Our readers are always asking for great one-stop online keep-toxins-away-from-our-growing-kids resources. Oh how we understand the impulse behind the question. The whole concept of The Complete Organic Pregnancy came about when Deirdre asked me how I planned to make the rest of my (then hypothetical) pregnancy as pure as the organic food I was eating. I didn't have an answer for her. So we both started researching and found there was no single go-to source. So we turned our findings into the book.
Since then, many really great internet resources have been born. (You're reading one now!) Two of my go-to sources The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Washington Toxics Coalition have recently spawned consumer-friendly sites that I feel are more than worth a mention here.
First up, the NRDC's SimpleSteps.org. The site is chock full of easy to follow tips, videos, and raw facts about pesticides, bottled water, mercury and the like. There's also a Q & A section with Dr. Gina Soloman, a senior scientist and physician in NRDC's health program. Her bio from the site: "Gina specializes in internal medicine and occupational/ environmental medicine. She is also an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco where she is a teaching physician at the pediatric environmental health specialty unit. She received her medical degree from Yale University and her specialty training at Harvard. She is a co-author of Generations at Risk: Reproductive Health and the Environment." I've had the pleasure of interviewing her before for articles I have written and she's amazing knowledgeable and straightforward. Her answers are always very clear, easy to follow, and very interesting to read. I have it bookmarked.
Next up is the almost brand-new Washington Toxics Coalition's Safe Start for Kids. It's a guide for parents who want to choose children's products free of harmful chemicals. One of their scientists, Erika Schreder, actually contributed an essay to our book. The site provides basic, solid details on everything from which baby bottles to choose to how to find a safe mattress. They also cover bibs, lunch boxes, art supplies, and toys, have a plastics 101 section, and describe how to go about setting up a healthy nursery. Though there is clearly much content overlap with The Complete Organic Pregnancy, one difference I feel compelled to mention is in the safe cosmetics arena. Their chemical-free choices are absolutely safer than a lot of products you'll find out there, but they're not made of (third party certified) organic or biodynamic ingredients. This is most likely more of an environmental issue (in the most basic terms: organic farming keeps harmful pesticides out of the earth), but I do feel better wiping a cream made of organically grown plant material on my babe.
One area I found extremely helpful is their primer on choosing the healthiest day care facility. So many of us focus only on education (understandably so) and forget to think about if the space is green and safe. My 2-year-old will likely begin preschool two mornings a week this September. Recently we attended an evening parents open house at a Co-op school that interests us greatly. When we arrived, we found ourselves in a cloud of scented candle stench. Fragranced candles usually contain hormone disrupters, and are made of petrochemical wax. Maybe what we were inhaling was from a soy wax naturally scented candle, but I doubt it; I can't recall smelling anything that strong and sickly sweet in nature. I'm hoping they only had it on at night to make the place smell "nice" for prospective parents, but it certainly raised my hackles and reminded me to ask some green-tinged questions at a later interview. The Washington Toxics Coalition site has a great list of questions parents might want to ask their day care providers, like:
Do you serve organic food?
Do you use non-chemical methods to control pests in or around your facility?
Do you avoid using cleaning products labeled with the signal words WARNING, DANGER, or POISON (with the exception of chlorine bleach), or use least-toxic alternatives like baking soda, vinegar, and liquid soap?
Was your facility constructed before 1978? If so, are you keeping the facility free of flaking or peeling paint, which is likely to contain lead, and regularly cleaning areas around doors and windows?
Do you avoid toys made of soft vinyl (PVC) plastic? Do you regularly check for any recalled toys and promptly remove them?
Do you flush pipes (until water is as cold as it can get) before collecting water for drinking or cooking?
Do you encourage people to wipe their shoes before entering, or maintain a shoe-free facility?
Do you only use art and craft supplies approved by ACMI (Art & Creative Materials Institute)?
This list is such a crucial reminder to constantly advocate for your child. I hadn't even thought to ask about lead me! Of all people! In New York, where we live, parents become so bizarrely concerned about the possibility their kids won't get accepted anywhere, it makes you forget you have the right and frankly the responsibility to ask these sort of questions. And to get involved. This list certainly got me excited about raising awareness and pushing for green changes at whatever school she does attend. I've bookmarked this site, too.
Besides the four go-tos I've mentioned here (our book, The Daily Green, and these two sites), what are some of your favorite green parenting resources?
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