Archive for November, 2010

Is Indoor Air Quality at School Affecting Your Child’s Health or Performance?

Friday, November 19th, 2010

indoor air quality in schools endangers healthIf you’ve diligent about indoor air quality at home and are concerned about the air quality at your child’s school, the American Lung Association has teamed up with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give you the tools you need to help clean it up.

Why is indoor air quality an issue? According to the EPA:

“Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a critical component of providing a healthy and comfortable learning environment. Indoor air pollutants may cause or contribute to short- and long-term health problems including asthma, respiratory tract infection and disease, allergic reactions, headaches, nasal congestion, eye and skin irritations, coughing, sneezing, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. In addition, indoor air pollutants and extremes in temperature and humidity may cause discomfort, which can affect students’ ability to concentrate and learn.”

Obviously, indoor air quality can have a serious effect on your child’s health, as well as their school performance.

In fact, it makes you wonder how many learning disability diagnoses might actually be attributed to toxins in the air at school. The same would also apply, of course, to the home.

If you suspect the air quality of the school because of problems with your child, or even if you’re just trying to protect your child’s health, find out from the school principal if they are involved in an indoor air quality program and precisely what measures they’re taking to ensure the air is safe. If they are not currently active in such a program, guide them to the American Lung Association website to read about the indoor air quality programs, plans, checklists and other materials they provide to help schools.

And, of course, follow up on it. They might even appreciate your help!

The Ubiquitous Bisphenol A – Should I Be Worried About It?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Bisphenol A (BPA) is currently the subject of many articles, blogs, news reports and scientific studies. Several countries have already banned BPA in some children’s products, as have some states in the U.S. Is BPA exposure really something you should be worried about? In fact, it is. Exposure to BPA is almost inevitable.

Plastic infant bottles
Canned foods, including infant formula – the BPA is in the epoxy resin lining of the cans
Water bottles – usually those marked with a “7” on the bottom
Plastic food storage containers and packaging

That’s not to say that BPA is found only in food-related items – it’s also in CDs, hard plastic toys, cell phones, computers, and a host of other products. But, currently, experts believe that the primary entrance point of BPA into the body is through food, water (BPA-laden epoxy resins even line some water supply pipes), and food or drink containers and packaging.

The BPA leaches into the food we eat and water or other liquids we drink. It’s even found in breast milk – one more thing that’s transferred from mom’s body to baby’s.

Air and dust are other possible sources of exposure.

So, why do you want to avoid BPA? Hundreds of studies have linked even low levels of exposure to:

Low sperm count
Damage to developing eggs
Placental cell death
Heart disease
Changes in brain development
Presdisposition to breast and prostate cancer

A recent study, published in May, 2010, examined the contents of BPA in canned foods. Not the levels in the cans themselves, but in the food contained in the cans.

The results are startling. 92% of the canned food contained BPA – which explains why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found BPA in the urine of 93% or Americans. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also found BPA in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.

Should you be worried about BPA? If you’re still doubtful, read the study, No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods.

Why Are Phthalates Still a Big Deal – Wasn’t the Consumer Product Safety Act Ban Enough to Protect Our Kids?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

“Imagine a child sitting in his classroom, gazing through the window at the rain. He picks up his pencil and chews distractedly on the eraser at its top. Chemicals, classed in Europe as “toxic to reproduction,” dissolve in his saliva and enter his body.”

The above quote is from an article about a new study on phthalates, the chemicals in the eraser and thousands of other products we use everyday. Phthalates are dangerous chemicals, and they’re toxic to reproduction no matter what your country or continent.

They were banned by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission nearly two years ago (and in Europe 1999) in certain children articles and toys.

So, if they were banned, why are we still writing about them in both Europe and North America? Why are they still the subject of testing? Why did 140 environmental groups band together to release a new study about these chemicals?

Only a few phthalates were banned; there are plenty more that are not regulated.

They are so widespread – not only are they in every country that has plastics, they are so commonly used and accepted as the chemicals that turn hard PVC into something flexible that a consumer has to go out of their way to find one of the few, insightful manufacturers who refuses to include them.

The problem doesn’t occur only when children’s put things in their mouths or inhale fumes. We know now that even unborn children are exposed to these chemicals through their moms. If they’re in mom – and you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who’s body is free of phthalates – they are in baby.

They are, factually, endangering the entire human race by interfering with our reproductive systems as well as being linked to a number of medical conditions so prevalent in society that some may even consider epidemic.

Although the number of items containing phthalates is too long to list, there’s a good chance they are in any soft plastics in your home environment. But you can get rid of them. Many manufacturers are so aware of the problem, and the concern on the part of consumers, that their labels proudly proclaim ‘No Phthalates’. In that case, reading the label makes it easy. You can also get information on the contents of their products on their website, as it is with ours (our Naturepedic crib mattresses don’t contain phthalates or any other harmful chemicals(, or give them a call.

So, start with your plastics, like the items tested in the recent study – running shoes, plastic garden clogs, elastic bands, toothbrushes, pencil cases, and so on.

Also, in case you are not aware of this, phthalates are commonly found in scented products – everything from perfumes to cosmetics, skin care products, deodorant and laundry detergent. If it’s not scented with essential oils, it probably contains phthalates.

We want you and your children to be safe.

Going Green without Becoming an Expert

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

When you first take on the subject of toxic chemicals, as a layman, it can be extremely confusing. There is so much information and so many dangerous chemicals in our immediate environment, it makes you just want to stay in the closet all day. And that’s assuming your closet wasn’t recently redecorated with off-gassing paint, isn’t filled with the formaldehyde used in no-iron, wash and wear clothes, and so on. Really, it can be overwhelming.

In fact, it’s not. Believe it or not, it’s quite simple. In fact, a better approach – rather than learning EVERYTHING that isn’t good for you, is probably to learn everything that IS.

Here are things to look for on labels – some are things you want to look for, and some are things you want to avoid.

1. Wood
2. Cotton
3. Linen
4. Hemp
5. Silk
6. Organic anything (assuming the label fully discloses all information and isn’t just referring to a small percentage of the ingredients/product and so on)
7. No antibiotics
8. No hormones
9. Preservative-free
10. Phthalates-free
11. Propylene glycol-free
12. Aluminum-free
13. Sodium laurel/laureth sulfate (SLS) free
14. Fragrance free or unscented (although you might want to check into this product by product, label by label, because the definitions are not clear)
15. No artificial fragrance
16. No artificial color (or dye)
17. BPA-free

That’s not a very big list but, believe it or not, if you used it as a guideline, you’d probably eliminate 75% of the potential harmful chemicals in your life!

Want to get a head start without earning a PhD? Implement the list above and see how much progress you can make!