Not Sure about BPA?), other countries, like Canada, have outlawed BPA-emitting plastics in children’s feeding products.  Nowadays, BPA-free baby bottles are easy to find and quite affordable.  Still, don’t assume it’s BPA-free.  Read the label.  Or, just choose glass – it’s definitely safer and more environmentally friendly.

5.  BPA-contaminated Sippy Cups:  Same as above.  Sippy cups are workhorses.  It makes sense to opt for stainless steel sippy cups, over BPA-free plastics since they wear well and minimize the use of any plastic.

6.  Soft Plastic Teethers:   It’s smart to avoid plastic in general, but any soft plastics – like those most baby teethersare made with – are likely to contain phthalates.  Phthalates are a class of chemicals that soften plastics.  They are hormone disruptors, like BPA.  Not something you want baby chewing on.  For more details see, Toxic Toy Alert – Phthalates.  Opt instead for cloth or wooden teethers.  If you must do plastic, check that the label claims its phthalate-free.

7.  Baby Washes and Lotions:   Phthalates come into play here too.  Most baby washes and lotions use artificial scents or “fragrances”.  Any artificial smell is typically packed with phthalates, ready to do their hormone-disrupting worst.  What’s more, these cosmetics are often packed with cancer-causing chemicals, even ones declared “unsuitable for use on infant skin”.  There is no adequate policing of the cosmetic industry.  You’ve got to become informed at www.CosmeticDatabase.com and/or rely on brands that are certified organic, free of chemical additives.  For a case study, see Johnson & Johnson products Removed from Shelves in China!

8.  Popular Diaper Creams:  Diaper creams are cosmetics too and likely to carry the same concerns as the above.  I list them separately because your loyalty to Desitin, Balmex, Butt Paste or the like may be so strong that you forget to evaluate it’s safey too!  Check your miracle cream’s toxicity rating at www.CosmeticDatabase.com.  Here are some case studies I’ve done: Desitin – Safe or Toxic? and My Cosmetic Purge.

9.  Pesticides in Baby Food:  Pesticides are poisons.  Their “safety” levels are based on exposure in adults, not in tiny baby bodies that eat far more produce than the average adult.  Buying organic baby food definitely adds up faster than conventionally grown baby food, but it’s worth it.  I can’t, as a parent, feel very good about serving up bug poison.  If your budget burst a few items earlier on this priority list, try to make baby food at home from organic produce.  It is a bit cheaper.  Or, for maximum savings, grow your own.

10. Disposable Diapers:  Not too well known is the fact that disposable diapers aren’t entirely “pure” no matter how white they’ve been bleached (and actually, bleach is part of the problem).  Disposable diapers contain chemicals that are known to cause skin irritations, bleeding, fever, infection, cancer, sterility, and even death if ingested. Read more about Health Risks with Disposable Diapers.  Of course, using cloth diapers is actually cheaper.  But, if cloth is not your style, safer options include Tushies and 7th Generation disposable diapers.

*Note:  It was difficult to order these dangers, but I realize that some kind of frame of reference is helpful when dealing with the realities of life (limited budget).  Because of the extremely well documented dangers of lead poisoning, I placed “Cheap Wooden Toys” above BPA issues.  In reality, we are still learning about the potential ramifications of BPA and phthalate exposure.

 

The Perfect Nursing Pillow March 31, 2009

Filed under: Breastfeeding — Rachel @ 6:21 pm
Tags: , , ,

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.