Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Recalibrate your clean meter

If you use bleach to get things clean...if you spray Lysol liberally in your house...if you use Cascade in your are poisoning your indoor air and leaving toxic residues on surfaces you touch and your dishes. The runoff is also harmful to our environment, notably in frogs, which have experienced significant reproductive organ mutations. Scary, huh?

Not surprisingly, many household cleaners, bug spray, pets' flea treatments and "air fresheners" are known to irritate your lungs, and are especially bad for kids with respiratory issues.

Fortunately, it's easy to find less toxic alternatives. We use diluted white vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide (for stains) in place of bleach and harsh chemicals. Vinegar doesn't smell the best, but the scent quickly evaporates.If you really need that clean smell to feel like you cleaned, investigate readily available brands like Method, Seventh Generation, Ecover and Simple Green. Shaklee has a great line, if you know someone who sells that; Melaleuca sells green cleaners, too, but I'm not quite sure they are as good toxicity-speaking.

I'm not a fan of the new green cleaners from companies like Clorox and S.C. Johnson, because they continue to make so many horribly toxic products. I don't think they can be trusted to make responsible ones. We like Method's flushable/compostable bathroom wipes; their stainless steel wipes also work very well. The important things to note for kids are that chemical fragrance usually contains phthlatates, which are hormone disruptors, especially dangerous for little boys.

The blogpost referenced here does a great job of outlining the offenders and explaining the dangers. When in doubt, buy unscented products and brands that use essential oils to perfume products, rather than listing "fragrance" or "parfum" in the ingredients.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Where do you draw the line?

Organic produce is not always a must. I trust this guide from Environmental Working Group to decide what to buy organic and when I can get by with conventional. (I'd draw the line at #20 in an ideal world.)

EWG's Full List: 44 Fruits & Veggies and their pesticide load

  1. Peaches (100 -- highest pesticide load)
  2. Apples (96)
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers (86)
  4. Celery (85)
  5. Nectarines (84)
  6. Strawberries (83)
  7. Cherries (75)
  8. Lettuce (69)
  9. Grapes - Imported (68)
  10. Pears (65)
  11. Spinach (60)
  12. Potatoes (58)
  13. Carrots (57)
  14. Green Beans (55)
  15. Hot Peppers (53)
  16. Cucumbers (52)
  17. Raspberries (47)
  18. Plums (46)
  19. Oranges (46)
  20. Grapes-Domestic (46)
  21. Cauliflower (39)
  22. Tangerine (38)
  23. Mushrooms (37)
  24. Cantaloupe (34)
  25. Lemon (31)
  26. Honeydew Melon (31)
  27. Grapefruit (31)
  28. Winter Squash (31)
  29. Tomatoes (30)
  30. Sweet Potatoes (30)
  31. Watermelon (25)
  32. Blueberries (24)
  33. Papaya (21)
  34. Eggplant (19)
  35. Broccoli (18)
  36. Cabbage (17)
  37. Bananas (16)
  38. Kiwi (14)
  39. Asparagus (11)
  40. Sweet Peas-Frozen (11)
  41. Mango (9)
  42. Pineapples (7)
  43. Sweet Corn-Frozen (2)
  44. Avocado (1)
  45. Onions (1 lowest pesticide load)

NutraSweet-laced strawberries?

For some unknown reason, when I wanted to replace our 15-year-old dead Dustbuster, I decided to go to Wal-Mart. Honestly, I despise Wal-Mart; I just was so sick of Target that I had to shop somewhere different. So I was browsing around to see what organic offerings they had in their grocery area. I saw carrots, cranberries and milk. But not a whole lot else. However, I picked up a carton of strawberries that said they were a product of the E.U. (etats-unis, the French for U.S.), Florida I think it said. They smelled good and looked great, so I thought I would just wash them really well and try not to think about pesticides.

When I got home, I cleaned a few for Gregory and popped one in my mouth. OH MY, OH MY. These were sweet and delicious, better than any I've had in a LONG time. Alex concurred. A little later in the day, my head started hurting. Not a full-blown migraine, but it was in the same place, same type of pain just not as intense. Most of you know I have suffered from migraines in the past and have gone to great lengths to learn my triggers (and avoid them). So I could not figure out what I'd eaten or inhaled that set it off.

Ironically, the next day (my head still pounding), I decided to do some research to see if my assumption that greenhouse or hydroponic crops came with less of a toxin burden than conventional produce. I figured they would not have to spray them as much. Wouldn't you think there would be fewer pests to combat? Anyway, I came across this article and could not believe my eyes.

U.S. News & World Report's "Fresh Greens" Blogger Maura Judkis listed 10 "risky foods" other than high-fructose corn syrup. And what do you suppose was on this list? Number 3 was "Non-Organic Strawberries" with the explanation:
"Some growers of strawberries irrigate their plants with Nutri-Sweet-laced [sic]
water. The sugar substitute is a probable carcinogen."
It's a definite migraine trigger for me, has been for over a decade. Which is why I don't consume it. Except when it's fed to plants and not labeled on the food product. Maybe you don't have anything against NutraSweet. Even so, you have to agree that it's criminal that growers can put a chemical ingredient into a food product and be able to pawn it off on unsuspecting consumers without labeling it. UGH!

By the way, in case you are wondering, I found no evidence to support my theory about greenhouse and hydroponic produce being healthier. In fact, I found some articles that suggested the hydroponic growers use a chemical cocktail to FEED the crops. Ick. I'm going back to buying as much organic as we can find/afford, including expanding our garden this spring!

UPDATE: March 13, 2009
It happened again! Alex and I were at the Melting Pot for our anniversary and I looked at the strawberries and said, "Uh oh, do I dare?" I ate them anyway, and don't you know, I had a migraine the next day! I emailed the Melting Pot and asked if there was MSG in any of their products, since this is another trigger for me, and got a prompt response from the franchisee which three products do contain MSG (none that I'd consumed though). SO...I'm left with the distinct notion that our conventionally grown strawberries are not to be trusted. Very sad.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dirt saver for soccer moms

Most family households seem to be on the "no shoes in the house" bandwagon. It saves a lot of cleaning and quarantines germs in the mudroom. Now, my kids are not into sports yet, but this product seemed like a very cool concept along the keeping-dirt-in-its-place lines. Cleatskins are slip-on cleat covers so when your kid is done playing (soccer, rugby, football, golf, whatever) they just slide these over their cleats and jump in the car. No grass, dirt and who knows what else in your car. The "unique rubber compound" appears to be similar to Crocs, but probably more malleable. They claim to also save your cleats from unnecessary wear and tear so they last longer. You can even throw them in the washing machine to sanitize them. They come in two styles and many colors so you can "express yourself." Oh so important for the tweens, I know! And, yes, in case you're wondering...they do come in adult sizes!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Worry-free tips for reusing baby items

When I was first faced with registering for my baby, I was blown away with the amount of stuff needed for such a little person. Besides the impact of buying new stuff, the costs were mounting. So I emailed my friends who were ahead of me in the baby-making business and asked for hand-me-downs. I lucked out with two cribs, a changing table, two pack-n-plays, an infant car seat, toys and books. Did I worry about the safety of these items? Yes and no. The people who donated them to me had not had them too long and had kept manuals for them. They were in good working order and had no recalls. Today, I came across a great article in Healthy Child Healthy World's newsletter called Secondhand Safety, which takes to task several categories of hand-me-downs, exposing the concerns to consider when reusing baby items.And, for navigating your registry, I strongly recommend buying a copy of Baby Bargains (pre-order the new edition, due in April 2009). This handbook gives you a rundown of what you'll want to get, how many you'll need, what not to waste your (or anyone else's) money on and more, plus it provides consumer reviews of most brands out there from actual parents.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pouf! Cute, eco & kid-friendly

Along the lines of the bean bag, I discovered some truly beautiful and affordable eco-friendly items at Crate & Barrel. For instance this "pouf" ottoman, which comes in LOTS of colors, not just these more grown-up stripe fabrics. I imagine buying a bunch of these for the playroom, so Gregory and Timmy (eventually) could use them to construct forts, throw at each other and lounge around on. Then, when we need extra seating or a place to sit a tray of finger food, voila! Thing is, they are $249 each, so sadly not in budget at the moment to buy in bulk.