Archive | October, 2011

Teflon Lined Diaper Bags

A recent question from Pearl on the Mommy Footprint fan page had me interested from the moment I read it.  Thank you for asking about Teflon lined diaper bags Pearl!  I had no idea that some of the many popular diaper bag options sold are lined with Teflon. Since reading Pearl’s question, I’ve spent a few hours researching the article from the standpoint “if I was to purchase a bag with Teflon lining, how would I dispose of this material at the end of the bags life?”.  Well, I cannot find a way for an owner of a diaper bag to dispose of the Teflon after the bag’s use is over. Not only that, most articles about Teflon lined diaper bags think it’s okay to use this material since the bag won’t be licked or eaten from. I’m not a chemist or scientist but the problem with Teflon is when the material is heated. So why would you worry about that in a diaper bag? I go back to my initial argument about how you’ll dispose of the bag once it’s cracked and smelly? You cannot recycle the materials it’s made from so it’s going into the garbage. What happens to garbage? It gets incinerated. The toxic chemicals that teflon omits are called Perfluoinated Teflon Pollutants: PFOA and PFOS. You have no doubt heard of these compounds because environmentalists have been suggesting for years to not cook with Teflon frying pans because of PFOA and PFOS. Why are these chemicals such a big deal?  They are some of the worst chemicals in the environment today because once they are released they never go away. They can be found in all humans (babies still in utero), whales, and polar bears in the arctic that have never made themselves eggs using a Teflon pan. This fact shows how destructive these chemicals are to the environment and to our children! These chemicals are causing infertility, tumors, thyroid disruption and weakened immune systems.   Even if your diaper bag doesn’t end up in the incinerator – PFOA is released into the environment when produced. Like PVC, it is toxic from the time it’s produced and there is no way to dispose of it without causing further harm to the environment and human health.

It’s long been documented that DuPont who creates Teflon in their Virginia plant has had to compensate their employees for their elevated levels of rare cancers and birth defects with their children.  Let’s take a moment to remember that there is a rule when trying to decide as a consumer if a product should enter your home. If something is bad for the environment – it is bad for human health. I’ve said this many time on Mommy Footprint and if there is a material or chemical that meets this criteria, it’s Teflon. So in my mind, it doesn’t matter if a baby or mom is licking the diaper bag because it’s lined with one of the most environmentally damaging materials in use today. Do I want this material in my home, on my shoulder, or close to my baby?

A few other random checkpoints came up while I was looking at different models of diaper bags. Many models talk about a ‘foam’ or memory foam that is inside the change mat for added comfort. Here is a Mommy Footprint test. What question as consumers do we always have to ask when a product has foam and it’s going to be near our baby?  Synthetic foam is a highly flammable material so what needs to be added so it passes North American regulation?  If you answered flame retardants you have been listening!  I would mark this as another question to ask when purchasing a diaper bag with a change pad. Has the foam inside the diaper bag or change pad been treated with flame retardants?  If they cannot answer this question, you’ve got your answer.

Lastly, a covering of scotch guard or antibacterial coating or protection on a diaper bag might be marketed as an amazing feature. Yes, children poo, throw-up, and more around a diaper bag, but doesn’t it make more sense to create a product that is washable rather than coated with chemicals to ‘protect’ against germs?  Scotchgard has the same effect on the environment as Teflon by distributing PFOA into the environment with devastating consequences.  We also know that products that are marketed as containing an antimicrobial agent – you are looking at nanoparticles that are largely unknown for health effects and destroying healthy and bad germs that it comes into contact with. I would recommend always avoiding these marketing tactics because chemicals that belong in hospitals for their strong level of antibac properties can contain triclosan and the concern over the rise in bacterial resistance in our children.

So thank you Pearl for asking me a question that in your heart you already knew the answer.  I felt very emotional researching this topic because once again products geared to mothers, breast feeding mothers, and babies often contain chemicals that are extremely toxic to nature and health. I always like to give examples of where I would shop or point someone looking for safer alternatives in wet bags or diaper bags. Let me introduce an amazing woman that creates hand-sewn, one of a kind creations and bags…

Pip’ n’ Milly Creations is Fiona’s store and she makes diaper bags with lots of functional pockets from natural materials that are washable.  I love that you can pick your own fabrics and work with an artist to create a hand-crafted work of art for a diaper bag!  Working with an artist that can make you a diaper bag ensures you know the materials being used. A really easy cheat sheet when researching diaper bags to narrow down synthetic materials is to ask:

Does this bag contain:

~ flame retardants in the foam?
~ teflon in the liner?
~ PVC in the liner?
~ antibacterial or scotchgard on outer fabric?

If a company cannot answer these questions, you are not purchasing a chemical free diaper bag. Diaper bags cost a lot of money!  Make it an important aspect of planning a baby shower or wish list for gifts and research the key items…not only for the effects that product will have on baby, but on the world they are inheriting!

Related Articles:

Antibacterial Products Heading Back To School


Car Seats and Flame Retardants


Is You’re Child’s Bed or Crib Toxic?


Self Cleaning Oven – Toxic for Humans Or Only Birds?

 

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Spoooooky Disposable Tableware!

Greening celebrations & Halloween is a hot topic this year. One aspect of party planning that many hosts struggle to green is when using disposable tableware, specifically at children’s parties and Halloween. But we’ve made advances in biodegradable and compostable disposable tableware options and it’s never been easier to keep the fun and excitement and  the environmental impact low at these celebrations. Don’t believe me?  Check out the awesome pictures of bagasse plates stamped with beet juice at the bottom of this post.

Halloween parties don’t have to be a wasteful affair – make a goal to host a little or no-waste party. We’ve already talked about Halloween decorating so lets talk tableware. I agree that some of the printed/licensed napkins, plates and cups are adorable for Halloween, but it’s important to green this aspect of party planning. With the proper Eco-friendly tabletop accents**, this is the easiest area to green and guests will love the effect of earth friendly disposable tableware!  Using your own dishware is the best way to booster your green with party planning, but this isn’t always a practical option. We host an annual Halloween party and I know with over 20 kids running through my house, there’s no way I’m giving them my everyday dishes.  Here are some Eco-friendly options for disposable tableware & some spooky facts you’ll want to learn about traditional cups and plates..

Hot Cups:

Bring out the hot chocolate or apple cider, but make sure you’re using hot cups lined with PLA.  Traditional paper hot cups are lined with petroleum-based resin. Ever wondered why you get that nasty after taste after you’ve purchased a coffee or hot drink from a cafeteria or store? This is plastic melting and being absorbed into your body.  Compostable hot cups are a great addition to your next party because the interior resin of the cups is lined with PLA (poly lactic acid) which is derived from renewable resources such as sugarcane and starches (corn).

We all know styrofoam cups (styrofoam anything for that matter) are terrible for the environment. But if we truly understood their destruction many of us, including myself, would stand up and make more noise when we see it being used.  I ran across this description of styrofoam used by the Wonkette talking about the U.S. Capitol bringing styrofoam back into their cafeteria after banning it for 4 years. Sometimes it’s great to have a description that doesn’t sugar coat to stick into our minds if a business or event service needs a reminder about how bad styrofoam is. Quote from Wonkette:

“Foamed polystyrene” is a miraculous invention that manages to be completely awful through every step of its near-eternal “life cycle” — it is manufactured with petroleum that must be imported from Middle East dictatorships, toxic “styrene oligomers” migrate into the food it holds, it’s highly flammable and produces black poisonous smoke, and most of the 25 billion polystyrene cups tossed every year will take more than half a millennium to degrade.

Sometimes it takes shocking statistics to really reinforce that these products should never been used because of the environmental consequences. Let’s also not forget that polystyrene is a strong plastic that is ‘foamed’ into Styrofoam. I sometimes forget that Styrofoam is plastic because of the different texture but it’s polystyrene created from erethylene and benzine that is inject or blow molded. Do you want to pour hot liquid into this soup of plastic materials?

Plates:

Traditional Halloween disposable party plates hmmmmm pick your evil a) licensed paper plates made from virgin trees and inked with toxic dye 2) Styrofoam plates that are devastating to the environment 3) plastic plates that take forever to biodegrade and often end up polluting our forests and water.  Now think about using compostable plates. Not only are they biodegradable, but also compostable as they are made from excess plant materials that otherwise would have gone to waste! The first option for plates is perfect for Halloween, not because they are scary, but fit into the theme of Fall beautifully because palm leaf plates are manufactured from fallen leaves. It is very cool to tell a child that a leaf fell from a tree, was picked up for a villager, cleaned with die, and shaped into a plate. Little children and all party guests will understand this story and love learning how palm plates are made without any disruption to the tree and because they are made without dyes, wax, finishes of any kind ~ they are compostable and a very earth friendly option with party tableware. An other option with biodegradable and compostable plates are those made from bagasse which is a fibrous pulp that is left over after processing sugar cane. A cool story as well because this material would have otherwise been turned into waste and again, no trees are used in the manufacturing of these plates. So although they are stamped ‘tree free’ along the edge, guests may assume they are a paper plate because of the color and texture. Make sure to inform party guests about the bagasse plates so they don’t assume they are made from paper. One way to catch guests attention is to personalize these party plates. I use beet juice to dye the homemade play dough I made my children.  This way I get a brightly colored play dough using vegetable dye rather than brightly colored play dough from using synthetic food coloring. Well why not stamp your bagasse plates with a rubber stamp and beet juice?  You are using a natural dye to make these plates look different that will create some buzz and questions. It’s also super fun for the kids! My niece and I tried this tonight and the results were fantastic. She also loved learning how an organic substance like beet juice should be used to stamp with because you wouldn’t want any other material like traditional ink a guest’s plate that will contain food. The texture of the bagasse plates is great for absorbing the beet juice and also makes for very strong plates.

** Tabletop accents. We’ve decided on a mixture of ways to dress-up our Halloween tabletop for this year’s party. We are painting little pumpkins and gourds from our local patch and making them into ghosts and black cats. We’ve also sprinkled some pine cones and crazy shaped gourds from the patch. Felt appliques that act as reusable confetti are also a great way to punch up a table.

This post is part of the 2011 Greening your Halloween Blog Tour brought to us by Green Planet Parties, Green Halloween, Green Gift Guide, Surf Sweets and A Little Bit of Momsense.

Related Articles:

Halloween…How Will You Green?

 

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Rice Cereal – Join The Whiteout Campaign

We are all witnessing a huge movement sweeping across North America…and it’s pretty awesome. A collective force of people wanting to improve their health, reduce chemical exposure, and protect children from a host of diseases through local, organic, and home cooked meals. I love all the articles I’m reading about canning food, growing backyard produce, raising chickens for fresh eggs and more!  There is also a campaign spearheaded by Dr. Alan Greene & Cheryl Greene called The Whiteout Movement. Quite simply, they are calling out to parents in the hopes of reducing the number of babies being introduced to white rice cereal. It seems to be one of the most common beginner steps with food introduction with babies. The goal is to return to feeding babies at the dinner table, with the family, letting them taste and sample ‘real food’ rather than processed white rice cereal.  Why is white rice cereal so bad?  The number one ingredient is processed white rice flour.  The idea that introducing and giving a baby white cereal is that the child’s long term food preferences are influenced by early food exposures. According to Dr. Greene:

At this critical window of development, ripe with opportunity, we are giving babies a concentrated, unhealthy carb. Metabolically, it’s not that different from giving babies a spoonful of sugar.

I found the information under the Whiteout FAQ very helpful.  I’m past the solid food/baby stage in my family, but I would have loved options when starting my last 3 children on solid foods. All four were exclusively breast fed for 6 months but the last three suffered from such severe constipation the day I started rice cereal I actually skipped cereal altogether and went straight to regular food.  One time in my parenting journey that I actually listened to myself and I’m so glad I did.  Very cool that Dr. Greene is not trying to call negative attention to companies that sell white rice cereal, rather his goal is for every child’s first grain to be a whole grain and even though baby’s first food doesn’t need to be a cereal, the easiest switch is to purchase a whole grain version of baby cereal. Here are more quotes from the Whiteout FAQ that really got my attention.  Parents-to-be have you heard about delayed cord clamping? It’s included in the FAQ below – a great point to talk to your Dr. about!

During that precious first year, it takes an average of 6 to 10 exposures in a positive environment for 85% of babies to imprint on a flavor and texture. If a baby gets 14 such exposures, it’s even morel likely. Since I was born, most American babies, myself included, have been given that many meals of just processed white flour before being exposed to any other food. This same flavor preference turns into unhealthy kid’s meals and junk food, including too many cupcakes, soft hamburger buns, and too much white bread.

Rice cereal is also the #1 source of food calories for typical babies (after breast milk and formula) all the way from the first breath until they take their first steps and become toddlers.

Processed white flour is the single largest food influence on taste preferences and metabolism during the entire first year. It’s no wonder we have a snowballing obesity and diabetes epidemic.

Let every child’s first food be a real food. My preference for the first bite is to give a baby a bite of something they’ve seen the parent eat, something they’ve seen come from the produce aisle, a CSA, garden, or a farmers’ market. I love avocados, sweet potatoes (cooked until soft), or bananas as a first bite — mashed with a fork with some of the breast milk or formula they’ve already been getting.  ** I love this one! **

Babies need plenty of iron for their growing bodies and brains. Is breast milk inadequate? It appears that babies are designed to get iron from both breast milk and directly from their mothers at birth.

Unfortunately, in the 20th century it became vogue to quickly clamp the umbilical cord within 10-15 seconds after the head is delivered. If cord clamping isn’t rushed, and takes place when the umbilical cord stops pulsing (~60 to 180 seconds), the baby gets several tablespoons more blood, which could be enough iron to tide them over for an additional 3 months later on when they are starting solids. Thankfully, what the medical community calls “delayed” cord clamping is now becoming more common.

To be sure your baby is getting enough iron you have several other options:

Choose an iron-fortified whole grain baby cereal.
Give supplemental iron drops. (It’s what’s added to the cereal anyway.)
Choose iron-rich foods for your baby.
Get plenty of iron yourself, if nursing.
Use cast iron for cooking for your baby or the rest of the family.

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Autumn Magic with Shutterfly

Long time readers of Mommy Footprint know that Fall is simply my season. I love everything about it – the colors of nature and the seasonal activities usually take place at a farm or Halloween themed soiree. It’s been a few years since my family has taken family pictures and I’ve always wanted to have a photographer come to the pumpkin patch with me and the kids because the colors of a pumpkin patch and farm would make the most beautiful back-drop. This is what we did on Saturday and I’ve had a few sneak peeks from my friend and photographer Michelle and I’m thrilled with the results. I thought I’d write about this for a few reasons. When you get started on Christmas gifts early, stress just seems to melt away in late December when we all start making last minute, impulsive purchases. If you get a series of matching pictures on a Fall day, you can create wonderful grandparent/spouse gifts using Shutterfly. If you have never been to the Shutterfly site – get ready to love the fresh & hip background designs, plus how easy it is to make a high quality photobook, calendars for 2012, etc.

I will be uploading 30 pictures from our day at the Pumpkin Patch into a photobok and I hope to have my ‘Grandparent’ Christmas gifts done early. You can personalize with little messages under each photo to talk about your kids or direct  the conversation to the person receiving the gift. Shutterfly photobooks are actually on sale right now, so do yourself a favour….grab a friend or photographer and head to a park where leaves are falling, a pumpkin patch, apple barn, etc. and let the kids have fun & play while taking great candid shots! I love doing photobooks with a series of pictures from one special outing.  I always go for the larger photo book available (12×12 with hard cover). Here is a peek of my family – what a great day it was to go outside & play!

 

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