Archive | Childhood eczema

Air Freshener Options

Regular readers of Mommy Footprint know a few things about me… I’m scent sensitive and normally can’t tolerate air born particles from air fresheners, plug-ins, perfume, cleaners, etc. You see, when a person is sensitive to chemical scent, you can smell things most people can’t, triggering headaches and other reactions. So when our friends from Urban Forest Soaps sent me air fresheners to review I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I do know lots of people that won’t give up the convenience of a spray to combat odor so I tried the air freshener/linen spray and tested on my mattress, pillows, and used as a room freshener, I was actually surprised that I didn’t get a headache. It was also nice to have a linen spray to use while my pillows were out in the sunlight getting dust mite maintenance. I won’t turn into a daily air freshener user but I’m happy to recommend this to people that need one. And if you’re thinking you don’t need to replace that big bottle of Febreeze or Plug-In – the rest of this article is for you; to remind everyone why traditional air sprays are so bad. Not just for us lot that are sensitive – but the toll they have on human health.

If you read this article and want a 100% organic solution for air freshness  – think back to how our grandparents did things: bake something with cinnamon or open a window. Want a longer term solution? I have a friend named Marisol that wasn’t going to give up her air fresheners and after listening to her reasons why, I know there’s more people that feel the same and want something easy and convenient. A good rule to follow is looking for options that release scent using essential oils. Here is a link to the sprays I was sent from Urban Forest Soap and I like they only contain two ingredients (witch hazel, organic floral water) and have a light scent that dissipates quickly. I tried the lavender and orange sprays and really liked them both. I sent them to my friend Marisol to test for me since she likes linen sprays and room deodorizers to see if I could convert her – she’s also very honest! She wasn’t a fan of the orange spray but is still happily using the lavender and has replaced using Febreeze type products to spray clothing, bedding, air, and her car. I’ll call that is a success story! It is important to note that just because a product contains essential oils – you might still find the scent or oils irritating.

Why am I so against traditional air fresheners? They are loaded with chemicals that cause cancer, effect fertility, and can effect brain/nervous systems. A bottle of Febreeze only lists 3 ingredients on their packaging – do you know how many actually exist in this air freshener? The EWG released an article finding 89 air contaminants within a bottle of Febreze Air Effects and the chemicals of concern according to this report are scary! Here are only three of the many chemicals but it gives you an idea of how serious these chemicals are. Read the full list here:

BHT: Neurotoxicity, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Occupational hazards

ACETALDEHYDE: Cancer, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs)

FRAGRANCE: Neurotoxicity, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Miscellaneous

Do you want to know what is disclosed on the exterior label of the same bottle of Febreeze tested by EWG? “Odor eliminator, water, fragrance, non-flammable natural propellant, quality control ingredients.” There aren’t regulations on the use of harmful chemicals in air fresheners so as you can see, reading labels with traditional sprays won’t help us. Another place to check for air fresheners is your workplace or school bathrooms. I can’t think of anything I’d rather not have my children inhaling every time they enter a school bathroom than those chemicals found in air fresheners (you know those pink pucks found behind the toilets?  Yeah those!). Allergies and asthma are exasperated with spraying air-born chemicals so make sure you check what is flying around day cares, dance/gymnastic studios, schools, and locker rooms where your children spend large amounts of time. And for those that need something to spray  – Tricia from Urban Forest Soaps has you covered!

This article is being written just at the crest of Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Don’t get forget there is a lot of marketing for synthetic scents to spread the smells of Christmas (cinnamon, candy canes, and trees) around your house. Make sure they are the real thing rather than off-gassing with chemicals. Try this great DIY recipe for the stove top with cinnamon sticks and orange – it will fill your house with scent, without the chemicals. While your reading this article – scroll down further and read a story about my first encounter with a women using Febreeze around my children. My kids were shocked by my reaction but we all laugh about it now.

Related Articles:

Natural Tips to Improve Bedroom Air Quality

Think Before Using Fragrance

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Save Money & Green Back-to-School Supplies!

I have never ordered a pre-assembled kit of back-to-school supplies. My oldest child used to feel left out when every other child in his class was given ‘the box’ on the first day of school but now he has no problem bringing his decorated shoe box with more carefully selected school supplies inside. At this stage of my parenting journey, I’m not even sure I would pay the money to have a green pre-assembled school supplies kit provided for my children because I think we often forget about reusing with back to school. For the last few years, at the end of the school year, I parked their books and supplies in a bag or box and forgot about them in a closet. This year I combed through previous years of supplies and to my delight I won’t need to purchase many new items! Check out the sets I made from mixed sets of crayons – I have four complete sets for each of my kids!

I wasn’t sure if teachers would mind if supplies weren’t new and I was reminded by a reader and teacher on the MF fanpage that a crayon color spectrum is really more important for your children than the teacher. Purchasing Crayola products goes against so much of what I believe in because they are a huge company that doesn’t have the manufacturing standards I usually support –  so it’s been a relief to realize it’s up to my kids if they only want 6 beeswax or soy crayons in art supplies that are made in North America and don’t contain petroleum. The Clementine brand I point to at the end of this article for crayons, markers, and glue are all manufactured in the US and that is important. I of course won’t be purchasing the soy or beeswax crayons this year because I’ve done a great job of rounding up crayons in my own home – reusing is always best! And I’ve made 4  complete sets! But when you need to purchase new, avoid the petroleum, plastic, and antibacterial crap on the market and become your child’s eco warrior with back-to-school shopping!

Where else can you easily up-cycle with back-to-school supplies?  You know the little interlined work books for elementary school?  I have found more than 10 of these from previous years that only have a few pages filled out . . the rest are blank! I’ve ripped out these pages and will be sending the rest of the blank books with my kids. I have blank printer labels and will be applying these to the front of the books to eliminate the name, grade, subject information my children wrote from previous years. There is a cost savings here and think of the amount of wasted paper each year?!

Other supplies that are still in great condition that we are reusing from previous years? Wooden ruler, O’bon coloured pencil crayons, pencils, duotangs (empty and reuse), scissors, and paint! Now here are some tips for purchasing new back-to-school supplies. This is a great time to talk about commercialism with back-to-school. If you want to keep rolling over school supplies each year, stay away from the licensed folders, pencil cases, backpacks, water bottles, etc. That cute little monkey design or Dora and SpongeBob print might be cute for Grade 1 but they are not babies anymore by Grade 2 and might feel embarrassed by bringing what they once loved at this age. Keep supplies classic and simple – there is a secret to longevity by doing this. I would also encourage not to bring small children back-to-school shopping with you. If it’s just going to be a tantrum or fight for the supplies they don’t understand are poor quality and toxic – let kids stay home. Bring older kids with you and explain why and how you are making decisions on what to buy. Have older children go through supplies from the previous year and save what they’ll reuse. Also have them participate with decorating the up-cycled shoe box to bring supplies in.

I noticed last year and again this year, companies are doing a lot of marketing for Microban and antibacterial products. Examples of this are pencils, scissor handles, water bottle lids (the worst of all in my opinion), and binders. Normally Microban in plastic contains Triclosan which is a chemical that does not belong in back-t0-school supplies. The original use for Triclosan, a strong chemical, was used in surgical rooms. Why would we turn a classroom into the equivalent of a hospital with antibacterial properties? Skip this chemical (look for antibacterial or Microban marketing) and if you are asked why by school administration you can reply “this is a pesticide linked to hormone disruptions, allergies, asthma, skin irritation, eczema, and thyroid problems”. I have found when you explain to teachers the reason behind limiting your children to chemical exposure – that you’re not trying to be difficult – they are very understanding. Probably the biggest product linked to antibacterial and might be on your school list is hand sanitizer. This is an important one to make eco-friendly and the easiest way is to not purchase anything and request that your child is given the opportunity to wash their hands more often. If you are more comfortable knowing he can disinfect quickly – send Cleanwell wipes or spray in your child’s back-to-school kit. Again, unleash your eco-warrior and don’t let the marketing of ‘germs’ pressure you into purchases that use endocrine disrupting chemicals that could lead to an allergy. Here is a personal story about hand sanitizer. The brands that have perfume or strong scent will trigger a reaction with a person (like me) with chemical sensitivities. A person in one of my children’s classes had just applied hand sanitizer (apricot scented) and the 2 minutes I was in the classroom delivering hot lunches, I felt dizzy and left with a headache. Please be aware of the effects of using strong chemicals – if not for yourself but other people.

I’ve also noticed some ‘non-stick’ marketing with back-to-school supplies. Does anyone need teflon on their scissors? I’m not sure what the inner coating of lunch bags that are marketed non-stick but I stay clear! Remember my article on teflon lined diaper bags? Since researching this article I’ve been wary of non-stick lined products that are marketed to clean or wipe up quickly from spills. I stick to 100% organic cotton lunch bags in place of this and love that they are machine washable. Sticking with cotton is just a great way to go with backpacks, gym bags, and sandwich bags because at the end of their life, you cut off the zipper and plastic velcro and compost. That is a great full cycle story for a product…reuse, reuse, reuse and then compost.  It’s my favourite kind of story.

The last tip is the most important for back-to-school supplies shopping. Avoid plastic. All plastic. I don’t care if it’s marked free of everything; BPA, phthalates, PVC, etc.  At the end of the day, at the end of it’s shelf life – it’s still plastic. We are experiencing the greatest problem in our history with ocean pollution and the leading cause is plastic. Our health has never been so clouded with problems: cancer, asthma, allergies, diabetes, skin sensitivities, endocrine disruption, and more. I don’t trust plastic. Studies have found that many products labeled BPA-free still released chemicals that mimic estrogen.  PVC plastic is a known poison to human health and the environment so if you are purchasing backpacks or supplies made from plastic, please ensure it’s marked PVC-free. Summon your eco-warrior and use your nose if buying plastic…don’t put anything in your cart with that strong plastic smell.  Did you know that coloured paper clips contain PVC coating? With all supplies, including litterless lunch systems, stick with plain stainless steel. Most supplies like rulers, folders, duo-tangs, and binders have non-plastic alternatives in stores. Pens and markers still appear to be the toughest plastics to avoid with back-to-school. Search out recycled plastic options to lesson your environmental impact. If you see a specific plastic request on your child’s school supplies list from the school, try substituting it with a material you are comfortable with. On my children’s list I see a plastic containers to put supplies. Every year I use a shoe box, my kids decorate it with a best memory from the summer and I’ve never received a complaint. Sometimes the supplies lists we are receiving haven’t been tweaked in many years so it’s more of a guideline. The below picture is of my oldest son’s supplies box from last year. It’s in such good shape we are using it again this year!

 

I reviewed soy crayons a few years back and loved them!  You can find Clementine Soy Crayons via Organically Hatched. These crayons are literally like using butter – they just glide. If your child is happy with streamlining their color selection to 6 – then you should be happy too! And minus the petroleum and colorants used by traditional companies! Actually, you could pickup non-toxic glue, crayons, markers, and paint all at the same time shopping here. There isn’t anything eco-friendly about the plastic surrounding the Clementine markers but they are additive free, without scent. Having discussions about what has influenced your purchases with back-to-school products is a wonderful time to educate children. I’m hoping by going through supplies from previous years and re-using what you can, the ability to afford the slightly higher prices for greener back-to-school supplies is manageable. Your children will become your voice and echo the education. My child was the one in Grade 2 last year telling his teacher that the cleaning supplies they were given to clean their desks were toxic and gave him a headache. We donated bottles of diluted Dr. Bronners for our children’s classrooms until the school switched over the Green Seal certified cleaners. A child’s voice is important and matters – give your children the wisdom and help create Eco-warrior children that inspire change!

Related Articles:

Back To School Eco Backpacks

End of School Sustainability

Teflon Lined Diaper Bags


Soccer Saturday – Getting Ready For Rain!

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Bubble & Bee Organics for Eczema Care

Sometimes it feels like I’m doing more research than writing. This happened a few months back and I was struggling to find the answers for why my daughter’s eczema had flared up when coconut oil had kept it moisturized for so long. I was completely at a loss and needed to turn to an expert. I was also a little shaken because a company I trusted for eczema care and knowledge had recently re-formulated, not told their customers, and children were reacting to the products that had been manufactured for ‘sensitive skin’ – which my Isabella definitely has!  I started reading the blog of Bubble & Bee Organics and realized I had a new person to trust. Anyone that can explain their products in such depth so that an average mom can understand is a true expert. One of my favorite blog articles by Stephanie is called The Importance of USDA Organic Certification – you will learn a lot from reading it! And if you visit the Bubble & Bee Facebook page- the gratitude and love from customers is amazing.  So I took some time drafting an email to Stephanie, the founder explaining that Isabella wasn’t responding to the traditional coconut oil and one side of her face looked burned from the reaction she was having. Actually, thinking back the coconut oil looked like it was making it worse. She wrote back right away explaining that this can sometimes happen with impurities being drawn from the skin. She also wrote back with advice on looking internally and I’ve heard from many others that eczema can occur from the gut w/ immune response, etc. But that is for another article.

A good example of how Stephanie is able to explain synthetic, natural, organic ingredients is in this blog post called What Is Natural? Check out her explanation – easy to read and understand!

Trusting a brand is important. There are very few that have stuck to their original purpose of using simple, organic ingredients. I have spent 2 months testing two of the Bubble & Bee products that Stephanie sent me: Body Butter and Unscented Lotion Stick. Both have been amazing, especially the lotion stick for Isabella’s eczema rash on her face and inner arm. She gets the stick on her own now because she trusts there is no burning or stinging using these products. They are USDA Organic and a trusted arsenal for sensitive skin!

Stephanie also sent the Bubble & Bee Organic Insect Repellent for review because ever year I get asked by readers for a bug repellent that is safe for children. Our rainy West Coast experienced a ‘Junuary’ like no other with tons of rain and I wasn’t able to test the repellent quickly enough for summer. So when a reader emailed me a said she was getting eaten alive back East, I send the repellent to her for feedback. I would recommend it from the ingredient list as a safe alternative but will post the MF reader’s feedback on our Facebook page. My thanks to Stephanie for her obvious dedication with educating people on chemicals and how to distinguish the harmful from beneficial. Follow her ‘Chemical Of The Day Q&A‘ and release your inner chemist! Follow her tips via Facebook or the company blog and feel safe about trusting this great brand.

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Clothing Mis-labelling Leads To Composting Problem!

I’m not a patient person so for me to write this article over a month after first contacting a major clothing manufacturer with a simple question is really amazing for me! But since it’s been a month with no response, other than the standard “customer service will contact you”, I think I’m free to discuss something that very few people have thought of. How are companies able to label clothing as 100% cotton when they have glitter, sparkles, and plastic in hard form and plasticized on clothing? It’s obviously not 100% cotton and has been mislabeled by every single large chain retail clothing store. The company I approached for an explanation was The Gap. They are one of two stores that got me thinking about this question. The other store was Walmart but since I’ve noticed The Gap has a higher price point with clothing I thought I’d start with them.

The question has been building in my mind for years because when I receive clothing from Walmart for my children I start to itch from looking at the clothing tag label. There is almost always polyester in the PJs and with my kids having skin sensitivities including eczema, I’ve just learned to avoid their clothing. But because I don’t shop often in malls, but when I do go in, my awareness of materials and textiles in really heightened. Me walking into a Mall by myself  is crazy..my senses are high, my awareness of everything going on around me and I always notice changes the Mall has made. The last time I walked in my jaw hit the floor with a large screen TV (I mean it was HUGE) and there are girls walking the cat walk in fashion (I’m guessing) that’s sold in the Mall stores. I couldn’t believe this was on when so many young girls are at the Mall with their parents. You can keep the magazines and TV away from kids with this subject matter but walking into a Mall they need to see super skinny girls wearing high fashion? It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this article..I’m getting off base. I was at the Mall shopping for a suit for my son who was celebrating his 1st communion. I headed into my usual stops which included The Gap. I’ll admit that the girls’ clothing in The Gap can be a weakness because they do an amazing job with colors and themes I love like feathers, peacocks, woodland animals, etc. But I started noticing that almost every single t-shirt had plastic attached to the front. And some shirts didn’t just have the plastic decals attached to the front…some actually had tiny repeating rows of plastic bits hanging off the front of the shirt. Out of a possible 25 styles I found two that were silk screened with a design…and they weren’t cute designs. I asked the sales girl how you would even care for a t-shirt in this style since it shouldn’t be heated with all the plastic on it..she politely looked at me like I’m from Mars and explained it could be line dried. <grin>

I left The Gap and started thinking of all the stores in that Mall that sell clothing tagged 100% cotton that clearly isn’t. In an age of transparency why doesn’t that include our clothing? Especially when it’s obviously incorrect? We all know that cotton items can be composted. This is when labeling really becomes important. How can I compost a shirt with a huge PVC decal ironed onto the front? Let’s put aside the fact it’s off-gassed in my dryer at high temperatures over it’s life span. If that shirt isn’t ripped by the time my kids are done with it – of course it will be donated or given to a family that will wear it. But, what happens at the end of that shirt’s life when I’m putting it into our city compost? That compost is being used to grow food and we need to start thinking of what is ending up there.

And this final point of composting is why I don’t rejoice in listening to other people talk about the clothing they purchased at huge discounts with cross border shopping. It is the reason I’m trying to save up to purchase a few t-shirts for myself this summer but I want silk screen designs made from veg ink. It’s not because I try to spend more money than needed…I just know that always shopping based on cost and not with a story is usually a bad thing for the environment. In a few years when I’ve worn my new shirts over and over again and it’s time to purge, I can put them into the compost and know they will truly break down and decompose. This may sound strange to people but it makes me feel good. Shopping at a Mall can’t be avoided – I need to go there a few times a year for special items, but I way prefer to shop with people that have thought about how things are made and labelled.

I encourage you all to ask this question next time you go into the Mall. Ask questions. It’s only going to be after thousands have asked that something might change.

I leave you with some inspiration I found on Vancouver Island in Ucluelet by Pina. Her little print shop has a story and it’s pretty awesome – so are the designs including feathers, eagles, and wolves all printed in her studio in earth friendly ink.

 

Related Articles:

Archived Eczema Category

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How To Clean Your Vehicle Without Chemicals!

The sun is shining and it always seems to emphasize dust – especially in a vehicle. My van is a typical mom mobile – it is for the most part really, really messy. Today we deep cleaned our van and I realized this is another area of our lives where traditional, toxic gimmicks advertising ‘cleaning’ and ‘freshening’ are not necessary!  Here are a few simple steps for cleaning your vehicle’s interior without products that contain formaldehyde, phthalates, or fragrance that off-gass into the small confines of your van or car.

Eco-friendly Interior Vehicle Tips

Grab your Dr. Bronner liquid soap. I’ve written about this gentle, organic, fair trade, made in the USA product so many times. But it is my all-in-one household cleaner that also works great on a vehicle’s interior and exterior. Load up a soapy bucket of water with a few squirts of Dr. Bronner (scented or not) and dust the dashboard and any other hard plastic parts of the car. Eliminating dust is important because dust carries lead, phthalates, and can easy be blown around in the small confines of a vehicle. The rag picks up the dust and dirt and leaves behind a wonderful scent – my favorite scented Dr. Bronner soap is the almond scented liquid soap.

How would you ‘air freshen’ your vehicle? Certainly not by purchasing a traditional air freshener seen in any nearby gas station. These contain synthetic fragrance that besides for giving you a headache, contain phthalates once they are hung and start off-gassing your vehicle. There is a must simpler way; dust using a vegetable based soap with essential oil or simply add essential oil directly into water and dust. Or the most obvious – open your car windows and drive! I blurred the below picture so not to pick on any specific brands but it’s the shelf that represents any gas station in North America and they are all filled with synthetic ingredients.

Interior car windows also need cleaning so before reaching for that bottle of Windex that contains carcinogens that will blow through the small confines of a vehicle, grab a squirt bottle with a few drops of essential oil/water mix and your microfiber window cloth or newspaper. You will have streak free, clean windows without using toxic window cleaners. For people that love fuzzy dice or Angry Bird stuffies – give these friends a monthly freshen with a  trip into the freezer or put in direct sunlight to eliminate dust that will collect on these rear-view window or dashboard friends.

My interior van carpets probably take the biggest beating especially with kids eating in the car. All four of my kids recently discovered spits for the first time this baseball season…my van’s floor looks like the under belly of the bleachers at the field. <grin> Before we head to the gas station with the high intensity suction, a sprinkle of baking soda works to absorb carpet odors in the carpet. My kids love to sprinkle baking soda so it’s a great activity for them. I would recommend using the high suction gas station vacuum and then following up at home with a Dyson or HEPA filter if your kids have bad allergies or asthma. The high suction vacuums are great – but I noticed they blow a lot of dust around so it’s great to follow up with the Dyson.

Time to make your dashboard shiny! Traditional wipes or dashboard sprays that are used to ‘polish’ the hard plastic are no longer needed!  Just like cleaning my stainless steel kitchen appliances, I put some olive oil on a paper towel and wiped down the dash and plastic cup holders in the back of the van. My kids helped and thought this method of cleaning was brilliant! I’ve only tested the olive oil polish on our plastic dash board, if you are trying to a different material, test first in a small corner of the dash to ensure it doesn’t stain or discolor your dash.  I have to say – this is the best tip for reducing toxic cleaning supplies with cleaning your car’s interior  – my dash board is shiny and looks fantastic. No smell either – even with parking the van in the hot sun all day.

 

Picture of my shiny dashboard:

After following these few steps – you’ll have a shiny, clean, car interior without any toxic fumes! We saved the bucket of Dr. Bronners from the interior because it also works great on the exterior of the van. It’s important to understand in a small space like a vehicle that freshening the air with traditional methods is a really bad idea. Any ‘sprays’ like Fabreeze are horrible for human health – read this funny post to understand how I view products like this near my children. You can avoid blowing formaldehyde around your car interior with doing more than ‘masking’ odor… which is all these air deodorizers do by simply opening your window. And with the method of wiping away dust, you are also removing other toxins like lead and VOCs that are carried via the dust sitting on your dash. I would love to hear back from anyone that tries the olive oil method of polishing your dashboard. Remember not to polish the wheel – it does make it slippery and you want to avoid that when driving!

To learn more about Eco-Cleaning Tips for your home – read here!

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