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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Do Food Dyes Warrant A Warning Label?

By Margie Kelly

Red Dye

Food dyes are everywhere.

Derived from petroleum, more than 15 million pounds of dyes are added to food to make something colorful. The use of artificial dyes has gone up fivefold in the past 50 years, according to the Center for Science and the Public Interest (CSPI). Candies, frostings, macaroni and cheese, pickles, sodas, chips, fruit snacks and more are all colored by artificial dyes.

While sugar is usually identified as the culprit in hyperactive children, some studies link the consumption of food dyes to behavioral problems in kids.

Last month, a U.S. FDA advisory committee met to discuss whether to recommend a ban or warning label on food containing artificial dyes because they may make kids hyperactive.

CNN reported that one mother told the FDA panel that there was a “huge change” in her toddler’s behavior after she removed dyes from his diet. “Two weeks later he felt different, much happier, and six weeks later, he was a new child,” she said.

Kellie King told a CBS reporter in Chicago that her toddler daughter was on medication for ADHD but within weeks of taking dyes out of her diet, she was able to discontinue using the medication.

But the FDA says the science is too weak to issue a ban on artificial dyes. In a review of the last 35 years’ worth of studies about artificial dyes, an FDA advisory panel found insufficient evidence food dyes are responsible for hyperactivity in kids, though it was suggested some kids with ADHD may be especially sensitive to dyes in food. The panel did recommend that more research is necessary to understand the impact of food dyes on children.

Despite the FDA’s decision to delay action, current European regulations require a warning label on foods made with artificial food dyes, forcing European companies to substitute natural colors for dyes.

Those regulations are the reason Nestle recently announced it would no longer use artificial colors in its candies made in the UK. Will Nestle sell those candies in the U.S.? No.

Until we can get food manufacturers to use natural colors in the U.S., here are some tips to avoid food dyes:

1.     Shop organic – Organic foods are the only food category free of artificial dyes.

2.     Read labels and avoid foods that have colors with numbers (like Blue #1) as an ingredient

3.     If you still need some junk food every now and then, check out the book Unjunk Your Junk Food – Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks, co-authored by Andrea Donsky

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 7:25 am

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mom on a Mission: Dumping “Pink Slime”

School Lunch

Bettina Elias Siegel is a mother of two, former lawyer, school food reform activist, freelance writer, and publisher of The Lunch Tray blog. On March 6th she started a petition asking USDA to ban the use of lean, finely textured beef (commonly known as “pink slime”) in the beef destined for school food. Within nine days, the petition topped 200,000 signatures (reaching a quarter of a million signatures soon after) and effectively forced USDA to change its policy by allowing schools to choose ground beef without the ammonia-treated filler. Here, in her words from April 1, 2012, is how Bettina became a mom on a mission:

On March 5th of this year I read an article in the online publication The Daily that described how a shipment of ground beef, collectively containing seven million pounds of “lean, finely textured beef,” was headed for school districts around the country. LFTB, also sometimes referred to as “pink slime,” consists of fat-reduced slaughterhouse scraps treated with ammonium hydroxide to remove pathogens like E. coli and salmonella. It is used as a filler – unlabeled – in reportedly 70% of the ground beef sold in the United States.

What bothered me most about this news story was the fact that I had also just learned that fast food companies like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell agreed to stop using LFTB in their food. But school kids, particularly those who are economically dependent on the school lunch program, can’t vote with their dollars like fast food customers. I felt angry about this situation, so when I wrote about it for Lunch Tray, I attached a petition asking Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack to cease offering schools ground beef containing LFTB.

Within a matter days the petition went viral, ultimately garnering over a quarter of a million signatures before it was closed. Celebrity chef and healthy food advocate Jamie Oliver lent his support to the petition and various Congressional representatives also expressed solidarity with our cause. Just nine days in, when we’d reached over 200,000 names, USDA announced that it was reversing its policy and offering schools – for the first time ever – a choice between beef with LFTB and beef without.

I am so very honored to be nominated as a Mom on a Mission, but if 250,000 petition signers and countless others hadn’t also stood up to support me, my concerns would never have been heard by USDA. What we can learn from my experience is that we all have a voice, and if we band together, we simply cannot be ignored by powerful companies and even our government. Together, we can all be Moms on a Mission!

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 11:33 am

Monday, April 16, 2012

PVC: Unhealthy for Our Children’s Health and Schools

By Mike Schade

Mike Schade is the campaign coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ)

Child in School

For much of the time when their bodies and intellect are developing, children are in school.  It’s therefore critical to keep schools free from toxic chemicals linked to asthma and developmental damage. However, our nation’s schools are in toxic trouble, and many are actually a threat to our children’s health and ability to learn.

An emerging toxic plastic of concern, polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl), is widespread in schools throughout the country. Found in building materials and even back-to-school supplies, PVC and its hidden toxic chemical additives, such as phthalates, are harmful to children’s health and development. Children are not “little adults” – their developing brains and bodies, their metabolism and behaviors make them uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals released by PVC.

PVC: The Most Toxic Plastic for Children’s Health

Chemicals released by the PVC lifecycle have been linked to chronic diseases on the rise such as cancer, asthma, learning and developmental disabilities, obesity, and even reproductive disorders. PVC uses and releases a toxic cocktail of chemicals including the Agent Orange chemical dioxin, phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, mercury, lead, cadmium, and organotins.

Phthalates, which are added to make PVC soft and flexible, are released from these PVC products and pose avoidable public health risks. In fact, over 90% of all phthalates are used in vinyl plastic. These phthalates have been linked to health problems on the rise in children. Congress has banned a number of phthalates in children’s toys, yet they are often found in PVC found in schools. A growing body of scientific evidence has found that toxic phthalates released by PVC products are released into dust and the air and entering our bodies. They’ve been found in indoor air and dust, breast milk, and are most concentrated in children ages 6 to 11 and in women.

PVC and Asthma – Are Schoolchildren, Teachers, and Custodians at Risk?

In recent years, a number of studies have found a correlation between phthalates emitted from PVC building products, like vinyl flooring, and asthma. Far too many children today have asthma, which is a serious, sometimes life-threatening respiratory disease that affects 7 million American children and 16 million adults. An average of one out of every 13 school-age children has asthma. In fact, asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism: 14.7 million school days are missed each year due to asthma.

This is Your Brain.  This is Your Brain on PVC.

Asthma isn’t the only illness on the rise in children. According to recent studies, the incidence of learning and developmental disabilities appears to be rising, affecting about one in six children in the U.S. under the age of 18. According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, “students with disabilities are a special “at risk” population for the harmful effects of exposures to environmental hazards at school.” A number of chemicals released by the PVC lifecycle have been linked with or have been shown to cause learning and developmental disabilities. These include dioxin, lead, and mercury. Preliminary research suggests phthalates may also be linked to learning and developmental disabilities. One recent study found children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit phthalates, are twice as likely to have autism

Safe, Cost-Effective Alternatives are Available for Schools.

Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom. Major businesses such as Google; Apple; HP; Dell; Target; Wal-Mart; Bed, Bath & Beyond; and IKEA are phasing out PVC. Over 100 healthcare facilities across America are reducing the purchase of PVC and phthalates.

PVC is found in many building materials including flooring, roofing, and carpeting, as well as in school and office supplies such as 3-ring binders, backpacks, lunchboxes, computers, and paperclips. Safer alternatives are available. To find safer alternatives to PVC in your child’s school, check out this interactive website the Center for Health, Environmental & Justice created, This Vinyl School.

What Can I Do?  Take Action for Healthy PVC-Free Schools

You can take steps to create healthier schools for your children.  Safer and cost-effective alternatives are already available for virtually every PVC product on the market.  Here’s how you can help today:

* Educate yourself: Check out our fact sheet on PVC in schools

* Share This Vinyl school with your friends on Facebook and Twitter:

* Encourage your school to renovate or build their school with PVC-free building materials such as PVC-free linoleum flooring and TPO roofing.

* Encourage your school district to adopt a healthy building policy to avoid the use of PVC building materials and office supplies where safer alternatives are available.

* Back to school – go PVC-free! When buying your back-to-school supplies, shop for PVC-free products

What are you doing to create a healthier school for your children? What tips do you have for other parents? Share them in the comments below.

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 3:52 pm

Thursday, April 12, 2012

News Roundup: BPA, Flame Retardants, & Toxic Jewelry

By Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff


So many news stories that relate to children’s environmental health, it’s hard to keep up!

FDA Rejects BPA Ban in Packaging

Late in the day last Friday, FDA announced it would not place on ban on BPA in packaging because there wasn’t enough scientific evidence that it harmed humans. We wonder whether they’ve missed the volumes of studies finding BPA associated with some cancers, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive disorders. Manufacturers are moving away from the chemical even without FDA action. Campbell’s Soup recently started moving away from BPA in its cans, in part due to dropping consumer demand and public campaigns to eliminate BPA from foods targeted at kids.

Despite the FDA’s decision, concerned parents are vowing to reject BPA in products. Lori Popkewitz Alper, a blogger at Groovy Green Livin’ and a Healthy Child Healthy World Parent Ambassador told ABC Nightly News, “Moms are powerful. We’re not going to buy your products made with BPA. We’re not going to stand for it. It’s not fair. We’re talking about our children.”

Thanks to Lori for speaking for moms everywhere.

Toxic Flame Retardant Banned in New York

Last month, New York state banned TCEP, a toxic flame retardant chemical. The chemical joins TDCP or “Chlorinated Tris” which was banned from children’s pajamas after the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission found it carcinogenic in the 1970s. As we reported previously, these chemicals keep popping up in other children’s products like nursing pillows and car seats—where they’re still legal to include.

Strawberry Fields Forever—Pesticide Free?

In California, the news broke on March 20th that Arysta LifeScience had decided suspend sales of the pesticide methyl iodide—the equally toxic replacement to methyl bromide—which was primarily used on strawberry fields. The Monterey County Weekly reported that earlier that month, California Department of Pesticide Regulation Director Brian Leahy announced a $500,000 grant to the California Strawberry Commission toward research on farming with peat moss and rice hulls, rather than pesticides.

Cosmetics Industry Bill Would Make Things Worse

Our friends at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported the cosmetics industry dominated the first Congressional hearing in 30 years about personal care products and cosmetics safety. In essence, the industry is seeking to enshrine the status quo, which would make the current dangerous situation even worse by failing to protect the health of all of us who use personal care products and the workers who use products daily at nail and beauty salons. Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund wrote, “Essential public health protections could be set back another 70 years if industry gets away with writing its own laws that put industry profits over public health and handcuff states from taking action to protect people.” Stay up to date on the latest by visiting the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Lead and Cadmium Found in Jewelry

A recent HealthyStuff report found that 59% of cheap jewelry sold at stores like Forever 21 and Target contained one or more chemicals—including lead, cadmium and arsenic—considered to be health hazards, Time reported.

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff at 3:57 pm

Monday, April 9, 2012

How Can We Eat More Veggies?

By Anh Van Nguyen


I think we can all agree that vegetables should be an essential part of our diets. When I was living down in Ecuador, I had the privilege of being within walking distance of markets that sold fresh fruits and vegetables, straight from the farm. It was definitely convenient then to stop by a vegetable stand on my walk home from work to pick up some lettuce and other ingredients to make soup and salad for dinner.

Living in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, however, makes it a bit more difficult to eat healthy on a regular basis. When I do have the time to cook, I prefer something quick and easy. And washing, chopping, and the other steps that go into prepping veggies, not to mention having to plan out what to buy ahead of time, do not fall into the quick and easy category. I don’t know about you, but many times my veggies go bad long before I get around to cooking them.

These, of course, are not good enough excuses to cut vegetables out of my diet entirely. I decided to change my routine one step at a time, just to make it more manageable. Here are some tips:

1. Prep your vegetables at the beginning of the week. I find that if I have already chopped, trimmed, and washed, I’m more likely to add it to my meal. My Sunday evenings are pretty relaxed, and that is when I find time to myself to prepare for the coming week. I use this time to cut up lettuce to have salad on the go, as well as prep much of the veggies I’ve bought to cook during the week.

2. Cook in larger portions. I do not have time to cook every night of the week, so when I do have time, I make sure that there are plenty of leftovers. Bored with eating the same thing every day? Mix it up a little by using the leftovers in creative ways. My go-to method is to add them to fried rice. Voila, a whole new dish without all the effort.

3. Incorporate vegetables into every meal. You don’t need to limit yourself to lunch and dinner. How about a light salad for breakfast? Spinach brownies for dessert?

Pretty simple, right? It just takes a bit of creative thinking and planning. How do you add more vegetables to your family’s diets? Share your tips in the comments below.

Photo: Digital Vision

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 1:55 pm

Friday, March 30, 2012

How to Purge Toxic Chemicals From Your Home

By Margie Kelly

Toxic Chemicals

When it comes to getting toxic chemicals out of your home, is there any question that can’t be answered with “baking soda and vinegar”?

It’s true that you can get amazingly far with the combination of the two, but even the mighty union of baking soda and vinegar can’t solve all your toxic issues.

The book “Healthy Child Healthy World” is full of advice about how to create a cleaner, greener, safer home. Using that book as my North Star, in addition to the expertise generously shared with us over the years by Healthy Child Blogger Network members, I’ve pulled together a starting list for chasing toxic chemicals out of your home.

1.     Make or buy green cleaners

Baking soda and vinegar steal the spotlight in this category, and there are plenty of recipes for mixing up your own homemade green cleaner. But if you want to be able to buy something to get the job done, follow the cleaning tips from Betsy at Eco-novice.

Among my favorites are: avoid fragrance, don’t buy anything with scary warnings and danger labels, and search out products with verifiable eco labeling.

2.     Cleaning isn’t disinfecting

Loads of cleaning products, personal care products, and even socks contain antibacterials, which have been added to make you believe you’ll fend off harmful bacteria by using them. It’s not true. In fact, antibacterials cause more harm than good by leading to antibiotic resistance. Soap and water gets the job done without harming the environment or creating a new generation of “super germs.”

3.     Eat healthy and shop smart

Going organic is healthy and it is possible to do it without bankrupting your family. First, know which fruits and vegetables should always be organic (and avoid the Dirty Dozen) and which have the lowest amount of pesticide contamination. Dr. Alan Greene, a Healthy Child advisor, has compiled a top 10 list of foods you should buy organic, starting with milk.

4.     Skip cans

Many food and beverage cans are lined with the toxic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to breast cancer and other health concerns. Avoid cans to reduce your kids’ exposure to the chemical, as they are more vulnerable to the effects of hormone-disrupters like BPA.  As more companies bring BPA-free cans onto the market, keep your eyes open for BPA-free cans on store shelves and stay up to date on the issue by connecting with the Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans not Cancer campaign.

5.     Stay beautiful without chemicals

Personal care products, like shampoo, makeup, and lotions may contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to reproductive harm, cancer, and skin irritation. Avoid parabens in lotions and antibacterials, like trichlosan, a carcinogen that shows up in toothpaste (yuck). EWG’s Skin Deep website makes it easier for you to find products that are safer for you. Also check out Story of Cosmetics to get the big picture of the problem and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics so you can learn which lipsticks have lead and why it’s always smart to skip fragrances.

6.     Just say no to PVC

PVC is the worst of the plastics, made with toxic chemicals, including lead. PVC is identified by the #3 on the bottom and that “vinyl shower curtain smell,” which is the result of toxic chemicals called phthalates off-gassing into your home. Unless you make a point to avoid PVC, you’ll inadvertently fill your house with the toxic stuff, as it is ubiquitous and found in plastic food wrap, soft squeeze toys, wallpaper, flooring, and more.  PVC is toxic, can’t be recycled, and is often the material of cheap, disposable toys that you don’t want in your kid sucking on or keeping in his or her toybox. Avoiding PVC is good for workers, your family, and the planet.

7.     Ban pesticides from your home and yard

Pesticides are poisons and, in most cases, their negative effects outweigh any short-term gain. Pesticides have been linked to a range of health problems, including asthma, hyperactivity and behavior problems, cancer, learning disabilities, reproductive disorders, and compromised brain development. Food storage solutions and good sanitation is the first step to preventing pests from entering your home. Removing your shoes at the door will prevent you from tracking in pesticides and other dirt from the yard and walkways into your living space. Instead of using herbicides on your lawn, yank weeds early, and use mulch to block weed growth. Use natural fertilizers and plants that bugs don’t like (like marigolds) to help keep pests out of your garden.

8.     Commit to buying and using less stuff !

Buy and use less stuff! The simple act of bringing a bag to the grocery store and using a refillable coffee mug or water bottle pays back great dividends and sets a good example for your kids. Do your best to avoid buying “throw-away” or single-use items. Invest in products and materials that will last; it saves trees, water, and money.

Remember: no one expects anyone to do everything on this list every day. My favorite Healthy Child motto is “No one can do everything but everyone can do something.”  Take it a step at a time and let us know what works best for you and your family.

Photo: Comstock

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 4:09 pm

Monday, March 26, 2012

Is Breastfeeding Revolutionary?

By Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff


I remember the first time I saw someone breastfeed. I was 27 and had just gotten married; one of my best friends had her baby the same year. We all sat around marveling at this amazing little being she had created and when he started to fuss, she fed him. It was miraculous.

A year later, I had my own baby to feed and I remembered what she told me: Put your baby on your breast the minute he is born. Even if there’s nothing coming out, keep doing it until there is.

I was lucky to have that advice, and to be able to successfully feed my son until he was a year old, and my daughters until they were each six months. I breastfed everywhere—at the market, in the park, sitting on a mall bench, even at Disneyland—without incident. Which is why it’s surprising to me how much fuss is being raised over breastfeeding today.

After Beyoncé discretely fed seven-week-old Blue Ivy in a New York restaurant, she was enthusiastically supported by breastfeeding activists, who noted that the simple act might change cultural perceptions. According to the CDC, breastfeeding is embraced by 74% of white mothers and only 54% of black mothers, despite organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending the practice for a minimum of six months.

But Beyoncé was also widely criticized by media such as “The View’s” Joy Behar, who said, “I would think twice if I were that big a star, drawing attention to myself.”

Public opinion seems to be leaning in the anti-breastfeeding direction.

In Georgia, a mother of four was forced out of church for breastfeeding—which her pastor compared to a “stripper performing,” according to the Huffington Post.

A Washington D.C. mother was accused of “indecent exposure” for breastfeeding her four-month-old in a public building, according to the Washington Post.

(She also happens to be a lawyer, and after confirming that she was protected by the Child’s Right to Nurse Human Rights Amendment Act of 2007, filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights.)

And despite the fact that 45 states have similar laws protecting a woman’s right to nurse, reports of similar cases keep popping up, inspiring “lactivists” to stage “nurse-ins,” such as those reportedly held at more than 200 Target stores in late December.

Do you have to be an activist to breastfeed? What’s your experience? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff at 12:00 am

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Are Fragrance-Free Products Safer?

By Margie Kelly


Have you noticed scents wafting throughout some stores and even airplanes? According to AdWeek, associating a scent with a brand is the latest retail trend.

It may seem like you’re smelling freshly cut grass or a citrus delight, but what you’re really inhaling is a combination of natural and synthetic mystery chemicals, some of which aren’t good for you.

Manufacturers who use fragrance for personal care products won’t tell you what’s in their chemical mixtures, hiding that information as a highly guarded trade secret. The federal law governing ingredient disclosure for cosmetics explicitly exempts fragrance ingredients, which makes consumers unable to make informed choices about what they are putting onto their skin.

“We’re spraying this stuff on our bodies and in our homes, and we have no idea what’s in it,” says Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of the book, Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. “We do know that typical fragrances often contain hazardous synthetic chemicals.”

Fragrance testing by advocacy organizations has revealed the average fragrance product has fourteen secret chemicals not listed on the label. Better known components of fragrance, including phthalates and DEP, are hormone disruptors. Other chemicals are sensitizers, which may set off allergic reactions.

According to one peer-reviewed study, 30% of people report adverse physical effects from fragrance exposure. The number is nearly 40% of people with asthma.

Strong reactions to chemical fragrances, plus a desire to bring fewer chemicals into the home have led consumers to demand manufacturers change their ways. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has identified 322 “Champions,” companies that fully disclose their ingredients on labels.

“These companies are showing it can be done and this is the direction all companies need to be going,” says Malkan.

Other manufacturers have created fragrance-free product lines. But are these products a solution for people who want to lessen their chemical exposure?

Unfortunately not. According Malkan, there is no legal definition for fragrance-free, so it could mean that chemicals are used to mask scents or that the product has no perceptible odor but may contain chemicals that pose health risks.

If a product claims to use “natural fragrance,” then the type of essential oil should be listed on the label. If not, call the company and ask them to provide you with that information.

“We recommend avoiding or at least reducing fragrance exposure, including fragrances in laundry detergents, lotions and other household products. Also see the Skin Deep database to search for products with no added fragrance.”

“But we can’t just shop our way out of this problem,” Malkan warns. “We also have to pass smarter laws to require companies to stop using hazardous chemicals and to require them to be honest about their products.”

Here are some tips to avoid or lessen your exposure to fragrance:

·      Check the ingredient list: look for products that don’t have any fragrance (but remember to be wary of “fragrance-free” claims)

·      Use less: If you can’t cut fragrance out of your life altogether, look for places where you can make that switch – maybe fragrance-free detergents? Or lotions?

Have you gone fragrance free for your health? How do you cut back on chemical scents? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo: Photos.comy

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 3:44 pm

Friday, March 2, 2012

Choosing a Pacifier and Teether

By Margie Kelly

Baby with Pacifier

I’ll admit I was ready to sell my soul for a pacifier my newborn would accept. I was so tired and delusional, I thought a pacifier would be magical, with powers to comfort the baby and allow me to sleep. But my son rejected it. Repeatedly.

Not every baby is as picky as mine, though, and when you go to pick out a pacifier, you’re faced with many choices. If your child is willing to take a pacifier, be sure to get one that is toxic-chemical free, which is easier to do now than it was just a few years ago. Since lots of babies love to suck as a way to comfort and soothe themselves (fun fact: sucking is a natural instinct that begins in the womb, as incredible ultrasound photos have shown us), it’s important to choose a safe sucking item as it  will be in their mouths quite frequently.

Fortunately, many pacifier makers got the message that moms don’t want their babies sucking on bisphenol A (BPA). Alicia Voorhies, co-founder of The Soft Landing said, “In our most recent update, we learned that most pacifier makers have followed suit after baby bottle manufacturers in removing BPA from their products. It’s fantastic news and drives home the fact that moms can apply consistent pressure to create change in the marketplace!”

There are a number of reputable sources to provide guidance on which type of pacifier and teethers to choose, including The Soft Landing and Safe Mama.

Remember, however, that recommendations are specific to each particular model; you can’t count on a brand to be toxic free across models. Be sure to download the lists and bring them to the store with you when you’re shopping for pacifiers.

Here are a few things to look for in a pacifier:

*     Go latex-free. Latex can run the risk of carcinogenic nitrosamines and there are many safer options on the market.

*     Choose a model free of BPA, PVC, and phthalates

*     Physical safety is a factor. Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene recommends you choose the right size for your baby’s stage; a newborn should use one designed for newborns. Also, make sure it’s a sturdy pacifier with a vented shield at least 1 ½ inches wide to prevent choking.

Cleanliness tip: Be sure to put pacifiers in the dishwasher to keep them clean and germ free.

Searching for teethers raises similar issues to choosing a pacifier. You want to give your child something safe and non-toxic to gnaw on to ease the pain of those sharp new teeth.

Kathy Scolerie, who blogs as Safe Mama, has advice for parents looking for teethers:

*          Choose teethers made of natural materials like wood and organic cotton.

*         Silicon is a safe option

*          Watch for new innovations, like the teether made from corn starch bioplastic

*         Always avoid BPA, PVC, and phthalates.

It’s also easy to make your own teethers! Here are some DIY remedies:

*      Cold food (frozen breastmilk or formula popsicles, slushy baby food, etc). Make sure it’s nothing that can be choked on.

*      A frozen washcloth (dipped in water or 100% apple juice).

*      Homeopathic teething gel or tablets.

*      Homeopathic Chamomilla and a gentle gum massage

Do you have any DIY tips? Have you found non-toxic pacifers readily available at your local stores? Share your finds and thoughts in the comments below:

Photo: Pixland

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 2:54 pm

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is There Arsenic in My Baby Formula?

By Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff

Baby Formula

Last week’s findings of arsenic in organic brown rice syrup may be even more frightening to parents than last year’s discovery of the cancer-causing substance in apple juice. That’s because organic brown rice syrup is ubiquitous in natural products—it’s used as a substitute for high fructose corn syrup.

The most recent study, from researchers at Dartmouth, found concentrations of arsenic of 23 to 128 parts per billion (ppb)—12 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking water limit of 10 ppb—in some cereal bars containing rice. (The EPA has not set safety levels for arsenic in food.)

High levels—as much as 20 times the EPA’s water safety level—were found in two organic infant formulas that contained organic brown rice syrup, leading Dr. Richard Besser, ABC’s Chief Health and Medical Editor, to recommend parents avoid formulas that contain the substance.

Where is the arsenic coming from? According to Environmental Health Perspectives, the arsenic is traced to residual pesticides, especially in areas of the southern United States where 1.6% of the world’s rice is grown. Rice grown in these areas contain 1.76 times more arsenic than rice grown in California, for example.

We checked in with our team for advice on takeaways from the study; our advisors recommended that parents be aware, but not unnecessarily alarmed.

“This new study underlines the need for the FDA to set safety levels for arsenic in food and beverages,” says Dr. Alan Greene, author of the “Raising Baby Green” book series, founder of the White-Out movement, and a Healthy Child Board Member. “For now, I recommend that rice not be the primary source of calories for babies, and that whatever rice they do get comes primarily from California and/or is tested for arsenic. Avoid conventional rice from countries still using arsenical pesticides. And, of course, I will welcome safety limits for arsenic in food and beverages that take the health of babies and pregnant women into account.”

At press time, two organic baby formula manufacturers released statements. Earth’s Best wrote that their formulas “do not contain brown rice syrup.” Nature’s One said that they depend on a “qualified, world renowned, third-party, independent lab to test arsenic levels in their organic brown rice syrup. Their testing results report undetectable amounts of arsenic at laboratory testing limits.”

Finally, because arsenic is present in our water supply in varying amounts, especially if you are using powdered formula mixed with water to meet your infant’s nutritional needs, you may want to check levels in your area. The Environmental Working Group provides a valuable resource to not only check the levels in your area, but also to find out which water filters can remove arsenic.

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff at 1:10 pm

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