Friday, November 28, 2008

What’s On the Foods Your Family Eats? Chances Are, It Isn’t Good.

The best foods you can feed your children are the ones that are 

(1)  grown yourself or 

(2)  purchased locally through a farmers market – a place where you can ask the grower what s/he used for pesticides, aka poisons.

Certain Foods Are Exempt
Scary thought but certain foods are exempt from the US Department of Agriculture’s list of dangerous toxins that actually work their way into the fruit or vegetable pulp.  What’s it all mean?

You can’t wash off the pesticides, even with a scrub brush. Many pesticides are oil-based so they adhere to the fruit or vegetable during rainy days. These pesticides are used, of course, to kill insects that damage the food as it grows. But that’s not all.

Sprays are also used to increase the size of the fruit without adding much to the taste of the fruit. Ever eat a huge strawberry that just tasted blah. No zippy, strawberry tang? The fruits and vegetables you purchase at the local supermarket are bred for appearance and long shelf life. That’s why out-of-season tomatoes are as hard as golf balls. They travel without bruising and have a long, long shelf life.

Here’s the point: most foods are bred for reasons other than nutrition and good taste. These vegetables and fruits, grown on huge commercial farms, are sprayed constantly to keep bugs and critters at bay.  But those sprays make their way into the food and, ultimately, into you, your child and other family members.

What About All-Natural and Organic?
Better, but be forewarned. There are numerous definitions – some legal within certain states – that describe what can be labeled allnatural. Perfect example? MSG, aka monosodium glutamate. This isn’t something that kids should ingest. It leads to hyperactivity, hot flashes and other negative symptoms. Yet, the fact is MSG is, indeed, all natural. It’s just processed to death. The point is, I don’t want my brood eating MSG but it may be contained in “all natural” foods. Check the product label.

MSG is often disguised as “natural flavors” or “natural flavor additives” because, technically, they are.

Don’t be misled by organic and all natural labels. All is not as it appears in many cases – even when the items are purchased in health-food stores!

How Should I Prepare Foods?
Call me a pessimist but I assume all foods are coated with chemical sprays and laced with hormones.  The first thing I do is wash all fruits and veggies using a scrub brush. This removes dirt, tiny insects and at least some of those oil-based sprays on your foods.

I then dry each item carefully, rubbing hard enough to remove more pesticides but not bruise the fruit or veggie.

I bag hard fruits like apples and peaches and place in the fridge within easy reach of my kids. Soft fruits like bananas and mangos I leave out, but use quickly before they get too mushy – something my kids won’t tolerate.

Rinse all lettuces and greens well. Spin dry, wrap in cloth toweling and store in the fridge. The cloth will absorb a little moisture which will prevent the greens from going limp.

Finally, I avoid buying processed foods whenever possible. Sorry, but I can’t even understand some of the ingredients in these boxed lunches and sugary snacks. If you keep these foods out of your house, you and your kids won’t be tempted.

Hey, anybody got any other suggestions for protecting our kids from the foods they eat?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Goodbye, Blissful Ignorance… Hello Poisonous Milk In a Poisonous Baby Bottle

As a mother of three young children, ages 6, 4 and 1, I have been shocked and disturbed by the revelations over the last several years about the toxic nature of products that are specifically made for children.

As a preschooler, my oldest son LOVED Thomas the Train. As he is our first born, we were inclined to spoiling him and he had nearly every train in the set. We loved the trains - we loved the fact that they were wooden. They had that reassuring feel of old-fashioned toys. We loved watching him use his imagination, making up his own story lines - he could have played for hours straight, if we let him. His brother, who was a toddler at the time, loved the trains, too. He especially loved to explore them with his mouth. We didn't think much of it.

Then there was the recall. Suddenly it was announced that certain Thomas trains were painted with lead-based paint! Suddenly we had to take away my son’s favorite playthings and mail them off. Suddenly we had to worry about whether our kids had toxic lead levels in their little bodies. Our blissful naiveté was taken from us. How could we know that the remaining trains were okay (in fact – they were not – it was revealed later that more of the trains contained lead, as well). How could we know that other painted toys were safe? In the meantime, our son asked us for months, when he could have his treasured trains back.

The trains were just the beginning. Since then, reports have come out about dangerous BPA in baby bottles and baby formula tainted with melamine. It has gotten to the point where I’m appalled, but no longer shocked.

The scary thing is, our children’s developing bodies are at much higher risk of suffering the negative effects of these poisons than adults. Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency show infants up to age two to be, on average, ten times more vulnerable and, in some cases, up to 65 times more vulnerable to carcinogenic chemicals than adults. Autism, ADHD, asthma, learning disabilities, cancer, fertility problems and birth defects are increasingly associated with the toxins we are exposed to.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), hundreds of chemicals are now found in the bodies of Americans, including babies in the womb. Laboratory tests by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have found an average of 200 industrial chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies – many of the chemicals linked to serious and potentially irreversible health problems.

So, what can we, as citizens, as consumers – as parents – do? Well, of course we can start by educating ourselves on the known dangers that are out there and steer clear of them. Of course, many of the dangerous toxins haven’t been outed by studies yet. So the best we can do to protect ourselves is to try to steer clear of plastics, opting in favor of natural materials such as glass, metal and wood; buy organic goods, and use products that are as close to their natural form as possible.

On the larger front, we can proactively encourage lawmakers to enact legislation that will protect us and our children from being poisoned. The Kid-Safe Chemicals Act was first introduced to Congress in 2005 and was reintroduced this year.

The Kid-Safe Chemical Act would overhaul our nation's chemical regulatory law by:

* requiring that industrial chemicals be safe for infants, kids and other vulnerable groups;
* requiring that new chemicals be safety tested before they are sold;
* requiring chemical manufacturers to test and prove that the 62,000 chemicals already on the market that have never been tested are safe in order for them to remain in commerce;
* requiring EPA to review "priority" chemicals, those which are found in people, on an expedited schedule;
* requiring regular biomonitoring to determine what chemicals are in people and in what amounts;
* requiring regular updates of health and safety data and provides EPA with clear authority to request additional information and tests;
* providing incentives for manufacturers to further reduce health hazards;
* requiring EPA to promote safer alternatives and alternatives to animal testing;
* protecting state and local rights; and
* requiring that this information be publicly available.

Through the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act we can give our children a safer and healthier future. Write letters to your State Senators and Representatives to let them know that this matters to you, that you want our children to stop being poisoned and that we need this legislation enacted.

With support from you, me and others who care about the health of the children and all the people of our nation, we can make a big step in protecting ourselves (and our environment) and future generations from the dangerous toxins that poison us today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Today Show must be reading my mind...

Imagine my surprise when I saw that, just today, the Today Show featured a segment on "6 toxins that lurk in your home" discussing some of the same health dangers in our latest blog posts! These are very real concerns and I'm thrilled that they are getting attention on such a large scale. Here is the segment:

Have any of you made your own cleaning solutions? Which ones were the most effective? I'd love to hear from you!

Why Filtered Air Poses A Threat to Your Kids

Asthma rates are up astronomically. Kids are experiencing asthma symptoms earlier and more severely according to a study released by the Environment Protection Agency. The study goes on to report that other illnesses are more prevalent – colds, flus and other “childhood” diseases.

Much of the medical community has turned it’s attention to the rise of more virulent strains of diseases, immune to antibiotics, and indeed, there’s a lot to be made for this case. However, it’s also reasonable to assume that there may be more than one source of the problem. Stronger germs, sure. But how about polluted air? Really polluted air in millions of homes?

As we’ve all become more energy conscious, we’ve added insulation, replaced drafty windows and kept the air inside warm and toasty. Problem is, that air tight box also traps dangerous pathogens – mold, dust and dander, volatile chemicals from cleaners and personal products. If the house can’t breathe, what’s happening to the air in your home? The air becomes thick with poisons from everyday products – everything from dish washer soap to underarm deodorant.

Why Air Filters Make Things Worse
So, moms and dads rush out to buy expensive ionizers and air filtering systems to solve the problem of indoor pollution. But here’s the thing – filtered air isn’t really filtered. In fact, if you don’t maintain the air cleaning gear, you’re making things worse for the family.

Here’s why. Air filtering systems draw in air, run it through a filter and pump out clean air. So far so good. But here’s the problem. Within hours of installing a new filter, it already contains pollutants – pollutants through which all other air must pass. And as these pollutants continue to collect, whether in an ionizer or other air filter, the more pollutants are pumped back into the interior of your home.

Filtered air of any kind is filtered for a while, but as more and more containments build up within the collection device, the less effective the air cleaner.

What To Do About Indoor Air Pollution
Use fewer pollutants.
Use cleansing, full-spectrum light sources throughout the house.
Ventilate regularly. Open a window for goodness sake.
Don’t use filter or ionizer air cleaners. They can make the problem worse.
Use exhaust fans or work outside when using toxins. Follow label instructions.
Make your own cleaning products, clean and save a ton of cash at the same time.
Purchase natural fiber clothing for your children.

And that’s just the beginning. Had the furnace tuned up lately? Had the AC cleaned since you bought it? The stuff that grows in wet dark places is gross – like a high school science experiment gone horribly wrong.

There’s plenty you can do to go pro-active in keeping a really clean home. And you won’t find anything useful in the cleaning products aisle of the SuperMagaMart.

The Cleaner Your Home, The Greater the Danger

You’re taught that a shiny, sparkling home is the sign of a family that cares about its health, right? Wrong. The fact is, the air inside your home is more polluted than the air outside – even if you live within whiffing distance of the town dump. And we’re not just talking about odors.

We’re talking highly-volatile chemical compounds that are released into the air every time you spray for mold. Tiny droplets of this highly toxic chemical can float in the air for days. It lands on furniture, food preparation surfaces and in the lungs of all family members.

But it gets worse when you factor in the chemicals that are released from furniture cushions and even the carpet. Formaldehyde – used to embalm dead bodies – is used in the manufacture of couch stuffing and rugs, and molecules of this toxin can be released years after the carpet or couch is purchased.

Other sources of indoor pollution:

personal care products like deodorants, colognes and hair sprays

any store-bought cleaning agent, mildew killer, bubbles that scrub, etc. – all toxic

dry-cleaned clothes. You wouldn’t BELIEVE what they put on those outfits and it all makes its way into the air that you and your family breathe.

paints, stains and other home maintenance products are some of the most toxic products on the planet

The list goes on. Just look under your sink. Read the labels of that HEAVY DUTY DRAIN CLEANER. Holy cow. That stuff will eat through solid steel! Whoa. Read the label on any drain unclogger. If that doesn’t scare you, this will.

We spend 90% of our time in our homes breathing in these toxins. Somebody open a window, please!

Yep, part of it’s about ventilating your energy efficient, seamless castle. But, by going proactive and using every day, homemade products, you can eliminate the dangers flying through the air of the family room including volatile organic compounds, molds, viruses, disease-causing bacteria and stuff you don’t even want to know about.

Come on back soon. Together, we can clean up the environment one house at a time.