Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to School

As if there's not enough to think about when it's back to school time...I'm about to mention lunch boxes!!! Yes, lunch boxes. This is one of those topics that may be too green for some. I realize some people don't want to go there- to the extreme green, to the bottomless pit of green living. Every time you turn around there's something new to worry about or think about, and at times you wish for the uninformed you.

Hear me out here...

Those vinyl lunch boxes you get at any Target or Walmart are made of vinyl or PVC. Some manufactures use lead as a color stabilizer on these lunch boxes.
I'll stick to two topics here. Vinyl and lead.
I'm going to try to be brief here. Those who know me, understand how difficult this can be for me.

Lead, I don't think I need to go on too long about this. We all know lead consumption is dangerous, especially for babies and kids. High lead levels and lead poisoning can manifest anywhere from vague learning disabilities to kidney failure to death in it's extreme form. Lead was detected in lunch boxes over the last few years and in 2007 many states recalled lunch boxes because levels were so high. I understand it seems a bit panicky to think your child will get lead poisoning from this, but it was detected on the hands of people after handling the lunch boxes. Hands to face while eating lunch, right? Again, this may not be enough to be physically dangerous, but do we really want to take that chance with our spongy, developing child's brain?? I certainly don't.

Polyvinylchloride (PVC or 'vinyl') is used in tons of household products from pipes, and flooring to baby toys, electronics and shower curtains. You know that smell of a new vinyl shower curtain?- yeah, not so good for you. I seriously could create a short separate post just about the 14 dangerous toxins released after opening up that new shower curtain package! (Toluene- a developmental toxin is one!) Several hazardous chemicals (lead, mercury, phthalates, vinyl chloride, dioxins, ethylene dichloride, among others) are released in the manufacturing of PVC. These chemical plants, mostly located in low income, small communities, pollute the air and water and create numerous dangerous conditions for their workers as well. Mossville, Louisiana, surrounded by four vinyl production plants, was noted in a CNN special as having polluted air, water and citizens. People there have dioxin levels found in their bodies that correspond with the dioxins released from the production facilities. Most of the chemicals mentioned here are carcinogens and workers at these plants have been diagnosed with rare liver cancers, brain cancer, lung cancer and lymphomas at a high rate. The bottom line is you don't want to be inhaling the scent of your new plastic shower curtain, you don't want your 2 year old to be mouthing PVC made toys and you shouldn't want your kids carrying a PVC made lunch box.

I get that your child probably won't be licking the inside of his lunch box daily. (However, I wouldn't put it past my daughter to lick a bit of jelly that oozed out of her sandwich onto her lunch box!) But when we speak of healthy kids and a healthy planet...doesn't it make sense not to support these toxic chemical makers? For the sake of the children in Mossville that are breathing and drinking that water. We all have to take responsibility. So lets be sure our kids are protected from dangerous chemicals at least by our choices in lunch boxes!! At the same time we won't be supporting dangerous chemical makers when there are safer alternatives to PVC that are cost effective and available.

If you're wondering if a container or product is made of PVC look for a #3 inside the product or a "V" underneath the recycle symbol.

Here are some places to look for better lunch containers and lunch boxes.

Affordable and easy--

The gold standard--

I love Citizenpip.

Happy back to school!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Triclosan- You and your hand soap don't need it.

Triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal agent, is the most common ingredient in antibacterial hand soaps. It is used under the name Microban when used in plastics and clothing, and the name Biofresh when used in acrylic fibers. I am so fed up with everything becoming antibacterial and most people thinking this is a good thing!

We are washing our kids with it, brushing their teeth with it, then marching into the doctors office and demanding more antibiotics to stop Johnny's runny nose and cough! Why do bacteria get such a bad rap??? There are millions of good bacteria. All over our skin, in our nostrils, lining our gut....everywhere. These good guys keep the bad bacteria from proliferating. You wash your hands fifteen times a day with Softsoap (containing triclosan) and you've gotten rid of both good and bad bacteria. The next thing you touch is Johnny's runny nose and WHAMMO-- the bad bacteria are running rampant.

Let me break it down-- the actual dangers of triclosan.

Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor. We've heard a lot about this in recent
years with BPA and other components of plastics. Endocrine disruptors are substances from outside the body that act like hormones and disrupt the internal hormone production and balance. Triclosan mimics the thyroid hormone and attaches to receptor sites so that the body's own thyroid hormone cannot be used. Not so great, huh?

Triclosan reacts with chlorine in water creating toxic compounds like
dioxins and chloroform gas- a human carcinogen.

Antibiotic resistance. I've visited this topic before. Creating superbugs that
have evolved to outlast our antibiotic excess. This is a really big deal. As a
nurse I get all worked up about should too. Being in a situation
where you can't find a strong enough antibiotic to fight a really tough bug is S-C-A-R-Y.

Your kids immune systems are WEAK in a sterile world! There are studies showing links with kids living in extremely microbial protective environments with asthma, allergies and eczema. (1) Their immune systems are in a sense immature, having never been exposed to a range of bacteria. Another study showed rural community kids living on farms had fewer allergies than kids not living on farms. (2)

And let's not forget that while people are scrubbing their kids, ridding them of
all bacteria that most illnesses are from VIRUSES! H1N1- Virus. Common Cold- Virus.

Plain ol' soap and water, a good 15 second scrub often throughout the day is BETTER than antimicrobial soaps!!!!!

The Center for Disease Control and the American Medical Association both agree that "no data exists to support their (antimicrobial agents)efficacy...and it may be prudent to avoid the use of them in common household products".
The FDA is currently reviewing it's safety.

Now for the the list. This is only a small portion of products containing triclosan.

* Dial and Softsoap hand soap (many others as well)
* Ajax and Dawn Dish soap (wow!!! even washing our dishes with it!)
* Deodorants (Right Guard, Old Spice)
* Too many skin care products to name
* childrens toys, cosmetics, kitchenware....

1 Rook GAW, Stanford JL. Give us this day our daily germs. Immunol Today 1998;19:113-6.

2 Braun-Fahrländer CH, Gassner M, Grize L, Neu U, Sennhauser FH, Varonier HS, et al. Prevalence of hay fever and allergic sensitization in farmer's children and their peers living in the same rural community. Clin Exp Allergy 1999;29:28-34.

Friday, August 6, 2010

You do your best.....

For all the wanna be "perfect parents" out there, take my advice- stop wanting to be.
I have to tell myself this often. I joke about having a rare "Martha Stewart moment" here and there and my friend Liane usually shakes her head at me and responds with, "Yeah...not me. Don't feel the need to have that moment." In fact, most people don't.
And there's lots about Martha Stewart I don't necessarily want to emulate!!!!!

However, what I've learned thus far --understanding that I am always learning and changing --- is with kids there a few non negotiable things and most everything else is fluid, negotiable, and ever changing.

So my basic rules?

~ Modeling, modeling, modeling.....if
you want kids to eat healthy,you have to eat healthy. If you want kids to speak nicely and have manners, you have to model that. It goes for everything. When you are interacting out in the world, your kids are learning how to do the same from you.

~ Sit down family dinner as often as possible-- sounds very 1950-Esq, but it is proven to have positive effects on kids and their relationships with their parents through the tumultuous teen years.

~ Get veggies in them when they are starving-- during 5 o'clock happy hour my kids consume lots of carrots, green beans, cucumbers etc with ranch and hummus. Start this young. It'll be harder if they are used to Cheetos before dinner, but with effort this can change. Muster up the energy, and make the effort.

~ Get kids involved--
bake with them, let them watch and help you make dinner, grow something-
anything! One pot, one strawberry plant in'll be surprised how
exciting this is.

~ Limit TV, computer and video games!

Do not ignore all the studies and literature that has proven this UNHEALTHY.
We all use TV for a break sometimes, and special movie time is great.
But blank stares and glazed over eyes for hours, is NOT healthy.
And you know that.

I never would have thought when I started a little container garden a couple years ago, I would see my daughter in her nightgown at 8:30am on a Saturday morning sharing green beans for breakfast with my dog, Lucy.
These are the moments I breath deep and have confidence I'm doing something right.