Monthly Archives: May 2015

Ideal Life Mom Freaks Out About: Baby Bath Products

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Today a specific article keeps rolling up on my news feed. Thing is, it’s NOT new information…but I keep seeing these virtual ‘gasps’ from shocked parents and grandparents. Now, if any of you knows where I might obtain a pocket-sized soap box, you might want to message me. This is one of those topics that REALLY gets my dander up!

First, let’s make sure you have a link to the article. Now rest assured, this is NOT new information. In fact, my husband and I became aware of the concerns swirling around some baby products in 2007, before our little flower fairy arrived. It had been a long time since we had taken care of a baby-and while I would identify us a “technologically impaired” we were still able to stumble across enough cautionary information to make us seek out a safer line of baby products.

http://www.realfarmacy.com/johnson-johnson-may-poisoning-child/

Now, as I stared before, we were aware of this in 2007. J&J products had been removed from shelves on other countries, and the buzz was that some of the ingredients had cancer-causing and neurotoxic ingredients. Now, again-this isn’t new information. It’s not even a nearly 10yr old concern…in fact, there has been a public outcry and demand for more responsible products for over TWENTY YEARS. That’s right…check into that.  http://www.johnsonandtoxin.com/products

In 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, along with 40 other organizations (including American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners) sent a letter to J&J outlining their concerns with the company’s products, particularly its baby shampoo. In the last 6 years, J&J has made numerous assertions regarding “safe” levels of known toxic and dangerous chemicals. They also repeatedly “promise” to reduce and/or remove these ingredients…and periodically make a press release lauding their reduction. Admirable? Maybe. But not enough…not NEARLY enough, considering that J&J already sells their standard product line overseas (Finland, Denmark, Japan, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, The UK) without those very same chemicals they bemoan their troubles and cost in removing.

So, what’s up with this? Why is this a concern? What the soap box, you ask? Simple. My kids’ world is full of things that I can’t control. So whenever possible, I want to choose the best products that I can…especially in products that I regularly use IN, ON, and AROUND my kids.So many of these ingredients are shown to contribute to an infinite number of health concerns, from infertility, asthma, allergies, eczema, leukemia, ADD, depression…the list goes on and on. Will one product be the tipping point? I don’t know…I don’t think anyone does. How much is too much? Can I prevent all of those things? Maybe not…but I can take intentional steps to remove things that i KNOW increase my children’s risk. You know what scares me? Household products that are plastered with cautions. “Neurotoxic.” “Hazardous to Pets.” “Do Not Inhale.” “Do Not Ingest.” “Flush Eyes Immedialtly.” “Avoid Contact With Skin.” And one of my personal favorites….”If you cannot read (…) warnings, do not use this product.” These things are written all over products you use! Now, how scary is that? (Seriously. Climb under your bathroom sink and start reading.)

How do I choose better products? Well…couple things. First, if you can’t read it, you probably don’t want it. Second, if you yourself are scared to eat a teaspoon of it, don’t dump it on your child’s head or in their bath water. Thirdly, consider that many overseas countries have much, MUCH higher standards for baby product safety than the US. I once had a doctor tell me that just because something was toxic to small animals did not mean that it wasn’t safe for my newborn. (really.) He explained that a small animal’s metabolism differed significantly from a human baby’s, which explained why a small animal might die from a certain level of exposure, but my baby would be…uhh…”just fine.”

Another question I hear: “I get it that what you feed them is important, but it’s JUST soap and lotion.” Consider this: chemicals are absolutely absorbed through the skin. We regularly does everything from nicotine and birth control to nitroglycerin and pain medication through skin patches. As in…on a patch. In a controlled dose. Care to chance a full-body application on your newborn?  In 2005, the Environmental Working Group published a combination of two studies that found toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies born in the U.S. in the fall of 2004. They screened for more than 400 chemicals, and an astounding 287 toxins were detected within the umbilical cord blood of these newborns. Of these 287 chemicals, 217 were neurotoxins, and 208 are known to damage growth development or cause birth defects. These toxins included mercury, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polybrominated and polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans (PBCD/F and PBDD/F), perflorinated chemicals (PFCs), organochlorine pesticides like DDT and chlordane, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated napthalenes (PCNs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and many others. These study results have been largely ignored by the media.

That explains why this commercial is infuriating for me: 

Ok, so let me tuck this soap box back into my pocket…for now. And let’s wrap this up by asking you to PLEASE, please consider your baby’s skin care products. There are so many better (and not always more costly) options! I adore Mustela baby products, Dr. Bronner’s makes great washes for adults and babies at a great price, and even plain organic coconut oil can do about 10, 000 amazing things. Check out the info at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep to find a better option for yourself and your kids! Also check out our own homemade baby, bath, and home products…expanding rapidly and available at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SweetVioletEssential

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Pinterest is Sabotaging Your Self Esteem

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It started innocently enough. My daughter’s birthday was creeping up, and having recently indulged in a cake-decorating class (mostly to get out of the house alone…) I began to question her about what “kind” of cake she would like. Let me clarify: I was looking for a flavor and a theme. Preferably a theme like…red dots. I had failed to take into account that this was my perfectionist child…

Two hours on Pinterest later…she wanted a blue-flavored (???) cake with frosting between the layers, sparkly-dangly things, Frozen-themed with lots of candy-and jewels!-and some snow. And Olaf…don’t forget Olaf. (This is the part where I started to feel a little sick…) An entire afternoon of work, $40 in candy and decorations, and after terrorizing my teenage son and husband (They called me the Cake Nazi!) I had it. Exactly what she asked for.

The cake was a big hit, the child was pleased…until it was time to cut the cake. We’re talking Epic Birthday Meltdown…with Tears. She didn’t want anyone to EAT her cake.

Today’s mom is pushed harder and harder…hold a full-time job, be a full-time mom. Look put together, have it all together, do it all together…somehow managing to channel Martha Stewart, Julia Childs, Mary Poppins, Heidi Klum, Florence Nightengale, and Alice of the Brady’s all at once. Pinterest perpetuates this mythical standard we set for ourselves by sucking us in to a vortex of virtual idealism.

I agree wholeheartedly that Pinterest is a goldmine of ideas. It’s a great resource for recipes, crafts, and the like. But we all have those “When I Get to It” boards full of things that (realistically?) we’re never going to get around to. And who should? Really…the outfit you just repinned from your sister’s Board doesn’t actually exist in her closet. Heck, there aren’t even links to purchase the items! And when did it become the standard to make individualized craft projects for every kid in your child’s class for every holiday imaginable? Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Last Day of School…if you’ve got it together, you have a Pinterest project for that. You got the complimentary laminator when your child was born, right? Pinterest can help you overhaul your body, your mind, your home, and your diet in one afternoon!

I do love a good Pinterest project now and then-who doesn’t love to have their crafting/cooking/gardening skills oooh’d and ahhh’d over? Pinterest is just a wealth of ideas, though…its fine to spend your time there occasionally, but don’t get caught up in measuring your abilities as a wife, mother, friend, etc by how many of those projects you can get done. Your home and table might look amazing on your Pinterest boards, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t so much more valuable in your real skin.

It’s great when things look good on the outside, but what Pinterest can never provide is the intrinsic value of being a good friend. Pinterest can’t read your child a story, make a chalk masterpiece in the driveway, decide to order in some pizza and eat in bed with PJ’s on. Pinterest doesn’t make connections with the people you love, and if does not define your worth.

So the next time your husband or friend comes over and finds you with your hair wrapped up in a sock bun, toes super-glued together after your tie-dye pedi failed, face dripping with a honey-and-lemon miracle cure…frantically planning freezer meals for the next month and printing seasonally-appropriate phonics charts for the kiddos…look them in the eyes and have a good laugh. Because laughing together? That’s the good stuff…for real.

Detoxing Your Home

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We all hear the words “detoxing” on a regular basis…whether someone is trying to improve their health, their environment, put the plug in the jug, or clean up their diet…it seems that we are addicted to detoxing. What exactly does that MEAN to most of us? Generally, it indicated an attempt to improve the function and/or decrease the toxicity of something…and what better place to start than in your own nest?

So many of the products we use in our own homes are affecting our health. We swoop on the latest-greatest-time-saving-disposable-antibacterial-foaming-no-rinse-products. Unfortunately, those products themselves can actually MAKE us sick!

Rebecca Sutton, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), explains, “In terms of household cleaners, neither ingredients nor products must meet any sort of safety standard, nor is any testing data or notification required before bringing a product to market.” Examine the products currently in your cabinets, in your laundry room, in your garage. Almost all of them are labeled Hazardous, Do Not Ingest/Inhale, Avoid Contact With Skin and Eyes, Toxic to Children/Pets.” Why would we want to fill up our homes with these things?

The average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals, say environmental experts. We’re exposed to them routinely — from the phthalates in synthetic fragrances to the noxious fumes in oven cleaners. Ingredients in common household products have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity.

Manufacturers argue that in small amounts these toxic ingredients aren’t likely to be a problem, but when we’re exposed to them routinely, and in combinations that haven’t been studied, it’s impossible to accurately gauge the risks. While a few products cause immediate reactions from acute exposure (headaches from fumes, skin burns from accidental contact), different problems arise with repeated contact. Chronic exposure adds to the body’s “toxic burden” — the number of chemicals stored in its tissues at a given time.

No one can avoid exposure to toxic chemicals altogether, but it is possible to reduce it significantly. In the following pages, Greer, Sutton and other experts weigh in on the worst toxic offenders commonly found in household cleaning products, and offer ways to swap them for healthier, safer options.

1. PHTHALATES

Found in: Many fragranced household products, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper. Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose what’s in their scents, so you won’t find phthalates on a label. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.

Health Risks: Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Men with higher phthalate compounds in their blood had correspondingly reduced sperm counts, according to a 2003 study conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Harvard School of Public Health. Although exposure to phthalates mainly occurs through inhalation, it can also happen through skin contact with scented soaps, which is a significant problem, warns Alicia Stanton, MD, coauthor of Hormone Harmony (Healthy Life Library, 2009). Unlike the digestive system, the skin has no safeguards against toxins. Absorbed chemicals go straight to organs.

Healthier Choice: When possible choose fragrance-free or all-natural organic products. Greer recommends bypassing aerosol or plug-in air fresheners and instead using essential oils or simply opening windows to freshen the air. Besides causing more serious effects like endocrine disruption, “Aerosol sprays and air fresheners can be migraine and asthma triggers,” she says. Also consider adding more plants to your home: They’re natural air detoxifiers.

2. PERCHLOROETHYLENE OR “PERC”

Found in: Dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners.

Health Risks: Perc is a neurotoxin, according to the chief scientist of environmental protection for the New York Attorney General’s office. And the EPA classifies perc as a “possible carcinogen” as well. People who live in residential buildings where dry cleaners are located have reported dizziness, loss of coordination and other symptoms. While the EPA has ordered a phase-out of perc machines in residential buildings by 2020, California is going even further and plans to eliminate all use of perc by 2023 because of its suspected health risks. The route of exposure is most often inhalation: that telltale smell on clothes when they return from the dry cleaner, or the fumes that linger after cleaning carpets.

Healthier Choice: Curtains, drapes and clothes that are labeled “dry clean only” can be taken instead to a “wet cleaner,” which uses water-based technology rather than chemical solvents. The EPA recently recognized liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) as an environmentally preferable alternative to more toxic dry-cleaning solvents. Ask your dry cleaner which method they use. For a safer spot remover, look for a nontoxic brand like Ecover at a natural market, or rub undiluted castile soap directly on stains before washing.

3. TRICLOSAN

Found in: Most liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.”

Health Risks: Triclosan is an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Explains Sutton: “The American Medical Association has found no evidence that these antimicrobials make us healthier or safer, and they’re particularly concerned because they don’t want us overusing antibacterial chemicals — that’s how microbes develop resistance, and not just to these [household antibacterials], but also to real antibiotics that we need.” Other studies have now found dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. The EPA is currently investigating whether triclosan may also disrupt endocrine (hormonal) function. It is a probable carcinogen. At press time, the agency was reviewing the safety of triclosan in consumer products.

Healthier Choice: Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists, and avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use. If you’re hooked on hand sanitizer, choose one that is alcohol-based and without triclosan.

4. QUARTERNARY AMMONIUM COMPOUNDS, OR “QUATS”

Found in: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.”

Health Risks: Quats are another type of antimicrobial, and thus pose the same problem as triclosan by helping breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They’re also a skin irritant; one 10-year study of contact dermatitis found quats to be one of the leading causes. According to Sutton, they’re also suspected as a culprit for respiratory disorders: “There’s evidence that even healthy people who are [exposed to quats] on a regular basis develop asthma as a result.”

Healthier Choice: You don’t really need fabric softener or dryer sheets to soften clothes or get rid of static: Simple vinegar works just as well. “Vinegar is the natural fabric softener of choice for many reasons,” explains Karyn Siegel-Maier in her book The Naturally Clean Home (Storey Publishing, 2008). “Not only is it nontoxic, it also removes soap residue in the rinse cycle and helps to prevent static cling in the dryer.” White vinegar is your best choice for general cleaning; other types can stain.

Alternatives to chemical disinfectants abound, including antibacterial, antifungal tea-tree oil. Mix a few drops of tea-tree oil and a tablespoon of vinegar with water in a spray bottle for a safe, germ killing, all-purpose cleaner. Add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for scent.

5. 2-BUTOXYETHANOL

Found in: Window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners.

Health Risks: 2-butoxyethanol is the key ingredient in many window cleaners and gives them their characteristic sweet smell. It belongs in the category of “glycol ethers,” a set of powerful solvents that don’t mess around. Law does not require 2-butoxyethanol to be listed on a product’s label. According to the EPA’s Web site, in addition to causing sore throats when inhaled, at high levels glycol ethers can also contribute to narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage. Although the EPA sets a standard on 2-butoxyethanol for workplace safety, Sutton warns, “If you’re cleaning at home in a confined area, like an unventilated bathroom, you can actually end up getting 2-butoxyethanol in the air at levels that are higher than workplace safety standards.”

Healthier Choice: Clean mirrors and windows with newspaper and diluted vinegar. For other kitchen tasks, stick to simple cleaning compounds like Bon Ami powder; it’s made from natural ingredients like ground feldspar and baking soda without the added bleach or fragrances found in most commercial cleansers. You can also make your own formulas with baking soda, vinegar and essential oils. See the “DIY Cleaners” sidebar for a list of clean concoctions.

6. AMMONIA

Found in: Polishing agents for bathroom fixtures, sinks and jewelry; also in glass cleaner.

Health Risks: Because ammonia evaporates and doesn’t leave streaks, it’s another common ingredient in commercial window cleaners. That sparkle has a price. “Ammonia is a powerful irritant,” says Donna Kasuska, chemical engineer and president of ChemConscious, Inc., a risk-management consulting company. “It’s going to affect you right away. The people who will be really affected are those who have asthma, and elderly people with lung issues and breathing problems. It’s almost always inhaled. People who get a lot of ammonia exposure, like housekeepers, will often develop chronic bronchitis and asthma.” Ammonia can also create a poisonous gas if it’s mixed with bleach.

Healthier Choice: Vodka. “It will produce a reflective shine on any metal or mirrored surface,” explains Lori Dennis, author of Green Interior Design (Allsworth Press, 2010). And toothpaste makes an outstanding silver polish.

7. CHLORINE

Found in: Scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, household tap water.

Health Risks: “With chlorine we have so many avenues of exposure,” says Kasuska. “You’re getting exposed through fumes and possibly through skin when you clean with it, but because it’s also in city water to get rid of bacteria, you’re also getting exposed when you take a shower or bath. The health risks from chlorine can be acute, and they can be chronic; it’s a respiratory irritant at an acute level. But the chronic effects are what people don’t realize: It may be a serious thyroid disrupter.”

Healthier Choice: For scrubbing, stick to Bon Ami or baking soda. Toilet bowls can be cleaned with vinegar, and vinegar or borax powder both work well for whitening clothes. So does the chlorine-free oxygen bleach powder made by Biokleen. To reduce your exposure to chlorine through tap water, install filters on your kitchen sink and in the shower.

8. SODIUM HYDROXIDE

Found in: Oven cleaners and drain openers.

Health Risks: Otherwise known as lye, sodium hydroxide is extremely corrosive: If it touches your skin or gets in your eyes, it can cause severe burns. Routes of exposure are skin contact and inhalation. Inhaling sodium hydroxide can cause a sore throat that lasts for days.

Healthier Choice: You can clean the grimiest oven with baking-soda paste — it just takes a little more time and elbow grease (see recipes in “DIY Cleaners” sidebar). Unclog drains with a mechanical “snake” tool, or try this approach from the Green Living Ideas Web site: Pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain and plug it for 30 minutes. After the bubbles die down, run hot water down the drain to clear the debris.

 

Contains Excerpts Originally Published by Experience Life