Sunday, September 29, 2013

31 cancer prevention tips for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

My husband Ed is a patient at the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. I love their  slogan "Making Cancer History," which they are doing with their cancer treatment and prevention research. It's amazing to hear all the different foreign languages from the people who travel the globe to be treated by the best doctors in the world. Needless to say I follow their advice on cancer prevention.  Their Facebook page is a wealth of knowledge and the majority of the prevention suggestions I've learned comes from this site. "Like" them and you'll get the most current cancer prevention tips available!! 

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month I have researched 31 different ways you can prevent cancer - one for each day of October.   Only 20-30% of breast cancer happens in women that have risk factors. In 1940, a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer was 1 in 22. Today that risk is 1 in 8! There are lots of unknowns, and I choose to follow a safer than sorry policy when it comes to environmental toxins. This list is not a guarantee, but can certainly help you in your cancer prevention efforts!

  1. Make it a habit to take your shoes off at the door. 85% of the dirt in your home is brought in from the outside on the bottom of your shoes - just think of all the filthy things you step in daily! Not only will your floors be cleaner, but you'll greatly reduce the chemicals, pesticides, allergenic dust, animal dander, feces, bacteria and other pollutants that are tracked into your living space.
  2. Dryer sheets and laundry detergent are loaded with artificial fragrances that coat your clothing in a layer of carcinogenic and hormone disrupting chemicals that are easily transferred to your skin. These chemical compounds are very good at moving through cellular membranes and entering tissues of the body, including the nervous system. Stay away from traditional name brands and consider non-toxic options like Honest Company, Seventh Generation or Charlie's Soap (made in NC!). I love these static eliminator sheets and Etsy has several homemade wool dryer ball options.
  3. Reduce your dairy intake - there is a huge link between dairy and breast cancer because of the tremendous amounts of hormones and growth factors that cows are given. In addition casein, which makes up 87% of cow's milk protein, promotes all stages of the cancer process (The China Study). In the parts of the world that do not consume dairy, breast cancer is almost non existent.  Start out by replacing your cow's milk with an alternative like almond or coconut. I promise you won't miss it, these are GOOD!!! 
  4. Eat less meat. You are eating the residue of what those animals ate including pesticides, growth hormones and contaminants. If you must eat meat, choose hormone-free and organic to eliminate those traces of hormones that can enter our bodies and contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer.
  5. Eat more whole foods and less fake foods. Fall in love with fruits, vegetables and grains and avoid synthetic processed foods full of additives and chemicals like trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, aspartame. Try eating vegetarian one day a week and increase from there. Click here for 10 cancer fighting foods. I highly recommend reading the book The China Study which will teach you all about the connection between diet and disease - this book changed my life!
  6. Artificial sweeteners are among the worst chemicals we ingest today. Diet Coke additions are STRONG - try switching out one a day with water and go from there. Stevia is a great alternative and Trader Joe's sells it in nice little paper packets. Avoid any processed "low fat" foods because they are FULL of dangerous artificial sweeteners.
  7. Purchase a stainless steel container for your water to reduce exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals that may leach into water from plastics. I really like My Sigg, which are "as fashionable as they are functional."
  8. Sweating is your body's natural way of ridding itself of toxins. This release is prevented with antiperspirants and those toxins are kept in the body - right next to your breasts.... The parabens and aluminum ingredients are linked to breast cancer. Primal Pit Paste is 100% natural and does the job for me - with a name like that it deserves a try!
  9. Always microwave food and beverages in ceramic or glass instead of plastic containers to reduce exposure to carcinogenic chemicals that may leach into food when containers are heated. Also keep anything plastic off the bottom shelf of the dishwasher - heat and plastic are a dangerous combo.
  10. Buy yourself a new shower curtain liner because chances are yours is made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride. Studies show that high heat and humidity cause the release of several different chemicals including phthalates, which are linked to breast cancer.
  11. Stay at home moms have 54% higher cancer rates due to household chemical exposure. With all the warnings on the labels, its no surprise! Replace your household cleaners with DIY homemade formulas like these from my blog - you get to customize the scent with your favorite essential oil!
  12. Did you know that if you rub garlic on the bottom of your feet you will taste it? That is because whatever you put on your skin goes directly into your blood stream. Skin does not have any filters to eliminate toxins like your liver does with food so it is important to be aware of what is in  your skin care products and makeup. Use Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Skin Deep database of 65,000 products to determine if your favorite products are safe or full of toxic chemicals. I have found its best to shop at natural food stores (in Charlotte Berrybrook Farms is awesome!). Check out natural products like Ava Anderson Non-Toxic or Burt's Bees.
  13. Replace your plastic food containers with glass - I love my new Pyrex Snapware and don't miss my old plastic stuff one bit. Make sure all the plastic in your kitchen that comes in contact with food is BPA free (BPA is a hormone disrupting chemical with strong links to breast cancer).
  14. Drink a green juice or smoothie every day, which is the easiest and tastiest way I know to eat a bunch of veggies. Try for a 3-1 veggie to fruit ratio and you won't believe how you only taste the fruit! Consider investing in a Vitamix - pricey but worth every penny.
  15. This is a weird one...refuse receipts at retail stores. Thermal cash register receipts are covered with BPA and absorbed into your skin when handled. The EWG found that some receipts harbor BPA levels up to 1,000 times higher than BPA detected in the linings of metal cans, yikes. I tell the cashier that I don't need the receipt, and hope I don't need to return something!
  16. There are lots of unknowns about cell phones and cancer. To be safe, wear a headset, keep calls brief, or text instead of calling. 
  17. Stop using dangerous chemicals in your yard like Roundup, which are linked to Parkinson's, cancer, infertility, and a slew of other health problems. Try natural, organic alternatives. Some weeds here and there won't hurt anybody, but the chemicals can do major damage.
  18. Next time you're in the market for some furniture make sure it is not chemically treated with an endocrine disrupting flame retardant like Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE - check out Lee Industries for some beautiful choices.
  19. Ladies, no more scented, bleached tampons (why do they need to be scented anyways? I have never understood this...). The brand names do not use organic cotton and important parts up in there are being exposed to synthetic fragrances and chemicals. Check out Lunette or Diva Cup for some alternatives you've probably never heard of....
  20. Organic produce is grown without harmful man made pesticides and herbicides. The EWG puts together two lists every year, "The Dirty Dozen" and "The Clean 15," to help consumers know when they should buy organic and when it isn't necessary. Not only do organic fruits and veggies taste better, but they also contain higher total antioxidants and beneficial phytonutrients like polyphenols and flavonoids than conventionally raised (and sprayed) food. Check your local farmer's market! If you do purchase conventional fruits and veggies, wash them in a solution of 3:1 water to white vinegar, which will help remove chemicals and dirt. 
  21. Sugar is cancer's best friend and primary food source. Cut down on your intake! Cancer ferments glucose in order to produce energy, which cells need to live. Deprive them of their food and you have a good chance of killing them!! If you're really serious about cancer prevention, sugar is the first thing to go.
  22. Canned foods are lined with BPA, with the exception of these brands (Trader Joe's cans are BPA free except for sardines, clams, oysters, mandarins, hatch chills, artichokes and organic baked beans) It's best to ditch the cans altogether and eat fresh veggies from your local farmer's market!
  23. Get rid of any artificial fragrances in your house like Febreeze or Glade Plug-In which are full of phthalates. Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer. 
  24. Drink clean water and buy a filter like this by Aquasana (down the road consider investing in a reverse osmosis filter that will also remove fluoride). Tap water is full of Chlorine, Flouride, Aluminum, and other known carcinogens. The majority of developed countries (97% of Europe) stopped adding flouride to their water because of its toxicology.
  25. Beware of commercial pesticides, which not only poison ants, roaches and mice but are linked to a variety of human diseases including breast cancer. They linger for a long time too, for years and years allowing for multiple exposures. For safer options, check out this great resource.
  26. EXERCISE!! Studies show that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise daily decreases your cancer risk.  According to the Susan G Komen Foundation, women who gained about 20 pounds after age 18 had a 15 percent higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer compared to women who gained little or no weight. Women who gained 55 pounds or more after age 18 had a 45 percent higher risk. 
  27. Although X-rays and CT scans can provide critical information for diagnosing medical problems,  there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation. Determine whether or not the tests are absolutely necessary and if there is an radiation free alternative, such as an MRI or ultrasound. Research Thermoscans as a mammogram alternative. They are radiation free and the best technology known to date that can detect suspicious breast patterns early.
  28. The benefits of fruits and vegetables are endless when it comes to protecting your body from cancer but the majority of people don't get the USDA recommended 7 to 13 servings per day. Juice Plus can help bridge the gap between what you should eat and what you do eat every day - its clinically proven!
  29. Get some sunshine!! Vitamin D alters gene expression which prevent deadly mutation and lower breast cancer risk. All you need is 10 minutes of exposure without sunscreen on your arms and legs a day during midday sun. 
  30. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off diseases like cancer. Find a relaxing outlet that allows you to unwind - yoga, gardening and hiking do the trick for me.
  31. Protect yourself from Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure,which is basically anything electrically charged. Cell phones are included in the category and there are many unknowns which is why it should be treated as an environmental toxin. Try to keep your bedroom electronic free especially by where you sleep. Keep your cell phone in a different room at night (never use as an alarm clock by your bed!), position your bed so your head is 3-6 feet away from electrical outlets, and power off anything with an "on button" at night.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Homemade cleaners that work and smell amazing!

It's not normal to be this excited about cleaning products (although I know of several friends who will understand completely). As big as my smile was this afternoon you would have thought I'd won the lottery - I found the perfect formulas to natural homemade cleaners!!!! I was convinced this would be a lengthly process but I hit the jackpot with my first Pinterest trial. Best part is you can CUSTOMIZE it to your favorite essential oil!

I can't remember where I read this statistic but it hit me hard and I wrote it down - stay at home moms have a 54% higher risk of getting cancer because of all the toxins in household cleaners we're exposed to. That's assuming, of course, that we don't have a cleaning lady or filthy house :) My grandfather died of poisoning from the toxins in the cleaners he used to clean laundry machines. There have been many times in my past that cleaners I've used have burned my nose and the strong smell stuck with me all day. I've become light headed a few times cleaning out the bathtub shower. Not good. The chemicals used in traditional cleaners are serious stuff and should be avoided. I will not miss the a bit, especially with the yummy awesome replacements I've found for them!! (so exciting, not normal)

I have been pinning natural cleaning recipes for a while and they all seem to have combinations of the same ingredients:

  • baking soda - gentle abrasive, alkaline so it neutralizes bad acidic smells and reacts with grease stains. An affordable must for your cleaning arsenal.
  • hydrogen peroxide - kills bacteria, mold, mildew and fungus
  • white vinegar - all around great cleaner, check out this website for the multiple cleaning uses
  • tea tree oil (antiseptic and antibacterial)
  • Castile soap - dating back to the 11th century in Spain, this olive oil based soap (instead of animal fat) is known for its gentle and moisturizing properties. I immediately fell in love with Dr. Bonner's Magic Castile Soap and am going to search for more ways I can use this fabulous stuff. First off, the label is covered with all these itty bitty sayings and tidbits of wisdom. It's really something you need to see for yourself, very unique. Sample message: "Passions that quicken your senses, fulfill; quench the thirst of lonesome years! Yet the sun has shadows, learn to control your will; to enjoy life long happiness, not tears!" Yes, this is on a bottle of soap in a font of probably 2 - interesting stuff. They are big on Certified Fair Trade, Non-GMO, Certified Organic which I love - plus it's a family business! But it gets better... I stood at Whole Foods for probably five minutes trying to decide what scent I wanted to buy because they all smelled so amazing. Citrus, Almond, Rose, Tea Tree, Lavender, and Peppermint. I ended up buying the almond because it reminded me so much of the Caswell-Massey almond products I adore. 
In preparation for my testing out natural cleaners I went to Costco and found these sweet deals, best to buy these in bulk:

$3.19 for 5 liter bottle
$5.75 for huge 13.5 lb bag
I found my Dr. Bonner's at Whole Foods and they also have several essential oil options, which you'll also need. Trader Joe's also sells Bonner's, but I've only seen the peppermint and unscented.

I was cleaning windows, scrubbing tubs and wiping down doors just thrilled with the results I was seeing with these recipes - I'm not sure why they add all the dangerous toxic chemicals to cleansers because they're not needed! Call me a weirdo but I like to clean - I'm big on anything where I see results from my hard work (I'll be writing about gardening sometime soon, another perfect example). This stuff works better than anything I've ever tried, and it's so cool its all natural and homemade!! I never thought this search was going to be such a breeze :)

So here it is... recipes for a Softscrub, glass cleaner and all-purpose cleaner!!!!

SoftScrub replacement (perfect for tubs, stovetop, oven)
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup Dr. Bonner's Castile soap (fabulous scent of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 5 drops tea tree oil
In a bowl combine baking soda and castile soap. Add water and stir, then add vinegar and tea tree oil. It  should mix into a frosting like paste - store in an airtight jar (I used the OXO plastic container I no longer use for food storage and replaced with glass!) Update*** The next time I used this it separated, but worked liked new with a little stir.

All-Purpose Cleaner
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dr. Bonner's Castile soap (CUSTOMIZED TO YOUR NOSE!!!)
  • 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 15 drops of essential oil (also of your choice, I love lavender)
Glass cleaner
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon castile soap (makes it smell YUM)
  • 2 cups water
No streaks, and I tested it out on all our windows and mirrors. BEST I have ever used!

These recipes smell awesome, work and don't burn your nose. So happy :) I am going to be trying out natural cleaners for my hardwoods, toilet, and stainless steel appliances - hope to find replacements as good as these and will share soon. Tip: if you live in the South and have a Harris Teeter grocery store - their spray bottles work the best. I wasted money on cheap ones from Wal-Mart and they don't spray right and drip. The HT ones have a nice gentle mist and I like the measurement calipers on the side. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Turning cancer off and on

"If you don't take care of your body, where are you going to live?" - Unknown

Right after Ed's diagnosis my friend Toni Branner told me about the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. She is an Exercise Physiologist, Wellness Consultant and has written books on nutrition - I trust her expertise and advice completely. This was my big introduction to the connection between diet and disease - specifically how eating a plant based diet can ELIMINATE cancer. YES, ELIMINATE CANCER. Toni's worked with several clients who have had it happen.

Here's the deal: Campbell's research shows that we can turn cancer on and off just by what we eat. When protein is consumed in excess, it turns cancer on. When you take away the excess of protein, it turns the cancer off. Plant proteins do not do this, just animal proteins. The study concluded that people who follow plant-based/vegan diets will avoid, reduce or reverse development of chronic diseases. Very simple and I'll be going into more details in my next post. Americans love and listen to Dr. Oz and he raves about Campbell's research. To quote his 2011 episode featuring The China Study, "Make just three changes and you'll cut your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. This could be the "Hail Mary" of medicine." (the three changes are meat, dairy, processed foods) "This isn't a diet - even though you will lose weight. It's a lifestyle change that will change your health, putting the control in your own hands. It's just a different way of thinking about how we eat." Our get together was very overwhelming, and I remember thinking it was going to be hard but we had to do it.

If you would have told me I would be eating a plant based diet five years ago I would said you're crazy insane, NO WAY. I adored cheeseburgers, ADORED them. Ed grills the best steak on the planet. Honey baked ham with the crunchy brown sugar crust, yum. North Carolina BBQ? Sent straight from heaven just for me. No way would I be able to give all that up, impossible.

Bubba's Burger in Kauai - so good we had to take a picture
Bacon and coffee breakfast during our Yellowstone RV honeymoon (a month before Ed's diagnosis)
All that changed after my lunch with Toni and reading The China Study. Two years later I don't miss meat or dairy a bit. It actually grosses me out. About a year ago Ed and I were headed out to dinner at Noodle's and Company which is right next to a Five Guys. The need for a cheeseburger consumed me and I figured why not indulge myself and cheat a little for old times sake. Five Guys used to be tops for me locally, I dreamt about their food. IT WAS NOT GOOD. I'm serious, it was not good and I didn't even finish it. My stomach felt heavy and gross. It was a great lesson because now I know I'm not missing a thing!

Since I can remember I've always carried a Chapstick and Kleenex in my pocket, always. I suffered from a chronic runny nose and bad allergies - the change of the seasons were torture. GONE once I gave up dairy. I have more energy, easily maintain my ideal weight and no more laundry problems when I would accidentally wash a tissue. This book isn't just about cancer, but ALL chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, etc. People are healed of all sorts of ailments and illnesses when they eliminate animal proteins - google it and read their stories! Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic is another leading proponent of plant based eating and star of the documentary "Forks Over Knives." He studied 120 people who started a plant based diet, and over a 9 year period 92% of them remained on the diet. It simply makes you feel better!

Americans spend more on health care than any other society in the world yet TWO-THIRDS of Americans are overweight. More than 15 million Americans have diabetes (children are now falling prey to a form of diabetes that used to only be seen in adults) despite trendy diets and our obsession with being thin. BILLIONS of dollars are spent on trying to find cures, yet chronic disease rates are increasing. Take a good look at what the majority of people are eating and its a no brainer why we have a huge (literally) problem.

The China Study has made a huge positive influence on my health, and I really hope you'll read it. If you're more into videos the documentary "Forks Over Knives" has the same message (I'll even buy your free month of Netflix!). If I can do it, anyone can. Even Bill Clinton did it! (He completely reversed his heart disease and looked fit as a fiddle for Chelsea's wedding). Here's what I have planned next:
  • Summary of The China Study
  • My easy guide to switching to a plant based diet - I will walk you through this!
  • More recipes for the transition (check out the ones I already posted - SO GOOD!!!)
  • Everything you need to know about real, whole, organic foods and why to avoid processed, GMO, synthetic, chemical filled "food"
  • Additional tips on reducing your toxic burden

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A few new finds and favorites

My search for a natural deodorant is finally over! After trying out SEVERAL different brands for two years my confidence in how I smell is back - no more wondering if I stink! Testing out natural deodorants in the summer isn't fun for anyone. I asked my sweet husband Ed if I needed to bring back the Secret a few times, and when he would hesitate to answer I knew it wasn't good. Eight deodorants later I was told about Primal Pit Paste by two friends in the same day, was destiny. With a name like that I had to give it a try and I'm so glad I did - it works!!! Natural deodorants are frustrating because what may work for one person won't do a thing for another because of unique body chemistry. That being said I hope you'll try it out and I hope it works for you :)


They just came out with a stick, which is what I ordered and really like. My friend Nancy loves the paste that comes in a jar - she also tried several different brands and swears by Primal Pit Paste. I went with unscented but am tempted to try lavender (from essential oils, not artificial) next time I order. They also have thyme/lemongrass and patchouli (most popular in Boone). For kids they have lemonade and orange creamsicle. Awesome list of ingredients: organic coconut oil, organic shea butter, non-aluminum baking soda, organic arrowroot powder, organic essential oils. GOOD STUFF!!!!!

At Costco I was thrilled to find this beauty of a deal on an 18 piece Pyrex Snapware glass food keeper set for only $24 with the instant rebate!! Amazon sells this exact same set for $38.80, regular retail price being $59.99. These come highly rated and are so much better than the blue top Pyrex I was about to order. Perfect opportunity to replace your plastic!!


About a month ago I bought several Ava Anderson Non-Toxic products to try out - here are my thoughts: 
  • I consider myself a lotion connoisseur and am convinced the Ava Anderson body lotion is the best on the market. Perfect texture, hydration and it lasts with no need to reapply - so glad I discovered it in time for fall and winter!
  • I like their body bar soap and need to figure out how to make it last longer. My bumps on my arms are still there but noticeably better.
  • Their diaper cream is amazing and Olivia's bottom hasn't been the slightest bit pink since we started using it - something I can't say for all the other pricey products I've tried. I love the texture and the list of ingredients are so pure and clean: organic olive oil, organic calendula extract, organic shea butter, organic jojoba oil, lavender and chamomile essential oils. This product can also be used for rosacea, eczema and stretch marks. I used it on my wedding ring dermatitis and its very soothing and definitely helped.
  • Since using their dish and hand soap I don't have to use as much hand lotion because they don't dry out my skin. 
  • I've been wearing my hair down more often now thanks to the Ava styling cream - really helps with frizz and smoothing out curls. No more pony tail every day! My friend Cassie is really happy with this product also. Plus it comes in a huge 8 oz bottle, so I'll probably use it up in about 5 years. Their shampoo and conditioner are the best natural options I've found.
  • The serum is just as nice as the crazy expensive stuff I used to buy, but free of nasty chemicals. For $29 this product is a no-brainer :)
  • The Ava Anderson deodorant is a favorite product for many, but it didn't work for me - everyone has unique body chemistry and mine wasn't a match. 
For more information on Ava Anderson products, please check out my webpage at www.avaandersonnontoxic.com/stephanierickenbaker

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Guide to good and bad plastic

I have been very weary of plastic because I didn't understand what was safe and what was full of endocrine disrupting chemicals (BPA, phthalates). As I've mentioned in past posts, studies show EDC exposure is linked to reduced fertility, reproductive tract abnormalities, miscarriages, early puberty, brain and behavior problems, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Children are at a much higher risk because these chemicals can interrupt various stages of their development. They also eat, breath and metabolize more than adults because of their rapid rate of growth, which makes them even more susceptible. SERIOUSLY SCARY STUFF and I try my hardest to keep all EDCs away from my family. Plastic is so overwhelming to me because it is EVERYWHERE and impossible to avoid. I know have a better understanding and hope you find this post helpful.

Its very frustrating that current regulation does not require that manufacturers label their products with materials used or recycling codes. If it does have a code it can be used as a general guide and this is what I've learned:

CODES TO AVOID
  • #1 PETE or PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate is fine for single use but begins to break down when exposed to heat and harsh detergents. It is commonly found in bottled water, soda bottles, cooking oil bottles and peanut butter jars. DO NOT leave water bottles in a hot car or reuse them - one time use only! 
  • #3, "V", PVC or Vinyl: Polyvinyl Chloride is everywhere which makes it difficult to avoid. Read my previous post about Phthalates, which are hormone disrupters associated with this type of plastic.
  • #6 or PS: Polystyrene is found in packing peanuts, cups, plastic tableware, to-go "clam shell" boxes
  • #7 or Other: This plastic category serves as a catchall for any plastic other than the named #1-#6 types. They can be a combo of several different polymers and are often layered with 2 or more of the #1 - #6 types. Polycarbonate plastic (PC) is labeled #7 and found in hard plastic items with a clear, glossy look - it is known to have a weak chemical bond, which allows BPA to leach out to the plastic and into the food under normal everyday use. Whats frustrating about #7 is that some are non-toxic but others are full of BPA and there is no way to tell. #7 is shady and my strategy will be to avoid this category all together. 
Side note: One BPA-Free plastic that I will stay away completely is Eastman's Tritan co-polyester. It looks and feels just like polycarbonate (hard, shiny and clear) and I'm concerned because the company won't divulge their ingredients. When a manufacturer responds with the old standby "its proprietary", red flags start waving high for me. There have been two studies by a professor at the University of Texas at Austin that show estrogenic activity in Tritan but Eastman insists its safe.
GENERALLY SAFER PLASTIC CODES:
  • #2 (HDPE): High Density Polyethylene is commonly used in detergent bottles and milk jugs.
  • #4 (LDPE): Low Density Polyethylene can be found in dry cleaning bags, produce bags, trash can liners and some food storage containers.
  • #5 (PP): Polypropylene is the most common plastic used for sippy cups, reusable dishes and utensils. It can also be found in baby teethers and toys, large outdoor playhouses, kids riding toys, bottle caps, reusable water bottle lids and drinking straws.
I say these are "generally" safer because in the United States the chemicals that make plastics are innocent until proven guilty - very little data exists on their toxicity. To date over 248,000 chemicals are on the market and the industry that produces plastic (largely represented by the American Chemistry Council or ACC), has an annual budget of over $120 billion to fiercely protect its interests. Big plastic is BIG money and they will swear up and down all day long that their $6 billion dollar baby is safe. Not to mention plastic is destroying our environment... Check out this article to get a good idea of a few more reasons why you should just say to plastic.

WHEN THERE IS NO CODE.....

If you have a plastic item without a recycling code I would contact the manufacturer to confirm all materials used. Several companies have begun adding this info to their website, but you may have to do a little digging. If they refuse to share ingredients, I refuse to buy their product. Here are some resources I've found for safer plastics:

As you can tell I'm not a fan of plastic. I don't hate BPA-free plastic but I don't like it either. Here is my action plan:
  • Investigate your food storage containers and consider switching to glass or stainless steel options. I am especially concerned with plastic that I use for food storage since the chemicals can leach into my food. Just learned the cute OXO BPA-free storage containers I recently purchased are labeled #7 Tritan Eastman plastic. Another purchase that I thought was safe, ugh. I am going to buy this Pyrex glass with BPA-free lids set as a replacement - on Amazon its $18, which is a great deal. 
    • Toss anything that is marked 1, 3, 5, or 7. You may have trouble recycling some of these.
    • Get rid of any old, scratched up plastic unless you're sure its BPA-free.
    • Replace old water bottles - I currently use a BPA-free Camelback but am considering buying a cute My BKR.
    • Safe options to consider switching to: Pyrex, Corningware, Corelle, Anchor Hocking, Snapware Glass, Kinetic Go Green Glasslock, Preserve Recycled Plastic.
    • I have a few ceramic ramekins that I keep by my microwave and use when warming things up. Even if my plastic ware says microwave safe I don't trust it - always keep plastic away from heat!
    • I would only use disposable Glad type storage containers for sharing leftovers - not intended for everyday use.
    • I hand wash all plastic. Only put plastic on the top rack of the dishwasher - the bottom gets too hot!
  • Examine all your plastic baby and children items. I am a HUGE stickler when it comes to plastics and my daughter since developmentally it is a especially critical time to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals.
    • Consider wooden toys. I have found tons of awesome second hand European brands like Hape, Haba, Plan Toys at garage and consignment sales.
    •  Many baby bathtubs and baby gear are made of PVC and 99% of inflatable toys are vinyl. I highly recommend Primo's Eurobath which is made of #5 Polypropylene, BPA-free. When they are really little we loved our Puj baby tub that you use in the sink - also non-toxic. 
  • Switch out your shower curtain for a non vinyl option - TJ Maxx has lots of affordable alternatives.
I found some great sources for this post and must credit The Soft Landing websiteEWG, and this article from The Alternet. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Clean living motivation

My world was rocked the summer of 2011 when my husband Ed was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). Shocked and feeling helpless, I started my research of the disease in search for answers and understanding. He has no family history of Leukemia and the only discovered risk factors are exposure to ionizing radiation or atomic bombs. Something caused his genes to mutate, we just don't know what.

A key tidbit that I read early on is that only 10% of cancer is genetic and the remaining 90% is caused by environmental factors. That percentage blows me away, yet gives me a little hope that I can influence my health by making smarter and healthier choices. We made immediate lifestyle changes, some major and some minor. It was time to lessen our toxic burden and our eyes had been opened - I only wish that it hadn't taken my husband getting cancer to get seriously proactive about wellness and clean living.

I've learned a lot in the last couple years and my hope is this blog is an effective outlet to help improve our chances against cancer and chronic disease. There is something you can do - quite a lot actually -about the products in your home and what you put in and on your body. I am not a doctor or nutritionist and I'm not claiming to be an expert on cancer prevention. These are simply tips and suggestions from sources that I believe in and trust.

My goal is to keep this blog sweet and simple. I want it to be informative, easy to understand, fact based and helpful. Please forgive any run-on sentences, etc (I'm claiming a permanent case of baby brain...) and its going to take me a while to figure out the ins and outs of blogging. My next post will be all about endocrine disrupters, which are some of the major offenders. You won't believe what is hiding in the product you use every day! I must include my favorite photo of my two biggest motivators - Ed and our daughter Olivia. We just celebrated her first birthday yesterday :)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

All about BPA

I was familiar with BPA before Ed's diagnosis but had no idea why I should be concerned. This post will be two parts because I've become so overwhelmed with all the new info I'm learning and have lots to share (next will be a guide to good and bad plastics).
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a man-made carbon based synthetic compound used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins. It is an endocrine disruptor which can mimic estrogen and has been shown to cause negative health effects in animal studies. BPA is found in:
  • food and drink packaging 
  • store receipts 
  • the lining of food cans (this is the greatest use, prevents spoilage)
  • milk container linings 
  • the inside of bottle tops 
  • water pipes 
  • dental sealants 
  • polycarbonate tableware 
  • plastic wrap 
 The FDA, EU's European Chemicals Bureau, and the European Food Safety Authority have concluded that current levels of BPA present no risk to the general population, but experts in the field of endocrinology (hormone doctors) strongly disagree siting study after study proving its danger. According to The Endocrine Society "Many of the neglected studies of low-dose effects are well designed, heavily reviewed, NIH-funded work. The results of this research show significant health effects at exposures substantially lower than those deemed safe by the FDA." Click here to read the studies connecting BPA to autism, obesity, infertility, breast cancer, advanced puberty and several more major health concerns.

The infertility link hits especially close to home since I have several friends and family members that were unable to get pregnant naturally. Because of the black label drug that Ed has to take for his Leukemia I had to go to REACH Fertility Clinic to make sure we had a safe pregnancy. The process requires several visits to the doctors office and we were amazed at how packed the lobby was every appointment. Unexplained infertility seems to be an epidemic and according to 2013 data about one in six couples haven't become pregnant after a year of trying - 7,400,000 women between ages 15 and 44 used infertility services in 2012 (no clue why a 15 year old was included in these numbers...). In a study on BPA and fertility from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, lead researcher Dr. Catherine Racowsky stated "Exposure of eggs to BPA decreased the percentage of eggs that matured and increased the percentage of eggs that degenerated.... People need to be aware of the toxins in the environment and try to lead the healthiest life they can possibly lead."

Tips for avoiding BPA:
  • Cook at home with fresh foods as often as possible and avoid canned foods. Click here for a list of companies that have eliminated BPA from their canned goods - many I have never heard of but the great news is TRADER JOE'S CANS DO NOT HAVE BPA!! (with the exception of soups, sardines, crab, clams, oysters, mandarins, artichokes and organic baked beans). I have become a huge fan of Trader Joe's and do most of my grocery shopping there - all their branded food is also GMO free! In 2012 Campbell's stated they will start phasing out BPA from their cans but have been shady about revealing what they will replace it with - many BPA free are being replaced with it's ugly cousin BPS which is just as nasty, just works a little slower. 
  • Decline receipts for frivolous purchases and keep them away from young children. Put receipts you need in an envelope or box right away and don't let them hang out in your purse. The amount of BPA in receipts can be 1,000 times that found in cans and retails workers carry an average of 30% more BPA in their bodies than typical adults. Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATM receipts are all BPA free. This is a weird one to me - would have never in a million years guessed that receipts could be toxic. I tell the cashier that I don't need a receipt and hope I don't need to return something....
  • Be skeptical of plastic and opt instead for glass or food-grade stainless steel. I'm researching the good, bad and ugly of plastics and it looks like I'll be replacing my current BPA-free storage containers, ugh. Will share what I learn in my next post.
  • ALWAYS place plastic dishes (even BPA-free ones) on the top rack of the dishwasher and NEVER microwave your plastic dishes. Even if it says microwave safe I don't trust it. Heat makes BPA leach out more - also keep water bottles out of a hot car.