Jun 22, 2012

Healthy Safe Sunscreens for Kids (and parents too!)

It’s official, summer has begun! As much as we all love long, hot summer days, we do need to take precautions in the sun. Since summer should be carefree and relaxing, using the right sunscreen on our children is one less thing to worry about. The following are my favorite sunscreens – they provide strong protection without using hazardous chemicals.

Let vacation begin!

Mar 25, 2012

Welcome Spring!

This is my family's favorite time of the year! The children love being outdoors and watching the world pop with color...it is magical!

The warm weather and sunny days inspire many of us to start our 'Spring" cleaning. As you begin this ritual, think about the many ways that you can make your home healthier. If you are painting, consider the many options that contain no VOCs. When you are purchasing your cleaning products, start to read the labels. Many of the household names that we are all used to contain harmful toxins and chemicals. What a great time to try something new! look for products from Seventh Generation, Green Depot, or Meyers . . . just to name a few! One simple rule to remember - avoid products that contain "fragrance". They are loaded with phthalates!

Other tips to consider:
  1. Cleaning isn’t disinfecting
    Loads of cleaning products, personal care products, and even socks contain antibacterials, which have been added to make you believe you’ll fend off harmful bacteria by using them. It’s not true. In fact, antibacterials cause more harm than good by leading to antibiotic resistance. Soap and water gets the job done without harming the environment or creating a new generation of “super germs.”
  2. Eat healthy and shop smart
    Going organic is healthy and it is possible to do it without bankrupting your family. First, know which fruits and vegetables should always be organic (and avoid the Dirty Dozen) and which have the lowest amount of pesticide contamination.
  3. Skip cans
    Many food and beverage cans are lined with the toxic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to breast cancer and other health concerns. Avoid cans to reduce your kids’ exposure to the chemical, as they are more vulnerable to the effects of hormone-disrupters like BPA. As more companies bring BPA-free cans onto the market keep your eyes open for BPA-free cans on store shelves, and stay up to date on the issue by connecting with the Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans not Cancer campaign.
  4. Stay beautiful without chemicals
    Personal care products, like shampoo, makeup, lotions, may contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to reproductive harm, cancer, and skin irritation. Avoid parabens in lotions, and antibacterials, like trichlosan, a carcinogen that shows up in toothpaste (yuck).
  5. Just say no to PVC
    PVC is the worst of the plastics, made with toxic chemicals, including lead. PVC is identified by the #3 on the bottom and that “vinyl shower curtain smell,” which is the result of toxic chemicals called phthalates off-gassing into your home. Unless you make a point to avoid PVC, you’ll inadvertently fill your house with the toxic stuff, as it is ubiquitous and found in plastic food wrap, soft squeeze toys, wallpaper, flooring, and more. PVC is toxic, can’t be recycled, and is often the material of cheap, disposable toys that you don’t want in your kid sucking on or keeping in his or her playbox. Avoiding PVC is good for workers, your family, and the planet.
  6. Ban pesticides from your home and yard
    Pesticides are poisons and, in most cases, their negative effects outweigh any short-term gain. Pesticides have been linked to a range of health problems, including asthma, hyperactivity and behavior problems, cancer, learning disabilities, reproductive disorders, and compromised brain development. Food storage solutions and good sanitation is the first step to preventing pests from entering your home. Removing your shoes at the door will prevent you from tracking in pesticides and other dirt from the yard and walkways into your living space. Instead of using herbicides on your lawn, yank weeds early, and use mulch to block weed growth. Use natural fertilizers, and plants that bugs don’t like (like marigolds) to help keep pests out of your garden.
  7. Commit to buying and using less stuff!
    Buy and use less stuff! The simple act of bringing a bag to the grocery store and using a refillable coffee mug or water bottle pays back great dividends and sets a good example for your kids. Do your best to avoid buying “throw-away” or single use items. Invest in products and materials that will last; it saves trees, water, and money.
If you would prefer to explore the great outdoors and skip the house cleaning, the team at Roan Skye would be happy to do the job for you! All house keepers have been trained to "Clean green", use chemical free products that have been approved by the EPA and The Children's Environmental Health Center, state of the art steam cleaners and HEPA vacuums. Call Annalise at Roan Skye for more information.

Feb 19, 2012

Heath Risks to Child Development

Today, we know quite a bit about the health risks associated with household cleaning products, plastics, furniture, paint and carpet. However, did you know that the months after you bring your child home from the hospital are the most crucial to his or her development?

Good Morning America’s recent investigation made it abundantly clear that indoor air quality matters—especially in the nursery.

With the help of the Greenguard Environmental Institute, the GMA crew set up a child’s nursery with a brand-new crib, changing table, rocker and decorations

After a week, they tested the air quality inside and found that it contained 300 different chemicals. Just outside the same house, only two chemicals were detected.

The paint in the nursery off-gassed chemicals five times the recommended limit, while the rocker contained seven times California’s recommended levels of formaldehyde, a chemical identified as causing cancer. The crib mattress emitted more than 100 chemicals, namely industrial solvents and alcohols.

The most disturbing part of all? Not one of these products was in violation of any law.

Luckily, there are quick and easy steps that you can take to minimize your familiy's exposures at home.

For one, try not to wait until the last minute to paint, choose safer water based paints,  choose nursery furniture that does not off-gas, set the nursery up several weeks prior to the baby's birth and look for bedding that is natural and certified organic.

If you are considering starting a family or planning for the arrival of a little one, Roan Skye can help you prepare your home. Together, we will create a beautiful, healthy environment for your baby to come home to. Looking for a perfect baby shower gift? Contact us for information about our gift certificates.

Jan 14, 2012

Happy and HEALTHY New Year!

The start of a new year is a great time to consider making healthier, safer choices when buying products for our home and family. Mt. Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center recently held a symposium to discuss the effects that toxins and chemicals have on childrens' health. Phthalates were a hot topic since they are considered Endocrine Disruptors - man-made chemicals that alter the way our body's hormones work. These hormones act as our body’s communication system, making disruption very dangerous to the developing child.

According to Mt. Sinai, Phthalates are a type of ED, which are found in personal care products, vinyl shower curtains, and fragrances. Research suggests that exposure can lead to problems in reproductive
development, poor sperm quality, and infertility.

To avoid exposure, pick fragrance-free products and choose plastics with the recycling code #1, 2 or 5. You can also identify Phthalates by looking for their chemical names in ingredients:
  • DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate)
  • DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate)
  • BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate)
  • DMP (dimethyl phthalate)
Tip of the Week:
Take the time to read the labels on products purchased for babies and children. Many products that are marketed as "safe" for babies list fragrance as an ingredient. Fragrance often contains Phthalates.

Oct 24, 2011

Why the FDA doesn't ban BPA, food colorants and other hazardous chemicals?

On October 10th, The Associated Press reported that the American Chemistry council has asked federal regulators to phase out rules that allow BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. Although this sounds like progress, the AP is concerned that this request could " head off tougher laws that would ban the chemical from other types of packaging".

BPA has become a buzz word, generating controversy about the safety of many of every day products - yet it still shows up in baby products, cash register receipts and canned products. According to a study published in the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology, BPA may cause changes in the breast tissue, predisposing animals to breast cancer. Yet, the FDA continues to allow it?

The Environmental Health news sited a study that explained gene alterations in newborn male rates that were exposed to BPA. These alterations had lasting effects on reproductive hormones when they reached adulthood. So what gives?

All of this information leads us to ask why the FDA does not ban BPA, food colorants and other hazardous chemicals? This article summarizes the answer well.. http://www.theatlantic.com/life/archive/2011/10/why-the-fda-doesnt-ban-food-colors-bpa-and-other-chemicals/246011/ - the link between Science and Politics. For parents and care givers, the absence of legislation provides extra work - committing to researching safe and healthy alternatives for our children.

Toxins, Chemicals and Your Children's Health

We spend a great deal of time talking about toxins and chemicals and how they relate to children's health. Although there are hundreds of thousands of them being produced today, the fifteen listed below have been recognized by Children's Environmental Health experts. These "every day" chemicals directly affect our children...they are present in our homes, schools, consumer products and foods. Addressing the items on this list is a great way to create a healthier environment for our children:

Arsenic: A poisonous contaminant found in older outdoor play structures and wooden surfaces.
  • Tip for prevention: Replace older wooden decks and play sets with safer alternatives like cedar. Apply a sealant every six months to create a barrier between your children and the chemical.
Asbestos: A mineral fiber used in construction materials of older homes. Thanks to legislation, this toxin is less of a problem than it was in the past.
  • Tip for prevention: Have a certified contractor check your home, especially the basement.
Bisphenol-A (BPA): A chemical that may be used in plastic containers, like baby bottles, baby formula canisters and the inner linings of metal cans.
  • Tip for prevention: Buy glass bottles or BPA-free products. Avoid plastic #7.
Phthalates: Often used in pacifiers, bath toys, and other soft toys - items that children may put in their mouths.
  • Tip for prevention: Look for items labeled phthalate-free.
Carbon Monoxide: Odorless and colorless, it is produced when fuels like wood, charcoal, gas, or kerosene are burned.
  • Tip for prevention: Have fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, and ovens) inspected every year. Buy a carbon monoxide detector for your home.
Flame Retardants: Found in household dust from flame-resistant mattresses, foam-padded furniture, computer screens, TVs, and curtains.
  • Tip for prevention: Replace old furniture with exposed foam. Buy products that are made from natural fibers like cotton and wool, which are less flammable.
Formaldehyde: Foam insulation and cabinets made from pressed wood can release formaldehyde into the air.
  • Tip for prevention: Hire an industrial hygienist to test your home's insulation for formaldehyde. If levels are high, replace the insulation.
Lead: Still found in homes built before 1978 - when lead was banned from paints and gasoline.
  • Tip for prevention: Have a certified lead inspector examine your house.
Mercury: Fish like tuna, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish contain high levels of this toxic metal.
  • Tip for prevention: Make sure your children eat fish that are lower in mercury content - like shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
Perchlorate: This toxin has been found in drinking water, baby formula, and some foods.
  • Tip for prevention: Contact your local water company to see if your water contains perchlorate. If your drinking water comes from a private well, have it tested privately.
Pesticides: Pesticides are designed to be toxic to the nervous system, killing insects in the lawn. Children can be exposed by playing outside or can track pesticides in the house.
  • Tip for prevention: Use substitutes for chemical treatments. If your children play on pesticide-treated lawns, make sure they take their shoes off before entering the house.
Radon: This colorless and odorless gas can seep up from the ground of buildings built on rock formations.
  • Tip for prevention: Test for radon when purchasing a new home or test your current home with a radon detector.
Solvents: As chemicals that evaporate into the air, children can be exposed in high traffic areas, through contaminated water, and by using some aerosol products.
  • Tip for prevention: Avoid high traffic areas and avoid the use of aerosols.
Tobacco Smoke: Secondhand smoke has many long term health effects, like asthma, hyperactivity, and respiratory illness.
  • Tip for prevention: If you smoke, smoke outside to prevent secondhand smoke.
Triclosan: A broad-spectrum antibacterial, found in antibacterial soaps, sanitizers, plastics, and cleaning products.
  • Tip for prevention: Use old-fashioned soap and water, not antibacterial cleaning products.

Sep 29, 2011

How green is your school?

It is easy for us moms to keep the home environment safe and healthy. We buy non toxic cleaning products, use no VOC paints and adhesives and feed our children organic food. But what happens when children transition from home to school? Before we know it, the majority of our child's day is spent in a classroom, gymnasium and cafeteria. In most cases, the school building is older, often plagued with mold, asbestos, poor indoor air quality and hidden PCB's. Although we can not change this environment over night, we can start asking our school administrators some questions. As parents, we are advocates for our children who are entitled to a safe and healthy learning environment.

The following questions will provide a great start to a "How green is your school?" conversation:
  1. Does your school use pesticides? Legislation was passed that bans the use of pesticides on school playing fields. However, these toxic chemicals are also used for pest management. No one wants their children in a pest infested school but there are healthier, safer alternatives. Although not totally chemical free, integrated pest management is a better alternative. It is good to know what chemicals your children are exposed to each day.
  2. Has your school had a problem with lice? Traditionally, infestations of lice are treated with shampoos that are highly chlorinated. There are much safer options that are now available over the counter...consider using regular olive oil!
  3. Is your school still using cleaners that contain harsh chemicals? They shouldn't be because schools are now mandated to use "green" cleaners. However, just because the label says green, it does not mean that the product is healthy and safe. Many schools still ask parents or teachers to bring Clorox wipes into the classroom...there is nothing healthy about Clorex! Consider using a safer alternative such as Seventh Generation or Earth Friendly Products. For a ChildSafe Purchasing Guide for industrial green cleaning products, visit www.grassrootsinfo.org/cslist. All products listed here have a ChildSafe logo and were created by Guidelines determined by the EPA.
  4. Has the school been inspected for asbestos, lead paint and lead in the drinking water? If so, was the contractor a lead specialist? If not, is an inspection scheduled?
Needless to say, there are plenty of additional questions that need to be asked. However, this sample will provide a snapshot of the school's indoor air quality. We know that indoor air is far more contaminated than outdoor air but there are simple steps that we can take to create a healthier learning environment for our youngest scholars!