Good Chemistry: Green Tips for Better Health, from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

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Flouride: Healthful or Harmful?

I was scanning through a breastfeeding support forum and came across something kind of scary. As you can imagine, most breastfeeding moms who would visit such a forum are pretty down on formula. I started reading an article and then I started reading the comments. I don’t normally do this as they tend to rile me up, but I found an interesting comment from a woman in Ireland.

Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that fluoridates their water.  The mom on the forum was upset about the fact that formula is made even more inferior to breastmilk by mixing it with fluoridated water. She didn’t get into details, so I looked into it myself.

There is an interesting website about fluoride called the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).  I like this website. They cite everything.

Apparently, fluoride is not as harmful when applied topically, like with toothpaste or as a mouth rinse. Drinking it is bad for you. It does nearly nothing to save your teeth as it spends so little time in contact with the surfaces of your teeth. Internally, it decalcifies bones and teeth, causes problems with livers and kidneys, and damages sperm. In nearly all animal trials, it reduced fertility in both male and female subjects.  I guess the warning about swallowing your toothpaste isn’t unwarranted. Actually, it’s more serious than that: if a kid under the age of about 9 ate an entire tube of standard fluoride toothpaste, the fluoride could kill them. Hence the warning, mandated by the FDA, on your toothpaste:  "WARNING: Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately."

All that said, I’m going to send you the CDC’s website where you can see if your community fluoridates its water. Despite the warnings about consuming fluoride from the FDA and all the studies that FAN cites, the CDC is still down with the fluoride in your drinking water.

The EPA has a webpage on fluoride and it has two recommendations for removing fluoride from your tap water: distillation and reverse-osmosis.

I feel like we’re getting mixed signals from our government. CDC thinks fluoride is neater than sliced bread, but the FDA and the EPA have warnings about it. Personally: when in doubt, leave it out (or in this case, get myself a filter to take it out).

Posted by on October 3rd, 2012 2 Comments

Johnson & Johnson to Stop Using Harmful Chemical – Victory or Not?

As a mom (who was once a kid), I’m kind of rejoicing; as an American woman, I’m kind of ticked off.

Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo. Now they're pledging to eliminate it (at least some of the time) from their products

Johnson & Johnson has promised to stop using harmful – possibly carcinogenic – ingredients in all their lines by 2015. Yay! That means that they’ve been paying attention to the threats from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and their allies. It means that J&J is waking up to the fact that American women really don’t want to slather themselves in toxic chemicals, nor do we want those chemicals anywhere near our kids.  It almost feels like a victory.

But is it?

 Johnson & Johnson has been carcinogen-free in countries all over the world for years. And according to their press release, they will still use chemicals that release formaldehyde "when no safe alternative will work .” But there must already be safer alternatives to these chemicals  if Johnson & Johnson products are on the shelves in places with stricter rules like the Europen Union and Japan.  

Their promises seem reassuring, though and this news make me want to support them. They are one of the few big companies actually changing policy and formulas because of consumer demand. A lot of that has to do with their huge line of baby products (moms are a very vocal group) and the problems they’ve had with public image in the wake of recalls on their pharmaceuticals – but it’s a step in the right direction that should be applauded.

What we really need to do is shake up the other cosmetic companies! Just because we aren’t the diaper and crayon set doesn’t mean we deserve toxic, carcinogenic, or hormone disrupting chemicals in our products: personal or beauty. L’Oreal (Maybelline, Garnier, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, Softsheen-Carson), Procter & Gamble (CoverGirl, Pantene, Secret, Old Spice), Estee Lauder (Clinique, MAC, Prescriptives), Avon, and Unilever (Dove, Ponds, St. Ives, Axe) all need to be held to higher standards than the ones the FDA holds them to.  

I urge you to check out Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Get Involved page. Sign a petition, send an email, make your own lip gloss – Do something healthy and pretty!

Posted by on August 23rd, 2012 No Comments

Safe Alternatives For Treating Head Lice

The first time I ran across head lice, my little sister brought them back from summer camp. Everyone in her cabin got them and everyone was sent home. Before Dad would let her in the house he asked her if she wanted to stay outside while he picked up the lice shampoo or if she wanted to shave her head. She was 14; it was the 90’s; she shaved her head.  She got an eyebrow, too before we could stop her.

My daughter brought back the same souvenirs her last day of school. A whole bunch of them.  It’s gross to see bugs on your baby’s scalp; but what’s even scarier is thinking about deliberately putting pesticides directly on her skin and rubbing it in.

Pesticides are poisons. They kill bugs and other living creatures. They also stop bugs from reproducing by disrupting their hormones. My little one hasn’t developed all her hormones yet; and I really don’t want to disrupt them. I’m also pregnant and don’t want mine or the new baby’s hormones disrupted either. So what did I do? A lot of research.

Neem oil and tea tree oil are a good one-two punch for breaking lice shells and killing the developing nits. Olive oil helps as a medium for both oils and eases the proteins that glue the nits to the hair. It also helps the lice comb glide through the hair. I recommend a ratio of about 3:1:1 – olive oil, neem oil, tea tree oil—and you only need about an ounce.   You just have to remember to do it at least twice with seven to ten days between treatments (just like the commercial stuff).

There are also commercial items on the market that are safer than others and you can find them through the EWG’s Skin Deep database. I hope you never need to use them.

Posted by on July 13th, 2012 No Comments