Archive for the ‘Children’s Health’ Category

Lead, PVC and BPA free lunchboxes for back-to-school 2011

Lead as you know is toxic, which makes it surprising that it is in lunchboxes and backpacks. PVC is toxic as it contains phthalates and lead so it’s important for lunchboxes to be lead-free. And BPA is the hormone disrupting chemical found in plastics whose toxic effects have been hitting the news and blogs for the last several years. Kids are going to be touching the lunch box with their hands, then eat their food with their hands, so it is important for your child’s lunchbox to be free of these nasty chemicals.

Before purchasing a lunch box for your child, read the label. Make sure it is not made of PVC. Stainless steel, nylon, polypropelyne or cloth are much safer materials. Look for tags that say PVC-free (NOTE: PVC-free means the lead levels are below the amount deemed “safe” by a government agency). You also want to avoid BPA if you are purchasing a water bottle or food storage containers.

Here is a list of BPA, PVC and lead free lunch boxes.

Citizens Pip  You can customize your lunch box with accessories — separate food compartments, stainless steel bottle, cloth napkins, fork/spoon set, and of course the lunch box itself!

The Cool Tote is a replacement for the traditional brown bag. It’s made of nylon thus lead and other toxin-free.

Crocodile Creek. Traditional lunch box style that is well-made and have very cute traditional style, zippered lunch box and kid-friendly designs.

Laptop lunches are good for those who don’t like their food to touch. There are little compartments for separating food.

LL Bean has a critter lunch box line that is really cute and lead and PVC-free.  They would be great for a tween who wants something stylish without licensed characters.

LunchBots stainless steel containers. Several types to choose from. Does not have a bag though.

The Lunch Pak by Fleurville is a backpack design, but does have a handle to carry like a traditional lunch box. They also offer a lunch buddy which is more of a traditional lunch box style. (Note: 2 years ago they said their lead levels were “undetectable.” When I called this week, they said their lunch boxes were all lead and PVC-free. Slightly leery here, but they said they lead/PVC free, so they are on the list.)

Mimi the Sardine has cute cloth lunch totes that are PVC and lead free. There are several designs such as the ladybug, monkey/elephant/flower pattern, bugs and mice (my favorite).

Munchlers look like zoo animals and they fold out into a placemat, which is great. They are insulated and come in several designs including a yellow tiger, white dog, green bunny and pink panda. My daughter has the white dog – very cute.

PlanetBox is by far the most pricey, but it’s a very cool system. It’s a bento-style box of stainless steel that is  dishwasher safe. You can customize with cute magnets. The deluxe set has 2 dipper bowls and a carry bag that has a place to store a water bottle and little extras. The main drawback is the hefty price: $59.99, plus almost $11 in shipping. However, it is something that is sure to last for years.

Lunchopolis is another zippered, traditional style, no-nonsense lunch box. The lunch box lining is aluminum which I don’t care for. Also available are BPA-free containers and water bottles.

Kid Konserve is a similar to Citizens Pip’s customizable lunch box system. You can get ala carte or as a system.

Thermapod is another similar concept to the laptop lunch.

ZAK Designs offers several licensed character insulated lunch boxes that are lead free and lined with PVC-free material. Note, they just mention “PVC-free lining” so leads me to believe the entire lunch box may not be PVC-free. But a phone call to ZAK confirmed they are entirely lead-free. Wal-Mart and Target carry Zak lunch boxes.

ReusableBags.com has a whole section also dedicated to lead, PVC, and BPA-free lunches. I bought two ACME lunch bags — one to carry bottles in for my son to daycare (it fits three Dr. Brown bottles) and one for me for the milk I pump for him at work (it fits six medela bottles).

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The health effects of Lysol

When my kids get sick, I want to reach for the Lysol spray, just as my mom did and as the marketers of Lysol tell me I should. But is it safe?

The Wiki page on Lysol states this:

The active ingredient in many of the Lysol products is benzalkonium chloride.[1] This ingredient is highly toxic to fish (LC50 = 280 μg ai/L), very highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates (LC50 = 5.9 μg ai/L), moderately toxic to birds (LD50 = 136 mg/kg-bw), and slightly toxic (“safe”) to mammals (LD50 = 430 mg/kg-bw).

The former main chemical ingredient wass cresol, which does have toxicity at some levels. This version is still available commercially. Breathing high levels over a short period of time can cause irritation to the nose and throat. I experience this every time I spray Lysol. And though there is known toxicity at “high” levels, small exposure over a long period of time has not been studied.

In addition, there are other chemicals including Glycol Ethers, O-phenylphenol, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid that all have health concerns. It is also important to note that Lysol’s formula is considered proprietary, thus the ingredients list may not be fully disclosed. Wonder what else is in there? Possibly phthalates since fragrances are used and these 2 typically go hand-in-hand, but again show knows?

Does this sound like something you want to spray all over your house, furniture, doorknobs, bathroom, nursery, toys, etc? I think I will pass, too.

Daycares overuse Lysol. When my kids were smaller, the thought of my children mouthing toys that have been sprayed so heavily with Lysol there was a film on them made me cringe, of course so did the thought of them mouthing the same toy 11 other babies just mouthed. Ah, the joys of daycare!

Bottom line: really occassional use my have no harmful effects at all (but then again, cummulative exposure has not been studied and chemicals surround most of us every day). Aside from health concerns, there are environmental concerns, like the toxicity to fish, aquadic invertebretes and birds. Concerned parents do have choices. Vote with your wallet! Don’t buy Lysol spray or any Lysol product until their products are reformulated and are truly non-toxic. Vinegar and water will disinfect a toy just as well, without the weird film and chemicals. Not to mention it’s much cheaper. You can also make your own disinfectant spray in seconds! I love it and am much happier with it than Lysol. Is smells so fresh – like a spa – and has no chemicals in it! It disinfects and it is something I actually want to smell!

Lead found in kids juice and packaged fruit

The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) recently tested a variety of kids’ juices and packages fruits. They found more than 85% exceeded California’s Proposition 65 right to know law for lead levels, meaning the lead levels in these products are high enough to warrant a warning label to consumers.

What’s disheartening is that lead was found in conventional and organic selections tested, and no one brand seemed to be safer across the board. For the products below the Prop 65 max level, it would be interesting to know where the manufacturers source their produce from for these products.

Lead is naturally occurring in soil and is possibly the reason why lead is being found in juice. However, more research is needed to determine if these are coming from isolated orchards or if this is some by product of the manufacturing process.

It’s important to note that there are NO SAFE amounts of lead. Lead is known to cause irreversible brain damage.

ELF has contacted the manufactures and they all have been warned to come into compliance within 60 days or a suit will be filed.

What can you do?
Juice is not needed in your child’s diet. It’s best if they get their nutrition from fresh fruits and vegetables. Offer plenty of water. I totally understand that sometimes you just want a little flavor, so squeeze your own juice, or choose a product that did not exceed the exceed Prop 65’s levels and be sure to dilute it with water.

We only have juice in our house as a special treat, and then the kids get it watered down. Juice is very sugary, yes natural sugar in the 100% juices, but still very sugary. And sugar leads to cavities which is the main reason we avoid juice, not to mention it’s expensive and offers little nutritional value. Your kids will live without a daily jolt of juice. My kids typically prefer ice water over even sweet tea, they also get milk.

See who made the cut and who didn’t 

Press release

Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate safe?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a very common ingredient in nearly all shampoos, soaps, and even many toothpastes. You can even find it in Angel Food cake mixes. This is the ingredient responsible for the foaming action of the product. But, is it safe?

Until about a year ago, I thought the answer to this was yes. I had not yet done research on this chemical, but just in reading a few comments online, it seemed some people were OK with it and others were not.

When I finally had time to research SLS, I was surprised to learn it was contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.  This is a cancer causing by-product of the ethoxylation process, a process that makes otherwise harsh ingredient gentle. However, because it is not an original ingredient, this by-product is not listed on the ingredient list.

In this article by Dr. Mercola, he further explains the health risk with using SLS, and its cousins Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES, and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS), citing some of the over 16,000 studies showing toxicity. The Environmental Working Group gives SLS a moderate hazard rating for cancer, organ system toxicity and others. So it’s not the worst, but not the best.

Should you avoid SLS?
Anything you put on your skin is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and goes directly to your organs. It’s also important to note that 1 incidence of using SLS is likely OK, but the cumulative effect is what is worry-some.  While the amount in your shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, hand soap, etc. may be ‘safe’ amounts when used alone, using them all at one time could cause your exposure to jump into the unsafe level zone. But the cumulative effect has never been studied.

We do our best to avoid it in our house due to the cancer link. If you can’t avoid it entirely, limit your exposure by using less of the product containing it. Most people use twice as much soap product as needed.

How to avoid SLS
Read labels! Know what to avoid, as SLS can have other names, including Sodium dodecyl sulfate, Sulfuric acid, Sodium salt sulfuric acid. I use Dr. Bronner’s  bar soap in the shower and make my own foaming hand soap, which also makes a great foaming body wash. For shampoo I am currently using Kiss My Face, Frequent Use which is SLS and paraben free and I love it.

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Kiss My Face hair care review
Dioxanes found in popular organic body care products
California Baby product review
Badger Sunscreen product review

Safe sunscreens 2010

EWG's top-rated sunscreen

I never really thought about what was in my sunscreen until I had kids. Before my daughter was born, I was just beginning to learn about all the harmful chemicals in soap , shampoo, etc. So when it was time for us to take our yearly family beach trip, I sought out a safe sunscreen. Then I had to do the leg work myself, but didn’t really know what to look for either.

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group came to the rescue 4 years ago with their Safer Sunscreen Guide. Every year, new research is available, shifting the list around a bit. This year, research shows that vitamin A may speed up the development of cancer. See their whole list of surprising facts about sunscreen.

And you definitely will not find the widely used and available  Baby Blanket, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, Panama Jack or Neutrogena anywhere near the top of the list, in fact, you will find these at the bottom of the list. Blue Lizard and Bull Frog are middle of the road. These chemicals sunscreens contain ingredients that are possible carcinogens. To me, it does not make any sense to slather on something that may cause cancer in an effort to protect yourself from something (the sun) that may cause cancer.

Non-nanoparticle zinc oxide based sunscreens are deemed to be the safest and most effective sunscreens available today. Zinc oxide is all natural offering sun protection without the harmful chemicals. And like other skin care products, you should be able to pronounce all the ingredients and it should be free of PEG compounds, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrance and any other active ingredient other than zinc oxide (or possibly titanium dioxide).

This year, EWG tested 500 sunscreens and can only recommend 39 of them for safety and effectiveness. That’s 8%. Pretty lame.

Here is a list of the top-10 sunscreens as tested by the EWG, and the EWG rating (0-2 = low concern, 3-6 = some concern, 7-10 = high concern).
1. Badger Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 30, Unscented 1
2. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, SPF 30 Lightly Scented 1
3. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, Unscented, SPF 30 1
4. California Baby Sunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+ 1
5. Loving Naturals Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1
6. Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stick, SPF 30 1
7. Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff, SPF 30 1
8. Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1
9. Soleo Organics Atlantis Resort All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1 -
10. Soleo Organics Wyland Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1

…….I have to toss CA Baby in here as it is one of my favorite lines
19. California Baby Sunblock Stick Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+ 2
20. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+ 2
21. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion No Fragrance, SPF 30+ 2
22. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+, Citronella 2

Want to see the rest of the list and see how your sunscreen stacks up? Visit EWG’s mini-site dedicated to sunscreens and sunscreen safety.

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California Baby sunscreen review
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Treat ear infections naturally with the EARDOC: Review and Giveaway

My now 18 month old son had 8 ear infections in 1 year, from the time he was 4 months old to 16 months old. At that point, we were walking a fine line and were told that 1 more and we would be sent to the ENT to discuss getting tubes. I really did not want tubes, so I dug deeper into my search for a natural preventative.

The problem is my son has allergies, thus frequently has a runny nose. His ears would get infected and he would just be a mess. As far as antibiotics (which I hate to use) Augmentin did not work, we had used Omnicef so many times and he had a bad allergic reaction to Amoxicillin. So we were out of “traditional” options for treatment.

I posted an inquiry for suggestions of ear infection preventatives and got several good suggestions. One suggestion was to take him off dairy. I promptly stopped giving him cow’s milk and switched to rice milk. Another suggested garlic oil drops in the ears, so I ran down the street to the natural/organic food store. The lady there suggested these homeopathic allergy pellets in addition to the garlic oil drops.

These did seem to help, but one night I stumbled across a device call The EARDOC. It seemed too good to be true – non-invasive, no medicine – just a little device that vibrates and you hold it behind the ear for 1 minute. Dr. Sears highlighted The EARDOC on “The Doctors” TV show. With his seal of approval, I was sold that this may actually work. Plus, there were lots of great testimonials on the EARDOC website.

The EARDOC is easy-to-use and pain-free. My son loves to treat himself with the EARDOC.

The EARDOC treats otitis media, ear infections, swimmers ear, hearing loss, middle ear fluid, Eustachian tube dysfunction, ear pain from air travel, ear fullness brought on by colds, allergies or sinusitis, and other causes of ear pain in children as well as adults. The EARDOC website states:

About 75% of children up to age four suffer from earache caused by the accumulation of liquids and air in the middle ear. Swimmers, divers and air travelers also suffer from the same problem. The EARDOC is an efficient & proved non-invasive device that reduces the ear pain by treating the problem rather than the symptom. The EARDOC significantly reduces the need for ear tube surgery (Myringotomy) by naturally opening the closed Ear tube and drying the trapped fluids.

The EARDOC has gone through clinical reviews and is found to be safe and effective at opening the ear tube and reliving ear pain.

The folks at the EARDOC were kind enough to send me one to try and review, and one to giveaway (details at the end of this post).

The first day I used the EARDOC, I am certain my son had an ear infection, or at least was in the beginnings of one. He had a runny nose and was waking once or twice at night (our only 2 indicators). That morning, he was pretty fussy and I knew he was tired, but he would not settle. I used the EARDOC for 1 minute on each ear, as directed, and he promptly fell asleep. My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief.

The EARDOC is gentle and soothing. DS loves to use it.

After day 3 of using the EARDOC, his nose was clear! What’s also amazing is he sat still while we used it on him. I expected him to squirm, but it seemed to relax him and he was more likely to balk once the treatment was over, rather than during it. He also wanted to use it on himself and treat me, his sister and his daddy as well.

I also had a little ear pain during the same time, so I used it on myself. After a couple days, I no longer had any ear pain! The pain that I had off and on for a few months was gone. I am an EARDOC believer.

The EARDOC is very easy to use. It is battery powered (batteries not included) and has a siding button that allows you to control the vibration level. Start out at a low setting and adjust for your

My daughter also loves the EARDOC. She has no ear issues, but just likes the "ear massage."

comfort level. You can use on each ear up to one minute, but you can use as often as needed throughout the day.

It’s been about 3 weeks since using the EARDOC. Yesterday was my son’s 18 month visit and as I suspected, we do NOT have an ear infection! Thank you to the EARDOC. I truly believe we would not have gotten such great news without it!

Want one of your own? Enter our giveaway and ONE very lucky reader will win their very own EARDOC.

  1. Leave a comment here as to why you would like your own EARDOC (1 entry)
  2. Follow me (@greenparenting) on Twitter www.twitter.com/greenparenting and leave a comment here (1 entry)
  3. Follow the EARDOC on Twitter www.twitter.com/eardoc and leave a comment here (1 entry)
  4. Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment here each time you tweet (1 tweet per person daily)
  5. Join the EARDOC on Facebook (1 entry)
  6. Don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account? No worries. Send an email to your friends with a link to this giveaway and copy bhamgreenparent (at) gmail.com. I promise you will not be added to any mailing list or otherwise. Or you can also post a link to this giveaway on your Facebook profile. (1 entry)
  7. Of course, the kids won't let us feel left out. Here DS is using the EARDOC on daddy.

Contest ends at midnight CDT on June 17th.

Disclaimers: While the EARDOC is safe and effective, and can be used in conjunction with medication and if your child already has tubes, it is always wise to consult your doctor before any other treatment.
The EARDOC was provided free of charge for review, however the views and opinions expressed here are completely my own. No other compensation was given.

Ways to go green and eat smart

Going green really is not a big deal and in some ways can make your life easier and can save you money! Here are some very simple things we can all do to go green and eat smart.

Eat smart
1. Plant a garden
2. Compost food scraps
3. Buy local, if not available, then organic foods whenever possible
4. Join a farm co-op
5. Go meatless at least one meal a week (i.e. Meatless Monday). We’ve done this with great success and even look forward to it now. We are a meat and potatoes family, so if we can do it, anyone can! 
6. Buy foods that are in season
7. Use glass storage containers and baby bottles to avoid plastic – definitely avoid polycarbonate (BPA), Styrofoam and PVC plastic. Sometimes plastic can’t be avoided. Be sure you choose safer options.
8. Do not cook in any type of plastic (includes rewarming in the microwave) even if it is label microwave safe
9. Buy in bulk and freeze or share what you can’t use
10. Getting take out? Bring your own container to reduce on waste. Great way to carry home leftovers when dining out too
11. Don’t use Teflon coated pans
12. Avoid artficial sweetners, flavors and colors
13. Avoid MSG and high fructose corn syrup
14. Avoid processed foods, opt for fresh or frozen whenever possible
15. Avoid canned foods – most are lined with BPA which leaches into food (exception is Eden Foods, all but canned tomatoes are BPA free. Pomi tomatoes are boxed and BPA-free. Other BPA-free tomato options can be found here.)

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Easy ways to go green and save energy

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