Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

advice, news & freebies

Sign the Petition for PVC-Free School Supplies! August 18, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years),Healthy Living — Rachel @ 1:24 pm
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By now the shopping madness is over for most families.  How did you vote with your dollars?  Did you buy PVC/vinyl binders, backpacks & lunchboxes, or did you make green choices that don’t poison the very air in your home?

“Back to School” is big business.  Even though we homeschool, somehow I get the shopping “itch” this time of year (though lately I don’t need an excuse to desire new art supplies).  This weekend my daughter pointed hopefully to a bright vinyl lunchbox at the grocery store.  Between the PVC/vinyl, possible lead contamination(lead inks have been detected in MANY lunchpails made in China), and consumer-driven marketing characters, there wasn’t a chance. 

Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t aware of the dangers of PVC.  If you are, you’ll know why I’m inviting you to sign the Center for Health Environment & Justice‘s petition aimed at manufacturers and retailers, to demand that they provide PVC-free school supplies for our children.  The CHEJ hopes that this petition will convince manufacturers and retailers to produce safer supplies and to label them “PVC-free” so that shopping for green supplies will be easier next time around. 

And, just in case you haven’t heard about PVC, the poison plastic, here’s a quote about PVC from the Center for Health, Environmental, & Justice:

PVC is unique among plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to your child’s health. What’s worse is the danger these chemicals pose- phthalates and other toxic additives can leach out or evaporate into the air over time posing unnecessary dangers to children.  Over 90% of all phthalates are used to soften or plasticize PVC products – that’s over 5 million tons a year!  Children are at risk from even small exposures to these toxic chemicals.

Sign the Petition!

 

Preparing a Birth Pool for your Homebirth July 30, 2009

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 8:32 pm
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http://www.waterbirth.org/mc/page.do?sitePageId=38425&orgId=wi

If you’ll be giving birth at home, consider using a birthing pool.  Whether or not you decide to deliver in the water, you may enjoy laboring in a warm birth pool.  At one reader’s request, I did some research for choosing and preparing your birth pool.

Your midwife may offer pool rental services.  This is an eco-friendly choice, since professional grade pools can be reused to avoid waste.  Be sure to ask questions so you understand what type of pool you’ll be using.  Will it be big enough for one or two persons?  Maybe you’ll want your partner to support you while you labor.  Are the sides comfortable to lean against and high enough for your liking? 

Also, what about toxicity?  Most birth pools are made of vinyl, a phthalate-filled plastic that emits toxic fumes.  Unfortunately, vinyl seems to be the only reasonable option for an inflatable pool, but there are ways to limit the toxicity.  A new pool should be inflated and aired outside for 3-7 days (the longer the better), which will help toxic VOC’s to release.  Your midwife probably provides a reusable pool with single-use liners.  Ask if she can air out the liner for you, or leave it with you so that you can air it out.  If your midwife’s reusable pool doesn’t include a liner, find out what cleaners she uses to disinfect the pool.  Harsh cleaners must be rinsed excessively, so your baby isn’t born into a chemical soup.  If at all possible, choose to rent a pool with a single-use liner, so cleaners aren’t necessary. 

You may also choose to purchase your own birth pool.  Don’t worry about getting one with a heater built-in.  Vinyl easily retains heat, so this isn’t a problem for most births.  One of the most popular birth pools is actually a kiddie pool!  The Aquariumfishy pool has a padded floor and high sides that make it perfect for birthing.  Moms report excellent results with this pool, which is sturdy and strong enough to lean against.  Its affordable price ($30-40) makes it single-use without the need of a liner.  But, buying and throwing out a toxic vinyl pool every time you give birth is not so eco-friendly. 

I’ve only come across one birth pool made with phthalate-free vinyl – Birth Pool in a Box Eco.  At $190, this birth pool is not cheap, but it’s certainly well-made.  I can find nothing but good reviews!  It has a seat, handles for stabilization, adjustable height and disposable liners.  You’ll still want to air out this pool, but you’ll rest a little easier knowing that the plastic is more eco-friendly and non-toxic than other options.  Buy an extra liner for use when you do a test run.  And, when you’re done, you can store it carefully for your next homebirth or sell/give it to someone else who can use it!  The plastic can be damaged by extreme heat or cold, so store at room temperature. 

After purchasing or renting your pool, you’ve got some more work to do.  You’ll want to test drive the pool.  This sounds silly until you realize how many things can go wrong!  You need a tarp to place underneath to protect your floors and discourage slipping.  Next, you’ll need a pump for inflating the pool.  Depending on your pump, it can take 30 minutes+ to inflate.  If it takes long, consider keeping your pool inflated those last 2 weeks to cut down your setup time. 

To fill your pool, you’ll need an aquarium hose or RV hose that runs to your sink.  The shorter the hose the better, so as to keep that water warm.  Add to that an adapter so that your hose can be fitted to a sink in your house.  No, you don’t want to use a garden hose instead.  There are hygenic problems with that approach!  When you fill the pool, you’ll ideally use cold water for the first bit and then go to hot.  This is so that the plastic is not damaged by exposure to scalding hot water.  Lastly, you’ll need a method for emptying and deflating the pool.  The bucket approach works, but will take a looooong time.  With a newborn at hand, this is not a good time for tedious tasks. 

So many steps!  That’s why you need to do a trail run.  The trial will give you confidence that your pool is airtight and watertight, plus it’ll ensure that you have all the right parts on hand for the big day.  Be sure to time how long setup takes, so you know during labor what to expect.  You can shop for all the various waterbirth supplies to inflate/deflate and fill/empty your birth pool at Your Waterbirth.

Enjoy your birth!

 

Top 10 Toxic Baby Products May 16, 2009

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

 

Toxic Chemicals may be Making our Kids Fat! May 2, 2009

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 6:50 pm
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Here’s a sobering statistic… 1 in 5 American 4-year-olds is clinically obese.  That’s up 300% since 1980.  And, many more are seriously overweight. 

What is going on?  Anyone might reply that poor diet and lack of exercise are at the heart of this frightening problem, and they may be right.  Certainly, proper diet and exercise are a MUST.  But, did you know that studies are starting to reveal that certain common chemicals are contributing to the problem by messing with our hormones? 

You’ve heard me rant before about the dangers of BPA, Phthalates, PFOA, etc.  These are chemicals found in many plastic products from your vinyl shower curtain to non-stick cookware; from stain-resistant carpet to canned foods.  These synthetic chemicals are classified as hormone disruptors.  They can cause many serious developmental problems, cancer… and possibly obesity as well.  “A small, but growing body of evidence in both animals and humans are finding a variety of hormone disruptors linked to obesity, including tributyltin, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), organotins, BPA, and PFOA” (from Healthy Child, Healthy World). 

For more information on these chemicals and how you can avoid them see some of my previous posts:

Or explore the links in Healthy Child, Healthy World’s Article Chemicals Increasingly Linked to Obesity and How You Can Fight Fat .

 

“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.

 

Desitin – Safe or Toxic? November 25, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 3:23 pm
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Desitin diaper cream is a classic.  Your mom used it, you got it for your baby shower, and it works.  But, have you read the ingredient list?  The ingredients in Desitin are: Zinc oxide40%, BHA, Cod Liver Oil, Fragrance, Lanolin, Methylparaben, Petrolatum, Talc.  Safe or Toxic?

The Skin Deep cosmetic safety database gives Desitin – Original Formula a score of 5 out of 10.  Desitin Creamy, another popular version, also scores a 5.  That’s NOT GOOD.  Consider this: baby’s skin is thinner than yours, so chemicals can more easily penetrate.  Plus, a baby has a much greater ratio of skin surface area to internal body mass than an adult, which translates to more concentrated chemical exposure from skin care products than an adult.  A level 5 toxicity score is bad news for any product applied to a baby’s skin.

Here are the ingredients of concern in Desitin:

(1) BHA(level 10 toxicity). BHA is associated with cancer and hormone disruption in numerous studies. And since it carries Skin Deep’s very highest toxicity level, standing for “high hazard”, this answers the question “safe or toxic” outright.  It has been banned from cosmetics in the EU because of skin dipigmentation.

(2) Fragrance(level 8 toxicity). Fragrance is a term that designates an undisclosed combination of ingredients that purportedly give the product a smell.  As such, it can hide the existence of virtually any dangerous chemical.  We do know that synthetic fragrance contains phthalates, which are hormone disrupting chemicals that are making there way into the urine of 81% of the infants tested.

(3) Methylparaben(level 4 toxicity) . Methylparaben is one of the parabens, the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics. Parabens are hormone disruptors, also called “endocrine disruptors”.   Studies listed on Skin Deep show that methylparaben has been shown to interfere with gene expression, cause mutation in vitro, have brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses, and cause skin irritation at low doses.

(4) Sodium borate(4-6 toxicity level, based on product usage). This ingredient found only in Desitin Creamy is specifically designated as unsafe by the cosmetics industry’s own safety panel!  It states that sodium borate “should not be used on infant skin or injured skin.” (CIR, p. 228).  It has virtually all of the dangerous effects of the above ingredients combined!

What stands out to me is that these ingredients are ALL hormone disrupters.  Why would it be safe to apply hormone disrupting chemicals on a baby’s bottom parts day after day?  This is crazy!  And we wonder why infertility issues are a growing problem in our country!

I personally use Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Bottom Balm, which is available at our store at EuphoriaBaby.com.  You can do a quick search on the Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Database to see what is safe in the realm of diaper creams.  There are many options and they’re better for the earth too!  I find that Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Bottom Balm clears up issues fast.  Plus, I love the spicy, herb-infused natural scent!