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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Five Ways to Detox For A Healthier 2013!

My Top Five ways to DETOX inside and out for a healthier 2013!

1) Get your sweat on!  Whatever it is you like to do, sweat a little everyday.  My personal fave is yoga…it does wonders for stretching and strengthening AND body sculpting. And if you have never tried yoga, you may be surprised how it can work wonders for weight loss. Trust me. And if you have tried yoga and want a change, try a class in the heat or a vinyasa (power) yoga class for extra challenge.

2) Watch what you eat.  In 2013 it’s not about just losing weight, it’s about being healthy.  Watch your intake of processed sugars, grains and of course hydrogenated fats. We all know this but many of us, yours truly included, may need a little nudge to be reminded now and again. And if its weight loss you seek, of course by eating healthier, that can be a definite benefit for many. I plan to start 2013 ‘healthier’ by doing a 10 Day Detox in January. I am doing this as a way of figuring out how to eat healthier for myself and for my family.  This DETOX can be done on-line where I spend alot of my time AND comes with recipes…as a mom I love that taking part in this detox sounds so easy!

3) Choose less-industrialized foods aka the ‘back to the farm’ approach. In 2012, my family continued along the path of getting food from local farmers where we could.  Living in the centre of a massive city, we did this by buying meat from butchers who had cultivated relationships with local farmers. We liked that we could ask which farm our dinner came from and that we ate ‘natural’ meat as compared to mass factory-farmed stuff.  The bonus for us was that we were not at risk when the countless issues arose in 2012 of E.Coli in mass-processed beef. Supporting small, local farmers made us feel good as we don’t want to live to see the day where all food is mass-produced. We took the same approach with our veg and fruits getting weekly or bi-weekly local organic produce delivered to our door from Front Door Organics. Some of the best tasting veg. I have ever had.  My kids agreed, voraciously eating the organic produce. Woo Hoo!!

4) Watch what you put on your body.  Toxins are plentiful in oodles of body lotions, shampoos, deodorants, face creams and serums.  You can’t really detox inside and forget what you are putting on the outside of your body.  Think of how a nicotene patch works.  The chemicals you put on your body sink in. So best to ditch toxic preservatives such as parabens, methylisothiazolinone, and the like (read: too many to list!). And plant based skincare is always safer and works better than petroleum-based. If you are not sure what you have in your medicine cabinet, look for ingredients on labels such as cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, petrolatum and mineral oil to confirm if it is petroleum-based or not.  Lots of companies say they are natural and aren’t 100% natural so best to check for yourself. Consult a trusted source such as Environmental Defence Canada for ingredient no-nos. And shop at a ‘nice retailer‘ such as Sessabel.

5) Be aware of toxins in your environment and try to reduce where you can. If you didn’t read newspaper headlines in 2012 about toxins in everyday items such as cosmetics, clothes, carscouches and crib mattresses, be sure to. I know that its not easy to make changes in all cases  as toxins have become ubiquitous in so many industries. But even a few changes in the right direction will help. The more people who know the scoop and make informed decisions by speaking with their wallets, the better.  Hopefully we collectively change the culprit industries for the better someday soon.

Here’s to a Healthy (and Happy) 2013!

The Dirt on Men’s Body Care Products

Testicular cancers, reduced sperm quality and low fertility are being linked to toxic chemicals commonly found in men’s personal care products. I know YIKES!! Today Environmental Defence Canada released a study on this very subject which of course peaked my interest.  As a mom and wife, and buyer of most personal care products in my house, this is definitely info that I want to know about.

I had a pretty good idea that conventional shave products, shampoos and soaps are laden with toxic stuff.  I studied Environmental Chemistry in my life before kids and ever since have been a nut for checking for unsavoury chemicals in everyday things.  In fact, my husband had recently asked me to go through the very long list of chemicals in his L’Oreal Men Expert Shave Gel and his L’Oreal After Shave Balm. I found a crazy melange of unpronounceable chemicals which I researched online, one by one.  Let’s suffice it to say, we figured out before the Environmental Defence study not to use this stuff.

However after reading Environmental Defence’s study, I realized that some of the chemicals used in everyday products are irrefutably scientifically linked to ill-health effects such as testicular and prostate cancers.  That was not a direct connection I had made before. The study even mentions how these chemicals affect males pre-natally (page 17 of the report). So women of child-bearing age, you want to be aware of the study details too as most every conventional body care products (for both men and women) contain some of these scary substances.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the study for me was the undeclared (meaning they are not listed on the labels) ‘cancer-causers’.  The study reported on some common products found in the bathrooms of men volunteers. The products were sent to a well-known laboratory in California where they were tested for toxic substances such as phthalates, 1,4 dioxane, and synthetic musks.  Some of the products that tested positive included Calvin Klein ‘Obsession’ After Shave, Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo and Old Spice Deodorant (see Table 2 in the study for all products tested). So even if you are an avid label-reader like myself, you simply cannot be sure of all the health hazards in your products.

And none of us are scot-free. If you don’t own any of the culprit products note that this study by Environmental Defence represents a super-small sampling of products available in the personal care product market.  Many conventional products have these toxins in them. My husband’s L’Oreal products contained some of the chemicals that Environmental Defence calls the Toxic Ten ingredients.  Compound that with the information that it is very likely there are ‘hidden’ cancer-causers and most probably heightens all of our cause for concern.

Be aware that a number of  manufacturers who produce these products will cite ‘safe levels’ of these toxins in their own defence. From my own experience working in a lab, I know that ‘safe levels’ are usually based on dosage.  This means in testing to find a ‘safe level’ a toxin was administered at lower and lower doses until no adverse health effects were seen.  The issue outside the laboratory becomes that in real life, our bodies are exposed to oodles and oodles of these chemicals over the course of a day.  Many don’t break down and aren’t flushed out of our bodies very easily. So as nobody can tell me my personal ‘safe level’ as they don’t know everything I may use in a day, my rule of thumb is to avoid toxins altogether.

So how to wash your life free of these toxins?  You can start by reducing your use of conventional products or better yet, by ditching them altogether.  Look for all-natural options  made from plant-based ingredients.  You still want to read labels to ensure no parabens or the like made it into the formulation.  I find that many small companies who tout themselves as natural are often great at finding ways to avoid the nastiest of chemicals. To weed out the ‘greenwashers’, look for good resources such as Environmental Defence Canada’s Just Beautiful campaign which gives names of companies selling truly natural products in personal care products.

Also feel free also to ask.  Send me a question if you are unsure of the issues with a particular ingredient or product.  Many people have asked me such questions which I will give answers to in future posts. Until then…