Call Your Senator About Safe Chemical Act Vote Tomorrow!

  • July 24, 2012 1:33 pm

I blew off two hours of work this morning because I was glued to my computer watching the live streaming Environment and Public Works Committee hearing “Oversight of EPA Authorities and Actions to Control Exposures to Toxic Chemicals.” Today’s hearing came right before tomorrow’s vote on the Safe Chemicals Act, which Senator Lautenberg, among others, has been working on for years and years.

These hearings aren’t always the most riveting things to watch, but I laughed, I cried, I even cheered. Too bad it wasn’t on national television. It was good stuff. There were some incredible moments (Senator Barbara Boxer telling Marshall Moore, Director of Technology, Advocacy and Marketing Great Lakes Solutions, A Chemtura Business, to take an ethics lesson was a highlight) and some amazing testimony (I’m partial to moms and so was particularly moved by the strong words from Dr. Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemistry assistant professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, and from Hannah Pingree, former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, who is currently 6 months pregnant and knows more than a few things about body burden).

This is such a crucial moment. The fate of America’s public health is in government hands. So I’m writing this quick post to urge you to call your representatives and ask them to support the Safe Chemical Act being voted on tomorrow. The current legislation, the Toxic Substance Control Act, from 1976, is wildly outdated and ineffective (and wasn’t strong enough to begin with). If you don’t know who your senator is, you can call 202-224-3121 to be directed or look it up online.

The science and the evidence are undeniable. As people pointed out today at the hearing, the majority of Americans believe chemical companies must have unbiased proof that their products are safe before they come on the market, much like pharmaceutical companies are required to provide. This currently isn’t the case in our country.

If you think the burden of consumer product safety should be on the manufacturers and that humans—especially kids, who are more vulnerable than adults—should not be guinea pigs, please pick up the phone. This isn’t about anything other than common sense.

I was typing notes quickly as Senator Boxer posed the following closing question, so forgive me if it’s a bit paraphrased: “Do you believe that chemical manufacturers should have to show through unbiased studies that their products are safe for pregnant women…. If someone can’t answer that question with an affirmative response, they are putting special interest before the health of people, their own kids, and the first responders.”

Even if I missed a few of her words, it’s well put.

Now go make that call, please.

Q&A: Baby Seats?

  • July 11, 2012 8:44 am
The Question:
Hi,
I am considering buying a baby seat, like the Bumbo or Prince Lionheart Bebepod.  Each of these are supposedly made from “non-toxic polyurethane foam.” I also have a dish drying mat that contains “virgin polyurethane foam.”  Is there really such a thing as a “safe” polyurethane foam?
Thanks,
Kim
The Answer:
Dear Kim,
Excellent question. One I’d ask myself! I didn’t own a baby seat. Is there another way to get the benefits without a foam product? If not, and if you really decide you need a baby seat, try calling the companies you mention and asking them if they use flame retardants in the foam (which is highly flammable) and if so, which ones. I’m not a fan of foam products for babies or kids; most do contain questionable flame retardant chemicals. Thankfully a recent excellent investigative series done by The Chicago Tribune has heated up (pun intended!) the question of flame retardant necessity as well as safety. Now California is considering repealing their strict standards. If this passes, it should, in turn, dial back use in consumer products; it doesn’t make sense for manufacturers to make one product for California and another for the other states. My fingers are so crossed they’re losing circulation. This would be a huge, huge victory for environmental health.
Best,
Alexandra

Teaching for The Maternity Institute

  • July 6, 2012 12:34 pm

I’m thrilled that this fall I will start teaching at the Maternity Institute. Here’s a little bit from their press release announcement:

“Alexandra will begin teaching IMI’s Greenproofer Certification™ course in the Fall of 2012. Through the IMI Greenproofer 10 week certification program with Alexandra, participants will gain comprehensive knowledge and practical experience to prepare pre-conceiving, expecting, and new parents for toxic free living while expanding their careers as maternity eco-consultants and greenbirth educators.”

Fun! I hope maybe you’ll join me?

Cafe Mom’s Mom Ed: Green Living 2nd Episode –All About Plastics

  • April 26, 2012 3:22 pm

More fun on the set of Mom Ed: Green Living. This time Kristen and I chatted about all things plastic. I really do try to avoid the stuff as much as possible.

Let me know what you think!

New York Family Magazine: The Green Guru

  • March 1, 2012 1:25 pm

Thanks New York Family for this lovely feature:

The Green Guru

How Organic Living Expert And NYC Mom Alexandra Zissu Keeps Her Loft Clean, Cozy And Eco-Friendly

 

Q&A: Breastfeeding vs. Formula

  • January 19, 2012 8:28 am

THE QUESTION:
Hello,

My name is Helene…I wanted to have your opinion on my little issue. I just had my 3rd baby, a little boy, Alexander. Like you, I believe in a sustainable and green way of life. I have been breastfeeding all my babies but this time I’m very tired and I feel my husband wants me to start the formula. I don’t know what to do because even the organic formulas are not a prefect solution. I have read that most of the toxic products come from the can that contains the milk.
Do you have an opinion on this matter ?

Have a nice day and thank you in advance for any piece of advice you can give me.

Helene

THE ANSWER:

Helene,

Sorry for the delay in responding. I know how hard these early weeks can be. I hope you’re managing to get some rest.

Since you–like me–are so devoted to breastfeeding, are there other things you can do to make you less tired? A lactation consultant can help you get your son on a schedule that might give you some time, and help you figure out when to pump so your concerned husband, babysitter, or even older children can help you feed the baby while you get some rest. Can you hire a babysitter to help out a few hours so you can have time to yourself and to rest? These are the things I would try before heading over to formula. At this point–last time I checked–even the staid old American Academy of Pediatrics suggests breastfeeding for a full year (and introducing solids at six months). Here’s a quote from a report they did in 2005: “Exclusive breastfeeding has been shown to provide improved protection against many diseases and to increase the likelihood of continued breastfeeding for at least the first year of life.”

If you are going to introduce formula, can you continue to breastfeed some? Organic formula is absolutely preferable to conventional–especially when it comes to genetically modified ingredients. I think choosing organic and reading ingredients is at least as important as the can linings, which can contain the hormone disrupting chemical BPA. One way to minimize the contents of the can’s lining getting into the formula is to use powdered over liquid. BPA can still be found in the linings of cans containing powdered formula, but the Environmental Working Group says powder is a better choice.

It’s important to consider the water you will mix with the formula. I prefer filtered for so many reasons, including that it helps minimize exposure to excess fluoride in the water, which can lead to dental fluorosis. The CDC says you can use bottled water for this purpose, but  that involves a lot of wasteful plastic bottles, on top of the formula containers.

I hope this helps and that you find your groove and get some rest. I know it was a long time after my daughter was born that I finally got some! This too shall pass.

Best,
Alexandra

Q&A: Mattresses, Mattresses, Mattresses

  • January 9, 2012 11:15 am

I’m behind in answering questions. So here are a few quickies, both mattress-related.

THE QUESTION

Hi Alexandra,

I discovered your website when searching for organic/natural mattresses. Like yourself, I practice green living, and I was appalled at all of the chemicals when my husband and I started searching for a mattress a few months ago. After purchasing and returning a temprapedic, we are still in the market for a mattress. To what extent have you researched mattresses and the wool, cotton, latex in them?
Have a wonderful new year!

Birgit

THE ANSWER

Hi Birgit,
Thanks for getting in touch. It’s great you’ll be replacing the foam. Did you happen to see this earlier post about mattresses on my site? I’ve been writing about mattresses on and off since 2005 when I first researched The Complete Organic Pregnancy. Wool, cotton, and natural latex can all be great alternatives. Hopefully you can find a store near you that stocks these mattresses so you can try them out for softness/hardness. Many stores do now have them.

Hope this helps. Happy sleeping.

Best,
Alexandra

THE QUESTION

Hi ,

I found your blog, when I was searching for the green furniture for my future baby, so I decided to email you. I’m looking for a organic and hypoallergenic mattress, but there are so many options on the market. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Aleksandra

THE ANSWER

Aleksandra,

See above — hope you saw the earlier post I wrote about mattresses. If you’re buying pretty much any organic mattress, you’re already setting your baby up for better breathing space in her room. That said, you’re right, there are tons on the market. If you have a store near you that stocks them, head on out and ask questions. Push on them, sit on them, see how you feel. Is it too soft? Soft isn’t said to be great for babies. Does it feel nice and hard? Find out what is being used as the flame retardant and what else is in there.

Though I have mentioned brand names in the past, and have linked to stores in some of the links on that last blog, I’m not overly fond of naming names. Manufacturing issues arise and materials can change. It’s always best to zero in on the materials you want (hypoallergenic and organic), then find a brand that sells mattresses made with those materials. From there you can call up manufacturers and ask further questions you might have. Some so called organic mattresses now have third party certification–an added layer of trust since the word organic is really only regulated when it comes to food.

It’s a good problem to have too many organic options to choose from. This wasn’t always the case. This way you’re guaranteed to find the right version for you.

Best,

Alexandra

Q&A: Water Filters

  • November 15, 2011 8:32 am

THE QUESTION

Hi Alexandra,

It was so great to hear you speak and meet you Sunday.  I really enjoyed your talk and I’m so glad I convinced my husband to come because he keeps talking about some of the things you said and “reminding” me! ; )

I find myself having more questions now than before though!  Can I ask your opinion on what to do about water?  We buy cases of Poland Spring bottles every month – but are thinking (with your help!) that we shouldn’t.  I’ve heard that NYC water is one of the best in the country and you mention it too, but that it is a building/piping issue that needs to be examined before consuming large amounts of it.  Our building…was built in the 80′s so it is not that old…do you think I need to get a testing kit?  Filter for the sink?  Shower?  We are in a rental, so if it is something I can screw on myself that would be easiest rather than have a plumber come and install something.  Would love to hear your thoughts whenever you have time.

Best,
Julia

THE ANSWER

Julia,

Nice meeting you, too. Thanks for the email and important question. I’m so glad you’re ready to give up the bottled water! Here in New York City, we can call 311 and the city will send you a free test kit for your water. Even if you didn’t live in NYC, it’s never a bad idea to get your water tested, even in a new-ish building. Remember that water flows through many pipes to get from the source to you–including ones outside your building. Probably all you will need is an activated carbon filter–these can be installed directly to your tap and/or come in pitcher form.

A shower head filter is lovely, too, and very screw-on-yourself-able. Hot water releases all of the impurities that might be found in your water into the air in vapor form, so it goes directly into your lungs as you shower.

Here’s some information on municipal drinking water from The Conscious Kitchen that I think will be helpful. I have separate information in the book on well water, choosing filters, and why, precisely, I dislike bottled water so much. There’s a lot more in there your husband can remind you about, too!
Municipal water, unlike bottled water, is tested and regulated. The results are public information. If you’re curious about what yours might contain, as you should be, ask your water utility company for a copy of the annual water quality report. Even if your municipal water is good, you still might want to test what flows out of our tap if you live in an older building or house. This will show you what might be coming out of your pipes–like lead–into your water. Plumbing installed before 130 tends to contain lead pipes, and lead solder is still used on newer copper pipes. Old pipes don’t automatically equal contaminated water; years of mineral deposits from water can coat the walls of lead pipes, creating a barrier of sorts…..After testing, all most tap water needs–unless there is an issue–is an activated carbon filter, such as Brita. The websites for various filters will say what substances they reduce. These usually include chlorine, lead, copper, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and benzene, as well as some parasites like giardia, plus odors and “bad” flavor. Even though everything tested within allowable levels in my water at home, I personally still use a filter to further reduce whatever levels I have of the above, and to protect myself against what might arise in the reservoir or corrode in my pipes over time. There are many bogus filtering products on the market, so buy only certified filters.”

I drink filtered NYC tap all day long — in glass at home, and in my stainless steel water bottle on the go. Why pay for what’s free and good? Plus, drinking tap means no extra plastic bottles, no recycling, and you’re no longer involved with having something you already have flowing from your taps bottled, transported, and delivered to you every month. It’s good common sense!

Best,
Alexandra

Q&A: Sealing Particleboard Furniture (Including Cribs)

  • September 22, 2011 8:07 am

THE QUESTION:

My superintendent is coming by today to set up the crib for baby #2. Last time around, I recall that you warned me not to put the kid in a (standard commercial) crib without applying some kind of sealant to keep it from . . . off-gassing, was it?

If so could I trouble you to remind me what that product was?…Thanks so much….
AK

THE ANSWER:

Thanks for the great question; lots of expecting parents have had similar inquiries. I answer this in The Complete Organic Pregnancy–and again in Planet Home!–and have excerpted a few paragraphs from the former below. Congrats on #2 and good luck!

When setting up a nursery, keep in mind that items you might want from small organic stores will take longer than you think to be shipped.  Allow plenty of time, or you’ll be running through Buy Buy Baby in labor with a plastic changing table in your shopping cart.  All the furniture in your nursery, and ideally the entire house, should be made of solid hardwood with a nontoxic finish.  Avoid particleboard and plywood, which are held together with toxic formaldehyde-based glues, as well as plastic.  We realize that plywood is ubiquitous.  If you have something that’s made of plywood, you can seal it with Safecoat Safe Seal, a water-based low-gloss sealer for highly porous surfaces.  Or speak to a Safecoat salesman about the best product for wood you want to seal.

Our basic advice is that you really won’t need half the stuff everyone insists you and your new pumpkin-sized roommate will need.  We prefer to spend more money on fewer items.  If you’re having trouble finding certified or recycled wood furniture for your baby, try to buy secondhand, or inherit hand-me-downs.  Americans use about 27 percent of the wood commercially harvested worldwide.  Much of it is harvested in an unsustainable (not naturally regenerating) manner, making the burden on forest ecosystems that much greater.

Q&A: Juice Bars And Pregnancy

  • September 16, 2011 12:30 pm
THE QUESTION:

Hi Alexandra,

Just recently finished [The Complete Organic Pregnancy]. My husband and I have been recently trying for a baby and prior to that I probably devoured a dozen books on pre-pregnancy and I have to say your book is the most substantial and downright fantastic out of all of them! What I appreciated most from your book was how easily your research and tips could translate into everyday life and also how to truly make both your body and the environment both inside and outside the most optimal possible.

In saying that, I am left with a few questions:

1. Juices: I now know to avoid them, but what about smoothies, ingredients consist of whole fresh organic fruits, organic milk and ice??

That’s it, thank you so very much! Your book is the best gift I could have asked for and consult it regularly!!

With gratitude,

Meika

THE ANSWER:
Meika actually sent a few questions, so I’m answering them in separate posts.

You’re so welcome! Thanks for writing in.

The juices you’re referring to are the ones found at juice bars and smoothie shops.  Often these juices are from conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and the juicing machines are breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria like E. coli. You cannot guarantee that the juicers have been cleaned regularly (or with what–i.e. chlorine bleach or other chemicals that leave residues that get into your drinks).  Because juice bar juices are unpasteurized, they’re a major concern if you’re pregnant.  Even organic juice products are suspect. Odwalla faced a total recall of their products in the 1990s due to E. coli.  It’s just not worth the risk when you’re expecting. Far better to get your fruit and veggie fix from the actual thing. Or, as I mention in The Conscious Kitchen (excerpted below), you can make your own at home. That way you know what the ingredients are, where they came from, and that your juicer is clean.
Fresh squeezed, 100 percent juice is fabulous in moderation.  Thankfully, it’s so expensive at my local organic organic juice bar that moderation isn’t a problem.  If you’re someone who really likes juice, look into buying an energy-efficient juicer.  Having your own means  you can control what kind of fruit is used (local or organic or sustainable), how much and what kind of sugar is added, and how the machine is cleaned.

Alternatives to fresh squeezed are a mixed bag.  Most store-bought juice actually contains very little juice, so it’s up to an adept label reader to find the real deal.  Otherwise, you may suck down a lot of unnecessary and expensive sugar water (along with other unexpected additives, like synthetic fragrance).  Organic jarred or cartoned juices are sometimes guilty of containing as much sugar or sweeteners as their conventional counterparts, but at least it’s not derived from genetically modified corn.  When it comes to artificial sweeteners, all bets are off.  I don’t put those things in my body, and suggest you don’t either.  Real sugar is vastly preferable, unless, of course, you have a medical condition that means you can’t tolerate it.

Hope that helps!
Best,
Alexandra