More Than A Green Halloween

With Halloween upon us, there are certain decisions I will make to celebrate in the most conscious way I can.  To me this means being eco-conscious as well as safety conscious.  My mantra to cause as little harm to Mother Earth as possible goes hand in hand with being conscious to respect all trick or treaters who come to my door.

What? Of course we all endorse a safe and happy Halloween for kids.  But did you ever consider you may not be doing this as best as you can?  I did when recently, someone brought to my attention that some children are so severely peanut-allergic that by giving out peanut-treats we could be putting them in harm’s way.

Call me whatever you will, but even with all the peanut-free requirements of my kids schools, I had never thought I might cause harm to a child by not being conscious about the Halloween treats I give out. I needed someone with a peanut-allergic child to tell me. So this year I am opting to celebrate more than a ‘Green Halloween’ and celebrating what I call a ‘Conscious Halloween’.

So this Halloween, I have committed to:

1) Giving out non-peanut treats.  My daughter wants chips, I want Kit Kats and that’s where we stand. We will most likely have to agree to disagree and have both. Not such a bad thing.

2) No toxic face make-up (see my post: Extra Scary Halloween Make-Up).  And no toxic nail polish for my 7 year old girly vampire. Did you know conventional nail polish is considered so toxic by the City of Toronto that it cannot be disposed of with regular household garbage.  It is considered hazardous waste.  Why would anyone put that on kids for dress up?

3) No plastic costumes.  I know they are cheap but along with that comes being ‘cheaply-made’.  They become disposable and pollute land-fills.  Try making costumes out of old clothes.  That’s how my mom did it back in the day and the costumes were fabulous and SAFE!  I think she still has the Pippi Longstocking costume she made me…evidence enough that home-made costumes are not disposable and can be used over and over again.

4) No plastic Halloween junk.  Lately many stores have turned into ‘plastic Halloween nik naks from China’ stores.  Bottom line stop buying this junk and stores will stop bringing it in.    Who doesn’t agree that a plastic light up pumpkin ring is not a necessity.  I shudder when someone gives my kids this junk and I am made responsible to throw it out.  Think twice about buying such disposable junk and we will all be better for it.

So I hope I have inspired some of you to celebrate consciously this Halloween just as the mom who wrote about the seriousness of giving out peanut-free treats did for me.

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No More Toxins In My Tub.

safe baby products, natural shampoo, toxic-free cosmeticsIn mid-August, 2012 a huge announcement came from one of the largest cosmetic companies in the world, Johnson & Johnson.  They announced they were phasing out harmful chemicals they use in their iconic Johnson Baby brand as well as their other brands Aveeno and Neutrogena.

Parents were shocked that a trusted cosmetic giant admitted such a dastardly deed.  Formaldehyde in baby shampoo?  Why?

But as parents, what to do with this information? Do we laud them for coming clean when other cosmetic behemoths such as  L’Oreal, Procter and Gamble and Avon have not made such a commitment and continue to use the same harmful chemicals in their formulations?  Or do we stop buying their products in disgust that a baby shampoo company ever stooped so low.

In my case, I was upset enough to get rid of the chemical-laden product in our shower caddy and swap for my well-researched, more natural alternatives.  And I will never go back.

In our case, switching to natural products allowed my daughter’s eczema-prone skin to heal and to be healthy without using topical steroid cream. AND my skin has never felt so healthy and hydrated. Yippee!

I have found benefits of using natural products that I had never imagined. Plant-based products don’t strip the skin of natural oils.  Plant-based moisturizers actually sink into the skin nourishing it vs. petroleum-based products which sit on top of the skin. And none of the ingredients in my natural products have ever been linked to cancer or ill-health.  And as far as I can see when authorities on pollution such as Environmental Defence Canada, tell us to avoid many of the synthetic chemicals I found in conventional body products, I believe that I am not only doing something good for my health but for the environment.  If these chemicals are that toxic, it makes sense to me that sending them down my shower drain may not be good for our waterways either.

So now I am a natural product convert. The Johnson and Johnson admission brought to light for me an issue in an industry and an opportunity to find healthier products for my family.

So now in my shower caddy you will find, my new favourite natural products. No more methylisothiazolinone, formaldehyde, or SLS lurking in my loo. My fave body wash for little kids has become  Dr. Robin For Kids.  My 7 year old and I love Clinical Luxury by Nature’s All Over Soap as it makes your skin and the bathroom smell like a spa.  My hubby’s fave organic cleansers are by Canada’s Consonant. Consonant Organic Body Wash in Citrus Bergamot and the Organic Foaming Face Wash. These are both now essentials in my home.  And my all-time favourite haircare (shampoo, conditioner, detangler) line for wee ones is Original Sprout. I have never seen such a cult-type following for a kids natural line as I have with this one….yet always more to discover! As these are some of my favourite better-for-you-products, you can find them on-line at Sessabel.

Extra Scary Halloween MakeUp

My house is almost all set for Halloween.  Costumes are ready; one elephant and one vampire.  Decorations are in place. My kids are counting down in anticipation.  But I am having trouble finding a face makeup which gives me comfort.

I have good reason to be concerned about face make-up. Health Canada just announced a recall of a particular brand of Halloween makeup citing excessive lead content. 5000 packages of this particular product have been sold in Canada already. Now that is SCARY.

Lead is a powerful neurotoxin causing a number of serious health concerns.  Among other issues, it slows the development of the central nervous system and brain causing learning issues and worse.  Most health authorities on the subject agree children under 6 years old are most affected.  Fortunately, Health Canada, offers information on its website so parents can understand the health issues and make more informed decisions.

People have asked me how do I know if there is lead in a make-up?  You don’t. Lead is a contaminant and NEVER an ingredient.  This means even if you are card-carrying, certified label-reader as I am, you will never find lead on an ingredient declaration.  A case in point, both the FDA and Health Canada have recently tested for lead in conventional lipsticks.  I find the results good information for parents who may be thinking of using a conventional red lipstick for the vampire mouth ‘blood drip’ this Halloween.

The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics has published DIY makeup recipes. I have tried some of their recipes. Although there is no doubt that DIY on their terms is the ultimate, best way to confirm safe make-up this Halloween, my experience tells me I am not a DIY-type.  I tried a few variations with no real success in my opinion.  So embarassingly streaky were some of my home-made make-up attempts, my 7 year was horrified at the thought I might send her out on fright night looking unintentionally more freaky.

I have decided that the best bet for my kids made-up faces to look good this Halloween and to be as safe as possible,  I will buy face make-up from a reputable theatrical make-up company. Most recall information points to inexpensive imports from China as the main culprits in very excessive lead content.  And even when lead may not be an issue, the ingredients of cheap Halloween cosmetics usually contain toxic chemicals such as parabens. Being that these are linked to cancer will cause most parents further added ‘fright’.

In Toronto, good quality face make-up such as Kryolan is available at Malabar, located at 14 McCaul Street with an option for online shopping.  Have a Happy AND Safe Halloween!

Toxins in Toyland

With Holiday season in sight, the time is upon us for to be aware of the toxins lurking in Toyland.  If you just thought ‘its only October, its too early’, think again.  Stores are at this moment stocking items they are hoping you will buy for gift-giving. So parents read on as after reading my experience you want to arm yourself with some info before you go head first into Holiday buying mode at your local toy store.

My first experience finding toxins in kids products in a toy store was in a kiddie nail polish. My girls love nail polish so whether in the toy store or the Drug Mart, they oogle the fancy colours longingly. This is how we became aware of kids nail polish, Piggy Paint.  Piggy Paint markets itself as ‘all natural’ but take a read of the chemicals on the label and you will find one chemical that is a known neurotoxin. And these particular Piggies are crafty, they call the particular chemical, Neolone 950 on their label, a trade name for the more dastardly Methylisothiazolinone a known neurotoxin.

Now if Piggy Paint were to market its product as a ‘almost all-natural nail polish for kids with one chemical included that may adversely affect your child’s nervous system over time, would you buy it?  Clearly the company figured out we may not like their product if it were labelled as such. And so it goes in the world of cosmetics, why be up front when you can greenwash and get away with it?

So now I don’t trust many kids products in the toystore (let alone other in stores but more on that in a future post) and so I reguarly engage in ‘toy store research’.  I have since found a Hannah Montana lip gloss with terephthalate (an industrial plasticizer) AND parabens (linked to cancer) included, as well as Hello Kitty lip glosses with NO ingredients listed.  As a parent not sure which is worse but best to avoid both for safety’s sake.

Toxins are not just in cosmetic preparations in the toystore.  Plastics in general are also a serious source of health-affecting chemicals. Recently a mom, Lori Popkewitz Alper wrote an article on her blog about Disney lunchboxes and backpacks containing unsafe levels of phthalates.  These plastic-softening compounds are known to cause ill health affects in humans so why are they used in the manufacture of toys? You can have your say, as Lori has started a petition.  Want sign to it?  You will be in good company as 58, 513 people already have.  Case in point, there are toxins in kids products you may never have imagined.

So as I say, be a warrior for your own health.  Your kids will be better off without toxic toys AND just think by not buying them we are speaking with our wallets.  Stop buying and they will stop producing.

My favourite line of safe kids cosmetics is by Keeki Pure & Simple.  Water-based nail polish, remover, organic lip balms with a hint of shimmer for girls who want to be fancy.  No surprise, Keeki was founded by a mom who like many of us, just can’t bear an industry using our kids as chemical guinea pigs.

Keeki Pure & Simple available across Canada via Sessabel.  May your holiday season be SAFE and toxin-free.

***at the time of writing this post, Piggy Paint’s website noted the Neolone 950 on their website as an ingredient in their polishes.  They have since changed their website to remove the Neolone 950.  My bottle still contains Neolone 950.  If they have indeed changed their ingredients, please note that old stock will remain in people’s homes and in stores for some time.  Still best to read labels and exercise caution when dealing with toxins.

Burt and I Are Definitely OVER

Relationships are definitely fragile.   Over time, we become comfortable in a relationship and trust grows.   Even in the most trusting of relationships, something can happen that takes you by surprise and sideswipes you. This happened to me in my relationship with Burt’s Bees and as a result, we have parted ways.

Burt’s Bees touts themselves as a natural personal care company. And so as I trusted, I became an addict for Burt’s colour-tinted lip shimmers to soothe my consistently dry lips while giving a nice hint of colour.

Then the FDA published a report of conventional lipstick brands which were found to contain lead.  Burt’s lip shimmers were front and centre!  I was shocked by the news on Burt even more than I was at the other lead-laden lipsticks from Maybelline, L’Oreal, Cover Girl, and Revlon. I realize lead is a natural element so technically maybe Burt isn’t ‘greenwashing’ but as a known neurotoxin which can affect brain development in the unborn child among other things, I positively don’t want lead in my lipstick.

I researched and researched to figure out for myself that my initial reaction to avoid Burt and his products, was a sound decision. I read details which confirmed for me that the  jury’s still out among ‘experts’ on how much lead in a lip product  is ‘safe’. When this is the case, my opinion is it is best to avoid something.

One thing experts do seem to agree on is that lead accumulates in the body. So if you get a little here and a little there, the amount in your body becomes greater and greater.  And as I use lip balms oodles of times per day, my body was a prime candidate for this bioacculumlation of lead to occur.  So in the end, I have come to terms with my breakup decision.

The best options I have found  since for soothing dry, chapped lips are Consonant‘s Organic Lip Conditioner (no colour and oh so soothing) and Keeki Pure & Simple Lip Shimmers and Lip Balms.  The Keeki products are very popular in my house for my young daughters as they look a little ”fancy’ AND Keeki offers options with no colour and some with a little colour.  Both Consonant and Keeki products are rated among the best on the EWG’s Skin Deep database AND both are pledge companies with Environmental Defence Canada.  Now I feel I have safe options for lip care for every member of my family.

As these are both some of my favourite options in natural, worry-free products, they can be found on-line at Sessabel with delivery across Canada.

Fragrance. The New ‘Second Hand Smoke’?

Growing up, I experienced my mother shunning all things fragranced.  There were no air fresheners, scented laundry products and most certainly no perfumed body products in our house.

Mom had asthma. She didn’t need anyone to tell her the correlation between fragrance and her difficulty breathing. Now, years later, I have read reports on the serious health concerns of fragrance and I know mom was onto something.

Synthetic fragrances are formulated by mixing cheap, unhealthy chemicals.  However, as fragrance is considered proprietary or a ‘trade secret’, manufacturers do not have to disclose what is in their formulation.  But it is well-documented now that these ‘secret’ chemicals are the cause of allergic effects such as asthma, headaches, wheezing, dermatitis AND some fragrance ingredients ie. phthalates are known hormone disruptors. Just take a look for yourself on-line to see reports such as Not So Sexy by Environmental Defence Canada for the whole scoop.

The issue is that people use these products everyday without hesitation. These nasty ingredients are in shampoos, creams and lotions, bath products, hand soaps, household cleaners, air fresheners, laundry products and even baby products! People trust the companies that make them to ensure they are safe.  However very few of the approximate 100,000  chemicals used in the Canadian marketplace have ever been tested to ensure safety.

What to do if you are not willing to take the risk of the ‘secret’ chemicals in your products. Number one: Become a label reader.  I am now one on behalf of my family and am happy for it. And I have found almost all conventional products are synthetically fragranced. Number two: Find products through trusted sources such as Environmental Defence Canada who make recommendations of safe cosmetics through their Just Beautiful campaign. Number three: Consider others in your choices.  You may not care what you put on your body or in the air but some may find exception to your affecting the air they breathe and the water they drink.

I recently heard someone say that the greatest chemical disaster of our time may not come from a major spill or catastrophe but from the chemicals we are putting on our bodies everyday.

Think about it.

Another Toxic Cosmetic Chemical is Lurking in Your Products

There is one relatively unknown but potentially significantly toxic chemical that keeps turning up in my cosmetic and cleaning products. Methylisothiazolinone is that chemical.  It is a preservative with significant suspected toxicity. Enough of a toxicity concern that Health Canada’s Hotlist limits the amount that can be in a cosmetic formulation. Even if we all assume if it is used in extremely small ‘safe’ amounts, it causes me concern.  Here’s the scoop….

My first notice of the issue with Methylisothiazolinone was from a mom blogger who had discovered it in a water-based nail polish marketed as ‘all-natural’ and marketed toward little girls. Having two little girls who love nail polish, I found it upsetting and unbelievable  that a company would stoop so low.  I called Health Canada to ask why a product with one of their most toxic ‘Hotlist’ cosmetic chemicals could be sold as ‘all natural’ and marketed to kids? They suggested I call the company who manufactured it and discuss their suspect use of a marketing claim.  Huh?

Upset, I realized I had to do this on my own.  I realized that nobody would act as my family’s ‘guardian angel’ but me.  It didn’t take much of a search to confirm the prevalence of Methylisothiazolinone  in conventional ‘big brand’ sunscreens, shampoos, conditioners, lotions.  I found it in fancy shmancy face creams and even in my dish washing liquid (no different to me than a hand wash product as it touches my hands multiple times daily).  And sadly, I found it in more than one product touted as ‘green’ or ‘natural’ and for kids.

Anyone wanting to check their products, can follow what I do. First, product ingredients should be easily found on-line on corporate websites.  Most won’t indicate any toxicity issues so this is where you get on your armour and become a warrior for your own health.  Google any ingredient and you can get a pretty good sense of toxicity issues  yourself.

Also a great resource for finding companies that offer truly natural, non-toxic options in cosmetics is Environmental Defence Canada’s list of Just Beautiful pledge companies.

And ‘Greenwashers’ we are onto you and please leave our kids out of this…

Head Lice 101

Original sprout, natural shampoo, shampoo for kids,Yesterday I got an e-mail from my daughter’s school that some kids in the school has been found to have head lice.  So on the agenda today is checking all the students heads for lice.

The remedy for lice is simple.  Use lice shampoo (usually with very harsh active ingredients) and pick out the nits.  No matter which way you slice it, its awful.

But before your child ever gets near having lice, there is something gentle and more natural, you can do to reduce the likelihood of the little pests making your child’s hair his home.  Don’t use synthetically scented hair products.  Insects love synthetic fragrance.  We all know, wear perfume in the outdoors and you are a sitting duck for attracting insects  Head lice are no different.

You can try a totally unscented shampoo.  But as moms generally love to smell ‘that clean smell’ on their kids hair after bathing them, you may wish to try my favourite line, Original Sprout.  This brand uses natural extracts which smell great when you use them but they dissipate more quickly than their synthetic counterparts so your child isn’t a sitting duck in the classroom. AND, Original Sprout uses organic rosemary in most of its formulations and insects don’t like rosemary.

This awesome professional haircare line out of California was developed by a hairdresser/mom.  My kids have been using this line for sometime and it gets a ‘mom two thumbs up’ for smelling fabulous, working well and even coming in three sizes, the largest which offers a pump for ease and better economics than buying small.

Original Sprout can be a bit challenging to find in Canada depending where you live and shop but it as it one of my favourite products, it is available on-line at Sessabel with free shipping in the Greater Toronto Area.

Let us know if you give Original Sprout a go. We love to hear your experience with our recommendations. And here’s to no more parents getting a call  from the ‘nit patrol’ at school….ever!

Organic Produce Delivered to My Door? I’m In!

organic produce, home delivery produce, healthy eating

Source: Front Door Organics

To recognize National Organic Week, a celebration of organic food, farming and products, my family tried something new. As an experiment, we ordered a box of organic produce to be delivered to our front door.

Living in the middle of a large urban centre, my kids have only ever heard the word ‘farm’.  They don’t know ‘farm to fork’ food but  large urban grocery stores.

When our Custom organic produce arrived last week, it was greeted by enthusiasm by my 4 and 7 year olds.  They couldn’t wait to eat the fresh green beans and even asked for them in their lunch boxes the next day.  Wow.  I was impressed!  Not only did this teach my kids about where food comes from but got them excited and focused on fresh, healthy foods.  The next few days, the organic cucumber, carrots, apples and beans became their ‘go-to’ snacks.

Our experiment was so wildly successful that I am already ordering another box of produce. This week though, I am opting to receive only Ontario produce as October is the last of our local bounty. Oh and of course, I am ordering two bags of green beans so I can try them this time!

I ordered from  Front Door Organics in Toronto.  There are many other organic, healthy options available to add to your box so you may want to take a look!

The Mother of All Skin Hydrators: HydrExtreme

Consonant HydrExtreme Large and Small bottles

10mL (left) / 30 mL bottle (right)

Everyone knows I love to try new skincare products. And in my world less is always more. I have seen oodles of conventional skincare products with long lists of synthetic chemicals that don’t offer any benefit and do your skin no favours.

When HydrExtreme was recently launched, by Canada’s own very progressive, organic skincare company, Consonant I was ready to give it a go. With only two ingredients and both plant-based, HydrExtreme fits right into my usual wish list of skincare: All-Natural. I was intrigued that HydrExtreme was developed in response to a cancer patient undergoing radiation treatments whose skin became terribly dehydrated and cracked. As it was a success in restoring hydration to her skin, the product was put into full production so it could be made available to all who need extreme hydration.

I love face oils and this one was no exception. I love that it doesn’t feel greasy as with all other facial oils I have tried. I love that it makes my skin feel super-soft. I love how hours later my skin still feels super-hydrated. And I since I feel somewhat addicted to this product now, I especially love that Consonant did some clinical studies in which 90% of people had their fine lines and wrinkles reduced after one week of use. So HydrExtreme doesn’t just feel good, it has been proven to work.

HydrExtreme is $72 for a 10 mL bottle (shown on left) or $149 for a 30 mL bottle (right). And as it is one of my favourite products, it can be purchased on-line at Sessabel