Have you ever gone to a baby shower? Everyone loads up the expectant mother with all of the newest and latest baby gear.

Have you ever sat in a new car? You know that “new car smell?” That is an example of off-gassing from vinyl and plastic products. So is that film that magically appears on the windshield of a new car every few weeks.

All new plastic, vinyl, varnished, synthetic materials emit gas, including new baby items.

Did you get a new crib and mattress? What is in that mattress? Fire-retardant chemicals. Be careful of pajamas, too. Many also contain fire-retardant chemicals.

Are you nursing naturally or buying formula? What kind of formula? Does it contain soy? Are you using tap water or filtered water in your formula? Are you microwaving the formula to heat it up? Are you using plastic bottles to feed the baby? New government regulations require biphenyl A-free plastic in baby bottles but what else is in that plastic that we don’t know about?

What about the paint in the baby’s room? Is it low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds)? Is there wallpaper or new carpet in the room? What about electronics? They can create electromagnetic fields.

How about what we put on our babies? There is a huge market in baby skin care products. Baby shampoo, lotion, diaper rash cream — the list goes on and on. Do babies really need all of these products? The answer is no.

Most of these products contain chemicals and toxins and can be absorbed through the skin. Babies have about double the skin surface per body weight as adults, which means they can absorb a higher ratio of chemicals through the skin. Most baby skin care products are completely unnecessary.

The few that may be necessary from time to time can easily be made with natural ingredients or more natural commercially made products can be purchased.

Our pediatrician recommended we steer clear of diaper cream and use petroleum jelly. Now I know petroleum products may not be good for us. There is a risk of PAHs or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are cancer-causing chemicals found in crude oil and its byproducts.

While there are no studies linking cancer to petroleum products, I think it is better to err on the side of caution, especially when there are natural alternatives available.

How about diapers — disposable or cloth? And diaper wipes are something most of us don’t even think about. These have ingredients that we may not want our baby’s skin. Not only are we wiping these across our child’s skin several times a day, but it’s also remaining on the child’s skin until with bathe them.

This means ingredients are on our baby’s skin almost constantly until they are out of diapers. The same pediatrician recommended that we use water and cloths for the first few weeks of our son’s life. When a mainstream pediatrician is making that recommendation, it makes me think wipes perhaps aren’t as harmless as we think.

Think about your cleaning products. Spray chemicals become airborne and we breathe them in. Did you know babies breathe more air per body weight than adults do? That can increase their exposure to airborne toxins. There are natural alternatives to every cleaning product you are using today.

Be careful about baby’s laundry, too. I am not a fan of conventional baby detergent. How dirty are your baby’s clothes? Use natural laundry only when necessary and skip the fabric softener, which leaves residue and chemical fragrance on clothes.

Vaccinations are another concern for many parents. There has been a lot of news about inoculations in the news in the last few years.

Be aware the vaccination protocol has changed since we were children. In the 1970s, children received 23 doses of seven vaccines by age 6. Today’s 6-year-olds may have received 48 doses of 14 different vaccines, up to eight on a single day.

In the 1970s, the first vaccine was administered at two months old; today it is at 12 hours old. Many health care professionals are concerned about the general public educating themselves about vaccines; however it is your responsibility and right as a parent to do some research and make the most informed decision for your child.

Which first foods are you going to feed your baby? Is it going to be organic? Are you going to start with rice cereal? You might be thinking: Isn’t that what everyone starts feeding their baby? Well, actually no.

Rice cereal is a processed refined carbohydrate. Before processed food and commercial baby food, people fed babies the same type of food they were cooking for the rest of the family. Many parents are returning to this traditional way of feeding baby.

Will you cook your baby’s food in non-stick cookware? Not a good idea.

Are you going to warm your baby’s food in the microwave? Consider the word “microwave” — micro means small, “waves” of what? Radiation. I don’t think radiating our food is a good idea.

We are learning that even after delivery, there are many challenges to keeping our babies safe that continue through infancy into the toddler stage and on through childhood.

These issues are most important for our children, especially babies. Their immune and central nervous systems are immature and vulnerable to exposure from chemicals. Their bodies are not as capable of eliminating toxins. Their brains and bodies are still developing and we don’t know what exposure to these things can mean for their long-term development.

We all know having a baby is a big responsibility and adding this list of items can seem overwhelming.

Just realize that most of these items are choices — choosing a healthier alternative over a conventional one. Once you understand the risks, you are better equipped to make the right choices for you and your little one.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.

Infertility is at an all-time high in our society, with one in six couples having difficulty conceiving.

Thirty percent of fertility issues are classified as “unexplained” and a large percentage are considered hormonal issues. Many of these problems can be rectified with lifestyle and diet changes.

Last week, I talked about changes to our diet. This week we will focus on how our environment can cause difficulty with conception. This is called preconception care and many couples have had healthy babies through these types of efforts.

Couples need to be concerned about many environmental factors. Plastics contain BPA, a chemical which is a known endocrine disruptor. Our endocrine system is responsible for production and regulation of our hormones, and our hormones play an integral role in conception. Remove as many plastics from your life as possible, including food storage containers, plastic wrap and water bottles, to name a few.

Phthalates found in plastics, body care products and cosmetics also disrupt our hormonal system. In high levels, phthalates have been linked to miscarriage.

Women are at particular risk due to all of the body care products that we use — perfume, makeup, wet hair products, dry hair products, day cream, night cream, eye cream, hand cream, body lotion and all the other potions. Minimize all body care products and cosmetics and replace the ones you need with natural alternatives.

Heavy metals also are a concern, especially for men. Studies show that sperm are susceptible to damage from heavy metals. Removing sources of heavy metals is important for both men and women.

Start by filtering your water — not only your drinking water but also your bath water. A whole house filter is the best option but there are other options available.

It is also important to watch your intake of fish and seafood. Learn which fish has less chance of contamination. Generally, larger fish and farm-raised fish should be avoided.

Canned products can be a source of aluminum and BPAs. Avoid them whenever possible and buy frozen vegetables instead.

If you have amalgam fillings you may need to have them properly removed, as they are a dangerous source of mercury. Some people may need to detox some of the heavy metals from their system.

Pesticides should be avoided. In addition to many dangerous chemicals in pesticides, PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) chemicals are known to affect hormone function. This is why moms-to-be and dads-to be should be eating organic.

Chemicals found in cleaning products are a major concern. Not only do the products contain dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, but many of them become airborne. We spray them and inhale them or they are present in steam from showers or dishwashers. All cleaners, including things like air fresheners and dryer sheets, should not be used. Make your own natural cleaners or purchase natural-based cleaners.

If you are struggling to have a child, consider making some changes to your environment. Removing toxins from your diet and environment can only benefit your health and in the process may be the help your body needs to conceive a healthy child.

Next week will focus on how vitamin and mineral deficiencies can affect fertility.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.

“If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.” — Pearl S. Buck

Are our children any different than we were as kids? Are they doing the same things? Are they eating the same foods? Is the environment the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago?

We know that their health is different. When I was a kid I knew one girl with asthma and, looking back, one or two boys that today would probably be diagnosed with ADHD. No one had a peanut allergy or a milk allergy or was gluten intolerant. I never even heard the term autism until I was in my 20s.

There have been 80,000 new chemicals introduced in the last 20 years and most of them have never been tested for safety. These chemicals can be in our food, the air we breathe, the clothes we wear and the beds we sleep in. Today, more than 200 chemicals are being found in newborn babies’ umbilical cord blood samples.

Did you know most children’s pajamas are treated with flame retardant chemicals? And so are their mattresses?

Sixty years ago all the food we grew was organic because we hadn’t started using pesticides on our crops. None of our food was genetically modified.

When I was young, processed food was available but wasn’t an every meal staple. I remember that TV dinners seemed so cool, with all your food in separate compartments including dessert! I ate cereal for breakfast most days, but many of my friends were still eating a home-cooked breakfast. We packed a lunch because there wasn’t any choice until we got to high school. And everyone ate a home-cooked dinner.

Remember when McDonalds was a treat? Maybe once a month, if you were lucky? Remember what a small-sized pop looked like? Remember when water came from the tap, instead of a plastic bottle with BPAs?

Microwaves came out in the late 1960s. Most families had one by the ‘80s. I remember my mom said she didn’t think it was a good idea to heat our food up with radiation waves. She always was ahead of her time. Research is indicating that radiating our food may not be good for us after all.

We made popcorn in a pot or a popcorn maker with the little butter melting compartment that never seemed to work quite right. Our kids are microwaving their popcorn in bags that are coated with chemical non-stick coating.

How about “screen time” or “electronics” as we call them in our house? When we were kids we watched TV — all 12 channels when cable became available! We had some weekend morning cartoons and some after-school shows. Today’s children have more than 200 channels to choose from as well as on-demand shows. Not to mention pay-per-view movies and DVDs. That’s kids’ programming 24 hours a day!

What about video games? I remember when a friend got an Atari. Kids today have a choice of Wii, Playstation, iPods and cellphones. Screens have something called flash rates, which can have an effect on mood, behavior and hyperactivity. Ever notice how your child can become angry when it is time to stop playing and sometimes that mood will linger?

Whatever happened to playing outside? Today’s children are entering kindergarten without the gross motor skills that we had by age 5. Kids aren’t getting enough exercise, either, as witnessed by soaring childhood obesity numbers.

Have body care products changed? We didn’t use much — shampoo and soap and maybe some lotion. I remember the first time we bought “cream rinse,” now known as conditioner. It replaced the “No More Tears” detangler that my mom thought was the greatest invention ever.

There was no such thing as sunscreen in those days. Why weren’t we getting skin cancer? Think of all the products that line shelves today. They’re not made with natural products; they are full of chemicals.

How about the pace of life? Are we busier today? Absolutely. Multi-tasking wasn’t even a term until recently. We run ourselves ragged, driving our kids from one activity to another and grabbing some fast food on the way.

Has life changed? Yes, and our health along with it. The most apparent change is in the health of our kids. Allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD, diabetes and obesity are at all-time highs. Our children are trying to tell us something. Are we going to listen?

Join me for a workshop on children’s health from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Monroe County Community College. Learn how to have healthy babies, how to re-establish health in your child and how to give your child a lifetime of health.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.

As spring arrives, our thoughts often turn to gardening and yard work. Along with thoughts about which trees and bushes need pruning and what type of flowers to plant come thoughts of a nice green lawn.

This is the perfect time to consider how our lawn care practices are affecting the environment. Often, we don’t realize the multi-faceted impact of our lawns.

One of the major concerns is the impact that herbicides have on animals and wildlife. Our own pets are being affected by these chemicals.

Studies show that lawn chemicals are being detected in dogs, even among dogs in residence where chemicals were not applied. These chemicals can spread to neighboring homes and can be detected more the 48 hours after application. Researchers believe these chemicals are linked to bladder cancer in dogs.

Dogs are not the only animals affected. Cats generally have a wider home territory than dogs and can expose themselves to a greater area. Our pets track these chemicals into our homes, which can affect our health and the health of our children.

Insects are also negatively affected. The effects on pollinators are especially concerning. Bees, specifically, are directly affected by these applications. Dandelions are integral to bees’ survival, as they are the most valuable early spring wildflower for bees.

If a bee hive survives the winter, the bees will be safe from starvation if they can stay alive until the dandelions bloom. Bees collect pollen and nectar from plants as their food source. They make honey from the nectar and pollen is their sole protein source, which they also use to make food for their young.

As you may have heard, our bees are in trouble. Researchers have been looking for answers to Colony Collapse Disorder for some time. Scientist are warning that exposure to chemicals is one of the reasons for declining bee populations.

This is a serious problem because bees do a lot more than just produce honey. It is estimated that honey bees pollinate approximately 15 billion dollars’ worth of American crops. Bees pollinate crops like apples, melons, broccoli and cranberries. Blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on bees for pollination and almonds depend 100% on honey bees.

Bees also collect pollen from clover and plantain weeds. By waiting to cut our lawns until the flowers from these wild plants have bloomed, we can positively impact the local bee population.

The pesticides that are toxic to bees can remain for weeks after application. Not only is the bee that is exposed to the pesticide likely to die, but the whole hive (up to 60,000 bees) could also be killed. When the bee returns to the hive with toxic pollen which is then fed to the young, the entire hive is in danger.

Rather than using spray, employ organic gardening methods. Don’t worry about a few weeds in your lawn, they’re not going to hurt anyone. But that herbicide or pesticide that you may be using certainly could.

Did you know that many people react to chemical sprays, especially those with auto-immune issues? Many asthmatics also have bad reactions to lawn treatments. Others may feel ill, have an allergic-type reaction or unexplained rashes.

All of those chemicals wind up in our ground water, which contaminates well water and drinking water. Eventually they make their way, along with pesticides and fertilizers, to pollute our lakes and streams. The residues of these chemicals can be found in our tap water.

The overuse of synthetic fertilizers is contributing to serious contamination of our water supply as well as damaging our soil. It is important that homeowners and professional landscapers realize the impact these products are having on our health and environment.

Using herbicides on driveways, sidewalks and parking lots adds to the already high levels of these chemicals in our environment.

If you are determined to spray, look for sprays that are less toxic to bees and wait until evening when the bees are no longer foraging or even better, wait to spray until the flower has wilted.

Better yet, change your mindset about your lawn. Having a green lawn all summer uses up valuable water supplies — a luxury that we still have in the Great Lake State but one that won’t last forever, especially if we continue to pollute our fresh water supply.

Most Americans don’t have pristine lawns all summer long and that’s okay. It’s just a perception that we need to have unnaturally green grass. As long as our kids and pets have a soft place to play and run, does it really matter if there are some dandelions or some drier patches?

The quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we grow our food in is so much more important than the way our lawn looks.

Try using organic practices and give the herbicides and fertilizers a break. Sit back and enjoy your dandelions, knowing that you are positively affecting not only your family’s health and the health of your neighbors but also the health of our planet.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.