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.

RELATED ARTICLES
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.

RELATED ARTICLES
California Baby sunscreen review
TruKid Sunny Days Sunscreen review
Lead in the garden hose
Add sun protection to your clothes

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.)

Related Articles

Easy ways to go green and save energy

Top picks for eco-friendly toys 2009

Here is my list of the best eco-friendly toys for Christmas 2009! No lead, no BPA, no PVC, no phthalates, or other toxic paints, plastics or glues. Many of these are toys we have purchased ourselves and they have been personally tested by my kids.

(imagines coming)

Birth+
Fish teetherby Natersutten Great traditional style cool-it teether, but free of all the yuckies like phthalates, PVC and BPA. Little bumps on the teether are soothing for your little teether.

Sophie the Giraffe Teether, by Vulli This is my favorite. It’s just adorable. Sophie is the perfect size for little hands and there are lots of teethable areas – legs, ears, neck. It’s made of all natural rubber and painted with food quality paint.

Veggies in a Crate, by Under the Nile This has always been one of my favorites. Made or organic Egyptian cotton and certified Fair Trade. There is also a fruit version.

Organic Plush Sleepytime Charlotte, by miYim  This adorable little bear stands 12” tall and is perfect for baby to cuddle. And you can feel good about it too – it’s made of organic materials, chemical-free and uses non-toxic dyes for color – just what you would want baby to snuggle with!

Eco-friendly plush giraffe, by Sevi

Hammer Balls, by Plan Toys Another favorite of my kids. I was skeptical at first, as this seemed too simplistic to be any fun, but it got rave reviews. And for great reason – it’s a fun twist to the traditional hammer and peg toy. Even at 6 months my son was using the little hammer to try and hit the balls. When you hit the balls, they roll out and across the room making it a fun game of chase for 2 – one to hit the balls and the other to catch them and put them back.

12 months+
Cone Sorting, by Plan Toys My son has been playing with this since 6 months and my 3 year old loves it as well. The colors are great and putting it together is lots of fun. My son has claimed the center piece as a teether.

Activity Walker, by EverEarth This great toy is as much fun stationary as it is in motion. There are many great toys on the front and sides of the walker for baby to explore even before he can walk. When he can walk with support, he can push the walker to his delight. The paint is water-based and lead-free; and the wood is from sustainable forests.

Dancing Alligator pull toy, by Plan Toys – Hands down, this is my 11 month old’s favorite toy. Again, my 3 year old loves this too. It’s as cute as it is fun. It dances as you pull it and makes a fun click-clack sound. It’s made of all natural rubber wood and all natural dyes.

Bingo Bed Hammer Toy, Holgate Toys  Non-toxic, rave reviews, wood, time-tested and heirloom quality. What’s not to love? One thing I really like about the Bingo Bed compared to other hammer and peg toys, is with this one, the pegs are different sizes, making it a little more challenging.

Ring-A-Thing, by HABA This toy is a great first game to help your toddler learn colors, sizes and how to take turns. There are 3 basic game ideas and is appropriate for 1-3 players.

Toddler +
Dolphin Adventure Explorer Boatby Sprig Toys My son is getting this for Christmas. The boat is safe for land and water play. Even though this is made from wood, it’s very lightweight Sprig wood.

Deluxe Wooden Railway Set and the activity table (sold separately), by Melissa and Doug While this is not as high quality as the Plan Toys train sets, it’s still a great set, it’s available locally at Smith’s Variety and you cannot beat the price!

Eco-friendly handy doctor set by Wonderworld

Christina’s Kitchen, by Nova Natural Toys  – Forget the kids, I want this for me! This all wood kitchen is so simple, yet adorable! It has a stainless steel sink that can be removed, 4 burners, an oven, cabinet space and even counter space. All your little cook needs is the accessories. They also have a matching wooden fridge. Nova Natural Toys and Crafts are my new favorite. Great quality, natural, non-toxic toys and crafts that you can feel good about giving and receiving!

Dish Set, by Green Toys Inc.  This is new for 2009 and goes great with the award winning Green Toys tea set  and the new Chef Set. This is a great company as they use plastic milk jugs to make their toys and they are manufactured in California!

Green Toddler Picnic Table, by Tick-n-Thistle Every child needs a picnic table and this one is as eco-friendly as they come. They do not use treated wood, formaldehyde glues or paint. They also have many sizes of this table for kids up to roughly age 12.

Butterfly Alphabet puzzle, by imagiPLAY This wood puzzle is perfect for little ones to learn the alphabet, letter recognition and a great way to learn puzzles. Once the puzzle is complete, you can stand it up and brighten up any room! imagiPLAY wooden toys are made from beech wood and use lead-free paint.

Skuut balance bike  What a really great idea! The Skuut Balance bike does not have pedals or chains. Kids use their feet to learn to move the bike. Teaches natural motion to move the bike and a much easier way to learn to balance on two wheels.

Discover Rig, by Sprig Toys  I am so impressed with Sprig Toys. The quality is great, and of course, they are eco-friendly! I just LOVE this ATV-style vehicle. It’s as cute as it is fun and green! It has lights and sounds, but is battery-free (something any parent will love!). Sprig Toys are made of sprig wood (plastic bottles/milk jugs and reclaimed saw dust), yet are surprisingly lighter than you expect. Pair it up with the Side Kick Vehicle and Rally Racer  for endless fun.

Mini It’s Me Doll, by Kathy Kruse Kathy Kruse dolls are adorable – period! These dolls are handcrafted in Germany from natural materials and as I mentioned, they are really adorable!

Preschool Toys

Victorian Doll House, by Plan Toys  This is a great option if you have lots of room and want a big doll house. There is also an extra floor you can add to make this 4 floors of fun! The only downside is you need to purchase the dolls and furniture separately.

The Green Dollhouse, by Plan Toys is a smaller scale house that comes with furniture. Like all Plan Toys, it is made of all natural rubber wood, dyed with vegetable and soy dyes, and assembled with formaldehyde-free glue. This adorable house teaches eco-friendly practices with green features such as recycle bins, a wind turbine, rain barrel and solar panels.

Sprig Toys Story Builders Playset I’m holding out to get the Castle version for my daughter’s birthday since I’m maxed out on her Christmas. This is brilliant! My 3 year old has a big imagination and I love toys that will spark that. This is a configurable set to allow your child to make up stories. There are several sets: the castle, a barn yard, Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. You can check out all 4 versions on the Sprig Toys Web site.

Plan Toy Balancing Cactus – This game gets my vote for safety of course, but also for promoting teamwork. You work together to add colorful pieces to the cactus without it falling over. The game promotes math skills and analytical thinking as you estimate the size and weight of each piece and determine the best placement to keep the game in play. It’s a great game where everyone is a winner.

Eco-Friendly Hand Puppets, by Cate and Levi Hand puppets are a fantastic way to encourage imagination. Just type ‘eco-friendly hand puppets’ into a Google search and these are the first ones that appear. And rightfully so, these puppets are colorful and fun! There are several animals to choose from and all are handmade in Canada, so each one is unique. All Cate and Levi products are handmade of reclaimed wool and are free from chemicals like flame retardants.

See also:
How to find eco-friendly toys
Toys made in the USA
Where to find eco-friendly toys in Birmingham, AL

Natural ways to prevent and prepare for the Swine Flu

There are many things you can do to help prevent illnesses, such as N1H1 H1N1 (Swine Flu), in your family. Most of these do not cost anything and are things you can do everyday.

  1. Before all else, if you are sick, please stay home! Yes, times are tough for many, but please think of the greater good and stay home to get well.
  2. Frequently wash hands with plain soap and water (there is no evidence that anti-bacterial products are anymore effective at removing germs than plain soap and water). (See how to make your own non-toxic foaming hand wash.) BabyGanics has a great non-toxic foam hand soap as well and is available at Babies R Us.
  3. Use kid-safe, non-alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available. I love CleanWell Hand Sanitizer. It’s available at GNC and Whole Foods. (See my CleanWell product review.)
  4. Degerm. When you get home each day, encourage everyone to do the following:     a. Remove your shoes to keep germs from getting on the floors where children play

         b. Change into clean clothes

         c. Take a shower if at all possible, or at minimum, thoroughly wash hands

         d. Wash any toys with soap and water or vinegar and water that your child may have brought with them 

  5. Do not touch your face, bite your nails, put your hands in your mouth, etc. Teach your children to do the same.
  6. Keep babies from sharing and mouthing toys if and when possible. Wash them frequently with soap and water, or vinegar and water to sanitize. 
  7. Take care of yourself: Get enough sleep, exercise, eat a balanced diet, drink lots of water (as opposed to sugary drinks). 
  8. Take a vitamin supplement, especially Vitamin D. Some studies suggest illnesses such as the flu are brought on by lack of Vitamin D. I love Carlson’s Baby Vitamin D drops. They are actually cheaper than the traditionally recommended infant multi-vitamin, minus all the extra “junk” ingredients. They also have kids’ and adult versions. One drop a day is all you need – too easy!
  9. Take a daily probiotic. A recent study showed a significant decrease in the report of illnesses among a group who took a daily probiotic than those who did not. It’s also a good idea to mix up the brand and strains for maximum benefit. Children’s Rhino probiotic comes in a chewable and powder form and is all natural.
  10. Cough and sneeze into a tissue. If one is not available, use your sleeve (your hands will come in contact with more people and surfaces than your sleeve). 
  11. Do not share utensils, drinks, etc. even with your children or spouse.
What should you do to prepare for a N1H1  H1N1 outbreak? 

  1. Wear a face mask. It may offer additional protection during an outbreak.  
  2. Avoid public places as much as possible during an outbreak. 
  3. Stock up. Stock the freezer with veggies and meat, the pantry full of non-perishables, and anything else you would need to survive in your house for days or weeks at a time, so in the event of a major outbreak, you will not need to venture out of the house. Think toilet paper, laundry detergent, toiletries, pet food, etc. 
  4. Have treatment supplies on hand such as fever reducing products, thermometers, tissues, hand sanitizer, etc.
  5. Refill any reoccurring prescriptions ahead of time
  6. Prepare for childcare. Have someone lined up to care for your kids in the event schools or daycares close, or you yourself become sick.
  7. Discuss telecommuting options with your boss.

Visit the CDC’s website and understand the symptoms of N1H1 H1N1. If you or your child becomes sick, contact your doctor or pediatrician immediately to understand any warning signs so you can get prompt attention when it is needed.

More info:

CDC’s H1N1 Flu Center 

WHO – World Health Organization H1N1 Coverage

Prevent and Prepare for Swine Flu 

Swine Flu on Wikipedia 

Mercola on Probiotic benefits

Author’s note: The author is not a medical doctor and is not giving out medical advice. Many parents are looking for natural ways to prevent the swine flu, whether it’s in addition to, or lieu of the N1H1 H1N1 vaccine; and healthy adults currently are not eligible for the vaccine. The fact of the matter is a little less than 50% of the US population will receive a N1H1 H1N1 vaccine, whether by choice, ineligibility or lack of availability. Additionally, the vaccine is not 100% effective (so far it’s proved to be effective about 90% of the time), thus it’s nice to have a little back up. The author is not advocating against the vaccine in anyway and this is not meant to spark any type of debate on vaccines.

 

Can your cell phone give you cancer?

samsung_impression

The Samsung Impression a877 had the lowest radiation level

According to a new 10-month long research study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the answer is maybe. One thing is definite, cell phone do emit radiation, and at levels that concern scientists for possible cancer risks. Whether or not cell phone radiation poses a health risk remains uncertain, however, several studies have suggested increased risk of brain and mouth cancers, as well as an increase in children’s behavior problems, among frequent cell phone users.

The EWG studied over 1,000 cell phone sold in the US and rank the top 10 best (low radiation) and 10 worst (high radiation) cell phones. You can search the EWG’s cell phone radiation database to see how your phone rates.

What about the little chip that promised to diffuse radiation away from your head? According to the research, they do little if any good because it weakens the phone’s signal making it work harder, thus uses more radiation to do so.

What can you do to limit exposure?
There are ways to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation. The EWG has a printable guide for reducing exposure to cell phone radiation.  

Send a message to manufacturers by purchasing phones with the lowest level of radiation.

You can also get involved by telling the FCC and the FDA to modernize cell phone radiation standards to the lowest level possible.

For more info: Read the entire Cell Phone Radiation Report.
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