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What’s in Your Child’s Medicine?

January 20, 2011 •  no comments.

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Submitted by Susan Hunt Stevens, Founder & CEO of Practically Green

We’ve had the typical winter crud circulate through the house in the past week — ear infections, strep and various colds. We aren’t big over-the-counter medicine users, but we do rely on children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen. After four years of this “going healthy green thing,” I realized I had totally overlooked the medicine cabinet. Five minutes of reading labels and I was, well, stunned.

1. Parabens. Yup — those same ones I’ve been assiduously avoiding in my kids lotion because of concerns about potential endocrine disruption? I’ve been letting them eat the stuff. My kid’s medicine has butylparaben in it, which evidently affects the fertility of male rat offspring. I know… I know. Parabens are “Generally Recognized as Safe” by the FDA. According to the Chemical Encyclopedia on Healthychild.org however, parabens when ingested are “slightly toxic.” All I know is that I don’t want them in my medicine!

2. Artificial Colors. We try to avoid those too. I figure if warning labels about artificial colors went onto our European friend’s kids products, I’m avoiding them. As I was digging into the specifics of each color, I noted that one of the products contained Yellow #10, which isn’t ALLOWED in food, but is allowed in drugs?! Oh, but not in Europe. According to ColorCon,

“Currently, D&C Yellow #10 is approved for use in drugs and cosmetics but is not approved for food uses. This material is not acceptable for use in foods or drugs in Europe due to a difference in the specifications of the monosulfonated and disulfonated components of the dye.”

3. Sodium Benzoate. I had to do a little research to remember why this common preservative set off alarm bells, but oh yes — sodium benzoate mixed with artificial colors can lead to hyperactivity in children, mixed with ascorbic acid there is concern about benzene formation (a known carcinogen), and a UK scientist recently noted in a lab that it affected the mitocondria of DNA.

4. Propylene Glycol. This compound might be the most confusing of the bunch. The Environmental Working Group gives it a “moderate hazard” rating (4) when used in cosmetics, but doesn’t mention food. The ether version (PGE) hasbeen linked to increased allergies. Even the Material Safety Data Sheet says it is hazardous when ingested (assumedly in very concentrated amounts). But what about in medicine? It IS an additive that the American Academy of Pediatrics has raised concerns about, primarily because of adverse reactions that range from eczema to lactic acidosis especially when administered in large quantities. But the Center for the Science in the Public Interest doesn’t mention it in their food additive list, either as safe or one to avoid and they are usually all over this stuff. Hmmmm.

And then, just for that final insult to injury, throw in some high-fructose corn syrup and lots of other sugars, including sorbitol.

I decided to head to the pharmacy to see if it was possible to buy my pain reliever without all the yucky stuff. The poor pharmacy tech had no idea what hit him although I’m confident he is now way more familiar with inactive ingredient lists.

I did find a “dye-free” version of acetaminophen which gets out the artificial colors, but everything else is still there. I also found a few homepathic remedies, but realized I’m not ready to part with an active ingredient that I know works. What I want is Tylenol or Motrin Free & Clear. But it doesn’t exist. So what’s a healthy green mom to do?

Fortunately, our friend Alexandra Zissu had addressed this question before in her “Ask an Organic Mom”blog on the Daily Green and I liked her advice. It felt very Practically Green:

It depends on your child, but in my experience, infants “need” Tylenol very infrequently. I haven’t found a child’s liquid pain reliever/fever reducer that didn’t contain a whole host of ingredients I would prefer to avoid. Someone should make one, surely there is a market. If there’s an ailment, I first suggest trying natural remedies, home remedies, or even homeopathic remedies (if you know and understand what they are, and are being advised by a trustworthy person). Talk to your pediatrician about what alternative remedies might be available. Nothing works better than honey to soothe a cough, for example, but it can’t be given to children under 1…If and when these don’t work, I do go to Tylenol or Motrin. Whatever you choose to give your baby, pay very careful attention to dosage guidelines and follow them.

So for now, we’ve settled on dye-free and even more prudent use of the stuff. But if anyone from Johnson & Johnson/McNeil Consumer Products is listening, you can do better and our kids deserve it. So when you finally do launch a Free & Clear version of your products, I want to be first in line.

Submitted by Susan Hunt Stevens, Founder & CEO of Practically Green, a new online service that motivates and inspires people to make healthy and green changes in their life. To get started, visit http://practicallygreen.com

Watch=>Do One Thing

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When it comes to changing the ways that we feed our families, none of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.

And sometimes, all it takes to get started is to simply Do One Thing. No need to change grocery stores or start planting your own garden, you can start right where you stand, in your own kitchen. And all you have to do to get started is to pick one thing to change.

You could use half the package of fluorescent orange powder next time you make your kids’ macaroni and cheese or opt for white yogurt with sprinkles on top instead of the blue yogurt or switch from multi-colored goldfish to the pretzel version.

Remember, it’s not about being perfect but about creating change. And change often starts with Baby Steps. You didn’t wean your child from a sippy cup overnight or potty train them in a day, this is a process.

And if you need a bit of inspiration, then you may just want to watch this two minute video that we made with our friend, Ann Cooper, the Renegade Lunch Lady. Her work is tremendously inspiring and an important reminder that we can all: Do One Thing.

Fat Bottoms and the Bottom Line

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Obesity isn’t just costing us our waistlines. With 67% of all American adults either overweight or obese, the burden is being felt across our economy.

Perhaps it’s time to get some federal funding behind healthy food, so that it is affordable to all Americans, especially the 34% of two year olds and their families.

The Cost of ObesityVia: Medical Coding

Dear Jamie Oliver: What You’re Telling Us Hurts

January 18, 2011 •  6 comments.

 •  Blog, News, Uncategorized

This morning’s headline out of the UK reads, “U.S. loses appetite for Jamie Oliver as 75 LA school districts turn away his Food Revolution show” and for some reason, it didn’t really come as a surprise because sometimes, when a message hurts, it’s easier to just shoot the messenger.

There have been a lot of headlines recently addressing Jamie Oliver’s efforts to stir up a food revolution here in the US, and lately, not all of them have been kind. A recent article in Esquire called “Is Jamie Oliver the Biggest Loser of All?”

And as I reflected on this father of four’s attempt to educate and inspire us, I realized that perhaps he wasn’t aware of one key point in communicating his message: His knowledge hurts.

It hurts to hear that what we’ve been feeding our kids causes harm. It hurts to hear that our kids don’t know the names of vegetables, or that our lunchrooms aren’t designed to serve real food or that we haven’t prioritized funding for our children’s school lunch programs. And it hurts to hear that America is one of the fattest countries on the planet.

To hear all of this causes injury. It creates a wound. It inflicts damage. It hurts.

And in a world in which there is already so much injury, grief and heartache, it is as if we are simply saying, “Enough. We can’t handle any more.”

But at the end of the day, when we are laying in bed, reflecting on how much we don’t want to hear this message anymore, we quietly know it to be true. And shooting the messenger won’t help. Because we see our system’s failings in the health of our families. We see that our failing to prioritize funding for the school lunch program is failing our kids.

But perhaps more than being reminded of this, what we need to be reminded of is that each and every one of us matter and that together, we can affect remarkable change.

So maybe, rather than a revolution inspired by food, the revolution actually begins with love, since the knowledge hurts. A lot. And then, with compassion for the fact that what we are learning is ripping our hearts out, we can then work together to restore the health of our families.

The Sound of MLK’s Music

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It’s Martin Luther King Day, and as his tremendously inspiring quotes poured across Twitter and Facebook , their poignancy struck countless people.

But as I read them, they also brought to mind the words from a musical, The Sound of Music, that I absolutely adored as a child:

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Til you find your dream

A dream that will need
All the love you can give
Every day of your life
For as long as you live….

And as I reflected on those who are working so courageously to restore the health of our families, I found myself flooded with gratitude for that dream.

As “courage faces fear and thereby masters it” said Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yes, for the sake of our children, yes, it does. And to restore the integrity of our food supply is a dream that needs all the love we can give.