Archive for the ‘Chemicals’ Category

We could argue over Phthalates.  Disagree about estrogen receptors.  Parabens, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, 1,4 dioxane, synthetic fragrances?  I’m sure someone out there will fight on their behalf.

You could make yourself crazy reading all the literature.  There are plenty of studies supporting booths sides of the argument.  So, why go there?

I’ll tell you one thing you can’t argue with: that natural, organic skin care products are bad for you.

So, if you KNOW that natural skin care products that avoid these chemicals are safe.

And you KNOW that you can find them easily at the store or online.

And if they DON’T even cost anymore than department store products…

Then why not use them?

It is like this:  there are two bags of dog poop.  One bag is totally safe and 100% guaranteed to not break.  The other bag is promoted to be safe, but studies say there is a chance it will break.

Which bag are you going to choose?

That’s what I thought…

So, if you don’t want that cr&p touching your hands, why would you want it to touch your face?

($14 in the swear jar and counting)

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Dear God,

May this

Two beets and one green apple juice

Cleanse me of all my eating sins.

May is reverse the cupcake damage

and affliction from processed nacho cheese.

Please forgive me for thinking bad thoughts

of people driving slow in the fast lane,

for I was under the influence of sucrose.

Provide me with the strength to

survive the sugar shakes

during my Monday rehab.


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I call him Dalai Dan. But there is very little Dalai in Double D.


I was catching up on my blogs today and read all about Marlboro Man, the Pioneer Woman’s husband. He lasso’s shit to eat while wearing chaps and riding on a horse.


Not my man.


My man goes to the store and comes home with two bags full of






Here’s the tally:

  1. Large bag of Reeses Mini Cups
  2. Jalapeno Chips
  3. Honey Smacks
  4. Microwave Popcorn
  5. Two boxes of fruity snacks, one Spiderman and one Scooby Doo. (Seriously, do they taste different? I think the man secretly likes to play with the shapes.)
  6. Haagen-Dazs ice cream
  7. Frozen pizza
  8. Animal crackers
  9. Slice and Bake cookies
  10. Two tubes of Pillsbury biscuits.  (random)


What is more amazing about this purchase is Dalai Dan ate so many smoked ribs last night, it gave him a terrible stomach ache and he didn’t end up going to work until 10:30 in the morning.  He said it started feeling better in the afternoon. Oh, and about 3 hours after that, he made a trip to the grocery store to by lethal fake food.




What’s worse, this is his “normal.”  No matter how hard I try, he eats complete nastiness.  And the mofo never gains weight, so there are no obvious consequences.
He may die of heart disease or cancer, but he will still be 175 pounds and fit in an extra small coffin.


So, here he is.  All 175 pounds of him.  Surrounded by food and remotes.  Resting after the physical exertion spent moving the chair for a foot rest since our coffee table is under repair.


He likes to call this his “Couch Meditation.”




Can you get your husband/boyfriend to eat healthy? (Sometimes)

What do you wish you could ban from his diet? (Fruity snacks)

p.s. Sorry about the posting mess yesterday. Not sure what went down.

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After half a dozen tubes of “safe” sunscreen and a hundred dollars later, I finally have found our family’s sunscreen.

I’ve been experimenting with different brands, trying to find the best of the low-chemical sunscreens. It hasn’t always gone well.

First there was Burt’s Bees, which was a disaster. My children were pale yellow and stuck to furniture.

After a couple unnotables, we settled on Earth’s Best for a while. My kids looked like mimes, but we dealt with it.

Then Alba Botanica fragrance-free worked its way to the top of our list. They didn’t seem quite as white, but they still got a 20 minute full-body massage every time we went to the pool. The time it took to rub in and evenly distribute these zinc-based products was killing me. I needed a quicker option in my bag of tricks.

Then came Supergoop. Dr. T’s Supergoop.

It is one of only 13 non-mineral sunscreens that Environmental Working Group recommends. It has a safety rating of 3 out of 10, which I’m great with. I may be giving up a point or two, but it is worth it. The consistency is much thinner, making it easy to quickly and liberally apply. The kids don’t complain about it (as much) and when they do complain, it only has to last 1 minute because then I’m DONE!

I LOVE the pump on the 15 and 24 ounce bottles. It sits on my counter and I can quickly lube the family up before we run out the door. I am still using my zinc products for my little people’s faces, but for the all over coverage, you can’t beat this stuff!

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It is that time of year again: time to load up on sunscreens! I am planning a trip to the store today because I’m almost out, and checked out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website to get some good options. This website is awesome. You can search for good options as well as see how your sunscreen rates. We are slathering it all over our kid’s skin and owe it to them to make sure we are picking good products!

I have written about this before. Check out last year’s post here to get a quick overview of the chemicals and other issues in typical sunscreens.

In the mean time, have fun with this: EWG’s “Hall of Shame” – a quick list of the worst offenders. Hope yours isn’t on there!

Hawaiian Tropic Baby Stick Sunscreen SPF 50

Hawaiian Tropic’s website claims “Less Chemical Sunscreens” for this baby sunscreen stick. Truth is, it contains two chemicals to that don’t belong on a baby’s skin – the hormone disruptor oxybenzone and a form vitamin A called retinyl palmitate. A recent federal government study shows retinyl palmitate may speed up the growth of skin tumors.

The final straw? The UVA protection factor for this sunscreen is less than 10 – a far cry from the 50 SPF plastered on the package. It’s not good enough to be sold in Europe.


Baby Blanket SunBlankie Towelette SPF 45+

This baby sunscreen advertises “maximum allowable protection for babies” but doesn’t deliver.

If the FDA’s proposed rating system were in force today, it would earn only one of four stars for UVA protection, according to EWG’s analysis. It doesn’t have enough UVA protection to meet European standards.

Your baby’s skin may not get burned, but UVA rays could penetrate it and cause skin damage that would accumulate, possibly triggering cancer later in life.


Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70+

Coppertone advises users of this baby product to apply “liberally.”

But scientists who have researched its key sunscreen chemical, oxybenzone, warn against using it over large surfaces of skin and over many hours. These warnings are particularly strong for young children who don’t eliminate toxic chemicals from their bodies as readily as adults and who have more skin relative to their body weight than adults.

Oxybenzone readily seeps through the skin and into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body.

This Coppertone sunscreen is one of more than 20 sunscreens with the word “baby” in their name and the chemical oxybenzone on their ingredient lists. Don’t buy them. Plenty of safer products are available.


Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection SPF 55

The label of this product says “mild as water” but it also warns, “Stop use and ask a doctor if rash or irritation develops and lasts.”  The label adds, “keep out of reach of children” and “get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.”


Aveeno’s failing rating comes from its main ingredient: oxybenzone.  Like Coppertone’s Water Babies, little people shouldn’t be lathered in nasty chemicals.  It is just too easy to pick a better product.


Banana Boat Sport Performance Active Max Protect, SPF 110

The letters SPF mean “sun protection factor” and refers only to protection against UVB radiation, which burns the skin. It has nothing to do UVA radiation that penetrates deep into the skin, accelerates skin aging and may cause skin cancer.

The actual UVA protection factor for this Banana Boat sunscreen is as low as 12. Don’t depend on it to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Sunscreen makers are waiting for the FDA to approve more chemicals that could help boost UVA protection. In the meantime, high-SPF products may tempt people to stay in the sun too long, suppressing sunburns but upping the risks of UVA damage.

Also, hold your breath if you use this aerosol spray, or you’re likely to breathe in sunscreen chemicals that are meant for your skin.


Rite Aid Kids Sunscreen Spray Lotion SPF 45

On the front of the bottle, this products claims to be “NON-IRRITATING.” Check the reverse panel, though and you’ll see a different message: “Stop use and ask a doctor if rash or irritation develops and lasts.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends this spray as “an effective UV sunscreen,” but its UVA protection is too weak to earn a spot on store shelves in the European Union. If the FDA’s proposed UVA rating system takes effect as it is now written, Rite Aid Kids Sunscreen Spray Lotion SPF 45 would earn only one of four stars.  Remember, just because it can stop a burn (UVB rays) doesn’t mean it is stopping skin damage (UVA rays).


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This weekend I attended the funeral of a beautiful 29-year-old mother-of-two who’s body was finally overtaken by a rare adrenal cancer.  I feel compelled to write about Shauna so that I can pass along to you what I learned in my brief time with her.  While I have learned from every person I have interviewed, talking to someone so young spurred in me many more questions and emotions.  How could this really be happening?

Shauna was diagnosed at the young age of 27, about 9 months after the birth of her son.  She had experienced headaches, likely tracing back around the birth of her daughter, more than two years before her official diagnosis.  Because her symptoms were so vague, and she was so young and healthy, doctors didn’t take them very seriously.  She says she knew something was wrong, but it wasn’t until she went into the doctor for a sinus infection that the cancer diagnosis began to unveil itself.

During the exam for the sinus infection, the doctor noticed that her blood pressure was extremely high.  The physician thought it may be caused by the narrowing of the renal artery and ordered a sonogram.  Soon, the sonographer found a mass the size of a junior football on her adrenal gland.  Again, due to her health, age, and the rarity of adrenal cancer, doctors assumed that it was not going to be malignant.  Thus, to keep her young body from bearing a large scar, the doctor extracted the tumor laparoscopically.  The force it took to pull the tumor out likely lead to many cancer cells being sloughed off into her abdominal cavity, where they attached and spread throughout the body.  When they discovered the tumor was cancerous, the damage had been done.

So, for almost two years, Shauna fought the cancer with strength and grace.

Before I started to interview Shauna, my biggest question was why?  How can this be happening to someone with a 2-year-old and a baby?  How can someone only 27 have cancer?  What did she do wrong?

I believed surely, it could have been prevented.  I was certain that through our discussions I would uncover the root of her cancer.  I thought I would find a life filled with mindless eating, toxic emotions, physical inertia….smoking, family trauma, chemical exposure…there had to be something that could explain why she got cancer.  If I could just figure it out then I could make sure I did every thing right and avoid her fate.  I’ll eat vegan, do more yoga, feel more joy, pray better – you show me, Shauna, and I’ll do it.  I’m a good student.  I’ll try to do everything perfectly.

After the hours of conversations, however, I slowly became aware that there was nothing she did wrong.  There was nothing more she could have done.  No amount of wheat grass, meditation or deep breathing was going to prevent her from that journey.  She led a beautiful life full of joy, love and energy.  This rare cancer came into her body just because.  Just to teach her and countless others like me to let go.  Live life.  Don’t worry about doing everything right.  Appreciate your family.  The messy house can wait.  Every moment is amazing.  Take it all in.  Accept help.  Sit. Be still. Listen.

It really shed light on my own visions and beliefs of perfection.  I still grapple with trying to do everything “right.”  I find myself caught in old patterns and judging myself.  If I had only done that better…

Well, this girl did about everything right, damn it, and she still got cancer!  It was just another reminder that life is like and expedition in an unknown forest:  we don’t know what lies ahead, we are probably not going in a straight line, we may have to back track, we may find some road blocks, and being perfect has nothing to do with it!  Trying to do everything right just makes the travels more difficult.  Get over it, Dalai, and enjoy the scenery!

So, thank you, Shauna for letting me learn from you.  You have touched many lives in your short 29 years, me being one of them.

A pictorial tribute to Shauna


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I was cleaning out my dresser and came across my research of MSG and realized that I have never touched on the subject of MSG.

We all have heard that MSG is bad, but how many of us know:

  1. What is the difference between glutamate and MSG?
  2. What does it do to our brains?
  3. Why food manufacturers use it?
  4. What other sneaky names can it be hidden under?

What is the difference between glutamate and MSG?

Glutamate (not MSG) is found naturally in many things, including food like chicken, eggs, peas and corn.  However, most glutamate found in unprocessed foods are “bound” to a protein.  This means that the body had to digest and “unbind” it, making it virtually harmless.

Glutamate is also the most abundant excitatory (meaning it increases action) neurotransmitter in our nervous system.  It performs numerous functions, one interesting one is its key role in forming our children’s’ brains.

The brain undergoes its greatest growth in the last trimester of pregnancy and the first two years of life.  It “over produces” connections, and at precise times and amounts (still unknown to us today) our natural glutamate acts as a tree trimmer and destroys unnecessary circuits and synapses.  Studies in rats have shown that feeding pregnant rats MSG can influence their offspring’s brain neurotransmitters, likely by “trimming” too much.  The major learning and memory neurotransmitter was reduced by 80%, explaining why the MSG offspring preformed much worse on complex tasks.

So, while glutamate is naturally found in our body, it doesn’t mean MSG is harmless. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a salt of the amino acid called Glutamic Acid (Glutamate).  It is produced by “freeing” glutamate from the protein it is connected to in a cooking process.  Since it is unbound, MSG is immediately absorbed in our bloodstream, spiking our glutamate levels, and potentially causing side effects such as headaches, irritability, and anger.

Can you imagine, knowing that a child’s brain is 4 times more sensitive to MSG than an adult brain, feeding this to your child?

What does it do to our brains?

In addition to what I have touched on above, MSG can cause a whole host of other problems.  Since there are glutamate receptors all over the body, including the brain, heart, lungs and the pancreas, there are many ways to be effected. For example, by affecting hypothalamus (the part of the brain that regulates food intake), MSG can lead to obesity. By affecting neural pathways from the brain to joints or muscles, MSG can be implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer’s fibromyalgia and arthritis.

Researchers have found many cancers have glutamate receptors, suggesting they are aggravated by glutamate. The cancers of this type include several brain cancers, colon cancer, and breast cancer.

The bottom line is that MSG isn’t good for any of us.

So, why, then, do manufacturers use it?

If we know that MSG can be harmful, why don’t manufacturers just use salt?  Well, MSG does more than add a salty taste.  MSG tricks our tongue into thinking something contains protein, and thus is nutritious.  So, it literally changes your perception of the nutritional qualities of what you put into your mouth.

The food industry also benefits from MSG’s hunger side effect.  You see, MSG stimulates the pancreas to release insulin even when there are no carbohydrates to process. The blood sugar drops because of the insulin so you are hungry an hour later.  Sound familiar? It’s a convenient way to keep consumers coming back for more.

Cost, of course, is always an important factor.  When food producers put MSG in a product, it can actually save money by using less REAL protein.  Which is why chicken noodle soup can get away with 3-4 micorbits of chicken.

What other names is MSG hidden under?

  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Calcium glutamate
  • Monoammonium glutamate
  • Magnesium glutamate
  • Natrium glutamate
  • Yeast extract
  • Anything “hydrolyzed”
  • Any “hydrolyzed protein”
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Yeast food
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Gelati
  • Textured protein
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto

How do you avoid MSG?

Avoid processed foods as much as you can. Avoid flavored chips and opt for plain potato or tortilla chips. Make your own soups or choose organic brands that do not use MSG. Really, the more you cook at home, the less you have to worry! Most food “evils” all come back to manufactured foods. You never can go wrong with nature!

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Finally, the study I have been waiting for: you CAN be too clean for your own good.

(This one is for you, Lotte, my darling college roommate who wouldn’t use my brush or sit on our toilet.  I can only imagine your quad strength after all of these years.)

Good grief, then my children should be safe all winter long. I didn’t have any stock photos of my kids dirty hands, but I didn’t need to…here are Dalai Daniel’s hands from this morning….

A recent study out of University of Michigan looked at levels of triclosan and Bisphenol A (BPA) in the urine of patients. Triclosan is found in most antibacterial soaps and have been highly criticized for many reasons (one being its fast increasing levels in our water supply).  BPA is foundin most plastics.  Both BPA and triclosan are endocrine disruptors, which I have talked about here and here.

The study suggests that people who are overexposed to antibacterial soaps containing triclosan may suffer more allergies.  Higher levels of Bisphenol A among adults may negatively influence the immune system.

It is no surprise to me that chemicals exposure and health problems are correlated. You are going to be exposed to chemicals when you wash our hands in public places, so give your body a break and use natural soap at home.  Studies have shown that the antibacterial soaps are no more effective.

As for the BPA, look for BPA-free markings on any plastic that will contain food, don’t heat your food in plastic containers, and be wary of plastic lined cans – most have BPA unless advertised otherwise!

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If you are looking to replace your more toxic sunscreens with safer ones, it is not very difficult. That is what is so wonderful about America – there are so many products to choose from. We just need to keep out eyes open and make better choices.

The Environmental Working Group’s top 7 safest and most effective sunscreens are a place to start:

Remember, while these are rated #1, there are many other sunscreen options out there that are excellent, like these.

You can also go to Environmental Working Groups website and search for your favorite brands and see how they stack up.

What makes these sunscreens different from, say, Coppertone Spot Spray? First, they are not sprays, which must contain chemicals that help them disseminate. Second, they avoid the more toxic sunscreen chemicals like Oxybenzone and use safer materials such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Last, they avoid additives like fragrances, colors, parabens, etc.

Don’t be surprised if you start hearing about Titanium Dioxide either! While no studies have shown anything except its innocuous safty (except a study in rats that when inhaling it in dust form, but that doesn’t really apply) it hasn’t stayed clear of some criticism. In its typical form, Titanium Dioxide is a reflector and sits on the skin. New technology has enabled it to be broken down into “nano-particles” so that you don’t have that white color that doesn’t absorb. Currently, these particles are still too big to enter the cell wall, but the concern is that as technology progresses, we will have to watch out the particles don’t get too small.

Weather you order your sunscreen on-line, make a trip to Whole Foods, or just want to pick the best sunscreen at your local Pharmacy, there are better choices everywhere. On a trip to my local Osco, I found a few “natural” choices that, while rated a 3, are better than my previous choices, which were rated a 7! Remember, don’t make it hard for yourself, or you will tend not to do it at all.

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