K-I-S-S Sunscreens

KISS is an acronym for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’. It was originally developed by the US Navy in the 1960 so to avoid unnecessary complexity in hope of increased success of any given system. Basically the ‘Less is More’ priniciple.

This methodology makes great sense to me when trying to explain the complex world of sunscreens and their chemicals. I am asked almost daily by people about what to avoid in sunscreens? And why? And what best is to use? And for kids?

Here goes:  What to Avoid In Sunscreens K-I-S-S Style…

OXYBENZONE.  Take note of that word and know that experts are now linking its use to endocrine disruption, photoallergic reactions, persistence and bioaccumulation.  This means not only can it pollute YOU but once in the environment it doesn’t break down potentially wreaking havoc on marine life. No two ways around it but to AVOID IT.

The Environmental Working Group notes these sunscreens use oxybenzone:

  • LaRoche-Posay Anthelios 60 Face UltraLight Sunscreen SPF 60
  • Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30
  • Aveeno Active Naturals protect + Hydrate Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30

RETINYL PALMITATE. This skin-conditoning agent has been found by the FDA to produce free-radicals that can damage DNA and cause gene mutations when exposed to UV light. So why is it used in sunscreens and especially those for kids???  Well clearly Canadian authorities are onto it as in the last few days it has been reported that Health Canada is looking at putting warning labels on sunscreens that contain retinyl palmitate. Bottom line: avoid, avoid, avoid the brands that still use it in sunscreens.

And EWG reports these sunscreens use retinyl palmitate:

  • Banana Boat Baby Tear Free Sunblock Lotion, SPF 50
  • Arbonne Baby Care Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Almay Line Smoothing Liquid Makeup for Dry Skin SPF 15

SPRAY SUNSCREENS. Not only do they pose an inhalation hazard BUT the propellant used is often a form of butane, a fuel used in cigarette lighters.  Remember last summer, people caught fire after using Banana Boat Spray Sunscreen? If you find yourself saying, ‘but it is so easy to spray vs. rub’…give your head a shake…really is the risk worth it?

What To Use: Zinc and titanium dioxide or a mix of are the two mineral-based sunscreen ingredients that Health Canada recognizes as ‘natural products’ when it comes to sunscreens.  The only issue with zinc or titanium is if they are ground too find such that the particles can go into the skin.  Look for ‘No Nanotechnology‘ or ‘No Nanoparticles‘.

Caveat: ALWAYS READ LABELS.  It’s a good habit to get into.  When in doubt research your ingredients on-line. And don’t assume a brand or product name with a natural or healthy-sounding name is better for you.  Read and research always!

Happy and safe sunning everyone!

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The Warrior Mom circa 2013

I gave birth to two fabulous, healthy little girls in the last 8 years and found out the hard way that common everyday household products contain harsh, synthetic ingredients that in many cases, are not tested for safety. So for my family’s sake I have decided that I MUST be a catalyst for change.

I now question everything and I research to make more informed decisions.  And in the hope I might help someone else to avoid the experiences I have had, I blog. Most recently I joined the blogging team at Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. I am so impressed with the fabulous work Safer Chemicals is doing, I am beyond thrilled to be a part!

My personal interest in toxic chemicals started with daughter’s severe reaction to synthetic sunscreen.  It was Canada Day 2007. Her tiny body swelled and became beet red after I applied harsh toxic chemicals to her body called ‘children’s sunscreen‘.  She was two.

People stared at our usually beautiful daughter that day in the medical waiting room. She was distorted and looked rather frightful. Medical authorities said simply it was a ‘hyper-allergic reaction’.  Any parent who has been through this, no matter what the exact cause or exact result, will tell you it is a life-changing experience.

I reacted by becaming a warrior mom. I set out to figure out what had happened and why and how it could be avoided in future? I found out that petroleum-based chemicals I had studied in University that were polluting waterways and affecting marine life were in my kids products!! And many are not tested for safety.  Scientists are now studying the health costs of using these cheap, industrial commonly-used chemicals.  The results are alarming… many common household chemicals are suspected carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Shame on the huge corporations that continue to manufacture products for kids peppered with such toxic garbage.

Even if you have never considered toxins may be in your kids products, take a minute to read your own product labels. Make google your best friend and research, research, research. This will help you to be armed to make informed decisions. If your child hasn’t had an outward reaction as mine did you are fortunate. Trust me when I say that your research will confirm lots of nasty chems commonly used in everyday household products. Best to know these can be silently harming your children.

Who is surprised that moms are leading the way in demanding change?  I have since found that I am one small voice in a group of many moms trying to educate other moms and to ultimately make huge corporations change their ways for the sake of ALL of our children. Some note-worthy moms are moving mountains to speak up against environmental causes of childhood illnesses that plague us in 2013.  From autismfood sensitivities, life threatening allergies to pediatric cancers.The stats on increasing incidence of all of these is major cause for concern.

If you have ever wondered how successful moms are at affecting change, know that there have been some fabulous success stories of moms causing BIG BUSINESS to make healthful change. Such outstanding work! Keep on going sisters there is loads of work to still to be done!

If you know a mom or a mom to be, who may not know this info, please pass this post on to her.  Post something about this subject on your Facebook page or tweet about it. And if you feel so inclined, start a petition, sign a petition, or speak to other moms about this subject. AND speak with your wallet. Stop buying and they will stop making. If we don’t speak up, industry will most likely never choose to change.

Some of my favourite resources and some of the major catalysts for change on both sides of the 49th parallel are Environmental Defence Canada, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Women’s Voices for the Earth,  and one of my all-time fave fellow warrior moms, Lori at Groovy Green Livin….I am inspired and impressed with all these people’s efforts everyday on behalf of children and families everywhere. All are worth a ‘follow’.

Feel free to share any personal comments or stories with me.  I would love to hear from you!

A Celebration and Junk Food For All??!

Junk food for all! That was the scene in my 4 year olds classroom yesterday morning when I dropped her off at 9am. What? Parents weren’t informed of any reason nor given the option of making comment on the junk being given out in class that day. Usually we know of a party or celebration and can act accordingly.

Confused, I went to the school office to enquire. Why was my child being given junk food at school?! I explained…To me it’s an issue on so many levels.  So many food sensitivities ie. gluten, dairy, eggs are just being discovered at this tender age. And is there a person on the planet who thinks a high sugar treat is conducive to learning?

My daughter is too young to be able to speak about detail of what she does and doesn’t eat at home. I am not sure if the school relying on young kids to say ‘no thank-you my mom wouldn’t approve’? OR ‘We are a’junk food adverse family..no thanks’ OR ‘I barely eat gluten as my daddy is sensitive to it so it may bother my tummy’ OR  I only weigh 36 pounds so I won’t deal well with all that sugar’. Is anyone expecting that sort of thing from a 4 year old?

In retrospect I am still wondering how this all went down. Have schools become confused? The crap being doled out yesterday in class was labelled ‘school safe’.  But clearly peanut-free doesn’t make it a good choice for all and shouldn’t give schools the right to give it out at will to such young kids without their parents knowledge.

Needless to say, my child came home with a nasty tummy ache. To anyone who thinks it is fun to give young kids these things without knowing if it is in their daily diet or not, here’s the scoop… If you cause a wee kid a health issue, even a seemingly minor tummyache it was not such a celebratory thing for all. Maybe its time we respect all of each other’s dietary choices no matter how foreign it may seem to us.

And it would appear from my experience that there is no policy on handing out food to kids past that of severe allergens. I was asked if I wanted my daughter to be left out of such food festivities in future. What? is anyone listening…What place does junk food have in a school, handed out to young kids?  I was informed by the teacher (who I have the utmost respect for as a teacher..she is quite fabulous really) that she didn’t know the mom was bringing in the snack for the whole class to celebrate the birth of her new baby so couldn’t inform the parents in advance…Wow..and so you just hand it out? Clearly the Toronto District School Board (or at least the school) needs a policy around this.

Any other parents have experience with this? Please share as I am at a loss…