Thursday, March 13, 2008

Danger Danger Everywhere

Raising Children Toxic Free: How to Keep Your Child Safe from Lead Asbestos, Pesticides, and Other Environmental Hazards by Herbert Needleman and Philip Landrigan

This book is a little out of date (1994), but it was still interesting - and very easy to read. Mostly I'm shocked over and over again at how chemicals are used throughout our society (industry and home) without any testing whatsoever. Even shampoo, make-up and fancy anti-aging lotions contain chemicals that have not been tested at all for safety or toxicity!

I was impressed by the authors' desire to be reasonable. They wrote the book for parents (and pediatricians) but don't want to create anxiety about what can't be controlled or minimal risks. A lot of books about the toxins children encounter are a little overbearing.

I know there are people who think autism is caused by vaccines, but I think it's much more likely caused by a chemical (or a combination of chemicals) released into the environment. It may even be a prenatal exposure that puts children at risk. The FDA has too much to do, not enough money and not enough authority, but at least there are some restrictions and protocols. Nearly everything else is fair game. It's so difficult to show an actual effect within a population that dangerous toxins are released into our air (water, etc.) for decades before we realize they're a problem. There really should be toxicity requirements before chemicals are used in products, especially household products.

As a side note, he mentioned the dangers of lanolin, which I never really believed before, but apparently it's because it's derived from sheep's wool and many of the sheep are treated with pesticides -- so the pesticides are still in the lanolin when we use it. (Lanolin is marketed specifically to nursing mothers and for babies.) We never used it that much, but now I'll be more careful.

By the way, these authors have a newer book, published in 2002, that I also intend to request from interlibrary loan.


  1. KM,
    I could be wrong, but I think Lasinoh brand is somehow synthetic or purified?
    Am I delusional or have I fallen under the marketing bus on this one?

  2. You could be right, Kristin. We never really used any lanolin products. My lactation consultant after First Son was born recommended olive oil if I was sore after nursing - it was cheap, tasted yummy for baby and didn't interfere with pumping, which I had to do a lot because we were feeding him with a dropper until the nursing caught on. (Lanolin products kept the suction from working properly before the next feeding.)

    When First Daughter was born, we did the same thing. Recently, though, a friend recommended Lasinoh or similar products as a diaper cream, but we never got around to trying it because we have so much other stuff around.

    Recently (after her recommendation), I noticed Skin Deep (EWG's cosmetic safety database) rates lanolin as a moderate hazard. I was doubtful that something used for so long could be a hazard, but this book's brief mention of the pesticide made it more understandable.

    I just checked and Skin Deep hasn't reviewed Lasinoh, so I don't know what they'd say about it. The Ameda website (manufacturers of the brand), say it's safe and non-toxic, but not that they use sheep's wool that hasn't been treated with pesticides to produce it. It's probably just fine when used in moderation, as most things are. (One of the interesting thoughts of the book, though, was that when all the chemicals are added together, there's a risk of significant impact on our health while any individual product would probably be fine.)

    I'd have to do more research before excluding lanolin products from our use, but since the olive oil worked so well for me we'd probably only consider it as a diaper cream anyway. For the near future, we're well stocked in that category!

  3. I love the idea of olive oil! I just didn't think of it. We used it for craddle cap, though, and I particularly like the idea of using it as much as possible. Jay called Joe salad head for a bit. I suppose it would have been particularly entertaining if I had used it as well.
    Anyway, thanks for the tip. I have a number of new nursing friends and I'll pass it along.

  4. Actually, I admit I've used olive oil on cradle cap, too. It seemed to help!

    Though mostly I just put a hat on the baby.


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