Babies Are Born ‘Pre-Polluted’. So What’s A Parent To Do?

Recently Environmental Defence Canada reported on the results from testing umbilical cord blood OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof three newborn babies born in Toronto and Hamilton, ON. A small sample size that indicated a potentially HUGE issue. Each baby was found to contain 55 to 121 toxic compounds such as flame retardants, PCB’s, organochloride pesticides, dioxins and furans, mercury and lead. Of 137 toxic compounds found in these wee babies, 132 are reported to cause cancer. So before our babies can even say the words….they are subject to these horrific toxins.

It is important to note that the test results reported by Environmental Defence, by no way are the result of the actions of any one of the women whose baby was tested. The reality is that toxic chemicals are most everywhere….including in a significant number of common household products. Lax laws on toxic chemicals are affecting all of us including our newborn babies.

Luckily, organizations on both sides of the 49th parallel are urging both the US and Canadian governments to make change and to tighten laws around toxic chemicals. This is an issue where conventional borders often mean nothing. Irregardless of where you live, it is most important to note that the US and Canada share waterways, airways, and consumer goods.  Lax laws affect all of us. While we all wait (Read: law reform can be very slow!), there are steps we can all take toward reducing our individual toxic loads:

1) Speak up! Feel free to sign petitions such as this one to get laws put in place to protect us. Give backing to those who are working on all of our behalf.

2) Follow and support organizations who are working on all of our behalf everyday. In addition to Environmental Defence, I follow Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Women’s Voices For The Earth. I cannot tell parents how fabulous the information is I get just by ‘liking’ or following these organization that report on this subject matter everyday.

3) Inform yourself!  I like to say ‘make google your best friend’. Research and then make the decisions you feel are easiest and most important for you and for your own family. The Top 10 worst household toxins are easily found on-line making them easier for you to avoid.

4) Know that toxic chemicals are finding their way to you in your bodycare products, clothing, beds, couches, food, toys, backpacks, lunchboxes, laundry detergent just to name a few.  I know it can be overwhelming but make one small change at a time.  It becomes easy and feels so good to know you are reducing your family’s toxic load.

5) My mantra is ‘speak with your wallet’. I choose not to buy from companies that are not making change toward cleaner products and conversely I wholeheartedly support those who are. Companies that fight the move toward cleaner products or call it ‘fear-mongering’ when we ask for chemicals banned in other countries to be eliminated from products in our country, lose me AND my dollars.

6) Make it your business to know what is in your family’s foods. organochloride pesticides were found in that cord blood. Research organic farming and see why foods grown organically might suit your family better. Know what genetically-modified food is and that toxins are spliced right into the foods we eat.  Then make the decision if you want your family to eat that type of food? Or speak up so none of us have to even make that decision. Really all food should be free from toxins, shouldn’t it? Know that it has become the norm in processed grocery-store foods to add oodles of health-affecting additives most people don’t even know are there. For instance take a look at what is commonly in commercial breads. Who wants that for breakfast?

7) Choose safe body care products from reputable businesses. In Canada, Environmental Defence has a list of some pretty fabulous companies that offer all-natural and good quality products. And I am a fan of the Skin Deep database for being the best single database around for families to check out what is in their cosmetic products. Know that hundreds of UNTESTED toxic substances are allowed in bodycare in Canada and the US. Read your labels..research ingredients you find such as methylisothiazoline, oxybenzone, Quaternium-15, parabens, BHA, BHT, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate….just to name a few. Once you know what these chemicals are suspect of, you may change up the products you have been using.

8) Say ‘no’ to plastics! I know its a challenge but we all can do it it. Ditch the plastic wrap, plastic grocery bags, plastic toys, plastic shower curtains, plastic drinking containers, plastic rain gear.  And know some companies are even using plastics in exfoliating skincare products! So ditch the polluting plastic skincare products too….

Seemingly small changes by all of us can make a big difference not only to us here and now, but to our children and their children. Perhaps from all of our combined efforts, in a generation or two, babies will no longer be born ‘pre-polluted’.

Feel free to share changes you are or will be making toward reducing your family’s toxic load. We always love to hear from you!

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Kombucha CA-RAZY!

CA-RAZY is how I describe my family’s reaction to Tonica Kombucha, our new favourite thirst-quenching, so-much healthier than conventional, outrageously delish r-KOMBUCHATONICA-large570drink!

What first drew me this odd-sounding, beverage was the superior nutritional attributes and purported healthy benefits as compared to conventional drinks. Nutritionally we are not comparing apples to apples when comparing healthy Kombucha to soda pop, I know. Soda pop is horribly high in refined, GMO sugars and in some cases may contain carcinogenic caramel colour but I make the comparison as my family likes sweet, bubbly drinks. And until now, we only knew the unhealthy version.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a refreshing beverage made from fermented sugar, tea (green, black or white tea), and a live starter: a combination of beneficial bacteria and yeast (also known as SCOBY “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast”). The live starter gives kombucha all sorts of fabulous benefits including probiotics, antioxidants, amino acids, B vitamins, and enzymes.

Although Kombucha was recently discovered by my family, it has been known in Russia, Asia and Eastern Europe for a long time. In fact, it was known in the Tsin Dynasty (221 BC) as the ‘Elixir of Long Life’.  It’s healing and restorative properties have been well-documented over the ages to include: resistance against cancer, prevention of cardiovascular diseases, promotion of digestive functions, stimulation of the immune system, reduction of inflammatory problems etc. etc. As well, age old remedies cite the following benefits of drinking Kombucha on an ongoing basis:

  • Promotion of liver cleansing, resulting in healthy skin, hair and improved eyesight.
  • Increase of metabolism & resulting decrease of body fat
  • Balancing of blood sugar levels
  • Increase of energy (yippee!)
  • Improved PH balance and resulting mental clarity

As Kombucha is an adaptogen, contains trace amounts of alcohol (.5%) AND a significant amount of lactic acid it is best for pregnant women to consult a physician before consuming it. Always best to be safe when expecting and its usually not the best time to try anything new.

As for kids, mine do drink Kombucha and absolutely love it.  It has become their number one choice for a thirst-quenching beverage this summer. AND at only 45 calories per serving, it is clear they are consuming very little in the way of sugars as compared to most other drinks kids like. 

I easily made the decision that the health benefits of Kombucha were too many for my family NOT to drink Kombucha. Soda pop which is linked to Type II Diabetes along with some other undesirable health concerns hasn’t been an option in my house for a very long time. 

The Best Brand of Kombucha I Have Found:

I tried a few but Tonica Kombucha is my ABSOLUTE FAVE! I love that it is all-Canadian, made in Toronto, is organic, raw, uses cane sugar (which is always GMO-free!) and comes in 6 fabulous flavours; Ginger Rapture, Green Tea Revival, Nude Brew, Peach Resolution, Mango Passion and Vibrant Blueberry. Check here to see where it is sold near you.

So when my family goes on our annual summer road trip this summer, no doubt we will be carting a few cases of Tonica Kombucha in the back of the family-wagon! Mango Passion for my 4 year old, Green Tea for my 8 year old, Ginger Rapture for my husband and Vibrant Blueberry for me!

Let me know if try Tonica Kombucha and what you, your family and friends think of it! We might all forget we ever knew ‘soda pop’….and might all be healthier for it!

5 Best Family-Friendly ‘After Sun’ Products

Now that summer is finally here and is accompanied by sun drenched days (Yippee!), I amMuskoka chair reminded of the need for after-sun products. My own experience has proved that some of these can be very hard on sensitive skin and that in many cases, conventional after-sun products don’t cut it.

I found out the hard way that conventional ‘after-sun’ was not going to work for us. One day, when I applied one to my young daughter’s skin, she screamed AND cried, ‘Get it off. It’s hurting me’!!

I had assumed the product was safe for her uber-sensitive skin as it was from a ‘natural’ products company.  Apparently, not so.  I checked the label after the screaming subsided, to find after aloe, were listed a few synthetic chemicals.  Clearly not suitable for sensitive-skinned kids. I then researched to find truly soothing products that would not cause us upset when applied.

As I hear so often that many parents identify with my need for only the most gentle of products, I am sharing my new fave, better-than-conventional skin soothers:

Dr. Robin For Kids Daily Moisture

  • Size/Price: 6 oz/177mL $16.00
  • Main Ingredients: Shea Butter, Safflower Seed Oil, Coconut Oil
  • Why We Love It: Dr. Robin is a pediatric dermatologist and developed her line of products for sensitive or eczema-prone kids.  She is also a mom of three wee kids. And Dr. Robin’s Daily Moisture works well on winter-weary skin too so if you have some left over at the end of the summer…lucky you!
  • Buy Here or Here

COOLA Body Lotion Bars

  • Size/Price: 2.75 oz./78g $22.00
  • Main Ingredients: Shea Butter, Beeswax, Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Vitamin E
  • Why We Love It: Easy to apply. It is a bar of soothing, hydrating ingredients that you simply pick up like a puck and rub on skin. Older kids can apply themselves.  And we found it difficult to waste product.
  • Buy Here or Here

COOLA Radical Recovery After Sun Lotion

  • Size/Price: 6oz/180 mL $36.00
  • Main Ingredients: Sunflower Seed Oil, Aloe Vera Juice and delicious-smelling flower and citrus oils AND many ingredients are organic.
  • Why We Love It: Works so well AND smells so good! It comes in a tube large enough to do for the whole family for the entire summer season.
  • Buy Here or Here

Ella’s Botanicals Magic Balm

  • Size/Price: 62g/2oz $15.00
  • Main Ingredients: Olive Oil, Shea Butter, Beeswax and delicious-smelling oils of lavendar or tangerine depending which scent suits your fancy….Ella makes two Magic Balms. She says Lavendar is her best-seller but we are partial to Clementine.
  • Why We Love It: Soothes skin sooo well and we love that Ella is a person not just a brand name and a mom herself. Ella is a hometown favourite where I live for moms looking for all natural products for their kids.
  • Buy Here or Here

Consonant Unscented Hydrating Body Lotion

  • Size/Price: 8.5 oz/ 250 mL $22.00 OR 17 oz/ 500mL $42.00
  • Main Ingredients: Organic Aloe, soothing Sunflower Seed Oil and hydrating Coconut Oil.
  • Why We Love It: We love most products by this award-winning Canadian cosmetic company and this product is no exception. Unit for unit Consonant gives great value especially as many of its ingredients are certified organic.  We love that the larger format with a pump makes easy to use on squirming kids.  In fact we find it great for the whole family!
  • Buy Here or Here

I know there are lots of fabulous products I haven’t discovered yet. If you have a favourite , please feel free to share as I would love to hear! I do tend to favour local products as well as products that are standouts in their category no matter where they hail from.

Here’s to Happy Summer Skin!

Why Corn Stresses Me Out.

I love corn. However I do not love that it is ‘genetically-modified’.

Genetically-modified in the case of corn, refers to the fact that it has been roasted cornaltered in a lab to be able withstand huge loads of pesticides. Without modifying the corn to withstand insect-killing toxic pesticides, the plants would die from the chemical load.

How does it become genetically-modified? Specifically, corn is spliced with a gene from soil bacteria, known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  The toxin-containing seeds are then sold to farmers, ultimately affecting food we eat. You will never be able to see the pesticide OR wash it off….you are stuck with it. And the fact that this particular pesticide works by rupturing the gut of insects that eat it, makes it EXTRA unappetizing. It’s no wonder GMO food products including corn are now implicated in ill health.

GMO corn is reported to be making its way to some roadside stands, farmer’s markets and even grocery store shelves. The worst of it is that you may never know if your corn has been grown from GM seeds and peppered with more gut-wrenching pesticide than you can imagine. Neither Canada or the US have joined the dozen or so other nations with mandatory labelling GMO of foods. So this summer, our usual family tradition of buying roadside corn on the cob will also be modifed.

As corn is used in oodles of processed food ingredients,  it is best to know that you may be eating GMO corn even when you don’t think you are eating corn. And sadly, uber popular corn snack products… popcorn and corn chips are most often genetically-modified. That alone is an issue in my house (READ: corn chips are my kids favourite after school snack and movie night just isn’t movie night without popcorn).

As with many debates on whether these toxic chemicals will harm humans…be assured you will see both sides of the debate if you research the topic. I am in the camp with well-regarded experts who believe that by eating GMO foods, we are the test subjects for a huge science experiment.  Who has the time it takes for absolute conclusive evidence? By then my kids might be grown. So while both sides duke it out, I choose to avoid GMO foods.

Recently at a backyard BBQ, when the roasted corn on the cob was passed around… I passed. Who needs the stress?

Tips for avoiding genetically modified foods of any sort:

  • Buy organic. Organic foods cannot be genetically modified. Even organically-raised animals cannot be fed GMO grains.
  • If possible, grow your own.
  • Ask food companies whose foods you buy if their products contain GMO ingredients and hope you get the correct answer.
  • Search out retailers who are vowing not to stock GMO foods. Lists exist of such retailers. And conversely it has been reported that some retailers will be stocking GMO corn.
  • Look for the non-GMO Project symbol on foods.