Chemicals, Kids and what we as parents butt-up against as we try to raise healthy children in a toxic world.
Fluoride is one of those issues that runs deep with people – like vaccination, religion and money. Those in favour argue that its addition to public water supplies and toothpastes has been a boon to dental health, providing a cost-effective and equitable way to prevent tooth decay. Opponents argue that evidence for its safety and efficacy is dubious at best and that dosing the public water supply with a chemical amounts to mass medication.
And there is evidence to support both sides of the debate.
So where do I sit?
If I listened to everything the doctors, obstetricians, and my fellow public health colleagues said I would have taken the epidural, stopped breastfeeding after 6 months and resisted our desires for co-sleeping. But I didn’t. And it’s usually when we’re co-sleeping – with one child buried under the crook of my armpit, the other with a leg thrown across my belly where my intellectual wonderings as a public health researcher and natural parenting mama converge. And this is what I have discovered about fluoride and caring for our oral health.
So what is fluoride?
Fluoride ions (Calcium Fluoride CaF2 ) are naturally occurring and come from the element fluorine, found in rocks, soil, plants, air and water. Proponents are quick to sell the ‘natural’ aspect of fluoridation, arguing that its addition to water is akin to fortifying or enriching foods such as adding zinc, iron or calcium to breakfast cereals, iodine to salt, or folic acid to flour. They say it’s not adding a ‘medicine’, just tweaking the natural level of fluoride found in water. The problem with this argument is three fold. Firstly, the majority of what we see on food packaging is simply a distortion by the food marketers and manufacturers. Lollies laced with vitamin C or oven fries fortified with Omega 3 fatty acids with the promise of boosting brain functions of consumers are simply a distortion of science and examples of misleading nutritional value marketed as healthy food choices. Secondly, fluoride, unlike calcium or magnesium, is not an essential nutrient for your body. If you were to consume zero fluoride your entire life, you wouldn’t suffer for it. There’s no such thing as fluoride deficiency.[i] And thirdly, while fluoride ions can be naturally occurring, these are not the ones added to drinking water and oral hygiene products. Queensland Health Water Fluoridation: Questions and Answers booklet states that the fluoride in our water are in fact sourced from scrubbers used in the manufacturing of fertilizers and that these scrubbers ‘convert fluoride into a liquid or powder form (hydrofluoroslicic acid) that can be collected and safely added to water supplies’.
Despite reassurances from regulators that contaminant levels are ‘extremely low’ and conform to Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, fluoride sourced from scrubbers does not undergo purification procedures and has been found to contain various contaminants, including arsenic, lead, arsenic and mercury. Along with fluoride, these contaminants bio-accumulate in our cells, bones, blood and organs, even in the pineal gland in our brains.
And overexposed to fluoride we are! Virtually all foodstuffs contain at least trace amounts of fluoride. When water is fluoridated, it is not just the water that is fluoridated, but all foods and beverages that are made with the water. As a general rule, the more processed a food is, the more fluoride it has. The highest dietary concentration of fluoride occurs in animal and processed foods, especially fish. Fluoride builds up in the tissues of animals, and whenever fluoridated water is used in food production, fluoride will be concentrated in the final product. The same goes for cooking with fluoridated water. And adults only excrete 50-60% of the fluoride we ingest. Children only about 20% and babies and the elderly, excrete even less. Fluoride even crosses the placenta in pregnancy.
But it’s good for our teeth?
Fluoride is still the cornerstone of modern dental caries management. Fluoride acts as an enzyme inhibitor and is said to work by strengthening teeth, inhibiting demineralization, remineralising damaged enamel, and destroying the enzymes in the oral bacteria that produce the acids that erode the teeth. And there are some studies to support this. Researchers comparing topical and systemic fluoride action concluded that it was the topical application of fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash products that is most beneficial.[ii]
Even so, there are currently no labeling nor legal requirements to specify the type of fluoride being added to topical applications and there is currently no scientific evidence of a safe fluoride dosage per person given that fluoride consumption varies from person to person depending on their level of exposure.
Research also reveals that when fluoridation has been discontinued in communities from Canada, the former East Germany, Cuba and Finland, dental decay has not increased but has generally continued to decrease.[iii]
At a supermarket outing on a recent trip to the United States, we also noted that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a poison warning on every tube of fluoride toothpaste sold in the US. The warning reads:
‘If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek medical help or contact a poison control center immediately.’
Children swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can suffer acute poisoning at doses as low as 0.1 to 0.3mg per kg of bodyweight. This generally presents in the form of gastric pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, and flu-like symptoms. A child weighing 10kg needs only to ingest 1 to 3 grams of paste (less than 3% of a tube of fluorinated toothpaste) to experience one or more of these symptoms.
The irony though, as my partner and I passed eachother different brands of children’s toothpaste, is that the manufactures of children’s toothpastes create products just beckoning to be eaten by children. They generally tend to be sweet, glossy, glittery, luminescent and smell of bubblegum, strawberries and sherbet. While I was examining the toothpastes, a mother leaned over my shoulder and told me she had recently taken to putting all the toothpaste in a safety cupboard out of her children’s reach.
Manufacturers in Australia are not legislated to put a warning label on our fluorinated toothpastes.
The toxicity of fluoride
Fluorine compounds are listed by the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) as among the top 20 of 275 substances that pose the most significant threat to human health. The Australian National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) recently considered 400 substances for inclusion on the NPI reporting list. A risk ranking was given based on health and environmental hazard identification and human and environmental exposure to the substance. Some substances were grouped together at the same rank to give a total of 208 ranks. Fluoride compounds were ranked 27th out of the 208 ranks.[iv]
The evidence of health effects are far reaching. A review of scientific literature by the Independent National Academy of Sciences found many gaps in the data about long-term health risks associated with exposure to systemically ingested fluoride. The authors found evidence of increases in dental fluorosis and called for more research on potential links with skeletal fluorosis, bone fractures, bone cancer, joint pain, thyroid damage, mental and physiological changes and dementia.[v] The National Research Council (2006), ‘it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain’.[vi]
In 2012, Researchers at Harvard University published the results of a long-term analysis that links fluoridated water to lower IQ scores in children.[vii] The researchers examined data on water fluoridation levels from a variety of medical databases and compared them to IQ scores of children who lived in the associated neighborhoods. In total, 27 separate studies were examined which found a direct link between IQ scores and the levels of fluoride in the public water supply. Children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas. The children studied were up to 14 years of age, but the investigators speculate that any toxic effect on brain development may have happened earlier, and that the brain may not be fully capable of compensating for the toxicity.
‘Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain’ says Phillipe Grandjean adjunct professor of environmental health, Harvard School of Public Health. ‘The effect of each toxicant may seem small, but the combined damage on a population scale can be serious, especially because the brain power of the next generation is crucial to all of us.’[viii]
How to reduce your daily exposure to fluoride and build resiliency
1. Stop drinking fluoridated water
Tap water consumption is the largest daily source of fluoride exposure for people who live in areas that add fluoride to the water. Avoiding consumption of fluoridated water is especially critical for babies and children. If you live in area which fluoridates its water (like 87% of the communities in Australia)you can avoid drinking the fluoride in one of three ways:
Water Filters: Purchase a water filter. Not all water filters however remove fluoride. The three types of filters that can remove fluoride are reverse osmosis, deionizers (which use ion-exchange resins), and activated alumina. Each of these filters can remove over 95-100% of the fluoride. By contrast, ‘activated carbon’ filters (e.g. Brita) do not remove fluoride. Harvesting and filtering rainwater is also an option and our preferred choice.
Spring Water: Purchase spring water. Most brands of spring water contain very low levels of fluoride. Some brands, however, contain high levels, so ask your supplier. Many suppliers also provide large reusable containers so you are not contributing to plastic consumption.
Water Distillation: A third way to avoid fluoride from the tap is to purchase a distillation unit. Water distillation will remove most, if not all, of the fluoride. The price for a distillation units varies widely depending on the size.
2. Eat a diet of whole foods
A comparison of native and primitive societies have shown a high immunity to dental caries and freedom from degenerative processes compared with the diets of modernized groups who have forsaken their native diets for the foods of commerce – white flour products, sugar, polished rice, canned goods and vegetable fats.
Dental caries and gum disease are usually a sign of nutritional deficiencies and a toxic overload. Building resiliency means increasing nutrient dense foods in your diet. These include:
3. Breast feed your baby
Fluoridated water, which contains up to 300 times more fluoride than breast milk, is by far the single largest source of fluoride for babies and infants. So without question, the single most important way to protect a baby from fluoride exposure is to breastfeed. Breast milk almost completely excludes fluoride and thus an exclusively breast-fed baby will receive virtually no fluoride exposure and well provide your baby with all the delicious and beneficial immuno-properties of breast milk.
If you’re not breastfeeding, use clean, non-fluoridated water with organic cow or goat milk formula. (See 1)
4. Say NO to dental Fluoride Gel Treatments
Although dental researchers recommend that fluoride gel treatment should only be used for patients at highest risk of cavities, many dentists continue to apply fluoride gels irrespective of the patient’s cavity risk. The fluoride gel procedure uses a concentrated acidic fluoride gel (12,300 ppm). Because of the fluoride gel’s high acidity, the saliva glands produce a large amount of saliva during the treatment, which makes it extremely difficult (both for children and adults) to avoid swallowing the gel.
Even when dentists use precautionary suction devices, children and adults will still ingest some quantities of the paste, which can cause spikes of fluoride in the blood. The next time your dentist asks you whether you want a fluoride gel treatment, say no. Alternatively, seek out a holistic dentist who does not use nor recommend fluoride in their practice.
5. Xylitol benefits
Xylitol are sweet ‘tooth-friendly’ non-fermentable, sugar alcohols found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables and can be extracted from various berries, corn husks, and birch trees. Unlike other sweeteners, xylitol has been found to be actively beneficial for dental health, including reducing dental caries[ix] by inhibiting the Streptococcus bacteria that are significant contributors to tooth decay.[x] For dental use, you can find xylitol gums, toothpastes, lozenges, and rinses.
What fluoride-free brands to buy?
Oral health impacts the whole body. When you have gum disease or plaque, inflammation of the whole body can occur. So getting your dental regime right is important. And there are some really good gums, pastes and rinses on the market. Our ‘adult’ favorites include: Ganozhi, Mukti Tooth Powder, and Oral Wellness. Our children love Spry Fluoride Free toothpaste or gel (with Xylotol), gums and mints and Dr Tung’s Floss.
Making a stand
A boon for anti-fluorination campaigners came in November 2012 when the LNP Government passed legislation amendments to end government mandated water fluoridation in Queensland. If you would like more information, or to make a stand and get involved in the campaign contact the Queenslanders For Safe Water (www.qawf.org).
Dr Sarah Lantz (PhD) is a public health and nutrition researcher, mother, and author of the bestselling book, Chemical Free Kids: Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World www.chemicalfreekids.com.au and www.nontoxsoapbox.com
[i] NRC (2006). National Research Council of the National Academies, Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press
[ii] Hellwig, E. & Lennon, A . Systemic versus Topical Fluoride’, Caries Research, 2004, 38: 258–262
[iii] Seppa L, et al. (2000). Caries trends 1992-98 in two low-fluoride Finnish towns formerly with and without fluoride. Caries Research.34: 462-8; Maupome G, et al. (2001). Patterns of dental caries following the cessation of water fluoridation. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. 29: 37-47.
[iv] Government of Australia, National Pollutant Inventory,
[This article was publihed in the December edition of Nurture Magazine www.nurtureparentingmagazine.com.au]
I grew up with the Cancer Councils Slip Slop Slap campaign. I can still hear Sid the dancing Seagull singing the jingle now, listen, ‘Slip… Slop… Slap… Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat’.
But sloping on a sunscreen, even a Cancer Council one, is not necessarily always a good idea. Some do not protect us against harmful UV rays, some contain nano-particles, and some are chocker full of toxic ingredients that affect our endocrine (hormone) systems, damage our skin, and even increase the risks of cancer. How ironic!
So this article is an exploration of sunscreen… just in time for the sizzling summer months. To start with though I have a quick ode to our friend the Sun and some simple advice:
don’t use sunscreen
Now that is a little controversial! And some would say darn right Un-Australian, but here is my rationale.
Getting some sun, without sunscreen, is good for us. In fact, it’s better than good. It’s necessary. Particularly given that nearly one third of Australian adults are suffering vitamin D deficiency.[i] In particular, doctors are even seeing the resurgence of rickets (bone-weakening disease) that had been largely eradicated.[ii]
The benefits of Vitamin D exposure, which can only be reaped without sunscreen, help keep bones and teeth strong, maintains healthy kidney function, produce optimal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, enhance muscle strength and protect against many types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrial, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
And get this: we stay out of the sun to avoid skin cancer, but we have a far greater chance of dying from a Vitamin D deficiency-related cancer than of a sunburn-related skin cancer. We don’t hear about that in the SunSafe campaigns do we?
This means that my girls and I sit in the sun most days – with no sunscreen on, no hat. No slipping or slopping. Getting sun every day, for about 20 minutes at a time is good for us.
Our family motto: get sun, not too much, don’t get red.
Here are a few things to take away about Vitamin D:
So as a family, this means we eat some high quality animal fats, eggs, and cook with organic butter daily. We don’t do low-fat. And when we wear sunscreen its only if we are outside longer than 20 minutes and in the middle of the day. This is what I recommend when it comes to sunscreen:
zinc oxide is the best
Sunscreens come in two forms: i) physical sunscreens, which contain either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which form a barrier (or film) on top of the skin that reflects the UV light, and ii) chemical sunscreens, which absorb UV rays before they can do damage.
The US Environmental Protection Agency‘s (EPA) graph below features chemical and physical sunscreen ingredients, as well as the type and amount of ray protection that they provide and their class. Note how zinc oxide fares.[iii] (sorry, no matter how
you don’t want zinc?
If you’re going to go for a chemical sunscreen, you need to know that while chemical sunscreens can protect against damage from UV rays, most also contain a range of nasty chemicals which can be absorbed through the skin and into our bloodstream where they can accumulate in our blood, fat, and breastmilk. A study in the Journal of Chromatography found that there was significant penetration into the skin of all sunscreen agents they studied.[iv] But here are some tips so consider if you go down that track:
1. Become a label detective: always check the label.
Worst offenders? Dioxybenzone and oxybenzone. These two are some of the most powerful free radical generators around as they can disrupt hormone function. A recent American study by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US found that nearly all people studied were contaminated with the sun cream ingredient oxybenzone. Human research on oxybenzone is limited, however a few animal studies have raised concerns that this chemical may be a skin irritant, may disrupt endocrine function, and can lead to free-radical cell damage on the skin – contributing to cancer-risk.[v]
What about Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)? This naturally occurring chemical is common in many sunscreens, and acts as a dye that absorbs ultraviolet B (UVB) light in much the same way as oxybenzone. PABA contains a benzene ring in which electrons can shuffle between different locations within the six-sided structure. This electron dance matches that of the lightwaves of UVB rays, absorbing and blocking UV-B energy by converting the light to heat. PABA releases free radicals, damages DNA, has estrogenic activity, and causes allergic reactions in some people.
Also … octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) which is the main chemical used in chemical sunscreens to filter out UV-B light. Researchers have raised safety concerns about octyl methoxycinnamate, demonstrating that mouse cells died when OMC was added at five parts per million, a much lower concentration than occurs in sunscreens[vi]. A further study which explored the effects of pre- and post-natal exposure to high doses of octyl methoxycinnamate in rats showed that the testes weight and testosterone levels were significantly reduced in male rats. [vii]
Finally, while Benzophenone-3 provides effective protection against UV radiation, research reveals that the substance can be found in people’s urine several days after its use. This means that it’s a substance that is absorbed and stored in the body, and young children do not have the enzyme capacity to excrete the substance. It’s also been linked to endometriosis and testosterone interference.[viii]
2. Check your sunscreen rating on the EWG.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates sunscreens (amongst other chemicals found in everyday products) based on safety and how well they protect against UV rays.[ix] But, whilst relevant to us, the information is geared towards the US market. Australia has different regulations and the majority of sunscreens the EWG recommend are not available on the Australian market.
so what brands to buy?
While my children and I eat a clean diet to build up an ‘internal sunscreen’, and then apply organic coconut oil on our skin for added protection, when we go out in the sun for extended periods of time we use:
Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm (SPF 15) although it is actually SPF 27, the Australian company can’t claim it as such because it’s not classified via the Therapeutic Goods Act (TGA) as a primary sunscreen. Otherwise, Wotnot or Soleo can be found in most health shops across the country. And Invisible Zinc’s Junior low irritant sunscreen with micronised zinc is preservative free and fragrance free the last time I looked.
but, what about the nano technology?
The use of nanotechnology in sunscreens has become widespread in recent years, favoured by manufacturers because the resulting clear, easy-to-absorb creams give a market advantage. But there is a lot of debate about nano particles and what they do. The fear is that they are so small they seep in through our skin cells. In 2009 The Therapeutic Goods Act (TGA) stated:
The issue is though is that there have not been enough studies to conclusively say that nanotechnology in sunscreens are safe in all applications to human beings. We just don’t know. And if parents in Australia are wanting to err on the side of caution, we currently have no way of knowing if the brand of sunscreen contains the engineered nanoparticles material suspected of causing damage to human cells and DNA. Currently the TGA does not require manufacturers to disclose whether their products contain them.
This is in contrast to the European Union which give effect to the precautionary principle, and require manufacturers to disclose information about the safety of their products, putting public and environmental health before commercial interests.
You can check your sunscreen’s nano technology levels on the Friends of the Earth Australian Sunscreen Guide though. [x]
…and if all else fails here are a few home remedies for sunburn…not that I am advocating sunburn…but…
no matter how cautious we are, some one in our family always gets a little sunburnt as some stage during the long summer months. We have a few home remedies for soothing painful sunburn and they are found either in your kitchen pantry or garden. The first one is good ole’ aloe vera. The thick, gelatinous juice of the aloe vera plant can take the sting and redness out of a sunburn in a flash. Aloe vera causes blood vessels to constrict. Simply slit open one of the meaty leaves and apply the gel directly to the burn. Apply five to six times per day for severe sunburn. Another gem is an oatmeal compress or bath which offers wonderful relief to the skin. Simply add one cup oatmeal to cheesecloth or muslin to make a ball, tie off the top and add it to a temperate bath. The bath will become milky and soothing to the skin. Finally, soaking a cotton ball or soft sponge in apple cider vinegar works a treat. If you are sunburnt head-to-toe, take a bath in the stuff – simply add 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to the tub and soak for at least 15 minutes. Apple cider vinegar applied to skin effectively neutralizes the burn, relieves pain, and prevents blistering and peeling. If you smell a little like a pickle, a little coconut oil will remove most of the odor and at the same time add moisture to your skin.
Dr Sarah Lantz (PhD) is a Public Health Researcher, mother, and author of the bestselling book, Chemical Free Kids: Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World www.chemicalfreekids.com.au and www.nontoxsoapbox.com
[i] Daly RM, Gagnon C, Lu ZX, Magliano DJ et al. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its determinants in Australian adults aged 25 years and older: a national, population-based study Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2012 Jul;77(1):26-35.
[iii] Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/doc/sunscreen.pdf
[iv] Sarveiya V, Risk S, Benson HA., Liquid chromatographic assay for common sunscreen agents: application to in vivo assessment of skin penetration and systemic absorption in human volunteers. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2004 Apr 25;803(2):225-31.
[vii] Ma Axelstad, M; Boberg, J; Hougaard, KS; Christiansen, S; Jacobsen, PR; Mandrup, KR; Nellemann, C; Lund, SP et al. (2011). “Effects of pre- and postnatal exposure to the UV-filter octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) on the reproductive, auditory and neurological development of rat offspring”. Toxicology and applied pharmacology 250 (3): 278–90. y 2012 which is published in Environmental Science & Technology, measured concentrations of five kinds of chemicals called benzophenones in the urine of more than 600 women who were evaluated for endometriosis.
[viii] Tatsuya Kunisue, Zhen Chen, Germaine M. Buck Louis, Rajeshwari Sundaram, Mary L. Hediger, Liping Sun, Kurunthachalam Kannan. Urinary Concentrations of Benzophenone-type UV Filters in U.S. Women and Their Association with Endometriosis. Environmental Science & Technology, 2012; 46 (8): 4624
[ix] Environmental Working Group (EWG) http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/
[x] Friends of the Earth Australia sunscreen guide: http://nano.foe.org.au/safesunscreens
Sugar is truly a wondrous building block of life. It is nature’s gas: real, honest and pure energy. And without the sugar in kombucha, there is no fermentation, and without fermentation, there’s no good nourishing acids and enzymes for your body. It’s also worth noting that many people find that when they drink Kombucha over a period of time, their sugar cravings di- minish. That ‘tart’ taste of the Kombucha dissipates and becomes more natural to the palate. This has to do with Kom- bucha alkalinizing the blood and regulating insulin levels. Here are a few important FAQ about kombucha and sugar:
1. I don’t consume sugar in my diet, so it puts me off Kombucha. The sugar in Kombucha is for the culture to con- sume, not for you! When done fermenting, there will be about 1-3 grams of sugar per glass of pure Kombucha. By con- trast, orange juice has about 24g of sugar. Natural carrot juices have 13g per glass. If fermented longer, sugar levels in Kombucha are even lower.
2. Why does Kombucha need so much sugar? Without sugar, Kombucha cannot ferment. Sucrose is most easy to digest by the yeasts; they consume the sugar and produce carbon dioxide, i.e. the bubbles in your buchi and slight amounts of ethanol (alcohol). Then, as part of the symbiosis, the bacteria consume the ethanol and create the healthy amino acids and enzymes, trace vitamins and minerals in your Buchi. A healthy yeast to bacteria balance ensures maximum organic acids and minimal levels of alcohol.
3. What type of sugar should I use to brew Kombucha? Most sugars are fine for Kombucha (with a few exceptions, see below), but there are preferred choices: Plain White Sugar - the Kombucha culture consumes this easiest. Con- cerns about trace toxins in white sugar processing need to be considered. Evaporated Cane Juice (Rapadura) – cleaner process but slightly more difficult for the Kombucha to consume. Brown Sugar – harder for the Kombucha to break down, it will also change the flavor significantly. Honey – A wonderful choice but DO NOT USE RAW. The bacte- ria can disturb the Kombucha SCOBY balance. (See what we use in FAQ 5)
Sugars to be avoided when brewing Kombucha? Raw Honey (as above) Stevia (will not ferment) Xylitol (will not fer- ment). High Fructose Corn Syrup -Must I go there? This stuff isn’t a food and shouldn’t be in your body. Avoid at all cost!. Artificial Sweetener – I have heard some crazy ideas: Saccharin? Aspartame? Someone asked if they could use a Schweppes lemonade as starter. No. No you cannot!
4. Do I have to use all the sugar in the recipe when brewing? Again, the sugar is NOT FOR YOU! You might think that you are helping yourself by not adding all of the sugar the recipe calls for, but you will be starving your culture (and essentially the beneficial inputs of kombucha)
5. What sugar does Buchi Kombucha use? We use certified organic, raw, evaporated cane sugar. Despite living in a country where sugarcane fields are abound, certified organic sugar in Australia doesn’t exist (And we can’t even con- sider using non-organic sugar given that the pesticides used in sugarcane farming have been linked to endocrine/ hormone disruption in our population). So we import our raw certified organic sugar from Daabon in South America. Daabon is the main organic sugar production region in the world. The sugarcane is processed with no chemical fertiliz- ers or pesticides, strictly following organic agricultural practices. But we are constantly keeping an eye out for certified organic sugar in Australia.
6. Is there a way to test for how much sugar is left in my brew? You can use a hydrometer to measure both the sugar and the alcohol content of your brew. Or, if you want something a bit easier, you can try an Accuvin residual sugar test.
Full-on….completely-lost-the-plot meltdown. Tears. Crying. Yelling. Slamming of doors. The whole lot. And because the spiritual umbilical cord is still well attached, my 7-year old had a meltdown too. Both of us, crying on the bathroom floor.
It happens. I probably don’t do it enough. Release. Kids do it so instinctively – if we get out of their way. Release. Then they let it go and move on to the next thing. I’m always apologising a day later. Adiva says to me ‘what are you talking about Mum?’. She’s already got it complete for herself. Yesterday.
When I finally pulled myself together, gave Adiva a hug, I looked around my crazy house; the half-made tomato sauce on the stove, the chicken carcass in the fridge waiting to be made into stock, the lemons that needed to be juiced before they all go mouldy, the pile of laundry, a puddle of wee on the floor still be cleaned up, the bill threatening to cut off our electricity, the half written chapter for our next book. . .
I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what life is like for other parents. Does everyone else live on the razor’s edge between immense bliss and calamity? Or is it just me?
[Published in the November edition of BUD Magazine by ACO]
So you’re going to make a baby? Few of us prepare for the conception that marks the beginning of our baby’s life with the same meticulous level of detail as we do for our wedding day or birthday’s, despite conception being irrevocably the most significant event in any of our lives. And for the new life conceived, the events surrounding their conception can have a profound affect on their health and wellbeing for a lifetime – for better, or for worse. And now, with nearly 1 in 7 couples diagnosed as being infertile, consciously creating a clean environment to support our fertility is even more important than ever before.
This article examines the effects chemicals have on fertility and our ability to conceive and grow healthy babies. It also considers practical strategies about we can do about it. What I have critically come to understand over my years of being a health researcher, is that chemical exposure is largely a result of human activity. As such, it can be a preventable (or reducible) risk factor for many health issues today, including infertility.[i] This fact alone gives me great hope. Human exposure studies show that most of our exposure to fertility harming pollutants occurs indoors (in our homes) from the products we choose to use.[ii] This highlights significant amount of control we can have on our health and points to the importance of preconception care by deliberately creating a clean, green and organic lifestyle.
Our Chemical Overload
We live in an environment that is vastly different from that of only a generation ago. Global chemical production has escalated from around one million tonnes a year in 1930 to some 400 million tonnes being produced annually today. At the time of World War II little did we know that the government subsidies that spurred the production of petroleum and its by-products for the war, would eventually become the building blocks for the post-war consumer economy of today. Miracle makeup products, scent to beauty and cleaning products, flexibility to plastics, wrinkle free and fire resistant clothing and furnishings, stain-proof carpets, plastic toys, preservatives in foods and medications have all become central to today’s world and the global economy and added a certain amount of convenience, practicality, ease, fun and disposability to our modern, frenetic lifestyles. The paradox that emerges however, is that when these millions of tonnes of synthetic chemicals were released into the environment, there was little understanding of their impacts on human (or animal) health and the environment. They were produced for ease and practicality; not health and wellbeing. Over 80,000 chemicals are now registered for use in Australia (38,000 industrial chemicals), 75% of these have never been tested for their toxicity on the human body or the environment.[iii] And while the long-term health effects of exposure to these toxicants are yet to be fully understood, what we do know now, is that they are directly linked to the growing health impacts we are experiencing today – intellectual impairments, cancers, allergenicity, neurological and behavioral disorders, asthma, and reproductive disorders including infertility, decreasing sperm count, congenital malformations such as hyperspadious and undecended testes, and erectile dysfunction. In short, environmental chemicals play a significant role both our ability to conceive and grow healthy babies. And these are the critical ones to look out for:
Endocrine (Hormone) Disruptors
Scientists are linking the accumulation of ‘gender-bending’ chemicals called endocrine disruptors to rising rates of infertility and reproductive disorders.[iv] The endocrine system is a system of glands and hormones which regulates the maturation of the brain and nervous system, energy metabolism, and sexual development and reproductive function. And endocrine disrupting chemicals can disrupt this intricate process.[v] Some can mimic hormones such as estrogen, others block testosterone or interfere with our thyroid hormones, and others still interfere with our metabolic processes in the body, affecting the synthesis or ability to breakdown our natural hormones. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are everywhere, but there are some common ones that we can avoid:
Phthalates – (Pronounced THA-lates) are chemicals added to consumer products to soften them, fix scent in fragrances, and colour personal care and cosmetics. While phthalates are no longer manufactured in Australia, around two million tons of phthalates are produced across the world each year, with more than 20 types of phthalates imported and commonly used in Australia. Phthalates are found in vinyl flooring, detergents, automotive plastics, soap, shampoo, deodorants, fragrances, hair spray, nail polish, plastic bags, food packaging, garden hoses, inflatable toys, blood-storage bags, and intravenous medical tubing. Research consistently shows that phthalates depress testosterone levels, are associated with poor semen quality, and can lead to incomplete testicular descent in babies.[vi]
Bisphenol A (BPA) – a common ingredient in many plastics, including reusable water bottles and resins in the lining of canned food, dental sealants and plastic wrap. The story of BPA clearly illustrates the uphill climb that environmental and reproductive health advocates face when trying to initiate change in the chemical field. Armed with a large body of scientific evidence (largely based on animal research) that reveals that BPA exposure contributes to heart disease, diabetes, as well as fertility and reproductive issues,[vii] advocates have been lobbying for years to get BPA banned. In 2010, Canada took the lead in banning BPA in some consumer products acknowledging the growing evidence and siding with the Precautionary Principle. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially stated its concern about the health effects of BPA exposure, although no additional action was taken to restrict the use of BPA in the manufacturing of plastics. Food Standards Australia has not placed a ban on Bisphenol-A (BPA) in any consumer products, although many manufacturers are now producing BPA free products.
Dioxin: A general name given to a group of chemicals formed during industrial processes that involve the use of chlorine, including waste incineration, pesticide manufacturing, pulp and paper bleaching and PVC manufacturing. These chemicals are persistent chemicals that get into our water ways and food production systems where we consume them. Dioxin is a potent cancer causing agent, and has reproductive (decreased fertility, endometriosis, decreased sperm counts, birth defects etc.), developmental, and immunological health impacts.
Pesticides – are known to have a huge effect on hormonal balance, particularly in men. Pesticides mimic estrogens in the body which can cause a decrease in testosterone, and cause hormonal imbalance. Some common pesticides include pyrethroids, linuron, vinclozolin, fenitrothion, other persistent chlorinated compounds. Research reveals that men with high levels of pesticides in their urine are more than 10 times as likely to have low-quality sperm than men who haven’t been exposed to pesticides.
Other endocrine disrupting chemicals to avoid include: parabens which are primarily found in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals as a preservative, appearing on ingredient labels with names like methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben; perflorooctanoic acid (PFOA) found in grease and water-resistant coatings like Teflon and Gore-Tex; and Fluoride which has been linked to lower fertility rates, hormone disruption and low sperm counts.
Preconception care is essentially making sure that there is an ample supply of all those factors which are essential to the health of parent’s sperm and ova and to fetal development. Consider that it takes 100 days for an egg follicle to mature and up to 116 days for sperm to be produced. If during that time there are nutritional deficiencies, toxic exposure or infections, the chances of producing healthy eggs and sperm – and therefore a healthy baby (or a baby at all) is greatly reduced. There are many actions you can take to improve your fertility. Food quality is a perfect place to begin.
What foods improve fertility?
In short – real food improves fertility. Food that your Grandmother would recognise as food. Eating organic food whole, eating it raw if possible, and eating it freshly prepared. These are the nutrient rich foods recommend for boosting fertility:
Nuts, seeds and pulses - contain plant chemicals called phytosterols, which are known to promote testosterone production. Nuts also contain magnesium, which balances levels of hormone prolactin, which can compete with testosterone. Almonds are regarded as the most nutrient-containing nut high in important reproductive system nutrients including zinc and L-arginine. Sunflowers also regarded as the most nutrient-containing seed.
Iron and Protein - regulates blood sugar levels, and contains amino acids and B vitamins vital to hormonal functions and fertility. Most plant sources such as legumes, nuts and seeds need to be combined to get the full gamut of nutrients, whereas animal protein is a complete protein. Before conceiving, you need to get your iron levels up as their status at the time of conception affects the development of the baby, the pregnancy and breastfeeding. Iron is also known to be important for healthy ovulation. You’ll need iron during your pregnancy as well, and research shows that once pregnant it is very difficult to increase iron levels.
Good Fats – cholesterol is the basic building material for your sex hormones, which are responsible for ovulation and healthy sperm. Without sufficient cholesterol intake, your endocrine system will be running on empty. That’s why healthy fats in your diet can boost fertility. Good food fats include coconut oil, hemp oil, eggs, cold pressed olive oil (unheated), flax oil, organic meat fats, organic cultured butter, and fish oils. These fats are also essential as they deliver fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Avocadoes - a superfood for any stage of life, avocadoes are a rich source of vitamin E, which is an essential nutrient for fertility. This powerful antioxidant supports healthy circulation to the reproductive system, and helps to regulate ovulation and cervical mucous production. Antioxidants are great defenders against free radicals, which have been implicated in the occurrence of preeclampsia in pregnancy. Avocadoes are also full of monounsaturated fats and contain folate, iron and beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A.
Garlic - this wonderful root contains an abundance of fertility-boosting nutrients. It is a good source of the mineral selenium, an antioxidant that supports conception. Selenium is thought to protect the embryo from damage, preventing chromosome breakages that could play a role in early miscarriage. Garlic is also a source of vitamin B6.
Broccoli - dark, green and leafy – and a great source of B-vitamin folic acid, which is essential to a healthy pregnancy. This vitamin has been proven to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Broccoli alone won’t provide enough folic acid, so you will need a supplement (women are advised to take 400mcg of folic acid for at least four months prior to pregnancy), but this, along with other leafy greens such as spinach, snow peas, beans, kale and zucchini, is full of antioxidants. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin C, which is needed by the ovaries to mature the egg and ovulate.
What foods to avoid?
Just as essential as putting the right foods in your body for fertility, it’s also equally important to avoid some foods. The list below points out some of the more common foods to avoid:
Artificial sweeteners – are products that contain saccharin and aspartame such as NutraSweet or Equal must be avoided. Aspartame is converted to formaldehyde (a poison) once it reaches temperatures in excess of 30ºC; this occurs once it has been ingested. Aspartame is potentially one of the deadliest neurotoxins in the world. Sucralose has a chlorinated base similar to DDT and is linked to auto-immune disease.
Hydrogenated vegetable oils – comes from hydrogenation, a process where hydrogen is added to vegetable oil and creates trans fat. This makes the vegetable oil much more solid and less likely to spoil. This is beneficial for manufacturers who can extend the shelf-life of their products; however, health repercussions include heart disease and reduces the levels of good cholesterol (essential for fertility). Hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats) are everywhere from deep fried, fast foods, processed foods, margarine, packaged cake mixes, and commercial baked goods.
Sweets, soft drinks and refined-sugar products - excessive intake of these items can contribute to blood sugar fluctuation problems such as hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), which in turn can affect other reproductive hormone levels. Sugar leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals due to its effect on the body’s acidity (ph balance) and increased demand on the detoxification and elimination systems. Every organ in the body can be affected by sugar.
Also limit your consumption of tuna, bottom-dwelling fish and crustaceans, and avoid additives, preservatives, flavourings, and nitrates in food products such as luncheon meat products.
Move in clean circles
As you move towards conscious fertility and conception consider that each choice holds the possibility of growth in awareness of yourself, your body and the soul who chooses you. Consider that before ever planting a seed, we must first cultivate the soil. There are a number of critical strategies that parents-to-be can do to cultivate and improve their chances of conception. Some important strategies include:
[i] Woodruff T, Zota A, Schwartz J. Environmental Chemicals in Pregnant Women in the US: NHANES 2003-2004, Environ Health Perspective, 2011; 119:878-885
[ii] Steinman, A (2004) Human Exposure, health hazards, and environmental regulations, Enviro Health Review, 24:695-710.
[iii] Bremmer J, Hanna L. For the NICNAS Community Engagement Forum, 2009 [cited 2012 April 6th] p 1. Available from: http://www.nicnas.gov.au/Community/ECR%20Public%20Engagement%20Strategy%20report.pdf
[iv] Schwartz, D.A. and Korach, K.S. (2007). Emerging Research on Endocrine Disruptors. Environmental Health Perspectives, 115(1), A13.
[v] Giudice LC. 2006. Infertility and the environment: the medical context. Semin Reprod Med. 24(3):129-33.
[vi] Swan SH. 2008. Environmental phthalate exposure in relation to reproductive outcomes and other health endpoints in humans. Environmental Research 108(2): 177-84.
[Published in the October Edition of Holistic Bliss Magazine]
I live a suburban house with my partner, two small children and a cat we rescued from the storm drains. Our house is the white house on the corner, opposite the netball courts, on the west side of town. It’s the one with the pink scooter and art easel on the balcony. A swing hangs from the Jacaranda, and the lawn is littered with thick brown seed pods and bamboo sticks of various sizes for sword fight re-enactments. A sweet scented Moraya hedge surrounds the front yard running to our garage that houses a family of ill-tempered possums we’d like to evict. The vegpatch near our letterbox quarters a large and amiable blue tongue lizard whose specific whereabouts are investigated daily by children in the neighbourhood. He can stay.
Yard work is not our forte. The berries from the Lilly Pilly’s litter the sloping front lawn. I could collect them, but their berries feed the cranky possums and songbirds in the spring. A dying Illawarra Flame Tree is home to a nesting pair of silver-backed butcherbirds, who return each year, so I have let it stand as well. The rock pile our girls continue to grow at the base of the jacaranda tree is now home to a community of penny lizards and is now just the right height for climbing onto the thick truck. It has also been spared.
While some would find our house an odd shape from too many room additions, too small and not exactly ‘modern’ it means we can run our household on a modest income, which, in turn, frees up time for blue tongue lizard investigations, barrel rolling down the front slope of the garden, and picnics under the purple jacaranda blooms in summer. From the point of view of a child, the loving attention of one’s parents – a good climbing tree and some creatures in the garden —count for more than closet space and a new dishwasher. A green tree frog in the compost and the sound of lorikeets the trees bring more joy to a three-year-old, we now suspect, than pristine landscaping.
Author Richard Louv (Last Child in the woods) writes about the importance of reducing what he calls ‘nature-deficient disorder’ in children. Where more kids than ever before are disconnected from the everyday rhythms of the earth – with reduced leisure time; more time in front of televisions, computers, and mobile phones; sedentary lifestyles and where nature activities are often criminalized. Researcher Jane Clark calls these children ‘containerized children’ where they spend more time in car seats, high chairs, strollers, and even baby seats for watching TV.
Ironically we live in a world where even older children and adolescents know more about the earth, but less about their own backyard. It’s a symptom of a larger social problem where we are developing more of a ‘virtual’ relationship with the earth. ‘I am reminded’, says Louv of teenagers, ‘that while they are aware of the global threats to the environment – their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. It seems nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear’.
So why should we seek to reduce ‘nature deficit disorder’? Because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it. Exposure to nature reduces diseases, improves cognitive abilities and resistance to stresses. We develop and thrive through the sensory input from the natural world and its absence can cause all manner of illness.
Author Bill McKibben has called this time ‘the end of nature’. But as a mother of two small children living in a moderate suburban home like most people, I am far less pessimistic. I watch how children connect with nature with the same ease as breathing – if we give them the space to do so.
Right now, my children take great pleasure in the regular procession of the seasons, with its rhythmical departures and returns of leaves, birds, buds, and flowers. So do we adults, of course. But I’ve become aware that children also depend on seasonal events to mark the passage of time. When one is not yet old enough to read or understand the days of the week, when the difference between ‘next month’ and ‘tomorrow’ is still a little hazzy, it is comforting to know that spring is here when the strawberries first appear, that one’s birthday falls at the peak of mango time, that we need to cover the kale in our vegepatch when summer is in full swing so the caterpillar’s won’t mascara the whole plant, that the coconut oil in our pantry becomes hard when we are moving into autumn – the same time the butcherbirds come back to nest. Right now, I want my children to simply trust in these events….and in turn their kids will too!
The Maleny Real Food Festival is the creation of Julie Shelton the former advocate for the Slow Food Movement in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The festival is about displaying the local producers and for people to meet the faces behind the food. And we brought Buchi Kombucha to this vibrant festival and are grateful that our bacteria and yeastie wares were so warmly embraced. Here are some cool pics of our stall and the weekend at the festival. If you didn’t get a chance to make it this year, its on again in 2013.
The question about weather people with candida can or ‘should’ have kombucha is something we get asked about quite a bit on our market stalls. Firstly though, and to put things straight, drinking kombucha will not ‘give you’ a yeast infection . Secondly, the most recent research worth reading on this issue is in the Journal of Food Biochemisty (2012). Researchers, Battikh, Chaieb & Ammar, screened kombucha fermented black tea for antibacterial and antifungal activity against a range of human pathogenic bacteria and candida yeasts. The results found that after 21 days of fermentation, kombucha exerted considerable antimicrobial activity. This was particular evident against all the tested bacteria (ie. the bad bacteria such as Staphylococcus, E.Coli and Listeria). Kombucha also showed considerable antifungal activity against most of the pathogenic Candida yeasts tested (but some more than others). The tricky thing in relation to candida though, is that when tested for candida people get a diagnosis of ‘candida’ without knowing what range of stains they actually have. Hence, some people benefit more from kombucha than others. The research is really worth a read. We have some copies at our marets (Northey St, West End and The Big Pineapple) or give me a email and I can flick you out a copy.
[Photo taken at the Maleny Real Food Festival: Sarah & her SCOBY Kombucha Kit]
Recent clinical studies established that curcumin, the active component of turmeric, is not only a super powerful anti-oxidant, but it also increases the way other anti-oxidants work, including those from your food. Curcumin works in two ways – it scavenges free radicals, thereby reducing the risk of cellular damage, and it slows down the neurological aging process, protects the liver, helps lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (the kind of cholesterol you don’t want) and increases HDL cholesterol (the good form of cholesterol). Traditionally Turmeric has been used mainly as an anti-inflammatory but, unlike pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories that can have an irritant effect on the gastric tract, curcumin is calming and soothing to inflamed areas, as well as assisting in healing. Curcumin in- creases gastroprotective mucus secretion, thereby protecting the stomach and intestinal walls from inflammation and ulcers caused by some medications, stress or alcohol. Curcumin also helps reduce the build up of amyloid plaque, which causes Alzheimer’s disease. India has only 10 per cent of the incidence of Alzheimer’s of Western countries and this is attributed both to their dietary use of Turmeric and generally more spices in their diet. Animal studies have shown that Turmeric was also able to clear introduced human cancer cell lines of bowel polyps and cancer. Apparently, Turmeric turns off the trigger that encourages cancer cells to grow and spread, although scientists are still trying to de- termine the pharmacological pathway. So there you go. Turmeric is amazing.
[References: Clinical Cancer Research July 2001; Vol 7; 1894-1900. Journal of Carcinogenesis 2004; 3; 8 Science Journal April 2004; 600-602]
[Article in Nurture Magazine, Published in the Spring 2012 Issue]
By Dr Sarah Lantz
There is something intuitive about children such that they opt to play with wrapping paper and cardboard boxes instead of the plastic toys contained inside the present. Jedda, my two-year old daughter, enjoys shredding wrapping paper and running her little fingers over the silky ribbons. She likes texture. Adiva, now nearly 7, spends hours in cardboard boxes pretending she’s a cheeta. We have been known to feed the wild animal inside the box, only for her to growl back.
Play is at the heart of talking about ‘toys’. And play is important at all ages. It is literally a biological imperative. Children learn about themselves and their world through play – developing cognitive and problem-solving skills, personal and social skills, physical development. Play stimulates the senses and invigorates the mind. And yet, for the last century we have been endorsing large qualities of mass-produced, low quality, automated, plastic, disposable toys. And what’s the problem with this?
Along with the choking and stragulation hazards, massive toy recalls, excessively loud toys, projectile toys, toys that distract and over stimulate, there are a range of toxic chemicals in toys. And as a public health researcher and mama, it is these toxic chemicals that are the focus of my research and heart of this article.
Plastic – not so fantastic (Polyvinyl chloride)
Polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC or vinyl) is a plastic chemical used in toy production. And its nasty stuff. Every stage in PVC’s life cycle involves the production, use, and release of toxic chemicals, with some of the culprits including dioxin, mercury, lead, cadmium, organotins, and phthalates. Because these chemicals are not tightly bound to the plastic, they can enter children’s bodies when the children chew or suck on the toys or the PVC packaging that the toys come in. These chemicals are all toxic to children when ingested. And there is no safe way to manufacture, use, or dispose of PVC products.
In 2008, one of the largest toy manufactures in the world, Toys R Us, made a promise to reduce the use of PVC plastic in the toys they sell and offer more safer PVC-free products. But Toys R Us have not kept their promise. A report released two years later, entitled Toxic Toys ’R’ Us, by the Centre for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), found that Toys R Us continue to sell toys made with PVC – and lots of it. Almost 70 different toys, including well-known brands were tested. According to the report:
Toys that tested positive for PVC included well known toys such as Barbie, ‘Toys Story 3’ Woody and Buzz Lightyear figures, Disney Princess dolls, Zhu Zhu Pets, Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer and Diego figures, Club Penguin figurines, Imaginext toddler action figures and many others, from dolls and balls, to baby bath time toys and products, and even some children’s Sippy Cups.
Another report released in 2011 by the International Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Elimination Network (IPEN) and based in the Philippines found many children’s toys have dangerously high levels of heavy metals. The international study measured toxic metals in 200 children’s products with a focus on antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury. Approximately 30% of the products contained at least one toxic metal above acceptable levels. 37 products (19%) contained lead at or above the Australian regulatory limit, and children’s toy cosmetics contained mercury levels 4 – 5 times higher than the regulatory limit. Given that the toy market is global, children all across the world, including Australian children, can be directly affected by these toys.
But isn’t there a regulatory agency for toys made, or imported, into Australia?
The regulation of toxic chemicals in toys in Australia is still sketchy at best. The Australian Toy Standard have been established, but these standards are voluntary, so there are no requirements for toy manufacturers and distributors to abide by them. Compliance essentially relies on voluntary testing. This is also the case for toys imported into Australia. Hazardous toys can only be detected by testing and analysing toy components, and given the large volume and range of toys imported into Australia, this prohibits Customs routinely testing all imported toys. In light of this, parents need to be diligent. And these are the reasons why…
There are no safe levels of lead and mercury for children. Lead directly attacks the nervous system and destroys brain cells. Mercury causes both chronic and acute poisoning, damages the brain and significantly disrupts hormones. Dioxin, a byproduct of PVC manufacturing (usually produced when burning chlorine), and is a group of persistent toxic chemicals. While children are not exposed to dioxin when they handle toys or toy packaging, dioxin is released into the environment during both the manufacturing and disposal of PVC materials. Dioxin then gets into our water ways and food production systems. Children consume dioxin from meat, fish, diary products and eggs. Dioxin is a potent cancer causing agent, and has reproductive (decreased fertility, endometriosis, decreased sperm counts, birth defects etc.), developmental, immunological, and endocrine health impacts.
Phthalates (Pronounced THA-lates) are chemicals added to plastic toys to soften them, fix scent in fragrances, and colour personal care and cosmetics, including children’s face paints. While Phthalates are no longer manufactured in Australia, around two million tons of phthalates are produced across the world each year, with more than 20 types of phthalates imported and commonly used in Australian toys. The total amount of phthalate contained in a toy product varies from about 10 to 50%, depending on the degree of softness required.
A growing body of research reveals that exposure to phthalates and their metabolites can cause a range of health impacts. Phthalates exposure has been linked to:
A 2012 study also suggested that high levels of phthalates may be connected to the current obesity epidemic in children.
Infants are exposed to phthalates from multiple sources including through the umbilical cord, breast milk, dust in the air and also from sucking or mouthing PVC plastic toys. And the cumulative impact of different phthalates leads to an exponential increase in associated harm.
The European Union (EU) introduced temporary bans on phthalates in children’s toys as far back as 1999. The EU has phased out the use of three phthalate plasticisers in toys and child-care items, and they will be permanently phased out by the EU by February 2015:
The EU further restricts three plasticisers from toys and childcare items that children can put in their mouths:
In 2010 Australia banned Diethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP) in products used by children up to and including 36 months of age. While the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) continues to collaborate with our chemical regulatory boards to monitor international research into phthalates, and may take specific regulatory action to address risks to people associated with the use of phthalates in consumer products, Australian significantly lags behind international standards. Therefore, while phthalates all have complex chemical names, it’s important to be able to identify some of the key ones to avoid exposing your children to them.
Many kids climbing structures – with their wooden gangways, turrets, and tunnels – are still made out of pressure-treated lumber (copper chrome arsenate – CCA) which contain arsenic – a notoriously deadly poison and established human carcinogen. While in 2006 the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) restricted the use of treated timber used in ‘intimate human contact’ applications such as children’s play equipment, furniture, residential decking and handrailing, it did not recommend dismantling or removing of existing treated wood structures, so many still exist. Authorities have been remiss in not carrying out soil or wipe test in children’s playgrounds.
Toxic Free Toy Selection
It is of no surprise that an increasing number of parents are seeking more natural toys for their children. Consider what it is to makes a good toy, a toy that is suited to the age of the child, and also your own families’ philosophies and health priorities. Here are a few suggestions:
Consider also that nature is the best toy of all. Children, more than ever before, are disconnected from nature – have reduced amounts of leisure time; spend more time in front of the TV and computerized toys; are over stimulated yet live more sedentary lifestyles than ever before. Richard Louv calls this phenomenon ‘nature deficit disorder’. Consider that it is in our best interest to reconnect to nature, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it. Exposure to nature reduces diseases, improves cognitive abilities, and resistance to stresses. The health of the earth also depends upon it as well. How children connect with nature, and how we, as parents raise our children, will shape the conditions of future cities, homes, parks and the conditions of our animals, plants and ecosystems.
As mama I watch how my children, and other children, connect with nature with such ease and grace if we give them the space to do so. It’s like breathing to them. John Muir’s quote is apt here: ‘When one tugs at a single thing in nature, (s)he finds it attached to the rest of the world’
Time in San Francisco has given me space to reflect on our Buchi Kombucha venture…as well as drink plenty of local brews here. My favourite? Cherry Chai by GT Kombucha. Amazing!
So here is an update and a copy of our Buchi Bulletin that we hand out at the markets each month.
A few highlights:
A special shout out to editor of Peppermint Magazine Kelley Sheenan and her partner Ben. We feel particularly grateful to be working with on developing new Buchi labels which will contain all the ingredient listings and nutritional information. So stay tuned!
Yes, we will be ACO certified by the end of the year….its a thorough process!
We have Kombucha brewing kits at the markets now, so if you want to brew your own kombucha, come and see us at the markets or give us an email: email@example.com (We could always post one out to you).
And our ‘Taste of the Season’ this month is our Warming Winter Pear Kombucha. It’s delicious. Made with our 100% fermented Buchi kombucha, biodynamic pears, cinnamon, and lashings of passion and love!
Read a copy of our June Bulletin HERE.
[The photo is of a beautiful SCOBY bank (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast - commonly called the SCOBY or Mother)]
Did you know? The food in the average Aussie shopping basket has travelled about 70,000km and the meal on your average dinner plate has travelled around 2000km. Besides the impact on the environment, long haul food also poses food security risks. An Australian Federal Government report released by the Department of Agriculture, as summarised in The Age newspaper this week outlines a number of risks posed by long, concentrated food supply chains. The longer the distances travelled by our food, the more vulnerable it becomes to natural disasters and other factors that can break the supply chain and cut off food supply to communities. Have a read.
This is one of the huge advantages of Organic Farm Share. A key objective is to ensure a secure, local food supply. This is the reason behind the requirement that shareholders must live within a 200km radius of the farm. Based on the average Aussie meal travelling 2000km, at Organic Farm Share we envisage our food miles will be decreased by up to 92%. Up to 60% of the cost of food can be attributed to distribution and handling costs. By reducing the food miles, owning our supply chain and keeping it local, we can eliminate many unnecessary and hidden costs in food. Amazing!
…thankful for this solo trip to san francisco;
….grateful for my morning solitude through Muir Woods;
…watching the cablecars roar up and down the undulating streets of San Francisco;
… the swell of blueberries in my mouth;
…. and more blueberries;
…blessed to see a red deer walking back from the beach (see photo);
…happy to have bought those red boots for Adiva;
…humbled by the lovingly handcrafted fairy crown by that was knitted by Miss Teapot from The Ark toyshop that I bought for myself;
…inspired by Jase who sacked his boss during the week in pursuit of kombucha pleasures (and bless him for being so nervous to tell me)
…simply happy to be here, right now.
For me to be good mama, I sometimes need to get away. I struggle with this at times…the martyre comes out ‘My children need me and I’m the only person to meet their needs!’ (I also think this stems from the neoliberal notion of living in individualised families without connection to a larger community) and then there’s the creeping fears that something will go virulently wrong when I’m away and I will feel the gravity of immense guilt for not being there. But when I can sit with these fears (and my own martyrdom) and let someone else (usually Jase) take the load for a while, and I relax into the embrace of being alone, I always come back home seeing the magic in my life, my children, and my partner again.
This time, I’m in San Francisco. Exotic I know! Five days of writing, meditating, eating, and another four days at an epigenetics conference in the heartbeat of San Francisco.
Travelling to the US always feels like coming home to me. I guess its because I was born here, and have travelled here many times before. There are parts of the US that touch me in ways for which I struggle to find words. Where I am staying now is such a place – Muir Beach. It’s near the majestic redwoods, close to organic markets, a beach, walking tracks, and the Green Gulch Zen centre. When I arrived yesterday it was like I was able to finally exhale – like taking off a pair of tight shoes.
Staying at beautiful places when I travel is important to me. I won’t go unless I can stay at beautiful places. Where I stay has to be a sanctuary for my soul – where it can rest for a while and feel a greater sense of harmony and ease. Here is such a place. And I give myself permission to find ease again.
[We highly recommend the services of airbnb when our family travels - we find our funky places to stay via them – alot.]
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