Archive for the ‘Children’s Health’ Category

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.

CleanWell Hand Sanitizer: Product Review

I had been looking for an alcohol-free hand sanitizer for some time now that I could use on the go when I would not have access to soap and water, like at the playground, or after changing a diaper in the car (not while in motion) when we are out and about. I knew the alcohol-based ones were not safe for kids. If a child ingested it, they could get alcohol poisoning, so I didn’t even want alcohol-based sanitizers in the house knowing I can’t use it without my toddler begging for some as well. I prefer to avoid the ER.

Also, Triclosan is toxic, so that was out as well. As well as parabens, phthalates, PEG compounds, etc.

So a few weeks ago I stumbled upon CleanWell Hand Sanitizer. It claimed to be all natural, alcohol and triclosan free and kills 99.99% of germs, including MRSA, staph, E. coli, and Salmonella. It is botanically based, and no pesticides or chemicals are used. Plants are also a renewable resource. No petrochemicals or harmful byproducts are created during harvesting or manufacturing.

cleanwell6oz

OK, I gotta be honest here, I LOVE this stuff. It smells great – a nice herbal smell. One or two sprays is all you need. One 1 ounce bottle will yield 225+ sprays, so you get 4 times as many uses as the gel sanitizers.

CleanWell Hand Sanitizer is safe, no parabens, phthalates, alcohol or other ickies. Thymus Vulgaris Oil is the active ingredient (hence the herbal scent). EWG’s cosmetic’s database does not list Clean Well Hand Sanitizer, but I entered the individual ingredients and everything was in the safe (0-2) category except citric acid which was a 4 (it seems mostly for skin sensitivities).

It’s important to note that there are good bacteria and bad bacteria, so using antibacterial products on a regular basis is not good or recommended. In fact, the over use of antibiotics and antibacterial products cases viruses to mutate creating superbugs and strains that are resistant to medication. So while CleanWell is a great product, it, along with other hand sanitizers and antibacterial products, should never be used on a regular basis. It should only be used when hand washing with regular soap and water is not an option (think port-a-potty, wiping noses in the car, etc.)

CleanWell Hand Sanitizer is available in purse/travel size (1 oz) and regular size (6 oz). I’d recommend several to keep in various places – your purse, the diaper bag(s), at work – so you will have it when needed. I have one in each diaper bag (we have 3), in my purse and on the changing table (easy for between kids when I am changing both).

CleanWell has a whole family of products including CleanWell Sanitizing Wipes, CleanWell Foaming Hand Wash and the CleanWell Hand Sanitizer.

Related Articles
Antibacterial Products Contain Toxin, Triclosan
California Baby Sunscreen Product Review
BPA Free Bottles, Sippy Cups and More!

Organic Milk vs Hormone Free Milk

Alison asked if hormone-free milk was as good as organic.

As for as Organic milk vs hormone free, neither will have the hormone added, but the hormone “free”-only will still have pesticide residue. Organic milk comes from cows fed an organic diet – grain or grass. In most cases, organic cows are treated better (more room per cow, most organic cows graze in an open pasture), while conventional cows don’t have much room to move around. So that to me even means healthier milk since cows treated better tend to be healthier anyway, thus not needing antibiotics, etc.

art_rbst_free_milk_cnn

Hormone free vs organic – cows naturally produce hormones, so the milk is not entirely hormone free, however no synthetic hormones are added (which to me is still better than conventional milk). However, it seems as though “hormone-free” is more of a marketing term.

CNN also reported on this topic pointing out research has shown there is no difference in milk from cows treated with rbST and cows that were not. However, the author echos many who feel “science” and the FDA has let us down before and consumers are questioning the safety of, well everything.

But then again, Natural News debunks that and gives a glowing review of why adding hormones is not good, including pus getting into the milk from these cows who often get mastitis due to the overproduction of milk and these cows are then given antibiotics to treat the mastitis infection. Now, who wants all that in their milk?

Benefits of Organic Milk
Here is another very good article showing the benefits of organic milk vs conventional milk. Such benefits include less pesticide contamination, more vitamins and antioxidants, improves the quality of breastmilk and helps prevent asthma and eczema in children. Read the entire article for more benefits.

SFMilk-FamilyAs for as choosing a good organic milk, first things first – Horizon milk is not really organic, which is really sad considering it is the best selling brand of organic milk. There are several links on there, one of which is a link to thorough research of many organic brands of milk rated on how “organic” they really are. So if you choose to stay/go organic, you can choose a good brand. Also, you can usually sign up on the manufacturer’s website and get coupons — for example, Stonyfield Farm or Organic Valley may send out coupons in a newsletter.

We eat the “dirty dozen” fruits and veggies (mostly these are the ones where the outer skin is exposed like peaches, grapes, strawberries, potatoes, apples…) these are the ones that will have the most pesticides and bananas for example, do not have near as many pesticides since it is protected by a thick peel. So I get organic apples, but not bananas. I say that to give you an example that there are tradeoffs. You don’t have to go 100% organic on everything. To me, milk is one of those areas where the benefit definitely shows organic to be better.

Certainly cost is a factor. I get our milk from Whole Foods. If you drink a lot of milk or you have room in your freezer, Whole Foods gives you 10% off if you purchase a case of milk (4 gallons). We go through that in about 10-14 days, so I do this sometimes, but it’s a little hard to drink that much milk when we still give our 3 year old whole milk. And I am not sure about freezing milk, have not tried it, but know people who have with great success. And as mentioned, you can usually sign up to get newsletters which may contain coupons.

Related Articles
Food manufacturers confess they have no idea if their food is safe
Grass-fed beef is healthier
Is your organic food really organic?

Food Manufacturers Confess They Have No Idea if Their Food is Safe

By Janelle Sorensen
(Thanks to Janelle for her permission to re-post this article.)

I, like many others, have lost track of all the food recalls that have happened in the last 18 months. Pot pies, pizzas, peanuts, tomatoes, egg rolls, spices, flour, and more. The number of illnesses and the amount of food thrown away is staggering.

Fortunately, none of the tainted foods have impacted my kitchen. Our culinary choices thus far have been safe. But, my faith in the FDA, who I once relied on as an invisible guardian watching over my plate, has been shattered. My optimistically naïve belief that food, of all things, should be safe, has gone the way of childhood beliefs in Santa and the Easter Bunny. And, I’m not just being dramatic – here’s why:

According to an article in the New York Times, “increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processed foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients…companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers…”

They don’t know where the ingredients are coming from? Seriously??

Commence paranoia.

Not only are many major manufacturers openly admitting that they’re pretty clueless about what’s in their food, instead of owning up to their mistakes, they’re placing the burden for safety on the consumer. We are now responsible for what’s called “the kill step,” and it’s not clear what that entails. Some companies are resorting to detailed diagrams and “food safety” guides outlining how to heat foods in a microwave and then check the temperature in several locations with a food thermometer. Others advise against using a microwave altogether. Frozen convenience foods suddenly seem very inconvenient.

Even if simply educating people to warm food to an adequate temperature was a reasonable solution, which it’s not, it wouldn’t address non-pathogenic contaminants like the arsenic found in a huge variety of processed foods around the globe a few months back.

What’s a mother to do? I’ve been a loud proponent for whole foods, local and organic when possible, for many years now, but I still have some processed foods in my pantry. I mean, who really makes things like crackers and cereal from scratch? I also buy a lot of frozen veggies – and I’ve never checked to see if I’ve warmed them to 165 degrees.

Clearly, we have problem on our hands. What do you think should be done? Do you think food safety is up to the consumer? Do you think it’s up to the government? What if safer food meant it cost a bit more? Are you willing to pay?

Find more from Janelle Sorensen at Healthy Child Healthy World, WebMD, MomsRising, and on Twitter (@greenandhealthy).

Follow me on Twitter!

Related Articles
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Link Round-Up: Mommy blogger edition

This week I am picking my favorite posts from some other safety and eco-concious mommy bloggers.

SAFBaby has a great post on Eco-Smart pest control. A great botanical based insecticide system for all your pest control needs. Read more.

Safemama has a great “Dear SafeMama” edition this week on having a green baby shower. How do you avoid (or reduce chances) of getting baby gear and products laced with parabens, BPA, etc.? SafeaMama turns to its readers to get some really great tips for proper etiquette on having a green baby shower. Read more.

The Softlanding has researched and reported back as to which International Playthings are BPA, PVC and phthalate free. Thanks Alicia! And as always, do check www.healthytoys.org to make sure the toys are also free of lead and other ickies. Read more.

Tiffany at Naturemoms.com/blog has a great post and giveaway for Yummy in My Tummy gourmet and organic baby food. My baby is 5 months old, so I am going to have to check this stuff out. I will me making my own (you know in my “spare” time) but I have to bring the unopened, packaged stuff to daycare, so this may fit that bill. Tiffany and her 2 kids gave this product 6 thumbs up! Plus the packaging is free of all kids of icky things, including BPA. Read more.

Related Articles
Kirkland (Costco) baby wipes contain hazardous ingredient
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BPA and phthalate free pacifiers

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