- The Facts:
From chemical-ladened sunscreens to bug sprays with DEET, there is plenty to be cautious about before lathering up your kids in the name of protection.
- Reflect On:
What simple changes can you make to protect your family this summer?
Summertime should be a carefree time of year as we head out on vacation, go to the beach, or hike in the woods. We shouldn’t have to worry about the products that we use or the environmental toxins that might be hanging around. Unfortunately, in today’s world, our children’s bodies are getting bombarded with neurotoxins and cancer-causing chemicals at every turn. If we compare total body burden to a container, we can only fill it to capacity. Anything above capacity causes spillover or, in other words, allergy symptoms and ultimately sickness.
Here are some tips for reducing toxic exposure:
- Stop using chemical sunscreens.
- Stay away from conventional bug spray with DEET and other harmful chemicals.
- Avoid playgrounds and sports fields that use mulch made from recycled rubber tires.
- Reduce exposure to weed killers and pesticides found on grass, and in food.
- Do not drink from plastic bottles, especially ones left in the hot sun or a warm car.
- Prevent your child from drinking from a hose.
It’s time we stop lathering our kids and ourselves with chemical sunscreen. Many ingredients in conventional sunscreens are not safe for humans or aquatic life. It is time that we stop using them. There is an abundance of data that links the ingredient Octinoxate to thyroid dysfunction, endocrine disruption, and reproductive toxicity. It is also believed to affect development, brain function, and metabolism. Oxybenzone, sometimes called benzophenone-3, is linked to endocrine disruption, organ toxicity, and allergies. Homosalate is used to prevent the body from absorbing UV light. This ingredient is linked to hormone disruption and is believed to enhance the absorption of toxic bug spray and pesticides. Other dangerous ingredients include: artificial fragrances and preservatives such as BHT, which when applied to the skin is believed to be associated with toxic effects in lung tissue.
Vitamin D3 – The Sunshine Vitamin
Despite widespread belief, moderate sun exposure is beneficial to our health. Vitamin D, especially the form D3 or “the sunshine vitamin,” is the only vitamin your body makes itself with the help of the sun. So be sure to get enough sun exposure to help the body make this essential nutrient. Low vitamin D levels in your blood are linked to a higher incidence of cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, arthritis, and many other degenerative diseases. So, hold off on trying to protect yourself from the rays of the sun at every turn. Allow yourself to play outside, garden, and enjoy the rays in moderation.
To protect ourselves from overexposure to UV rays and help prevent skin cancer, here are some tips:
- Cover-up. Wear hats and protective clothing when appropriate.
- Be more mindful about sitting in the shade or purchase a sun umbrella. UV rays are most harmful between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Shop for natural, mineral-zinc based, certified products free from toxic chemicals. Use products that are safer for your family and wildlife. When my family is exposed to extremely hot climates or when they are in the sun for extended periods of time, we use sunscreens by Badger, Babo Botanicals, Goddess Garden, and 7th Avenue products.
- Use lotion over sprays as to not inhale any particles, which may pose a risk no matter how safe the ingredients. Also, lotions ensure a more even application, so you know you are completely covered.
Conventional Bug Spray
Are you being poisoned by your bug spray? Most bug repellents contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) or Picaridin as their active ingredient. Many do not realize how harmful these chemicals are to their health. DEET is linked to seizures, slurred speech, confusion, rashes, and other neurological disturbances. It can melt plastic and other synthetic fabrics, so you can imagine what it may do to your body. DEET is also believed to cause cell death. Picaridin does not seem to carry the same neurotoxicity as DEET. However, it is a chemical created by Bayer in the 1980s and does seem to pose some risks. A review of reports to the National Poison Data System between 2000 and 2015 found only one moderate effect reported from the use of picaridin-containing products – the remaining cases were classified as having minor impacts including ocular irritation, pain, vomiting, and oral irritation.
To protect ourselves from mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and other pesky insects, here are some tips:
- Wear pants, a hat, socks, shoes, and long sleeves, especially when venturing into the woods, dense brush, or tall grass with possible bug infestations.
- Be mindful of adding extra protection during the early morning and evening hours as well as during periods of peeked humidity. Use nets or bug zappers over outdoor eating areas. Place nets over strollers and baby carriers.
- Shop for natural insect repellants that do not use harmful chemicals. Use products that are safer for your family and wildlife. Just be careful about using bug spray that contains Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus on children younger than three years old. Some products I love that work extremely well are Skedattle – Natural Bug Spray, Buzz Away, and Herbal Armor.
- Make your bug spray. Mix ½ cup of witch hazel, ½ cup of vinegar, and one Tbs of rubbing alcohol with a generous amount of lavender essential oil, geranium oil, rosemary oil, and citronella oil (10-30 drops of each) in a glass spray bottle and apply.
- Rub any dried leaf from the lavender or mint family all over your body to the delicate parts of the body such as underarms, behind ears, and neck.
- Eat garlic and drink Cistus tea. Bugs hate both, and your skin will secrete them acting as a natural deterrent.
- Pretreat your clothing with natural repellants by spraying it ahead of wearing it.
Recycled Tire Mulch
Children and athletes are exposed to dangerous turf and playgrounds. There has been increasing evidence that rubber and other synthetic materials used on playground surfaces and athletic fields are toxic to our health. They contain phthalates (chemicals that affect hormones, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other chemicals. These chemicals are also linked to an increased risk of birth defects and cancer.
Synthetic Pesticides & Weed Killers
From the food we eat to the grass our children play on, pesticides and herbicides seem to be everywhere. They are poisons designed to kill, and unfortunately, are harming more than what they are targeting. Not only do pesticides kill insects, they also kill the good gut bacteria (the microbiome) in our intestinal system that regulates our immune system as a whole, and they kill the bugs by targeting their nervous system. Ingredients in herbicides such as glyphosate target plants by specifically blocking the action of a critical enzyme that plants use to synthesize three amino acids (tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine), which are essential components of all proteins.
Without the ability to synthesize these amino acids, the plants die. Humans ingest these chemicals daily… what could possibly go wrong? For starters, many published studies have proven the relationships between exposure to pesticides/herbicides and the deterioration of human health, including neurological disorders and cancer. And yet, many are still on the market and heavily consumed. To avoid these chemicals, we must eat organic foods and become more mindful of the grass we allow our children to play on.
So many of us walk around drinking out of plastic bottles without realizing how unhealthy this can be. Water bottles, for example, contain phthalates. They are colorless, odorless, oily liquids. Phthalates are especially dangerous because they are linked to asthma and allergies, and they also mimic hormones and can damage the endocrine system. A 2009 study in Korea showed a strong positive association between phthalates metabolites in urine and symptoms of ADHD and other neurological dysfunction.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is another industrial chemical used primarily to make plastic water bottles. Some risks include adverse effects on the endocrine system and potential damage to brain synapses, resulting in an increased risk of depression, memory problems, ADHD and other neurological disorders, asthma, learning issues, aggression, thyroid dysfunction, and cancer. It is especially important not to allow these bottles to be heated, for example, when sitting in a hot car for a prolonged amount of time, these chemicals are known to leach out.
Plastic Garden Hoses
One of my fondest childhood memories is drinking water from the garden hose. We all did it, but was it safe? Unfortunately, PVC hoses often carry a warning that reads, “This product contains chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.” Many hoses are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which uses lead as a stabilizer. Other dangerous materials that are toxic to the human body often found in garden hoses are antimony, organotin, BPA, and Phthalates.
Summer is the season full of fun, action, and smiles. While it’s important to try to enjoy every moment of it, let’s keep our kids safe and healthy this summer by applying the practical advice outlined above.