Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Love new tub toys ratings on GoodGuide

Wondering if the toys your kids play with are safe? Want to support companies who are trying to be good stewards of the Earth, paying fair wages and using energy resourcefully? GoodGuide is providing a tool to see how popular brands score in these areas, with tub toys being the first (presumably) segment evaluated. I checked out Gregory's bath whistle by ALEX and was happy to see it had a decent score! I'm looking forward to more good stuff from this site.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I love our pediatrician...lessons from today's visit

I feel so fortunate to have found Dr. Miloslav Gardyasz (in Darowish & Associates). He is an MD, trained like anyone else, but he's holistic-minded and a practicing "greenie." He refuses to meet with pharma reps, insisting that he prefers to be educated by other physicians and researchers and not by paid laypeople. With no disrespect to my pharma rep friends, I respect him for this position. When I brought an organic infant formula to him, he read the ingredients and thanked me for bringing it to his attention. It was not a mainstream brand, but I believed, and he concurred, that it was better than Similac's organic offering (another topic for another day).

Today at Timmy's well visit, he took time to answer all my questions, and knowing that I'm a "green mom," offered some learnings from a conference he attended recently in Miami. I am not going to do it justice, but I'm trying my best: He spoke about new findings on Autism that suggest that it can be detected between 6-12 months accurately by three signs: (1) Not discerning different faces or reacting to different people's faces differently, (2) I can't recall the other two, sorry! If I can find them, I'll come back and fill this in. I can tell you a primary marker was NOT speech delay. That was a secondary symptom. The current thinking is that autistic kids/people do not get the same positive feeling from their dopamine receptors that "normal" people do from social interactions. So they don't seek them out. Since talking is a function of being social, it is related.

He says scientists are learning that a child can be predisposed to autism (or childhood cancers) genetically, and that the genes can be "turned on" by environmental factors. As an example, if a kid is genetically predisposed to autism, being around clinically depressed parents can trigger the child to manifest autistic traits. Scary, and also hopeful. Hopeful because most environmental triggers can be controlled. Parents can be treated for depression.

Also, many researchers believe that environmental toxins are triggers. According to Dr. G (and also, famously, Jenny McCarthy), farmers in the U.S. spray wheat with a neurotoxin to help it grow. Of course, the neurotoxin stays on the wheat and we eat it. It can be passed to the developing child, as are many toxins, unfortunately (I posted a video on my Facebook page about this). As you know, if you read my blog, I am adamantly opposed to toxins in our food production, in lawn care, in personal products, etc., for OBVIOUS reasons.

He also encouraged me to continue with the recommended immunization schedule, ensuring me that he has spent countless hours reading abstracts and papers that strongly refute any connection between autism and immunizations. He says that immunologists are finding more and more reasons to keep the current 2-year schedule, because the imprint (I might be using this word wrong) of an immunization is greatest during these formative years. The immune system is informed by these and that's why they worked.

He quoted a statistic that in 2008, there were 128 cases of Measles in the U.S. -- 10x the number in all of the past 10 years -- and all were in unvaccinated children. Thanks to immunizations, these childhood diseases were nearly wiped out, so we as parents don't often realize how horrible they are, deadly in many cases. We do not realize that failing to immunize our children could invite an epidemic again. It would transfer much quicker now that our society is so mobile and transient. In Dr. G's words, if your kid comes down with a pneumococcal infection, you're going to have a lot more to worry about than the risks of any potential side effects.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Wasteful Mr. Whipple

Green America's newsletter caught my eye today with the following stats:
"When you choose paper made from recycled material, you're choosing a product that helps save the planet. One-hundred-percent recycled paper uses 44 percent less energy to produce than virgin paper, produces 38 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, 41 percent fewer particulate emissions, 50 percent less waste water, 49 percent less solid waste and, of course, 100 percent less wood."
This quote was in the context of an article about Mr. Ellie Pooh's paper, which is made from 75% elephant dung and 25% post-consumer paper. Really. I'm not sure I have a need for more stationery at the moment, but I've tucked that away for future reference.

Here's something to think about though: What would be the impact of giving up your fluffy, ultra-white toilet paper? I found that someone in Australia already did the math for me.

We use Seventh Generation toilet paper and it's quite satisfactory. It's not bleached, made from recycled content, soft enough and not too expensive. No, it's not perfumed, it's not white and it's not softer than a baby bear's bottom. But it does the job without being uncomfortable. While you're at it, try their recycled unbleached paper towels and Marcal's paper napkins made from 100% PCW. Both can be composted, too!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Getting Your R"D"A of Sunshine

So it turns out the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin D is woefully low. New research confirms that Vitamin D is effective in helping to prevent various forms of cancer, diabetes and a host of other dreaded conditions. Just 15 minutes of sunlight a day will juice you up with more than enough Vitamin D to reap the health rewards (exactly how much depends on the intensity of the UVB in the sun and many other factors).

However, we've all been warned many, many times about the effects of too much fun in the sun. The way I see it, it's easy to resolve: It takes about 30 minutes for sunscreen to be fully in effect. So instead of slathering up 30 minutes prior to sunning yourself (does anyone remember to do this anyway?), put it on right before you go out, and you will probably get just the right amount of exposure to replenish your body's Vitamin D stores. Another good approach is to take your 15 minutes early in the morning or later afternoon, when the sun's rays are less harmful.

Looking for a good sunscreen? I like to avoid nano-particles and unnecessary chemicals, while ensuring good UV protection. Here are some of the best:

For kids:
SOLEO ORGANICS SUNSCREEN Organic Chemical-Free Sunscreen, SPF 30+
KINESYS Kids Spray Sunscreen, Fragrance-free, SPF 30

For sporty types:

Best of the mainstream brands:
JASON NATURAL COSMETICS SUNBRELLAS: Mineral-based Physical Sunblock, SPF 30+
ALMAY Sun Protector for Body Spray, SPF 30
NEUTROGENA Fresh Cooling Sunblock Gel, SPF 30 or SPF 45
NEUTROGENA Sunblock, Body Gel, SPF 30 or SPF 45
BULLFROG Surfer Formula Gel, SPF 36