Wordless Wednesday: The Haircut


"Show me some teeth."

Smile! Show me some teeth.


Two buzz cut kids

Now there's the other one, I learned to use the clippers on him.

Wahl 79300-1001 Home Pro 26-Piece Color-Coded Haircutting System

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Discussing Autism Prevention: Where to Begin?

As I have recently announced, my blog has a new focus, preventing autism.  This is such a broad topic and I am struggling with where to begin.  My initial thought was to follow Gloria Lemay’s 7 Steps For Scramblng the Brain of a Baby.  I could go through each item and discuss how it may have played a role in causing my sons autism.  But I would really feel like I was riding her coattails if I were to take that approach.  I thought, maybe I could just tell the story of my pregnancy with my first child, and what I personally feel may have lead to his Asperger Syndrome.  Not sure what the reader reactions would be on that one.  Would they be judgmental, patronizing, or argumentative?  My desire is to invite neither criticism nor debate,  but to encourage my readers to consider carefully each decision they make while they grow their families.  Not to simply take the word of your doctor, your mother, or your friend as factual but to research and to own each choice that you make along the way.

Technology can be useful, even life saving.  But it is generally not the best approach, in my experience, when it comes to promoting wellness.  Health begins with nutrition, but the industrialization of farming has robbed us of what we really need to build healthy families.  To make matters worse, our busy lifestyles often coerce us to make poor choices about food.

When I discussed my plans to start a family with my obstetrician, he never asked me a thing about my diet.  When I became pregnant with my first child, the only information I received on nutrition was a list of foods not to eat, and a prescription for prenatal vitamins.  At no other point during the pregnancy did my doctor discuss what I was eating.  But technology was a prominent feature in my routine, low risk prenatal care and in the birth of my children.  It is our responsibility as parents, or prospective parents, to learn which foods to eat to build health (and where to buy them), and about the risks and benefits of each test and intervention that our health care provider recommends.

So that is my short introduction.  In addition to my new focus, I also plan to move all autism prevention and related blogs to a new platform, which is now located here.  If I continue with this platform as well, the topic here will be more focused on homeschooling and parenting special needs children. Stay tuned!

Back to Blogging

I have been away from blogging for quite some time.  Much of my time is spent homeschooling my two boys, who are in Kindergarten and 2nd grade.  My 2nd grader, who has Asperger Syndrome, presents mainly behavioral challenges while he generally excels in academics.  My kindergartner seems to be a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to academic skills, but he is making very good progress at his own pace.  This is my third year homeschooling with my oldest, but this has been my first year homeschooling both the boys.

Lately I have developed an interest in Twitter, which I have found to be a great way to connect with other moms with common interests.  Many of the moms that I follow on Twitter have blogs which they update frequently.  I have wanted to start blogging again, but felt that I lacked a specific focus.  Until I read this blog, originally titled “7 Step Recipe for Creating an Autistic Child.”  Many of the ingredients in this “recipe” are derived from choices that mothers make during pregnancy, birth, and the care of their infants, many of which are endorsed heartily by the vast majority of health care providers.   On the surface, the list of “ingredients” seems harsh and judgmental, but truly this is a challenge,  a call to action.

This is the direction that I needed, a topic that I feel quite passionate about and one that has directly impacted our family on a personal  level.  Autism is preventable.  For all the research that has been done looking for an “autism gene,” genetics only accounts for a tiny percentage of what now affects at least 1 child in a hundred.  Since our firstborn son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at age 5, it has haunted me.  Was it the tuna I ate when I was pregnant with him?  Something in the water or the air?  Was it vaccines?  Refinishing a piece of baby furniture?  Was he injured during birth?  In all likelihood, it was a combination of many factors along with some type of genetic susceptibility.  I will never know and I can’t go back and change them.  But I can research, I can learn, and I can share what I discover.  This is the new focus of my blog, and I hope that I can use it to make a difference for others.

Toxic Cleaning Products in the Kitchen

Many automatic dishwasher detergents contain dry chlorine that is activated when it encounters water in the dishwasher. Chlorine fumes are released in the steam that leaks out of the dishwasher. Harmful effects are intensified when chlorine is exposed to heat.  In addition, dishwasher powders can cause severe burns to the mouth and throat if ingested, burns that can cause severe injury and require multiple surgeries to repair.  Even wet, undissolved powder in the dishwasher has caused this type of injury to curious toddlers. 

Cascade and Sun Light, two of the best-selling brands of automatic dishwashing detergent, contain phosphates. Phosphates released into the environment rob lakes and ponds of oxygen, leading to the suffocation of aquatic plants and animals.

Have you noticed that many dishwashing liquids are labelled “harmful if swallowed”? Most contain Naphtha, a CNS depressant, diethanolsamine, a liver poison, and/or chlorophenylphenol, a toxic metabolic stimulant. Ethoxylated alcohols in liquid detergents can also contain carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane. I urge you not to use these toxic products on the dishes your family eats off of.  It is important to remember that cleaning products are not required to list all ingredients, so you may not see these items listed on the label.

Do your hands get irritated when you wash dishes? Some dishwashing liquids use petroleum-based surfactants, containing detergents such as diethanolamine (DEA) and sodium dodecylbenzensulfonate. Both ingredients can be skin and eye irritants.

There are safe alternatives available which are free of chlorine, Naptha, petroleum derivatives, fragrances, and phosphates.  Have you tried using green products to wash your dishes but were dissatisfied with the results?  My favorite safe dishwasher powder works other green brands, and is super-concentrated, so you get a lot of clean loads of dishes from just one package. The package lasted over 9 months in our house with a family of 4.   I found a green dishwashing liquid that works great on grease too.  See my favorite products for the kitchen here.

All-Purpose Cleaners: Many popular household cleaning solutions, like Fantastik and Formula 409, contain a synthetic solvent and grease cutter called butyl cellosolve. This hazardous petroleum-based chemical can irritate your skin and eyes, and repeated exposure to it can cause permanent liver and kidney damage, and impair the body’s ability to replenish its blood supply.

A safer alternative: superconcentrated Basic Household Cleaner can clean your counters, kitchen table, greasy stovetop, and more. Just 1/4 teaspoon of Basic Household in 16 ounces of water cleans most surfaces. As a degreaser, use 1 1/2 teaspoons. To clean windows, just 1 or 2 drops.

Oven Cleaners: One of the most dangerous cleaning products, oven cleaners can cause severe damage to eyes, skin, mouth and throat. (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.) The active ingredient in many oven cleaners is sodium hydroxide, which is very corrosive and can cause severe burns in all tissues that come in contact with it. Sodium hydroxide is odorless; thus, odor provides no warning of hazardous concentrations. Inhalation of sodium hydroxide is immediately irritating to the respiratory tract. Swelling or spasms of the larynx leading to upper-airway obstruction and asphyxia can occur after high-dose inhalation. Inflammation of the lungs and an accumulation of fluid in the lungs may also occur. Ingestion of solid or liquid forms of sodium hydroxide can cause spontaneous vomiting, chest and abdominal pain, and difficulty swallowing. In the case of accidental ingestion, corrosive injury to the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach is very rapid and may result in perforation, hemorrhage, and narrowing of the gastrointestinal tract. Cancer of the esophagus has been reported 15 to 40 years after the formation of corrosion-induced strictures. Skin contact with sodium hydroxide can cause severe burns with deep ulcerations. Long-term exposure to sodium hydroxide in the air may lead to ulceration of the nasal passages and chronic skin irritation. Sodium hydroxide contact with the eye may produce pain and irritation, and in severe cases, clouding of the eye and blindness.

Whew! Here is a safe alternative to clean your oven. Used with plenty of water, Scour it Off is terrific on ovens and even barbecue grills. This product lasts a long time, you don’t need much to do the job.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

If you have a poison emergency or a question about poisons and you’re in the United States, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222

Hazardous Cleaning Chemicals in the Bathroom

Think about the following as you read: If you were using these types of chemicals in an industrial workplace, what precautions would OSHA require? Gloves? Goggles? Respirator? Do you use these when you clean the bathroom?  Do you clean with these around children?

Toilet Bowl Cleaners: One of the most dangerous cleaning products, toilet bowl cleaners can contain chlorine and hydrochloric acid. Harmful just from inhalation. Toilet Bowl Cleaners accounted for 10,461 poison exposures in 2005. (Source: Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poisoning and Exposure Database) (2005).

Hydrochloride/ Hydrochloric Acid (HCl): Contained in some toilet bowl cleaners, HCl can cause severe damage to skin and eyes. Some people exposed to HCl may develop an inflammatory reaction called reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS), a type of asthma caused by some irritating or corrosive substances. Swallowing HCl causes severe corrosive injury to the lips, mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach. (Sources: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2007). Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents. Volume III, Medica)

Scouring Powders: Many traditional scouring cleansers, like AJAX powder, contain crystalline silica, an eye, skin, and lung irritant, classified as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Some scouring cleaners may contain sodium hydroxide or bleach that can irritate mucous membranes and cause liver and kidney damage.

Limescale removers: Many limescale removers contain sulfamic acid, which is toxic to lungs and mucous membranes. Direct skin contact with sulfamic acid is corrosive and causes irritation, dryness or burning. Eye contact can result in corneal damage or blindness. Inhalation of sulfamic acid will produce irritation to gastro-intestinal or respiratory tract with burning, sneezing or coughing. Severe over exposure of sulfamic acid can produce lung damage, choking, unconsciousness or death.

A person who spends 15 minutes cleaning scale off shower walls could inhale three times the “acute one-hour exposure limit” for glycol-ether containing products set by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Sources: News-Medical.Net; University of California at Berkeley.

For safe alternative products and to make the bathroom cleaning job easier, see The Self Cleaning Bathroom.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

If you have a poison emergency or a question about poisons and you’re in the United States, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222

Samuel’s first ER visit

Is Samuel a Tasmanian devil or a 3 year old?  I’m not sure anymore.  I brought him to my mother’s house for lunch, before I was going to go to work, and I went in before the kids, figuring they could use a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine.  My father was in and out getting the gas grill out to cook some burgers so I figured it was a safe bet.  Not two minutes after I came in Jamie comes running asking for Grandma to “come rescue Sammy.”  I heard Samuel crying in the background, and Jamie saying that he fell.  My mother carries him in and hands him to me, I notice blood on her sleeve.  She looks surprised.  I look and Samuel has blood pouring from the side of his head.  After we mopped up with cloths enough to see, he has a 1/4 inch gash in the middle of a knot on his head.   Fortunately the bleeding stops.  Jamie explains that Samuel climbed into my car and fell out. 

Samuel recently discovered how to open the car doors and likes to practice at every opportunity.  He of course must climb into the car looking for trouble as well.  At my mom’s the parking area in the driveway is sloped so that when I park the driver’s side is lower than the passenger’s side.  So when he stepped down from the car he must not have accounted for the fact that he was actually stepping downhill, and lost his balance.  So I called the pediatrician’s office and they scheduled him in for 1/2 hour later.  By the time the doctor saw him I knew he was ok neurologically, he was asking me to read books and pointing to the pictures asking questions.  Dr. examined him and pronounced him ok, but needing the wound closed with a suture or staple.  But he can’t do it in the office.  That was a $25 copay wasted. 

So I called out from work and took Samuel back for lunch, then to the ER to get the staple.  Meanwhile he is racing around like, well, a Tazmanian devil.  It didn’t even slow him down.  Fortunately he was good for the doctor, he was fascinated playing with a blood pressure cuff and she cleaned out the wound without a flinch from him.  She asked me if I though she should inject to numb the area and then do the staple, or just go for the quick pinch.  Since she would obviously lose his trust with the injection, I opted for the quick pinch.  He liked the BP cuff enough that when she put the staple in, he just sort of gave her a dirty look and went back to what he was doing.  LOL.  He ran around like a nut for the rest of the day. 

I missed a shift of work and lost $25 for the copay, ?? for the ER (convenient care section, so like urgent care), and I have to drop another $25 at the doctor’s to get the staple removed.  (I wish I knew another nurse that could get me a removal kit, so I could do it myself.)  Sheesh, that was expensive.  And why won’t this kid ever SLOW DOWN?  I guess I should be impressed he waited until 3 1/2 to visit the ER.  Jamie was there right after his 2nd birthday, and had the second visit at 3 1/2.  Mom was nice enough to offer us dinner.  I brought them home right after and washed Samuel up because his hair was STINKY.  Then I put both the kids to bed an hour early.  I’m done! 

Any other parents out there with first ER stories?  Ours have all been lacerations, nothing too serious fortunately.  Is this a “boy thing” or just a terrible two’s and three’s problem.  Hopefully they grow out of this!!   Meanwhile I will keep my car locked.

1,4 Dioxane In Your Shampoo, Cosmetics, and Personal Care Products

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing:   “Natural” and  “Organic” Labeling

A recent study by the Organic Consumer’s Association revealed the presence of the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane in widely available shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care and household cleaning products using the word “organic” or “natural” on the product label or ingredient list.  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) defines 1,4-Dioxane as a clear liquid that easily dissolves in water and is used primarily as a solvent in the manufacture of chemicals or in various other uses that take advantage of its solvent properties.  1,4-Dioxane can be a trace contaminant in cosmetics, detergents, and shampoos which contain ethoxylated ingredients. Ethoxylation involves using the cancer-causing petrochemical ethylene oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product.   1,4-dioxane is not listed with other ingredients on product labels, because it is formed as a  ‘by-product’ of the ethoxylation process and is considered a ‘contaminant,’ rather than an ingredient.

1,4 dioxane is considered a probable human carcinogen by the EPA, due to demonstrated carcinogenity in several animal studies.  Other harmful effects of 1, 4 dioxin in animal studies include liver and kidney damage in animals chronically exposed by inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact .  Greater toxicity was observed in animals exposed by inhalation or dermal exposure than by ingestion.  This is probably due to the first pass metabolism by the liver on substances which are ingested.  Workers exposed to 1, 4 dioxin have exhibited acute symptoms such as irritation of the upper respiratory passages, coughing, irritation of eyes, drowsiness, vertigo, headache, anorexia, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, coma, and even death, but length of exposure these cases was not known.  The EPA has not established standards for a safe exposure limit.

When 1,4 dioxane enters the environment, it does not degrade in water.  Since it does not stick to soil particles, it can easily pass through soil to contaminate groundwater.  1, 4 dioxane has been detected in both surface and groundwater.  Since the 1,4 dioxane contaminant in personal care products and household cleaners is not readily biodegradeable, there in the potential for it to contribute to groundwater contamination.  Many of these products are washed down the drain after use, and the contaminant is challenging to remove from water, requiring advanced technologies such as oxidation with ultraviolet lights.  This type of technology is not normally employed in  community wastewater treatment plants.  So 1,4 dioxane definately poses environmental risks for our future health.

One reason the word “organic” on a label does not guarantee the absence of harmful contaminants like 1,4 dioxane, is the creation of a new organic standard called OASIS.  This standard allows companies to label a personal care product “organic” if it contains 85% organic ingredients.  These types of products previously would have been labelled only as “made with organic ingredients.”  The real problem with this kind of standard for personal care products is that products like shampoo or body wash can contain large amounts of water.  So the use of the word “organic” using the OASIS standard could simply mean the product contains organic water with mostly non-organic ingredients.  The USDA organic label offers slightly more protection for the consumer, but over time it also is becoming riddled with loopholes for the manufacturers.  For example, a complaint was filed in 2004 against the company Bayliss Ranch for counting water extracts produced from ordinary tap water, as being organic.    Bayliss Ranch sold these water extracts to companies producing foods and personal care products, such as JASON, Nature’s Gate, and Avalon Natural Products, some of these being the very same brands found to contain 1,4 dioxane.  (For a more detailed explanation, see the Organic Consumer’s Association’s press release on QAI’s scheme to count tap water as organic.)  Update:  The State of California has filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods, Avalon, Beaumont and Nutribiotic because of the 1,4 dioxane contamination of their products in direct violation of California’s Proposition 65. Read here to learn more about the lawsuit.

 For our family we buy most of our personal care and cleaning products from a company that does extensive safety and quality testing, far above what is required by law.  The company tests raw materials that go into their products for contaminants with the requirement that they be present below the legal standard or not detectable at all.   On a number of occasions, the company has ceased production of lucrative products because raw ingredients meeting their quality and safety standards were not available.  For example, right now the company has temporarily suspended the production of their baby shampoo due to using a new supplier for a key ingredient.  When safety and efficacy testing is completed and satisfactory, they will resume production of the product.  It is this kind of integrity that we value in a manufacturer, along with supporting meaningful standards for the industry rather than lobbying against them.  For more information visit http://www.shaklee.net/good_health/aboutScience. To learn more about choosing safe personal care and cleaning products, visit http://www.squidoo.com/safecleaning or http://www.squidoo.com/safecosmetics.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Clorox. Green Works or Greenwashing?

Clorox has launched a new line of cleaning products known as Green Works. While I think using safe cleaners is extremely important, I am a little skeptical of what Clorox might produce as a “green” product. The company touts the products as being “at least 99% natural,” which raised more questions for me. First of all, the word “natural” is completely unregulated. And even if it was clearly defined, not everything that is natural is safe. Arsenic, lead, and mercury occur naturally, but you wouldn’t want to spray those around your house. Second, how much of the 99% natural consists of water? Third, what is in that 1% that is not natural? Some ingredients can be harmful even in small amounts. To give them credit, Clorox claims that they are listing all ingredients on the labels of the Green Works products, something they do not do with their conventional cleaning products. Still, some have criticized the Sierra Club for its unprecedented decision to allow Clorox to use their logo on the Greenworks products.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, that 1% of unnatural ingredients are derived from petrochemicals. Namely, the preservative Kathon, and the Milliken Liquitint Blue HP dye and Bright Yellow dye X. The dyes give several of the products a light green color. Not exactly necessary, in my opinion. Clorox claims that the preservative, Kathon, will biodegrade within 28 days. According to the MSDS for Kathon, the substance by itself carries the following risks: “irritating to skin, risk of serious damage to eyes, may cause sensitization by skin contact, harmful to aquatic organisms, may cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.” This doesn’t sound like my idea of an ingredient in a green cleaning product.  Some individuals that have reviewed Clorox Green Works products have found the lemon scent too strong, and indeed, it may not be appropriate for people with respiratory problems or allergies.

 Clorox states that their Green Works products are not tested on animals.  However, their conventional cleaning products continue to be tested on animals.  Likewise, as mentioned above, while Greenworks products list all ingredients, other Clorox product labels do not list all ingredients on the label.  It also disturbs me to continue to see Clorox disinfecting products marketed to parents of small children, invoking their fears of “germs.”  But I believe that cleaner shouldn’t leave behind more toxins than the toxins you are trying to clean!  The advertising for both products is awash with images of mothers, babies, and children.  Both lines are promoted from a safety standpoint.  The Greenworks website points out that their products are free of strong fumes and leave no chemical residue.  Yet they also promote spraying chemicals all over your home and on your children’s toys to disinfect them.  I personally cringe whenever I see the commercials with an adult wiping the baby’s highchair tray with a Clorox disinfecting wipe while baby sits smiling and patting the tray, because I know those little baby hands go right to the mouth. 

When I am shopping for cleaning products, I use the following standards:

* Biodegradable
* Formulated without dye
* Nonflammable
* Contain no ammonia, acids, alkalis, solvents, phosphates, chlorine, nitrates, borates, or volatile organic compounds.

Compared to my favorite green cleaning products, Clorox Green Works line of primarily ready-to-use cleaners leave a heavier carbon footprint on the planet. They do have one product that can be diluted, although I am not sure what the final concentration is. For most of my cleaning I use fragrance-free Basic Household cleaner, which is a superconcentrate. You can make a whole bottle of cleaner for most applications with somewhere between 2 drops and ¼ teaspoon of the concentrate. One bottle of Basic H. can make literally hundreds of bottles of ready to use cleaner. Since this reduces the number of plastic bottles that need to be manufactured, shipped, and recycled, it greatly decreases the environmental impact of using the product. The cost per use is also a lot lower than almost any other product, just 25 cents makes four 32 ounce bottles (one gallon) of all purpose cleaner   Even vinegar in comparison, can cost 10 to 20 times as much per gallon, depending on what size is purchased and where.  Another green cleaning favorite of mine is Scour-it Off, which makes soap scum in the shower disappear like magic, and with which you need such a small amount that the container lasts practically forever. See all my favorite cleaning products here.

So what does “greenwashing” mean?  Some examples of tactics used by companies include:  seducing with images in ads, using environmental organizations to promote products,  distracting from destructive products, claiming to seek solutions while lobbying against regulation, using charitable endeavors to gain support, and the misuse of the word “sustainable.”  I really liked this quote from Jeffrey Hollender, and it sums up my feelings on the subject as well. ”“Green” is not something a company becomes because of a new product line, a marketing campaign, a decision to be carbon neutral or even the selection an enlightened new CEO. “Green” is about the inside, not the outside of a company. It’s about its DNA, its culture, and its very reason for being.”  Is Clorox Green Works really green?  What do you think?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Baby and Child Safe Disinfecting

As a mother of two little boys, disinfecting is a topic that is quite important in our household.  Now I am not a germ-freak by any means, but I must say, boys are gross!  And once they are potty trained, the bathroom is just not as clean as it used to be.  But now with little ones especially, I am concerned about using highly toxic chemicals to clean and kill germs.  Both germs and chemicals can cause illness.  So I did a little research on some of the products available for use in the home, and here are my findings:

Disinfectants are usually phenol- or cresol-based and deactivate sensory nerve endings. They attack the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and the central nervous system (CNS) and it takes over a year to eliminate the unhealthy effects of spraying 2 ounces, even with heavy cross ventilation.  Bleach, also commonly used as a disinfectant, is the number one chemical involved in household poisoning.  Hypochlorite (bleach) was the source of 54,433 poisonings in 2005.  Bleach may cause reproductive, endocrine, and immune system disorders.

Hazards of Select Disinfectant Ingredients

Alcohols- these are used as skin cleaners as well as a transport medium for other active ingredients, but nevertheless are irritant to eyes, nose and throat at high airborne concentrations and are highly flammable.

Aldehydes- glutaraldehyde is classified as a skin and respiratory sensitisor. Formaldehyde is a strong respiratory irritant and is also classified as a category 3 carcinogen.  Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative in cleaning products.

Bleach and Related Substances- Hypochlorite and organic chlorine-releasing compounds are corrosive in their concentrated form and are classified as eye and skin irritants even when diluted in a 5 to 10% solution.  In 1994, the Clinton Administration announced a Clean Water Plan that could eventually eliminate chlorine and chlorine-based products due to the many hazards they entail. Sodium hypochlorite is an oxidizer that has been implicated in many household accidents and/or deaths, according to the American Association of Poison Control Center’s annual reports. Improper use of bleach may result in mixing with acid-containing products such as toilet bowl cleaners or ammonia to create toxic gases which are dangerous or even fatal if inhaled. Furthermore, concentrations of sodium hypochlorite as small as .04% have been shown to elicit positive skin contact sensitivity responses in a clinically sensitized individual.

Phenol-Based Disinfectants- In 1994, EPA classified ortho-phenylphenol (OPP) as a carcinogen, and many studies have shown its cytotoxicity and genotoxicity.  OPP is irritating to the skin and eyes. There have been reported cases of allergic contact dermatitis, contact urticaria (hives) or of depigmentation of the skin. Residue on surfaces can cause hazardous injury to tissue or mucous membranes.  Phenol-based products used in hospitals are banned from use on infant contact surfaces.

Safer Disinfecting for the Home

There is a great product recommended by Dr. Doris Rapp, author of “Is This Your Child?” and an environmental medicine specialist, which kills germs and cleans in one step without alcohol, ammonia, chlorine,  phenol, or gluteraldehyde.   EPA registered Basic Germicide is what we use in our own home. A much safer choice to use where you need a germicidal cleaner.  Basic Germicide provides a balance of product strength against the type of ingredients used in the product. It is a concentrated quaternary ammonium-based germicide and cleaner with the main active ingredients derived from quaternary ammonium salts.  Basic Germicide is tested and shown to be effective against MRSA, a form of staph infection which can be deadly, as well as over 40 other microorganisms.  It is safe to use on all nonporous surfaces.

Most chlorine bleach products are used for general sanitizing purposes and cannot make any specific claims of effectiveness as they are not EPA-registered products.  Basic Germicide is effective against more types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses than most household disinfectants.  The product is composed of ingredients whose effectiveness has been verified by stringent performance testing in accordance with EPA requirements.  As a highly concentrated disinfectant, the ingredient functionalities of this product are much stronger than is the case with ready to use disinfectants. While Basic Germicide is toxic in a concentrated form, it has a high dilution ration of 256:1 and is non-toxic when diluted according to directions.

Basic Germicide is very affordable with a low cost per use when diluted according to the package instructions.  One quart makes enough solution to clean and disinfect more surface area than 482 17-oz spray bottles of full strength Lysol disinfectant.  To disinfect and clean surfaces, we mix 1/2 teaspoon of the concentrate with 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle. For maximum effectiveness, use the standard procedure for EPA registered disinfectants:  spray on, allow a contact time of 10 minutes, then wipe away. Rinse any food contact surfaces or toys after disinfecting.  The product has been used by environmentally conscious organizations such as the Cousteau Society, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, NASA, and the Biosphere 2 project.  We also use Basic Germicide to clean toilets, generally 1/2 to 1 ounce full strength applied around the inside of the rim, allow to stand 10 minutes, then we clean the toilet with a brush.  Note: for mineral deposits in toilets try a pumice stone. 

You might be familiar with some of the experiments in Doris Rapp’s books “Is This Your Child” and “Is This Your Child’s World.”  In one of Dr. Rapp’s studies, she tested the effect of bleach on six-year-olds handwriting.  Before a bottle of bleach was opened, students wrote their names fairly well. Then, with just an opened bottle of bleach in the room, the children wrote their names again.  The difference was dramatic!  Some wrote messy, some too small to read, and one even wrote backwards.  One mother tried this test for herself at home:  ” I didn’t  tell my kids what I was doing. I only told them to write as neatly as they could. They printed their names on a sheet of paper. Then, I told them to hold up their papers while I wiped the table off with a Clorox wipe. As soon as it was dry enough, I had them put their papers down and write their names again. I was
shocked! My daughter’s writing was visibly messier; instead of letters being tight and connected, they were loopy and crooked. My son was completely distracted by something while he was writing his name! (This is uncharacteristic of him. He has no attention difficulties.) When he realized that he was talking about something else, he stopped mid-sentence and said:  Wait, I’m supposed to be writing my name!   The next letter he wrote was upside-down (which my son had never done before). I took it to the next level and had my children move to another room where there were no Clorox fumes. They wrote their names again and proved that without being under the infuuence they could write just as neat as the first time. I could clearly see that the chemicals were affecting both writing ability and focus.”  So in my opinion, based on this unofficial test, the Clorox wipes should also be avoided.  It is quite simple to spray something like Basic Germicide on surfaces and wipe down with a clean rag or a paper towel.  But if the wipes are desired, the same manufacturer does make safe disinfecting wipes, fragrance-free.   So since we have lots of safe choices for our homes, a clean and safe home should be our goal.  Do it for your health and your children’s health.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

Phthalates and Other Toxic Ingredients in Baby Care Products

A recent study published in the February issue of Pediatrics looked for detectable phthalate exposure in the urine of 163 infants born between 2000 and 2005.  Over 80 percent of the infants studied had measureable levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine!  Commonly used products among infants with higher levels of phthalate metabolites included baby lotion, baby shampoo, and baby powder.  No correlation was found between high urine phthalate levels and the use of baby wipes and diaper creams.  While in Europe phthalates are banned from use in personal care products and some toys, in the US manufacturers are not required to even disclose the presence of these widely used chemicals in their products.  That’s right, they aren’t listed on the label, making it extremely difficult to measure levels of exposure and study the effects of phthalates. 

Phthalates are often used in fragrances.  They are also used in manufacturing, to make plastics such as polyvinyl chloride softer and more flexible.  According to Greenpeace, phthalates are suspected as human cancer-causing agents, and could damage the liver and kidneys, interfere with the development of the reproductive organs, and mimic the hormone estrogen in the body.  Some authorities suspect a link between phthalate exposure and early onset of puberty in girls.  In animal studies, rats exposed to certain levels of phthalates experienced adverse health effects, some of which included shortened life spans, weight loss, low level cancerous cell changes, liver enlargement, and even liver tumors.    One study in humans found an association between phthalate exposure and male reproductive problems. 

In the instances that phthalates do happen to be listed on a product label, you won’t find the word “phthalate,” although a few products may be labelled “phthalate-free.”  There are a few abbreviations that you might find on product labels.  As I mentioned before, manufacturers are not required to list these ingredients, so I give the following caution:  These ingredients may still be in the products even if you don’t find them on the label!  Some chemicals that are classified as phthalates include:  DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), DMP (dimethyl phthalate), DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate or Bis-2-ethylhexyl phthalate), and BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate).  The last two ingredients are found primarily in PVC plastics.  DEHP is sometimes found in medical devices.

A few other ingredients of concern which have been found in infant care products include formaldehyde or formaldehyde donor preservatives, mineral oil, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate, to name a few.  Mineral oil, which is basically synonymous with “baby oil,” is made when gasoline and kerosene are removed from crude petroleum by heating.  Then, using sulfuric acid, absorbents,  solvents, and alkalis;  hydrocarbons and other chemicals are removed leaving the final product, mineral oil.    Parabens are an estrogen-like compound, albeit a very weak one.  These are used as preservatives in many types of personal care products and cosmetics.  Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate, foaming agents,  primarily present a risk as skin and potential eye irritants.  Formaldehyde and formaldehyde donor ingredients are considered potential carcinogens.  The five most common formaldehyde donor preservatives are quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol).  The concern in baby products as well as products for adults, is that toxic ingredients can be rapidly absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, especially with the formaldehyde donor ingredients .  In some cases this occurs in as little as 90 seconds.  To make matters worse, toxins absorbed through the skin bypass the liver’s first pass metabolism.  Because of this critical difference, many substances are more toxic when absorbed through the skin than when they are ingested.  

Even without the potential for phthalate exposure, the use of baby powder carries several risks in and of itself.  Talc is recognized as a potential carcinogen, especially for lung and ovarian cancers.  These powders can easily be inhaled if they become airborne during use.  If a cornstarch baby powder is used in the presence of a candida-associated diaper rash, especially on broken skin, it can aggravate the condition by providing food for the yeast microorganisms causing the rash.  So powders are probably better to avoid entirely. Coconut oil makes a great natural and safe protectant for the diaper area. It also has natural antimicrobial effects.

There are safe products available that you can use for baby, including baby bath/shampoo and lotion.  You can purchase phthalate-free baby wash/shampoo, and lotion here.   This lotion is also free of formaldehyde-donor preservatives, mineral oil, alcohol, parabens,  sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, and colors/dyes. The combination baby wash and shampoo protects the skin by preserving the natural acid barrier that is normally present, and which is removed by most soap based products.  It is thick and long lasting, we find that we only need 1/3 the amount compared to when we were using Johnson’s baby shampoo.  The products are not tested on animals. Safety is verified by an independent dermatologist.

 If you ever have questions about ingredients in personal care products, visit the website of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review for more information.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

« Older entries