Archive | May, 2010

EWG Sunscreen Guide & Surprising Truths Parents Need To Read

I’m very appreciative of the folks at EWG (Environmental Working Group) for their hard work to help parents decipher through the toxic world of cosmetics, bath products, sunscreens and more. A few days ago, EWG issued a news release stating they only recommend 8 percent of all sunscreens. The reasons are exaggerated SPF claims and new developments in understanding possible hazards of some sunscreen ingredients – in particular Vitamin A.  Equally helpful is finding a business owner that has done their research on products they sell.  I often turn to Gwen, the owner of the web-based Nayla Natural Care to help me because she knows her stuff and I trust her. She has been great with providing information on the confusing topic of nanoparticles and sunscreen. This is one of the 9 ‘surprise truths‘ released by EWG so I’d like to start by summarizing some of the new – must read data listed on the EWG site. Some of the other ‘surprising truths’ in this article were kinda shocking for me and I encourage all parents to read the article in full.

All of the numbered bullets is direct research and quotes from the EWG site.

EWG Surprising Truths About Sunscreen

1) The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the FDA concur that “FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer”. The IARC recommends clothing, hats and shade as primary barrier to UV radiation and sunscreen should not be the first choice for cancer prevention. Read more here.

2) Some evidence that sunscreens might increase the risk of melanoma among sunscreen users. Scientists speculate that sunscreen users stay out in the sun longer or poor UVA protection over the last 30 years may have led to this surprising outcome. More info here.

3) In 2007 the FDA published draft regulations that would prohibit companies from labeling sunscreens higher than SPF 50+ because these values were misleading. ** Note from Suzanne – check out the article called Hall of Shame from EWG and lists Banana Boat Baby Max Protect, SPF = 100+ as a product with sky-high SPF protecting against sunburn but leaves skin exposed to damaging UVA rays. Think of how many parents read the title of the sunscreen and see the SPF 100+ and think they are giving their child the best sunscreen protection…it makes my stomach turn. **  More info here.

4) Adding to the confusion is the fact that sunshine serves a critical function in the body that sunscreen appears to inhibit – production of vitamin D. Read more info here.

5) The common sunscreen ingredient Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) may speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions. Troubling because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41 percent of all sunscreens. Read more info here.

6) Pick your sunscreen: nanomaterials or potential hormone disruptors. The major choice is between chemical sunscreens which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone systems and “mineral” sunscreens (zinc and titanium) which often contain micronized or nanoscale particles of those minerals. More info here.

7) Europe’s better sunscreens.   Sunscreen makers in Europe can select from among 27 chemicals for their formulations, compared to 17 in the US companies. Companies selling in Europe can add any of seven UVA filters to their products, but have a choice of only three when they market in the US. Read more here.

Some new information for some people I’m sure.  I’m even surprised by the strong emphasis from EWG on the focus of shade, clothing, and hats over sunscreen this year. Plus, more than ever the EWG’s new calculations for recommending safer sunscreens really eliminates more traditional sunscreen products and organic sunscreens on shelves today. Follow the quick tips for sourcing good sunscreen from EWG to best understand ingredients and products to avoid or look for:

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid: Oxybenzone, Vitamin A, added insect repellent
Sunscreen products to avoid: Spray, powders, SPF above 50+

Look for these sunscreen ingredients: Zinc, Titanium dioxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX
Look for these sunscreen products: Cream, broad spectrum protection, water resistant for beach, pool and exerice, SPF 30 + for beach & pool.

For a full list of all of these tips in one great guide – download the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Safer Sunscreens and post it where parents, co-workers, or family will see it. There are some wonderful tips that should be reviewed before the hot weather arrives for all of us.

Please check out next article on the topic of Nanoparticles from Gwen in our next post ~ Sunscreen Surprising Truths Part II. Gwen, the business owner of Nayla Natural Care continues to get more of my business because her sunscreen picks for the last few years have also been top picks from EWG. Join us while she breaks down the mystery behind nanoparticles in sunscreen.

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Home-Made & Natural Home Air Fresheners

I’ve always had a problem with traditional household air fresheners – glade plug-ins, fabreeze, etc. for a few different reasons. Before I knew they were toxic, I felt confused by their purpose because they would smell good for the first few minutes of entering some one’s home but within an hour I’d have a headache. These days, most people know these ‘air deodorizers’ are simply masking our home’s odors and in the process blowing phthalates and VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde chemicals throughout our house and into our bodies. Most air fresheners on the market contain levels of chemicals that are considered too high to be safe for humans and so the focus for this article is to promote hand-made air fresheners so you can trust the ingredient list. With the amount of green washing with ‘all-natural’ products on the market isn’t it nice to be in control of an ingredient list?

It is funny to learn the most effective way to removing odours from your home is opening a window. This must be why our grandparents look at us and shake their heads.  I also found an awesome stove-top recipe from the Cleaning Naked site that I love because it’s super inexpensive and the fastest way to create a completely natural room deodorizer – without any chemicals! Plus it takes less than 2 minutes to prepare and create which works well in this busy house!

Put 1/2 cup water in a small pan
Add cut up 1/2 lemon (or orange)
Add cinnamon sticks (approx. 4-8 sticks)
Bring to boil and let simmer

The aroma is amazing and you receive a rewarding scent like you’ve been baking all day. It’s the same cozy smell and the cinnamon is wonderful and warm.

Another reason I liked this natural, home made air freshener recipe is because most home-made air freshener recipes call for essential oils and they are quite expensive. I purchased my cinnamon sticks – about 20 of them for just over $1. We always have an orange (can be substituted in the recipe for the lemon) or lemon ready to go bad in the fridge…so it’s worked great for us.

For once I’ve managed a quick, short post so I wanted to add a funny story that recently happened with me and Fabreeze – just so you truly understand how much I dislike this product. My four kids and I took our dog to get groomed. While we were standing in the lobby, 2 dogs that were finished with their grooming walked into the waiting area and pooped and peed in front of where my kids were standing. My kids thought it was funny and I just moved them away from the waste. A groomer comes running out of the back room with a bottle of Fabreeze in her hand – poised and ready to shoot directly next to my head. Just like slow motion I screeched and blocked her from spraying the air freshener where me and my kids were standing. She looked at me like I was crazy (and my sons hid their faces in their hands with embarrassment) but I had no problem explaining simple facts to her. Like the fact if she’d blasted the Fabreeze anywhere need me, I would have had a headache for the entire day and because it’s so toxic I didn’t want it anywhere near my kids. I told her I preferred the smell of the poop and pee rather than being doused with chemicals. She had never heard of this before and actually thanked me for pointing it out. My sons can laugh about it now, but I know their crazy mother and her ‘toxin alerts’ are hard on them at times. I just want to point out that seeing that can pointed and ready to spray evoked such a strong reaction as a mom wanting to protect my kids. I think all parents would react this way – it’s just altering how we look at products after learning they are filled with chemicals – rather than ingredient you actually want sprayed around your home.

Related Articles:

Natural Tips to Improve Bedroom Air Quality

Protect Your Family From Phthalates In Your Home

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Ty & Lumi Organics

I’m so excited to talk about the newly launched Ty & Lumi Organics site ~ formerly called Snug As A Bug ~ this company is rockin incredible organic bedding designs for babies and young children.  Their new ecommerce site is amazing (love the logo), with product designs, baby bedding sets, and a business concept that I love, involving manufacturing organic bedding right here in North America.

Ty & Lumi bedding is extremely fun, safe, and adorable to look at, but this company is doing something very unique that is lowering cost and bringing their customers savings when sourcing organic bedding. Founder Jill discovered over a year ago that she could source organic cotton fabric within Canada and silkscreen Ty & Lumi designs locally and this would all cost less than importing organic cotton fabrics from overseas. It is not very often choosing the local route to manufacture products is less expensive and I was buzzing when owner Jill and Wendy explained this concept during their interview. Their silkscreen process uses water based inks to ensure additional reduction in skin irritation for babies.

Ty & Lumi have your nursery bedding requirements completely covered with one-stop shopping for fitted crib sheets, duvet covers, blankets, sleep sacks, change table/bassinet covers, and burp cloths. Ty & Lumi have created 5 incredible designs – it’s tough to pick a favorite!

~ Sleeping Green ~

~ Moo Moo ~

~ Snug As A Ladybug Pink ~

Another very smart and customer friendly option for their customers are Ty & Lumi bedding sets. Funny if you compare prices of the bedding sets at Babies R Us or other big box stores with the Ty & Lumi sets…the different in price is not far apart. Even better – the Ty & Lumi sets are organic and contain items you actually need for your crib and baby. I’m very practical and would rather give or receive items like a wool organic duvet, organic cotton duvet cover, organic cotton blanket, organic fitted crib sheet, sleep sack ~ rather than a crib skirt and bumper pad items that really don’t get full-use. Check out my favorite set on their site and don’t let the name Blanket Set deceive you. It contains a Sleepy Sheep wool duvet, duvet cover, cotton fitted crib sheet, and blanket. They’ve really covered all your bases with this package and it’s affordable for organic bedding at $369.00 – we are talking about a high quality organic wool duvet and all organic, locally made bedding – it’s a great price. Teaming up with Sleepy Sheep, who provide the beautiful wool duvets (who we’ve written about and are big fans) creates very convenient one-stop shopping for expecting parents. For those fans of sleep sacks, there are also special sets that contain a sleep sack instead of the blanket.

Ty & Lumi has really produced lovely options for parents who don’t want to compromise style for sourcing safe bedding for babies with delicately forming nervous systems. I know I’ve battling the question of quality over cheaper price point items before and bedding is no exception. But how cute the designs are mixed with the fact Ty & Lumi are manufacturing this bedding line local to where the fabrics are actually printed and shipped from (in Canada Whoot!) is just a superb business model and one that should be supported. Also it’s important to check organic certification and Ty & Lumi is Oeko-Tex certified. I’ve often seen this level of certification and asked Jill to explain what it means in an easy-to-understand paragraph. Here is her response:

The Oeko-Tex Certification is an International testing and certification system for textiles (Oeko-Tex Standard 100) and companies (Oeko-Tex Standard 1000). Textile samples are tested for the presence of harmful chemicals that have been known to persist on fabric (formaldehyde, pesticides, heavy metals, loose dye/colour, phthalates, chlorinated organic carriers, dyestuffs, allergy-inducing dyestuffs and preservatives such as pentachlorophenol and tetrachlorophenol). Oeko-Tex Certification is not an organic certification. However, it does test for some pesticides such as ones that are known to be harmful but are not yet banned. Many of the harmful chemicals it tests for are ones that are used in the fabric preparation process. Since babies are so small, their bodies are more susceptible to harmful chemicals. These chemicals can cause skin irritation and breathing problems. Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Product Class 1 is great for infants with eczema and asthma.

The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certification consist of four categories:

* Product Class I: Products for Babies up to 3 years
* Product Class II: Products with Direct Contact to Skin (i.e. clothes)
* Product Class III: Products without Direct Contact to Skin (i.e. linings, stuffings)
* Product Class IV: Decoration Material

The highest and most difficult certification to obtain is Product Class I. This certification means that a child can suck on the fabric and no harmful substances will come off.

Ty and lumi fabrics are organic (they are grown from non-genetically modified seed and without the use of toxic chemicals) and they are Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Product Class 1 certified.

I’m excited to announce our latest contest here at Mommy Footprint, as Ty & Lumi Organics has generously provided a signature organic fitted sheet – the winner of the contest selects their colour. The retail cost of this product is $64 and it’s so important to have a breathable, organic material close to where baby spends so many hours of it’s day. Thanks Jill & Wendy!

Contest will close May 28th and you can be entered to win by posting a comment on the Mommy Footprint Facebook fan page or via the Contest Referral Form. Everyone has a baby shower to attend this summer and this fitted organic crib sheet is a thoughtful, practical, and very much appreciated gift for any expecting mom.

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Organic Mattresses Questions & Research

Excitement has been brewing in our house for the past few days because a long time goal has been finally accomplished by my sons. My boys ages 6 & 8 have patiently waited through the last 2 Christmases, birthdays, tooth-fairy visits, etc. with their eye on a pretty big goal…. to purchase their own bunk bed! My guilt of not being able to run out and purchase this bed when my boys first started asking 2 years ago has completely disappeared watching how proud my boys are of this big purchase.  In our world where our children are accustomed to instant gratification – my boys have learned the value of saving their money. I’m also getting to put some Mommy Footprint knowledge and research to work because I’ve told my husband from the beginning that my goal was to purchase organic mattresses for the boys, since we don’t have mattresses that will fit a bunkbed. Because my 8 year old son has asthma I know an organic mattress is a must and if we can swing organic pillow cases and sheets – we’ll try to provide this too. Asking questions when researching mattresses has been a great refresher for me and I wanted to share since my questions and research because they are a great guide for an expecting mom trying to purchase a chemical free mattress for a crib or like myself, for an older child.

Questions to ask when purchasing a mattress:

~ What is the mattress made with? You need either the sales person or manufacturer to tell you what each layer of the mattress is made with – these are the materials you are not able to see. Does the mattress have metal coils, natural latex, wool, organic cotton, bamboo? Really these materials should be the only ones listed with an organic mattress. If there is polyester, polyurethane foam, or ? –  the mattress cannot truly be called organic.

~  Once you find out what the inside of the mattress is made with ask how all the materials are treated. How were the bugs removed from the sheep’s wool that was used?  Was it dipped in chemicals or an organic substance to remove dirt, bugs, etc.? Find out how each layer of the mattress was treated before it was built – these should not be difficult questions for a person selling a product that costs hundreds of dollars.  A hugely important topic is the issue of flame retardants with mattresses. The US standards for flame retardants is much more strict than Canada so ask how the company has protected the mattress with flame retardants. Steer clear if the mattress is chemically treated because there are organic or natural solutions with flame retardants that organic manufacturers can safely apply. I think it’s safe to assume if a mattress contains polyurethane foam – it’s had to be chemically treated with flame retardants because of how flammable this material is.

~ What material is on the outside of the mattress? If a crib or young child’s mattress is being marketed as ‘water proof’ – ask what the water proof material is covering the mattress.  This is also an important questions because this material is in closest proximity to your child. Does the shiny, smooth surface contain vinyl, PVC, or phthalates? A safer plastic that is food grade safe and doesn’t off-gass is polyethylene.  If you don’t need a water-proof exterior to your mattress, organic cotton, 100% cotton, various types of bamboo are great natural mattress alternatives.

~ Bonus question “where are the materials manufactured” and “where are the mattresses made?” There are many mattress companies that are manufacturing their mattresses local to where they distribute within Canada and the US.

Organic Bedding:

~ What material is the bedding made with? What are the patterns printed with (inks plant based, etc.)? Where are they made or manufactured?  To be honest, I haven’t done much research with older boy bedding because the options out there are very slim…especially with organic bedding. Have the organic bedding distributors not figured out that boys over the age of 4 don’t want to sleep on deer and owl printed sheets?  I personally would LOVE it if they would…but there is no way in this house. We need to encourage older boys with organic camouflage, sports themed, or action packed prints that are printed and created with non-toxic inks and materials.

An exciting time in our house mixed with the usual amount of research and questions. I know it drives my husband and children crazy, but I cannot purchase a new item that is toxic – the concept just doesn’t make sense to me. We’ve never purchased new mattresses for the kids before as they’ve been using hand-me-down mattresses for years. I’m completely beside myself with excitement to have them sleeping on materials I know aren’t off-gassing and giving them restful and healthy sleep.

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The Bamboletta Story

If business owners or consumers doubt that today’s economy cannot support the local handmade movement – they haven’t heard of Bamboletta. Made with love, proud founder Christina began hand-crafting Waldorf dolls in 2002 and 8 years later, there aren’t words to explain the growth and popularity of her magical little ‘Bambos’. Because of Christina and husband’s John desire to keep these dolls made locally by her team of mama doll makers, there isn’t a way to meet the growing demand for these dolls, but the intimate working environment of supporting many moms and paying them well is worth the growing pains to Christina and John. The 15 hours of dedicated work that goes into each Bamboletta doll – hand stuffed, sewed, knitted by 8 Bambo team members is what parents around the world are opening their arms to embrace. Christina is very modest, but her hand-made movement has inspired and enlightened thousands of people and it’s the dedication to her business model of supporting a local, handmade dedication that just might be the Bamboletta legacy.

The beauty of a Bamboletta doll is instant – the moment you see one you will fall in love. Not only is the quality of a Bamboletta doll difficult to find, but the special details of a Bambo’s face and hair is almost impossible to match. Bamboletta doll faces have the detail of a plastic doll – but they are handstitched and made with natural cotton. The finest materials have been sourced and it’s why Bambos stand out so easily compared to mainstream dolls. Bamboletta dolls are filled with top quality wool that naturally repels water or mold, a mixture of hand dyed wool and yarns that are mixed for incredible hair results, and the sweet little faces embroidered by Christina are my favorite part of Bambos – especially when those faces have a smattering of little freckles. I’ve included some pictures of my favorite Bambolettas – here is a taste of Christina’s magic.

Yes – there will be lots of doll pictures in this post – honestly it’s hard to stop once you start looking through the wonderful galleries of photos. The infectious beauty of the dolls is already prevalent – my desire to cover the Bamboletta Story is my awe of the mama power that has changed the way tens of thousands of parents have decided to support and stalk (for lack of a better word) the phenom known as Bamboletta. Does it make sense that in today’s shaky economy that a doll selling for $140 would be something that thousands of moms are trying to purchase every week? In financially challenging times – why is this business experiencing high waves of consumers that would do practically anything to have the opportunity to purchase a Bambo?  If you follow The Bamboletta fan page on Facebook – you will find your answer. It is understanding the love that is put into the creation of each one-of-a-kind dolls that passes through this network of special people. It becomes immediately apparent that each Bambo is loved before it’s shipped out for orders, complete with an individual hair style, outfit, and name that somehow completely suits each doll. It is also the story behind the business. It is this doll maker sharing her experience of personal angst and turmoil with the fact she is not able to meet the demand of producing enough dolls to satisfy the thousands of people trying to purchase one. Then it is the quiet confidence you also feel from Christina and John knowing that if the option is to mass produce these special dolls, some of the Bambo magic would be lost. It is actually a wonderful thing to realize that so many parents are supportive of this business concept and you can feel the deep satisfaction and joy from Christina and John knowing the commitment to quality is more important.  There are so many examples to list of this business model but my favorite is that so many of the new dolls still come with little sweaters that are made by Christina’s Nonna who has supported her from the beginning.

When you are new to the process of trying to purchase a Bamboletta doll – frustration can become a familiar emotion. We as consumers are not used to waiting months for something we REALLY want to purchase.  Usually we go on-line or to the store, pay our money and have instant gratification. Well acquiring a Bambo takes a bit more patience.  I personally spent 7 months trying to purchase a Bambo for my girls. I started in the Fall thinking I could purchase 2 ( I have twin girls) in time for Christmas, but it was just not to be. I would read Christina’s words to other mamas on her Facebook wall explaining that Bambolettas just seem to go to those when the time is right. At the time, this explanation didn’t sooth my feelings of frustration. Then a month ago I was successful and have two very special Bambolettas hidden away to give my daughters.  Of course I will not be waiting until Christmas to give them these dolls – that would take away too many months of special play time. I’ve been planning to give them to my girls after the Mother’s Day tea at the preschool where I’ve been able to celebrate with my children for the past 4 years. This year, I will have my twins both sitting with me during this special time and I’ve been searching for a way to explain to them how much I adore them. This Friday I hope my girls know that I cannot think of a more magical, special, unique, quality friend for them than a Bamboletta. The idea of sitting in the preschool forest and giving my girls their Bambo boxes puts a smile on my face every night before I fall asleep. There aren’t many presents since becoming a parent I’ve been this excited to give.

I’ve been writing this article in my head for almost a year and I hope it doesn’t just bring more excited parents to the Bamboletta site, but encourages business owners to wake up and realize that success is measured in many different ways. Supporting handmade, supporting local craftsman, supporting a local economy is key to North America’s financial success and if you need any proof – take a peek over to a magical little house on Vancouver Island where the measure of success shines brightly from a craftswoman sewing dolls and fulfilling best friend wishes for children all over the world. How wonderful for Christina to know that her sons will always remember their mom carrying around a purse filled with a doll partially embroidered – what an incredible role model of following your heart and sticking to a clear vision filled with integrity and determination.

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