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What we can learn from lead.

While you were ignoring the elephant in the room, a zoo moved in.

Just this month the CDC has decided that the current acceptable level for lead in children is too high. http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/health&id=8490910 This conclusion comes 40 years after the lead reduction to gasoline and paint.  While lead is regulated in many consumer products, it is still unregulated and widely used in lipstick.  The Environmental Working Group found that 1/3 of the lipstick they tested had lead levels above the FDA limit for candy. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/fashion/28skin.html  This year’s Healthy Child Healthy World’s “Mom on a Mission” has pioneered a feature length documentary highlighting the continuing problem with lead poisoning in children across America.  Watch a trailer of her film, America’s Secret Epidemic, at the following link: America’s Secret Epidemic

If lead is the big grey elephant in the room that has taken over 40 years to establish child safe levels, then we need to open our eyes to the entire zoo which has walking into our homes in the past 40 years without any similar safety levels for children.  Lead is a widely known and studied neurotoxin which has been around since 4000 BC.  Modern chemistry has created a whopping 80,000 chemicals in use here in the US, and the number is continuing to grow.  The EPA’s has had limited ability regulating even the most studied modern chemical toxins, such as Dioxane, Asbestos, or Formaldehyde.

We can not continue to live under the assumption that chemical ingredients are safe until proven harmful.  During the time period that we have let lead go unregulated, countless children and adults have been harmed.  When we are faced now with 80,000 chemicals untested for safety in children, we are not only living with an elephant, but with the entire zoo.  And even though there are a few animals which will prove to be totally harmless and even possibly friendly, don’t close your eyes to the lions, tigers and bears.  For some of these animals can cause fatal harm with only one chance encounter.

The Safe Chemical Act is currently before congress.  This legislation will help keep the zoo animals out of our kitchens and family rooms until they are proven safe.  It aims to place the burden of proof back on manufacturers and strengthen the backbone of government regulators.  I urge you to share this with everyone you know and contact your local representatives to let them know that you want them to support safer chemical regulation starting with The Safe Chemical Act.  To ask your representative for their support of The Safe Chemical Act go to http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6639/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6777.  For information on protecting your family from lead visit: http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadpdfe.pdf

To find lead free lipstick visit www.MiBetterChoices.com

For more on the Healthy Child Healthy World Mom on a Mission visit http://healthychild.org/get-involved/mom_on_a_mission/

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Back to School – Hip Hip Hooray!

Better Choices Greening Back to School Tips and Hits  

No matter how many camps, trips to the beach and dips in the pool you fit into a summer, there comes a point when everyone is ready to go back to school.  Whether it is the cooler nights and changing leaves, or the new backpacks and pencils, the beginning of fall is filled with anticipation of a new academic year and a new chance to excel.    

Kids early on pick up the signals that back to school means time to buy new stuff.  From the latest lunch box styles to school supply lists, the first greening tips is to REUSE.  A quality backpack will most likely be outgrown before it is worn out.  Toss it in the laundry with a load of like colored towels and you will be amazed at how much of last years grime can be removed.  Think it still needs a new look?  Find a local embroidery business to add some graphics or personalize it with a monogram.  If your child has outgrown anything from backpacks to coats and boots, consider donating them for reuse.  When purchasing new school supplies look for items that can easily be reused and minimize unnecessary waste.  

 Some of my favorite back to school better choices are:  

L.L. Bean backpack

 

 L.L. Bean Original Book Packs 

 These backpack are made to last a lifetime.  They can start with your kids as diaper bags and last through college and beyond.  Personalize them with a monogram, or add patches from your travels to national parks and museums.  www.llbean/backpacks.com 

Dabbawalla Monkey Do Lunch Bag

 

Dabbawalla Lunch bags  

Dabbawalla bags are designed with kids and the environment in mind.  These bags are made from an eco-sponge fabric that has earned the Oeko-Tex 100 standard of safety in textiles, an ecological certification process testing for over 100 harmful substances.  Bags are designed to be kid size friendly and super cute.  They are insulated, washable, and sewn by workers earning fair wages in safe work conditions.  What’s not to love.  www.dabbawallabags.com  

   

India Tree Decorations

India Tree Natural Decorating Colors and Sugar 

 Every month of the school year contains multiple celebrations.  Between birthday parties and holiday celebrations, kids like to celebrate with cake, cookies, ice cream and lots of sprinkles.  Trying to celebrate without artificial colors used to be a challenge.  Now you can make those pumpkins orange and hearts extra pink with India Tree vegetable derived colors and sprinkles.  www.indiatree.com  

Miessence Purifying Skin Essentials

 

Miessence Purifying Skin Care  

Back to school for teens can mean confronting challenging skin conditions.  There is nothing like a clear complexion to boost confidence.  unfortunately, many over the counter and prescription drugs for acne can have serious side effects.  Miessence Purifying range of skin care products offers teens certified organic skin care that is as pure as it is potent.  Start with the basic skin essentials pack and then add a purifying Mineral Mask, or purifying Blemish Gel.  www.MiBetterChoices.com  

   

Kleen Kanteen Sippy Cup

 

Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottles  

After testing many stainless steel bottles, it is always the Klean Kanteen that comes out on top.  With both sippy cup and sports cap style lids, there are styles and colors to please your preschooler and high schooler alike.   The introduction of the wide insulated bottles means you can enjoy hot and cold liquids for hours after leaving home.   Made from 18/8 stainless steel and BPA free.  www.kleankanteen.com  

ReSnackit

 

ReSnackIt reusable sandwich bags  

These reusable bags help eliminate the need for plastic sandwich and snack bags.  Since they are phthalate, PVC, lead and BPA free, they are also a healthier storage option.  Suitable for both dry and wet snacks, these fun colorful prints might make that bag of carrots way more appealing. www.resnackit.com  

Lands' End Navigator Rain Jacket

 

   

  

Lands’ End Packable Navigator Rain Jacket  

Nylon is a great alternative to PVC raincoats.  This lightweight nylon jacket packs into its own pocket making it easy to have on hand “just in case.”  The hip length and full hood do a great job at keeping the rain at bay.  www.landsend.com  

   

Jaffa Lip Balm

 

Jaffa Certified Organic Lip Balm  

Colder weather and runny noses can leave little lips dry and red.  Keep a Miessence Jaffa Lip Balm on hand for each member of the family.  Let the kids personalize their own with a few stickers to keep them from getting mixed up.  This certified organic lip balm nourishes lips with the world’s first and only fair trade certified organic shea butter.  www.MiBetterChoices.com


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3 Gates of Entry: Nose, Mouth, Skin

 

As parents we strive to make our homes safe havens for our children.  When they are toddlers, we invest in gates to prevent falls down the stairs and plugs to keep fingers out of electrical outlets.  These are visual hazards that we are all well aware of, but our attention to the stealth environmental hazards of modern household products is recently gaining greater attention.  The latest research indicates that many common household products are made with toxic chemicals that are capable of harming our children’s health and well-being.  There is a direct relationship between our environment and our health.  These health effects include birth defects, cancer, and psychological disorders which emerge later in life. 

Hazardous chemicals are making their way into babies before they are even born.  A study by the Environmental Working Group tested the umbilical cord blood from 10 American babies for 300 chemicals.  An average of 200 chemicals and pollutants were found, including known carcinogens, neurotoxins and hormone disruptors linked to birth defects.  Imagine if the blood was tested for the 80,000 chemicals used today in manufacturing consumer products.  What would have been found then? 

Parents often assume that if a product is available on a store shelf for consumers, it has been tested and proven safe for our families.  Unfortunately the out dated Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 has allowed manufacturers to self regulate their products for consumer use. In its 34 year history, the TSCA has resulted in safety assessment of only 200 chemicals out of the 80,000 chemicals used to date.  Additionally, safety guidelines are based on toxicity levels for a 155 pound man and don’t consider the lower tolerance levels of children and unborn babies.  

Children are biologically and behaviorally more vulnerable to household toxins.  Children ingest three times more food, and drink seven times more liquid than adults do in proportion to their body size.  Their organs and blood brain barrier are not fully developed leaving their bodies with limited defenses against chemical hazards.   Children also spend a great deal of time on the floor, where pesticides can be tracked in by our shoes.  They place a variety of household items from toys to shoes in their mouths.  A new law, the Safe Chemicals Act, is attempting to reform our chemical laws to better protect children.  To find out more about the Safe Chemicals Act and encourage support from your state representatives, go to www.ewg.org and join the Kid Safe Chemicals Campaign. 

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 80% of diseases are due to environmental hazards.  Changes in our home environment can lessen our overall body burden of harmful chemicals.  Since young children spend more hours a day in the home than most adults do, simple changes in the home can have significant benefits.  To eliminate environmental hazards in the home, start with the most common ways that toxins make their way into the body: through what we eat, what we put on our skin, and the air we breathe.  Focusing on these 3 Gates of Entry can help parents monitor and reduce exposure to many household hazards.  Fortunately, there are many resources available to help parents though this process.  Here are a few suggestions: 

Ingestion: what we eat and drink 

Certified organic and natural foods provide the highest concentration of nutrients with the lowest exposure to pesticides, herbicides and fungicides  Research has found that organically grown foods have up to 30% more nutritional value than conventionally grown versions. Choosing organic foods from the The Dirty Dozen list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables can eliminate up to 80% of the pesticides ingested by food.  For more on The Dirty Dozen list of most contaminated foods visit www.foodnews.org . Filtering water with activated carbon systems will remove most organic carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, and many other contaminants that our municipal water purification centers were never designed to remove.  Choosing safer cooking methods like stainless steel pans rather than non-stick, and microwaving with glass rather than plastic can also help eliminate such chemicals as hormone disrupting plasticisers and perfluorinated compounds from invading our foods. 

Absorption: what we use on our skin 

A chemical used on the skin can end up in our blood three times faster than if it was ingested.  Our skin is not only the largest organ our body uses to eliminate toxins, but also a highly absorbent membrane that allows chemicals an open path to our blood, organs and fat cells. Children’s skin is more permeable than adults with a larger surface area per pound of body weight.  Personal care products utilize over 10,000 chemicals and only 200 have undergone any type of safety testing.   Tests have found both formaldehyde and 1-4, dioxane (known carcinogens) in 61% of children’s bath washes.  For safer alternatives, look for personal care products that are certified organic to food grade standards and display a government organic seal such as the USDA.  For more on certified organic skin care go to www.MiBetterChoices.com

Inhalation: what we breathe 

EPA studies have found that indoor air quality is worse than outdoor air quality, no matter where you live.  Fragrances from air fresheners, soaps, perfumes, fabric softeners and many other products we use in the home place a wide range of chemicals into the air.  Ingredients in fragrances are not required to be disclosed because they are considered a “trade secret.”  Hormone disrupting phthalates, which have been banned by the EU since 2003, are still prevalent in perfumes and fragrances here in the US.  Many products such as plywood cabinetry, plastics, paints, and upholstery foam all release chemicals into the air as they “out-gas” in our homes.  To reduce the levels of indoor air contaminants, go certified organic or fragrance free, look for no-VOC products, open the windows as often as possible, and add living plants to your home. 

For more on ways to reduce your exposure to household environmental hazards visit these helpful sites: 

NRDC – “Simple Steps” is exactly what it sounds like, a great resource providing simple steps towards better health and sustainable living.  The page on Home & Garden is especially helpful for removing household toxins. www.simplesteps.org 

Healthy Child Healthy World is a leading organization for providing parents resources for protecting children from everyday toxins.  Check out their handy pocket shopping guides, Quick Tips, and watch “A Wake Up Story” www.healthychild.org 

The Environmental Working Group offers information on the latest research and legislative action.  Check your personal care products out on their Skin Deep Database to find out if your products are safe for you and your kids www.ewg.org 

Better Choices offers green product & book reviews, information on avoiding toxins, and green event listings at www.better-choices.info  For a list of toxic ingredients in personal care products go to www.MiBetterChoices.com 

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References: 

“10 Americans” Environmental Working Group http://www.ewg.org/kid-safe-chemicals-act-blog/kid-safe-chemicals-act-10-americans-video/ 

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Report: “Toxic Chemicals Found in Kid’s Bath Products’, March 2009 http://www.ewg.org/report/toxic-tub/31209 

Chemical Free Kids by Dr. Sarah Lantz, Joshua Books, 2009 http://www.chemicalfreeparenting.com/order.htm 

Slow Death by Rubber Duck by: Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie, Counterpoint, 2009 

World Health Organization:Preventing disease through healthy environments: Towards an estimate of the environmental burden of disease http://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/preventingdisease/en/index.html 

The Organic Center: State of Science Review: Nutritional Superiority of Organic Foodshttp://www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/5367_Nutrient_Content_SSR_FINAL_V2.pdf 

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