Monday, July 27, 2015

Sara Snow's Non-Toxic Living Hacks for Parents

Recently I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Sara Snow; wife, mother, organic food guru, author and host of the Discovery Channel's 'Get Fresh with Sara Snow'  as well as the segment 'Living Green'.  She has made a fabulous career  out of helping make natural and green living easier and more accessible for the everyday citizen.  Sara spends her days sharing practical tips that moms and dads can bring home to help make their transition to non-toxic living easier ....  and today I am delighted to say she is the first, of what I hope will become a recurrent series, to talk to Non-Toxic Munchkin about her top 3  Non-Toxic living hacks for parents:  Enjoy!!

Non-Toxic Munckin:  What does non-toxic living mean to you
Sara Snow: Non-toxic living isn't so much about zero exposure to toxic ingredients and products, it's about limiting exposure across the board.  For me and my family that means eating organic foods to limit pesticide and synthetic fertilizer exposure, it means cleaning with healthier products, avoiding synthetic fragrance in things like laundry detergent and lotion, and skipping personal care products that contain nasty ingredients like parabens and petroleum.

Non-Toxic Munckin: Has this definition changed for you from when you were younger to now that you are a mother?  If so how?
Sara Snow: More than anything else I find that I approach my efforts and the efforts of other people (moms in particular) with a lot more grace.  

I used to set pretty high standards for myself and anyone else that I was coaching.  My standards are still high but I also understand that life is busy and full and crazy and overwhelming at times. If we don't also set realistic expectations for ourselves, then we're never going to stick with all of the good changes we're making.  So, I'd much rather someone baby-step their way into healthier, LESS-toxic living, than go all in for 100% NON-toxic living only to find that it isn't sustainable for their lives.  I hate to see people throw in the towel!

Non-Toxic Munchkin: What are your top 3 non-toxic living hacks for parents?
Sara Snow:
  1. Switch out your all-purpose kitchen/bath cleaner for vinegar and water.  Simply fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of distilled white vinegar and water.  It is so much safer and healthier than any store bought product and will save you a lot of money.
  2.  Buy more foods in bulk.  Not only does it cut down on packaging waste, it means less of your foods were exposed to potentially toxic packaging.
  3. Open your windows, even if just a crack, to get more fresh air flowing through your house.  The air inside our homes is incredibly more toxic than the air outside.

Non-Toxic Munchkin: Name one product or service you discovered while filming your show ‘Get Fresh with Sara Snow”  (or after) that makes natural and green living easier and more accessible for moms and dads
Sara Snow:
  1. Thrive Market is incredible.  It's a new online shopping club where members can buy natural, wholesome foods at 25-50% off retail prices, delivered for free.  It works off of memberships like Costco.  I find all of my same healthy, natural foods and other products there are fantastic, discounted prices.   

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Anatomy of the Perfect Sippy

We have gone through a lot of bottles and sippy cups in my house.  When my oldest munchkin (now 5) was born we used BPA free bottles and sippy cups.  Then we found out that the substitute chemicals used instead of BPA appear to be just as bad or even worse at disrupting our hormones than BPA.   So we switched.  

 We switched to mostly glass (Born Free and most other brands now a days offer glass ) and sometimes Stainless Steel..... but then I realized that even those sippy cups mostly have plastic mouth pieces which go through a lot of wear and tear in children's mouths with little teeth.  So what is the ideal and safest sippy cup/ child friendly water bottle out there today?  I think I found it!  But first, let's understand what you want to look for and what you want to avoid when shopping


Yes there is 'safe' plastic out there.   However, personally, I am always suspicious of plastic - I feel it is only a matter of time before new studies will prove that different kinds of plastics are harmful so I feel much better by avoiding as much plastic as possible.

BPA free plastic? Still not safe.   BPS, a common substitute for BPA is showing signs of also messing with your hormones like BPA.

Here is the low-down on different types of plastics (as identified by the number inside their recycling sign )

  • Plastic #1:  PETE, or PET (polyethylene terephthalate): Used for most transparent bottles, such as water, soda, cooking oil, and medicine bottles. Generally 'safe' to use - but meant for single use not to be reused nor heated
  • Plastic #2: HDPE (high density polyethylene): Sturdy, rigid plastic found in reusable food storage containers, milk and detergent bottles.  
  • Plastic #3:   always avoid.  (PVC) leaches phthalates which have been shown to cause developmental and reproductive damage. 
  • Plastic #4: low density polyethylene: Flexible plastic used for bags or wraps, such as produce bags.  Not designed for reuse not usually recyclable
  • Plastic #5:  PPE, aka PP (polypropolene): Pliable plastic found in squeeze bottles, reusable food containers, and yogurt and margarine tubs.  Generally 'safe'
  • Plastic #6: (polystyrene) leaches styrene which can cause nervous system effects and liver damage. Used in rigid take out containers and foam meat trays. Not safe when heated.
  • Plastic #7: Polycarbonate, one type of plastic #7 has been shown to leach Bisphenol A (BPA) that estrogen mimicking chemical we have talked about.  Used for baby bottles, five gallon water jugs, and reusable sports water bottles.


  • Aluminum:  Often mistaken for stainless steel (which is considered  a safe material),   Aluminum is not a recommendable material to buy.  Aluminum can easily break down, exposing your child to heavy metals especially when exposed to acidic compounds (like juice).  Because of how easily aluminum breaks down, aluminum bottles have to be lined with an enamel or epoxy layer , usually made of BPA.  This BPA is then easily released into the liquid you are drinking.  Aluminum bottles are easy to identify because of the inner golden orange lining that stainless steel bottles don't have.  

  • Stainless steel:  Stainless Steel sippy cups and bottles are lightweight and are considered non-toxic.   They are quite resistant, which make them ideal for young children (stainless steel could give off tiny amounts of nickel.  Avoid if you have a nickel allergy).
  • Glass: Although not a material you would normally recommend for your children, glass is one of the purest and most natural materials.  Won't break down with heat (can be washed in dishwasher) or acidic drinks.   Luckily, many companies have created nice options for glass  sippy cups and water bottles protected by colorful and fun silicon.   
  • Plastic #5:  If your sippy must have a plastic component polypropylene plastic is generally considered a safer and non-leaching plastic.  Still, best to hand wash and not place in dishwasher

  • Pura Kiki Stainless Sippy Bottle Stainless Steel with XL Sipper Spout, 11 Ounce, Aqua Blue, 6 Months+
  • Made of stainless steel, this water bottle has absolutely no plastic.  The drinking mechanism is stainless steel and silicon.  They come in two sizes (5 and 11 ounces) and in colors as well as plain stainless steel.  They are compatible with snouts and nipples from various other brands including Born Free, Avent, Think Baby and Dr Browns. The brand itself offers bottle nipples, straw tops, sippy spouts and adult options too.

  • Lifefactory 9-Ounce Glass Bottle with Flat Cap and Silicone Sleeve, Grass Green Available in  4 oz , 9 oz and 22 oz, leakproof, dishwasher safe (My 5 year old and I both use this.  if you do not use the plastic sippy - which y 5 year old does not need- this is a good option.) The glass is borosilicate glass  (which is less breakable).  Their sippy caps are polypropylene ('safer') but still replace when usage is apparent and avoid placing in dishwasher.                                
  • Klean Kanteen Kid's Stainless Steel Bottle with 3.0 Sport Cap 12 oz, stainless steel, leakproof, dishwasher safe.  Their plastic sippy works well too although it does not come with a cover at the present time.  Make sure to buy a replacement sippy when you see the sippy has been used a lot.
  • Silikids Siliskin Glass Cup with Silicone Sleeve, Sea, 24 Months, 2 Count made of glass and completely protected by a silicon sleeve and silicon sippy top.   Also come in bright colors ( I love the yellow! please note the link provided is for the glass without the sippy cup top) 

Regardless of what sippy cup or water bottle you choose try to minimize the plastic.  Also, never place plastic in the microwave, or dishwasher or leave in a hot car or in the sun for prolonged periods of time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Could Common 'Safe' Chemicals Mix With Other 'Safe' Chemicals in Your Body to Produce Cancer? Research Says Yes

One in five cancers may be caused when common chemicals – deemed safe on their own – blend lethally inside the human body.  

That is a huge claim.
One in five cancers?! 
Chemicals deemed 'safe' on their own mixing together with other 'safe' chemicals to cause cancer?

 Yes, that is exactly what a group of 174 scientist from 28  countries concluded after investigating 85 common chemicals, all of which are not considered to be carcinogenic to humans on their own and all of which are common chemicals found in most people's daily routine.

More than 2/3 of the chemicals reviewed were found to have the likelihood to combine with other non-carcinogenic chemicals and..."  conspire to produce carcinogenic synergies (aka cancer)."  This was found even when low doses of the chemicals were in use.

In reading the full report I did not find a list of chemicals studied but they do mention environmental chemicals with oestrogenic properties (endocrine disruptor's like BPA in plastics, among others, which mimic the hormone estrogen)  which have been found to have effects on breast cancer cells, in addition to phthalate esters (which can be found in all products with fragrance and are also used to make plastics bendable) and herbicides. one of the scientists involved in the research told CTV ""(They include) some of the fuels, some of the plastics, and some of the cosmetics we use.  They're in our food, our products, our preservatives, our pesticides."


While it is true that no single chemical or product will give you cancer, the reality is that we are constantly exposed to hundreds of different chemicals on a daily basis.   In fact, the average woman uses over 187 chemicals just in her daily beauty product routine.  

This 'cocktail effect' - the interactions between many chemicals from different products, in our bodies is what has least been studied until now.... and the results are clearly not good.    

The study also focused on "how low dose exposures over a prolonged time span may actually play a more important role than has ... been appreciated."  

What this means to you is that it is worth your time to reduce the chemicals in your daily routine because, although government  institutions and chemical company's assure you these chemicals are "safe if used as directed"  or  safe in "such minute quantities"... this study has found what many have long suspected:  

  • exposing oneself to the same chemicals every single day, even in small quantities, for years and years can have serious effects on your health.   
  • exposing yourself to many different 'safe' chemicals over a prolonged period of time could have adverse effects on your health, including cancer
Ultimately, the study is important because is brings to light the need to further study and regulate the chemicals we use ever day.  Currently over 82,000 chemicals are in use in products we use every day and only roughly about 200 have ever been tested for safety.  No one knows if they are safe for human use, nor how these 82,000 chemicals interact with each other or what happens when you use low doses of a chemical over a long period of time.  Our federal government has allowed chemical companies to add thousands of chemicals into products we use on our babies, in our homes, on our bodies without regulating or thoroughly studying them  (to read more on what is currently going on in Congress with chemical reform click here)

 A study like this should come as no surprise, since these chemicals have mostly not been studied,  however should be taken very seriously.  As they say in their final published remarks "it may mark the turning point in the battle of the human race against this deadly disease."

The take away for you and your family's daily routine? 
Use less. The best way to reduce your chemical exposure is to reduce the number of products and chemicals you use on a daily basis. 
No harm will come of it and much good could!