Archive for the ‘Pesticides, Preservatives, etc.’ Category

National Healthy Schools Day

header_hsn_nhsdayaltNational Healthy Schools Day
What you can do to make sure no child’s health is left behind
 
by Janelle Sorensenjanelle
 When my husband and I first toured schools to find the one we wanted to enroll our daughter in, I’m sure I was silently voted one of the strangest parents ever. Why do I feel I was secretly endowed with this title? Because every room and hallway we were taken through, I sniffed. A lot. And, according to my husband, I wasn’t terribly discreet. 
 
I didn’t have a cold or postnasal drip. And, I’m not part bloodhound. I was simply concerned about the indoor air quality. My daughter was (and still is) prone to respiratory illnesses and I wanted to be sure the school she would be attending would support and protect her growing lungs (in addition to her brain). For many air quality issues, your nose knows, so I was using the easiest tool I had to gauge how healthy the environment was.
 
While air quality is a significant issue in schools (the EPA estimates that at least half of our nation’s 120,000 schools have problems), parents are also increasingly concerned about other school health issues like nutrition and the use of toxic pesticides. Many schools are making the switch to healthier and more sustainable practices like green cleaning, least toxic pest management, and even school gardening. What they’re finding is that greening their school improves the health and performance of students and personnel, saves money (from using less energy, buying fewer products, and having fewer worker injuries among other things), and also helps protect the planet. It’s truly win, win, win.teacher_students_classroom
 
To highlight the issue, the Healthy Schools Network coordinates National Healthy Schools Day. This year, over three dozen events will be held across the country (and more in Canada) on April 27th to promote and celebrate healthy school environments.
 
What can you do? Healthy Schools Network recommends simple activities such as:
·      Adopting Guiding Principles of School Environmental Quality as a policy for your School;
·      Distributing information related to Green Cleaning or Indoor Air Quality (IAQ);
·      Writing a letter or visiting your Principal or Facility Director to ask about cleaning products or pest control products;
·      Walking around your school: looking for water stains, cracks in outside walls, broken windows or steps, and overflowing dumpsters that are health & safety problems that need attention. Use this checklist.
·      Writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper on the importance of a healthy school to all children and personnel.
 
You can also help support the efforts of states trying to pass policies requiring schools to use safer cleaners. (Or, initiate your own effort!) There are good bills pending in Connecticut, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. According to Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, the key pieces to promote on green cleaning in schools are:
·     Not being fooled by ‘green washing’ claims—commercial products must be third-party certified as green (to verify claims);
·     Understanding that green products are cost-neutral and they work; and,
·     Learning that “Clean doesn’t have an odor.”
 
She encourages parents and personnel to tune into one of the archived webinars on green cleaning (like the first module for general audiences) at www.cleaningforhealthyschools.org.
 
The fact of the matter is that whether you’re concerned about the quality of food, cleaning chemicals, recycling, or energy use – schools need our help and support.  Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, it’s time to help do what’s right – for our children, our schools, and our planet.
 
What are you going to do? There are so many ideas and resources. Find your passion and get active on April 27th – National Healthy Schools Day.
 
Additional Resources:

 
·      Creating Healthy Environments for Children (DVD): A short video with easy tips for schools and a variety of handouts to download and print.
·      Getting Your Child’s School to Clean Green: A blog I wrote last year with advice based on my experience working with schools.
·      Healthy Community Toolkit: Healthy Child Healthy World’s tips and tools for being a successful community advocate and some of our favorite organizations working on improving child care and school environments and beyond.
·      The Everything Green Classroom Book: The ultimate guide to teaching and living green and healthy. 
 
Janelle Sorensen is the Senior Writer and Health Consultant for Healthy Child Healthy World (www.healthychild.org). You can also find her on Twitter as @greenandhealthy.

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Chemicals that could contaminate baby formula

Recently parents have been scared by melamine tainting baby formula, even in the US, but the Daily Green has a list of 5 chemicals that could be lurking in infant formula and offers tips on how to reduce your baby’s exposure to these chemicals.

Obviously, breastfeeding is the best way to avoid this situation, eventhough yes breastmilk can contain chemicals as well. But the many benefits to breastmilk far outweigh these risks.

The 5 chemicals that could be found in formula are BPA (from the lining of the metal cans); chemicals such as weed killer, pesticides, arsenic, etc. found in water that is used to mix the formula; manufacturing by-products; MSG; and genetically modified ingredients.

Simple solutions include using BPA free bottles and sippy cups for feeding and organic formula (such as Earth’s Best or Baby’s Only) in plastic (not metal) containers.

To read the entire article and learn more tips on how to protect your baby here

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Does organic milk come from grass fed cows?

Not now, but it very soon could be a requirement. The USDA is considering requiring that all dairy cows used in producing organic milk be grass-fed during grazing season.

I think this is a great step. Currently, these cows are fed grain that is not treated with pesticides. Grass is what cows naturally eat and what their bodies know how to process. Grain is not as easily digested and because of this, cows fed grain often have stomach ulcers, indigestion and other issues. Because of this unnatural diet, grain fed cattle are often treated with antibiotics to help prevent diseases common among grain fed cattle.

Certainly would be a great step for all — healthier for the cows and for our consumption. Read the entire article here.

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Quality of bottled water questioned

Most people believe bottled water is better for you and contains less contaminants than tap water. After all, their advertising leads us to believe the water in the bottle comes from a beautiful and pure mountain stream and prices are often 1900 times that of tap water. According to a new study, this is simply not true. The Environmental Working Group recently tested 10 brands of bottled water and found alarming levels of contaminants known to cause cancer and other health issues. Contaminants include pesticide and fertilizer reside, pharmaceuticals, disinfection byproducts, caffeine, arsenic, industry chemicals and other contaminants.

It is important to note, that these levels exceed standard levels considered safe and several far exceed what California considers safe and allowable levels of certain by products, residues, etc.

EWG’s testing revealed chemical levels no different than tap water for Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Choice brand and Giant Supermarket’s Acadia brand.

“Several Sam’s Choice samples purchased in California exceeded legal limits for bottled water contaminants in that state. Cancer-causing contaminants in bottled water purchased in 5 states (North Carolina, California, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland) and the District of Columbia substantially exceeded the voluntary standards established by the bottled water industry.

Unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water.”

Additionally, their testing showed:
“…10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water.”

In 2007, the EPA issued this statement about bottled water:

“Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, while some is treated less or not treated at all. Bottled water costs much more than tap water on a per gallon basis… Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read its label to understand what they are buying, whether it is a better taste, or a certain method of treatment (EPA 2007b).”

The EWG also surveyed 228 brands of water (websites, labels, marketing materials) finding less than half named the water source or a description of how the water was treated, if treated at all.

Environmental Impacts
Of course, many people avoid bottled water because of the environmental impact. We have certainly limited the amount of bottled water we use at our house.

“Of the 36 billion bottles [of water] sold in 2006, only a fifth were recycled (Doss 2008). The rest ended up in landfills, incinerators, and as trash on land and in streams, rivers, and oceans. Water bottle production in the U.S. uses 1.5 million barrels of oil per every year, according to a U.S. Conference of Mayors’ resolution passed in 2007, enough energy to power 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year (US Mayors 2007). As oil prices are continuing to skyrocket, the direct and indirect costs of making and shipping and landfilling the water bottles continue to rise as well (Gashler 2008, Hauter 2008).

Extracting water for bottling places a strain on rivers, streams, and community drinking water supplies as well. When the water is not bottled from a municipal supply, companies instead draw it from groundwater supplies, rivers, springs or streams. This “water mining,” as it is called, can remove substantial amounts of water that otherwise would have contributed to community water supplies or to the natural flow of streams and rivers (Boldt-Van Rooy 2003, Hyndman 2007, ECONorthwest, 2007).”

The EWG in their study of course recommended disclosure of contaminants in the bottled water, the water source and purification techniques, so we may become better consumers. I totally agree. I had heard a few years ago that many bottled water companies purely bottle tap water. I thought, what a scam!! Now I have proof it is.

It is important to note, not ALL bottled water is the same as or worse than tap water (except for the environmental impact), so we have not all been duped.

How do you avoid bottled water that contains contaminants?

If you want to still drink bottled water (which I am not saying to avoid it, though at least cutting back would help our planet!), it may require a little work if you really want to find the “best” and are willing to do a little work.

1. Only buy bottled water that names the water source. (extra credit: You can check that source to see if any contaminants are plentiful there.)
2. Only buy bottled water that along with the water source, lists the treatment techniques as well. Then determine what the process removes and how successful it is at removing contaminants. Note, not all treatments are created equal.
3. You could even call your favorite bottler and ask if the water has been tested for contaminants and ask for a copy of the findings.
4. Bring your own water that you filtered at home using a carbon filter. I bring my own cup to work, and have a stainless steel water bottle, like the Sigg or Klean Kanteen, that I can use on the go.
5. Get a LivePur filtered water bottle by Fit & Fresh. It removes many contaminates from tap water and you can refill the bottle anywhere you are and the water is filtered as you drink. 
 
Read the full report.

EPA ignores the toxic threat in our drinking water

Well, isn’t this great… there is rocket fuel contaminating our drinking water, or at least in the ground water, drinking water and/or soil in 43 states.

The article states:
“Independent testing of milk nationwide has shown near universal perchlorate contamination, often at concentrations well above safe limits. In 2004 and 2008 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published studies revealing contamination of most of the nation’s food supply….

Small children and the unborn are the most vulnerable to perchlorate, which impairs endocrine function by interfering with iodine uptake by the thyroid gland. Perchlorate crosses the placenta and shows up in breast milk, leaving infants and fetuses with even higher blood concentrations than their mothers. In even the most minute concentrations perchlorate can cause enough thyroid inhibition to impair proper neurologic and brain development in children.

Fantastic, right? There’s more. The CDC found significant effects on health at doses 5 times BELOW what the EPA considers “safe.” A 1 year old can consume more than the safe level, just from consuming food, not counting any water or milk he may drink that is also contaminated.

Another excerpt:
“One out of every six children nationwide has a learning disability or behavioral disorder severe enough to require therapy. Numerous environmental contaminants could be contributing to this alarming trend: mercury, radioactivity, generic air pollution and chemicals like bisphenol A, dioxins, PCBs and certainly perchlorate.”

Of course, like the BPA issue, it appears nothing is being done on this issue because of money and industry pressure. I love that economics is more important than human health and well-being, especially when children are most at risk; all the while learning disabilities and behavior disorders are at staggering numbers (as in affecting 1 in 6 children). Something is clearly wrong here.

And sadly, there is not much we can do. Even if we grow our own food or purchase organic, the rocket fuel may still exisit in the water these plants and animals received and the water and milk we drink.

This is one of those cases where we just need to write letters — to the EPA, to our senators, congressmen, etc. until someone will listen.

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Dangers of BPA, Phthalates and a host of other substances

No matter who you are, whether or not you have kids, you are male or female, old or young, everyone should check out this article. Especially if you use a computer, drink out of plastic cups, use a vinyl shower curtain, use soap, eat food, etc. I think I understand why I am often tired and my husband is losing more and more hair. LOL.

It’s a lengthy article, but contains a wealth of information on various chemicals, plastics and other toxins that we encounter daily and that are harming us in so many ways. The author cites scientific studies in each instance and what the findings were. It’s disturbing that yet again, the FDA fails to protect us. As companies are voluntarily phasing out certain substances in the products they sell, it should be a wakeup call to us all that there is a reason for this! Those substances cause all sorts of diseases, abnormalities, cancer, birth defects, low sperm counts, just to name a tiny few.

Additionally, it also affects our environment and the animals that live it in. Ironically that does include humans. But recently in Colorado, they discovered many of the fish living in the “purest” lake were transgender. Male fish had female traits. Studies link this as an affect to the presence of bisphenol-a, phthalates, prescriptions drugs and other substances in the water.

A scientist involved in the fish study said this:

“This particular study stands out because we’ve tried to address the question: What are the present compounds being broken down to?” Borch says. “It’s beyond the fact that these could have endocrine-disrupting effects.”

Check out this article. It’s well written and contains a wealth of eye-opening information.

http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/89453/?ses=2b135aa81b1a7d6b5e1b3017875dec7f

Some excerpts:

“Lab tests suggest that chronic, low-dose exposure to bisphenol-A — like drinking out of a coated cup or polycarbonate bottle daily — may cause women to have greater chances of breast cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome, a leading cause of infertility, and men to have increased odds of prostate cancer and reduced sperm counts.”

“As a computer warms up, particles inside start to fly and some catch a ride on dust. For years, I breathed in polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) from my laptop.”

“From 1979 to 2004, the EPA received more than 32,000 chemical applications, but agency personnel performed some level of review on fewer than one in eight cases. Eight out of every 10 applications are approved with no restrictions, often in less than three weeks. The agency has implemented restrictions on only five chemical classes, even though in the 1990s it reported that 16,000 compounds warranted concern because of their chemical structure or volume of use.”

“I have roughly 700 different synthetic chemicals in my body. That number probably won’t be going down any time soon. Every single day, the United States produces or imports 42 billion pounds of chemicals, about 140 pounds for every American. I also am what I eat out of, and with, and around.”

“Rather than yielding a regulatory hammer, the EPA generally allows the chemical industry to set its own standards voluntarily and conduct its own evaluations on endocrine disruption and chemical impacts on children. In cases where chemicals have gone through formal reviews, the results haven’t always panned out for public health and safety.

The Environmental Working Group recently exposed that the EPA had removed a government scientist from an external-review panel of deca-brominated diphenyl ester, one of the fire-retardant PBDEs, after the American Chemistry Council complained about her “appearance of bias.” “

“The public depends on EPA peer-review panels to help ensure the products they use every day are safe,” says Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., the committee chair. “The EPA seems to have a backwards way of composing these panels. The EPA is disallowing scientists who have valid public-health concerns about products, while encouraging participation by so-called experts who are paid by the chemical industry.”

Have we found the cause of SIDS?

I recently bought the book Raising Baby Green by Dr. Alan Greene. I found his brief information on infant crib mattresses to be very interesting and a little disturbing. I researched more online and then found the number of chemicals used in crib mattresses to be alarming. Then I found a study that actually LINKED these toxins in crib mattresses to infants who died of SIDS. This is alarming.

I found this article summarizing a study done on crib mattresses and SIDS. In short, Dr. Spoutt believed that crib death was caused by toxic gases released from the crib mattress. If a baby breathed or absorbed a lethal does of these gasses, the central nervous system would shut down, stop breathing and stop heart function. All this without struggle or waking the baby. A normal autopsy would not reveal signs of poisoning.

New Zealand for the past 11 years has had a 100% success rate in preventing crib deaths with an ongoing campaign by advising parents to wrap the mattress in a special cover that prevents leaching of toxic gasses. Over 100,000 infants slept on protected crib mattresses and not a single SIDS case has been reported by this group using the special mattress cover. Prior to the wrapping campaign, New Zeland had the highest SIDS rate in the world at 2.1 deaths per 1000 live births. Since the campaign, SIDS rates have dropped 70%.

I highly recommend reading the entire article. It’s very fascinating and educational. Certainly makes me feel better about wanting to spend 2-3 times as much on an organic mattress for our new baby, due in November.

It’s terrible that more parents do not know about this. The cover is inexpensive, at about $35. Who would not spend at least that to protect an existing mattress? So it’s not about parents not wanting safer alternatives, it’s that our government is keeping this information from us.

The best solution is to purchase a new 100% organic crib mattress. HealthyChild.com seems to be gung-ho about the NaturePedic line of organic crib mattresses.

Organic Crib Mattresses

Naturepedic: all have 100% organic cotton filing
No-Compromise Organic Cotton Classic $259
No-Compromise Organic Cotton Ultra $359
2 in 1 Organic Cotton Ultra $399
Quilted Organic Cotton Deluxe (note, does not have a waterproof cover) $339 
Port a crib pad $149 

Natural Mat
Latex Mat $385 Made of organic latex, organic lambswool and double organic cotton cover 
Mohair Mat $625 (mohair is from horsetail, which naturally springs back to its original shape). Also made of coir (from coconuts), organic lambswool and organic cotton. 
Coco Mat $375 Made of coir (from coconuts), organic lambswool and organic cotton.

Pure Rest
Organic Crib Mattress Innerspring with Edge Supports
Organic Innerspring Crib Mattress (Cotton & Wool) $299 242 coils, organic cotton filling, organic wool batting.

Eco Baby has a variety of mattresses ranging from $299 – $399

Pixel Organics
REFILL mattress is an interesting product in that it recycles food grade plastic bottles into filling for this crib mattress. Also uses organic cotton and wool. $170
Natural Rubber and Organic Wool $150
100% Organic 510 Coil Inner Spring Crib Mattress $342
100% Organic Natural Rubber Crib Mattress $490. Also uses organic cotton and wool.

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