Archive | Mom Safety

Genetically Modified Tampons?

There have been very few things in my journey that I’ve recommended to ditch immediately after researching. I normally say save the cleaners, personal care products, processed food, etc. because you’ll always be in a pinch and can take the opportunity to use them up. The one product I would say dispose of right away are traditional tampons. A few days ago, I turned into a sleuth at a local store and snapped a photo of the materials listed on the back of a tampon box. Why? I really thought the materials listed would have changed since I first researched tampons 4 years ago. When I first wrote this article, I was horrified to find out polyester was an ingredient in tampons. I was just starting to remove materials like polyester from being close to my family because one daughter has eczema and natural fibers were less irritating for her skin. The other part of researching polyester was finding out that flame retardant properties are naturally occurring in this material. So if this is true, I still have to ask tampon manufacturers where polyester is used in the make-up of a tampon and why this petroleum based plastic is doing in a menstrual product? Researching the exact materials and chemical components of tampons is difficult because this information is kept proprietary. Unlike personal care products, makeup, etc. tampons adhere to a different criteria of labeling because they are a medical device. Kind of the same thing as sex toys labelled as gag gifts so you don’t need to discover that plastic dildos are made from PVC – the most toxic form of plastic on the market. It’s beyond disgusting and because these products are used in such an intimate part of the body that is highly porous, absorbent and toxins thrive in tissue.

With spending so much of my life thinking about genetically modified food and how to avoid it, I had another really scary thought about traditional tampons. How do we know if they are made from genetically modified cotton – otherwise known as BT cotton? This form of cotton is grown from GM seed and grows resistance to antibiotics. It adds a whole new layer to the cotton industry and for woman that use non-organic tampons. Even conventional cotton is grown using heavy pesticides and we know toxins released into our body from pesticides like to live in fat cells.

The only positive difference I can find 4 years later with tampons is the industry changed their bleaching standards for the rayon (wood pulp) that is mixed with cotton for absorbancy. But the fact is trace amounts of dioxin can still exist from whitening and the heavy processing that occurs to make wood pulp a soft and fluffy form of rayon.  So here we have the 3 active materials used in a tampon: polyester, cotton, and rayon. Nothing but pesticides, petroleum, chemicals, and possibly trace amounts of dioxin or flame retardants. We give our teenagers these products to use because they are straight forward, inexpensive, disposable, and easy for them to manage. We need to think about teenage girls and their long term health. Could tampon use over a 20 year period contribute to infertility problems, inflammatory disease and Endometriosis?

Since writing that first article about tampons four years ago, I really only made one permanent change to my routine. No tampons. If I have to go swimming in the summer with the kids, I buy organic cotton tampons. I always meant to try a Mooncup or Diva Cup but I’m not a huge fan of silicone. For the most part I use reusable pads (Lunapads) and disposable pads for heavy days.

I encourage you to tell 3 people that might still be using traditional tampons. I think teenagers and young adults are the highest users. Use the graphic below to think about the three main ingredients of traditional tampons and their level of toxicity. Make the switch, tell 3 friends, make an impact.



Fa La La La . . . Lead?

I’m trying not to spread a dark cloud around Christmas but since this website is about a journey – there is something I wish I knew when it came to holiday decorating many years ago.  I wish I knew that plastic wreaths, fake trees and light strings may contain lead. Actually, not to sugar coat this topic, I would say most contain lead.  When tested Christmas lights in 2010, most resulted in a ranking of lead; actually 4 out of 5 light strands. 28% contained lead at such high levels they wouldn’t be able to be sold in Europe. The chemical is not found in the lights themselves, but in the bendy plastic the lights are attached to and with many families letting kids help with indoor lights or pose for pictures with holiday lights, a compound like lead isn’t to be taken lightly. Lead effects our brains and we worry about children’s rapidly developing nervous systems which are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead. Also, pregnant women need to take extra caution too – let somebody else handle the tree and lights this year!

My friend and toxic ingredient beauty editor Danika was talking about professional photographers using Christmas lights as props in pictures by wrapping them around children. The pictures are very cute but obviously people don’t know the level of toxins that could be transmitted through the skin by doing this! I’ve also seen pictures similar with parents using lights with children for Christmas cards – not a good idea. Do you know they recommend that people wear gloves and then wash hands after handling Christmas lights? The same is true after handling fake Christmas trees, wreaths, or garlands. It’s really why the debate of fake vs. real at Christmas is clear – it’s a little sad to chop down a live tree at Christmas, but trees that have been farmed without sprays are a much better option then bringing a piece of toxic plastic into your home. Not only is it not safe to touch, but you are then stuck knowing that there is no way to dispose of these items after breakage occurs or they are no longer fashionable (remember those fake white Christmas trees from the 80s?) So save yourself long-term grief and possible stress by finding alternatives to plastic this Christmas.

Of course we all love Christmas lights so look for RoHS compliant lights if needing new lights for the holidays. This means the product is restricted from being manufactured with the six hazardous materials that can be used to make various types of electronic and electrical equipment. According to Wikipedia, RoHS is often referred to as the lead-free directive, but it also restricts the use of the following six substances:

Lead (Pb)
Mercury (Hg)
Cadmium (Cd)
Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+)
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

The only place you might find these lights is IKEA and remember to check that the tag of the cord reads RoHS compliant.  This of course doesn’t mean that the cord is PVC free..only lead free so I would still caution that Christmas lights stay out of reach of children and parents wash hands after handling.

My friend Alicia from The Soft Landing has written about this topic over the years and put together the perfect graphic for you to share with friends to warn of holiday toxins to avoid with children. She gave me permission to include it in this article and it’s a great summary of how to childproof for the holidays. Thank you Alicia!


I would also add synthetic air fragrance to a list of unknown household pollution this time of year. For more information on why you’d want to avoid spray or diffusers that off-gas chemicals into your home click here. I hope this article assists you before purchasing Christmas lights or plastic greenery for the holidays. If you have purchased trees or light strands and are concerned – take them back to the store and let a Manager know you are looking for lead-free options.

Related Articles:

A Greener Christmas Plan

Celebrating Teachers At Christmas

Air Freshener Options





Placenta Encapsulation – Postpartum Support

When I first heard of placenta encapsulation my stomach lurched.  Having your placenta prepared to consume after birth? But I’ve learned to take time and really think through information before judging and after remembering that was my initial feeling when first hearing about The Diva Cup. I started to think that the idea of placenta encapsulation might be exactly what the Dr. should be ordering for moms that have a history of depression. I also didn’t know that placenta pills can assist moms that have low production with breast milk, expedite healing, and give new moms an increase in energy to cope with a new baby.  I feel so lucky to have a local advocate Roxanna Farnsworth of A Conscious Beginning who is trained and certified in the method of placenta encapsulation to ask questions and I’ve completely changed my view on the topic. Maybe rather than depression pills, new mothers can consume something that is natural, high in nutrients and can provide what a new mother needs to regain physical and mental strength after having a baby. So if you’ve heard of placenta encapsulation but couldn’t bring yourself to understand the process, this topic deserves a second chance at being understood. Read through my questions for Roxanna – I loved her answers and can feel her passion and dedication for improving the health of the postpartum journey.

Suzanne: who is a good candidate for placenta encapsulation – is it recommended for all new mothers? Any candidates that should think about it more seriously than others?  Prone to depression, low iron, etc.?

Roxanna: I think all women should be aware of the option and benefits of placenta encapsulation. Not all women will want to and that is ok. I believe strongly in women listening to their bodies and doing what feels right for them.
Placenta encapsulation is strongly recommended for women who have a family and/or personal history of depression or anxiety. It is also very beneficial for women who have issues with anemia (also women who are vegetarian or vegan).

Suzanne: how is it done if you have a hospital birth?  C-section birth?

Roxanna: If you have a hospital birth or c-section I highly recommend that you bring a small cooler to the hospital. You will need to have your partner or doula let the nursing staff know when you are admitted that you will be keeping your placenta (sometimes this will need to be repeated for staff changes). Within 2 hours of the placenta being birthed you need to put the placenta on ice. The hospital will bag the placenta in sterile bags and/or put it in a small white bucket (depending on which hospital you are at). As soon as its possible your partner or doula can get a bag of ice. I highly recommend that you keep the placenta with you at all times. If you have booked my services you text me and we arrange a time for me to pick up. I usually pick up within 24 hours of receiving the text.

Suzanne: are there any studies or traditional dr.s that have seen a drop in post-birth stress because of placenta encapsulation?

Roxanna: There is current research in the works of being peer reviewed regarding the benefits of placenta encapsulation by the founder of PBi Jodi Selander. Most of the evidence so far is years of mother’s reporting the effects. Placenta consumption has been practiced for literally centuries in various forms. There is research based evidence showing that placenta has a strong lactogenic effect, meaning it helps with milk production. In China placenta is mainly used to help women make more milk. Placenta also has a very high iron content. Iron deficiency is highly correlated to fatigue which can lead to depression postpartum.

Suzanne: what does everyone needs to know about placenta encapsulation?

Roxanna: Placenta encapsulation is a great way to consume your placenta postpartum to ease the transition into motherhood. I consider placenta encapsulation to be a vital part of planning for a healthy, easier postpartum. Placenta encapsulation includes safe handling of the placenta, rinsing, steaming, dehydrating, grinding, and encapsulating it. This allows you to consume your placenta by swallowing capsules, much like taking a vitamin. The encapsulation process needs to begin within 48 hours of the placenta’s birth. If it can’t begin within 48 hours the placenta will need to be frozen. A frozen placenta can still be encapsulated and is beneficial to the mother, though you do lose some nutrients.

Suzanne: why you started assisting women with placenta encapsulation?

Roxanna: After my first son was born in Los Angeles, California I suffered from PPD. I was told by my doctor that I would need to stop breastfeeding and go on medication. I said bull. Breastfeeding was very important to me so I started researching other ways to get help. I found an acupuncturist and began treatment. She was fabulous! I changed my diet and continued my research. What I found was there isn’t much support for new moms in our culture. A lot of people dismiss baby blues as normal or as no big deal. Through my research and with the help of my acupuncturist I discovered placenta encapsulation. By the time I learned enough to want to do it I could not use my first placenta. I became passionate about helping new moms plan for their postpartums, from freezing meals to getting a dog walker and yes consuming their placenta it all makes a difference! I apprenticed with a doula to learn how to encapsulate, then a year later I completed the TCM training and certification with PBI. I have been practicing for almost 3 years now and love it so much!

Suzanne: did you consume your own placenta after the birth of both of your boys?  If not, what was the difference you felt with your 2nd?

Roxanna: After the birth of my second son in February, 2012 in Port Moody I encapsulated my own placenta. I was so excited! My postpartum was VERY different emotionally with encapsulation compared to my first postpartum. I still experienced ups and downs postpartum, especially in regards to my older son adjusting to being a big brother. The big difference for me was being able to handle all the transitional stuff without being overwhelmed, stressed, or depressed. I could tell myself that yes I was having a tough moment, but it will pass.

My thanks to Roxanne for answering my questions!  I hope it helped with questions you might have. Check out her Facebook Fan page to follow her journey in Placenta Encapsulation and Reiki healing treatments.

Related Articles:

Holistic Birth Plan Additions

Johnson & Johnson – Building A Brand With Carcinogens




Magic Erasers ~ Toxic or Eco-Friendly?

After my last post on detoxing your bathroom I was reminded of a product (thanks Raven) I’ve always dismissed in my head as toxic. I’m sure you’ve heard of cleaning erasers, the most popular brand would be Mr. Clean’s magic eraser that is marketed to help surfaces look ‘new again’! I thought this article would be straight forward seeing as Mr. Clean is a Proctor & Gamble product….and my jaded self usually deems any traditional cleaning product toxic. Well I’ve researched it and I’m surprised really, but I don’t think magic erasers are toxic. Don’t get me wrong, they are not eco-friendly but they don’t appear to be laced with loads of cleaning agents within the sponge that would be released when used.

The confusion starts when savvy mamas Google ‘magic eraser ingredients‘ and find the material safety data sheets for Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cleaning Pads and see warnings to keep this product away from toddlers and then see the word Formaldehyde included in the only chemical ingredient listing called ‘Formaldehyde-Melamine-Sodium bisulfite copolymer’. As moms, we get upset when seeing Formaldehyde listed in ingredients because we know it’s been lurking in our kid’s personal care products (shampoo, body wash, etc.) and think of nasty products like nail polish that contain this chemical that harms human health. Well in the case of the magic eraser, the formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing & production of the melamine sponge (which is the eraser). So unlike Melamine dishware where we worry about the trace amounts of formaldehyde leaching after subjecting the dishware to cleaning, we don’t have to worry about this chemical ‘leaching’ out of the sponge. So while this product is not a toxic cleaning tool – it’s not eco-friendly because chemicals will be absorbed back into the earth when the eraser is discarded, but nothing will be ‘off-gassing’ while it’s being used which I find comforting knowing how many people I know use them.

You might have seen the ‘chemical burn’ picture via an email of a child that circulated around the internet a few years ago. The mother had taken photos of her child with terrible burns on his arms saying that he rubbed the magic eraser on his skin. I believe this has been deemed a hoax, but I would agree with the household products database that these sponges should be kept away from children. It’s not a chemical finish that is removing soap scum and marks from surfaces, its the foam’s structure of melamine resin that becomes more like sand paper when the sponge is put under water. So the outer material of the sponge works like fine sandpaper which could cause a child (or parent with sensitive skin) to react to this surface. This however is different than the supposed ‘chemical burn’ that the child in that email received by using a magic eraser. As far as I can see, adding cleaning chemicals to the sponge has not happened.

So was I delighted with these findings? No, not really, but I was surprised. I would have bet a lot of money there were chemical cleaning agents added to a Mr. Clean magic eraser and I don’t think this is the case. Split decision here if I would actually purchase one. I would recommend a magic eraser over spraying toxic cleaners at a permanent marker stain on a wall, but it would be a joke to call them an ‘eco-friendly’ solution and make them a permanent fixture in my home. Here is why I wouldn’t recommend simply for soap scum or every-day cleaning:

1) If a sponge only lasts a few weeks (I’ve read they breakdown quickly when used) they are not considered an earth-friendly, reusable product.
2) The foam was made by a German company (BASF) and was invented as an insulator and fire retardant. Sorry, but all I can say is gross…it makes me itchy just thinking of holding one.
3) I will never go back to cleaning with something that my kids can’t use. I wouldn’t let them hold one of these and whenever I start cleaning my bathroom, my girls especially want to help. My current cleaning system is very safe for them to participate with.

So while I’m still not a fan, I will no longer be fearful when I hear another glowing testimonial from a mother that swears a magic sponge was the only thing that could get marker off her floor or walls. But, if P&G starts spinning that these sponges are good for the environment, I might not be able to stop my eye twitch…

Related Articles:

Eco-Cleaning Made Easy

Self Cleaning Oven – Toxic For Humans or Only Birds?

Starting with the Bathroom – It’s Time For Chemical Detox




DIY Pads & Reusable Menstrual Products

A question that bothered me for some time was recently answered by the folks at Lunapads. Have you heard about this company that sells reusable menstrual products?  It might come as a surprise these options even exist. The response to my last article about dioxins in bleached disposable tampons and pads was terrific and I received lots of emails from loyal users of Lunapads and The Divacup saying how much they LOVE these alternatives.  These products are reusable options for menstrual care that helps protect women against nasty chemicals in traditional products (tampons and pads) while also helping the environment.  Isn’t it funny how we try and keep bleached products away from baby’s bottoms by switching to cloth diapers, but don’t stop to think about ourselves and the harm we are causing by using tampons that contain chemicals?  

Lunapads are a reusable option to pads and liners that are simply washed after use.  We know that traditional pads have chemical residues and using 100% cotton or organic cotton against this area of the body is a healthier solution.  For the environment, think about 14 billion pads going into the landfill every year in America.  Saving money is also a solution with Lunapads because you are investing in a product that will last for years.  There is a comparison chart on the Lunapad site that does a great job of showing customers the money they will save over 5 years of using the lunapad liners and pads. 

Now back to the question I wanted answered. I have lots of clothes, towels, etc. that have rips that keep me from wanting to donate them. I can’t bring myself to just throw them in the trash ~ there must be a way to reuse them.  Via twitter, Lunapads answered my question: DIY menstrual pads.  Their blog post includes the pattern and 2 part video (featuring one of the co-founders of Lunapad) and it’s very easy to follow and even a novice person with a sewing machine could sew these. I think it’s pretty cool that the company that created these pads would show women how to make them if they can’t afford to purchase them, or are looking for a way to reuse materials they already own to reuse into pads. They also encourage people that know how to sew to donate homemade pads to two organizations called Pads4Girls and Birth Kit Maxi Pads. The first organization Pads4Girls sends washable pads to school age girls in Africa. The second Birth Kit Maxi Pads includes washable pads in birth kits sent to the woman of rural Uganda.  In this economy in North America isn’t it amazing that anyone can reuse a material from their home, create, and then donate to these wonderful causes with almost no cash spent?  Well done!  That would be a great project for a high school home rec class.  Teaching kids to care about the environment, a social cause, and feel good about starting a project that has such a large impact far away.

The last main product from the Lunapads site that I have to admit startles me every time I see it is called The DivaCup.  There couldn’t be a better name for the purpose of this product! <grin>  It is the replacement for a tampon that is a much healthier option (read Dioxins ~ The Last Place You Want Them for more information on tampons) and comes with nothing to throw away. Like a tampon, it is inserted to collect menstrual flow rather than absorbing it.  The DivaCup is made from soft silicone and is latex-free, BPA-free, plastic-free, and doesn’t contain dye, colors, or additives. For more information click here.  I would have to test The DivaCup personally, but people I know just rave about it and it is a safer alternative to the toxic traditional products that currently rule the market.



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