By Rachel Sarnoff
When I read about an EPA study released earlier this year that found trace residues of at least 25 different drugs in drinking water, I panicked. This was on the heels of a study that linked acetaminophen in pregnancy with ADHD in children. If occasional use of endocrine-disrupting drugs like acetaminophen could affect a baby, what could they do to the rest of us if we were ingesting drugs on a daily basis through drinking water?
Are there drugs in my drinking water? Yes, as well as contaminants linked to cancer. After a moment of panic, I took these steps—and you should, too.
After calming down a bit, I decided to take some steps to assess the situation. First was figuring out what exactly was in my drinking water. So I hopped on over to theEnvironmental Working Group’s National Drinking Water Database to find out. This is a great and easy-to-use tool, but because it was last updated in 2009, the information may be out of date. (For more updated info, I could also have contacted my local utility for a water-quality report or called the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.)
The database couldn’t tell me what drugs were in my drinking water, but it did show levels of contaminants such as trihalomethanes as over the legal limit several times during the five-year period of testing. Trihalomethanes are disinfectants that are applied to water in treatment plantsand have been linked to liver, kidney and central nervous system problems, plus an increased risk of cancer. Oh, joy.
On the plus side, no mercury showed up in our drinking water. So there’s that.
I briefly considered converting my entire drinking water supply to bottled, until I realized that it could actually be worse for our health, because:
1. A Natural Resources Defense Council report found that 25% of bottled drinking water is actually tap water.
2. Although they now must label bottled water from municipal sources, manufacturers aren’t required to regularly test their water—or disclose what they find in it—unlike tap water, which is tested weekly by the EPA.
3. Many plastic water bottles contain hormone disrupting chemicals like BPA, which can leach into water.
4. Bottled water is expensive—ringing up as much as $50 per month for a family of four. And we’ve got five.
Instead, I took a deeper look at our refrigerator filtration system, which I use for cooking and drinking water. Ours is carbon made from coconut shells, which filters for chlorine, lead, sediment, dirt and rust. And I know from reading up on the EPA study that charcoal does work to filter some pharmaceuticals. Phew!
In the meantime, I checked out additional filtration options at EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide. I’m fantasizing about a whole house reverse osmosis filter, which addresses substances that carbon can’t, such as arsenic and chromium—also detected in my drinking water—as well as perchlorate, which wasn’t.
And I’m also trying not to obsess about the drugs in our drinking water—although the study findings were truly frightening. Scientists examined samples from 50 wastewater plants and tested for 56 different drugs; they found medication to treat high blood pressure was found in the highest quantities, but over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and prescription drugs such as hydrocodone were also found.
It does make sense, considering a 2013 Mayo Clinic Study which found that 70 percent of Americans now take prescription drugs, compared to 48 percent just five years ago. The drugs get into our water when we excrete them or flush old drugs down the toilet.
But because the pharmaceuticals register in such small amounts—measured in parts per billion, in some cases—health officials aren’t worried about the risk to humans. However, some are concerned about their effect on plants and wildlife, especially fish.
In fact, last year the FDA denied a petition that would have required pharmaceutical companies to do a more thorough analysis of how drugs in wastewater will affect aquatic life.
In the meantime, scientists have been measuring pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplyfor more than a decade, after fish were found to have both male and female characteristics linked to oral contraceptives.
Giving me even more reason to change my water filter.
To read more by Rachel Sarnoff, check out her blog.
By Rachel Sarnoff
Pregnant? Get ready for the god complex. Every mom I know talks about the saint that delivered her baby. The doctor’s word is taken as law, and heaven forbid your birth partner suggest otherwise. But are you and your doctor truly in sync?
In 2012, a University of San Francisco study of more than 2,000 obstetricians and gynecologists nationwide found that although they routinely discuss smoking, alcohol, diet and weight gain, most doctors do not warn their patients about environmental hazards as related to pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant, make sure your doctor knows the answers to these important questions that can protect your children’s health.
Yet studies link low levels of toxic chemicals in pregnancy to disruption of fetal brain and reproductive system development, as well as increased risks of birth defects, cancer, immune problems, asthma and other problems later in life.
In fact, in 2013, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine released a joint statement that said: “toxic chemicals in our environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies and are associated with numerous long-term health problems.”
Common sense, right? Apparently, not to the American Chemistry Council, which released a response through the Associated Press stating that the report would create “confusion and alarm among expectant mothers.”
I would say pregnant women would be alarmed by the ACOG/ASRM statement. But confused? There’s nothing confusing about these reproductive experts’ statement, nor is their anything unclear about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position, as stated in 2011, which recognized that pesticides are associated with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems, and recommended that pediatricians work with parents to help reduce the use of pesticides in homes and yards.
It’s pretty clear to me that the gynecologists, obstetricians and pediatricians who are primarily responsible for our children’s health are unified with the common goal of reducing exposure to toxic chemicals—especially in pregnancy.
Writing off pregnant women as “confused” by the truth that low doses of toxic chemicals can be dangerous, especially to children, is misguided logic. As parents, we need to get empowered about the decisions that can affect the health of our children. If you’re pregnant, or thinking about it, here are a few questions to ask the doctor you’re considering having deliver your baby:
- Should I be concerned about mercury in fish?
- Is organic food important during pregnancy?
- How can I reduce the amount of VOCs in my environment?
IMHO, the answers I’d want to hear are:
- Yes, avoid fish during pregnancy and supplement with omega-3 oils.
- Since studies have shown links between pesticides in pregnancy and lower birth weight babies with shorter term pregnancies; you should eat organic as much as you can.
- Use no VOC paints and avoid new synthetic carpets and furniture, especially those which are made with formaldehyde.
If your doctor doesn’t have answers or want to research these issues, consider whether or not he or she is the right doctor for you. Because if you’re going to choose a god for nine (ten) months, it should be someone you can trust to be as current—or more so—than you are about information that’s crucial to your baby’s health.
Portions of this story originally appeared on Rachel’s Huffington Post column.You can read more from Rachel on her site, Mommy Greenest
By Rachel Sarnoff
I am so confused about BPA. For years I trusted studies that linked the endocrine-disrupting substance—a chemical used to harden plastics like water bottles, as well as to coat cash register receipts and line aluminum cans—with obesity, anxiety and reproductive problems.
Recently, a new study concluded thatprenatal exposure to BPA—before and just after birth—was linked to liver cancer. But on the heels of that study came another from the FDA that puts my beliefs about BPA in question.
For years I trusted studies that linked BPA with obesity, anxiety and cancer. But a new FDA study puts my beliefs about BPA in question.
But before we get to that, let’s review the history: In 2012, the FDA announced a nation-wide ban on BPA in bottles and sippy cups. The following year, California placed the chemical on its Proposition 65 list, officially recognizing it as a reproductive hazard.
In 2013, the UN and WHO called hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA a “global threat;” shortly thereafter the California EPA office announced that BPA would be added to the Prop 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive toxicity.
But the new FDA study, published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, may affect these decisions. Scientists exposed rats to BPA as many as 70,000 times what the average American is exposed to. And they found no change in body weight, reproductive organs or hormone levels—in fact, there were no biologically significant changes at all. When exposure was in the millions, then the scientists saw hormone-related changes.
Does this mean I’m going to start feeding my kids a lot of canned food? Absolutely not. Unlike these unfortunate animal study subjects, we don’t live in a vacuum. I know that BPA is just one of at least 200 hormone-disrupting chemicals that all Americans are exposed to daily, and this study does nothing to address my concern about how they interact within a person’s body. As much as I can reduce our exposure to BPA—along with other toxic chemicals—I will.
When it comes to my children, I follow the Precautionary Principle, which states that, “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
Basically, I understand the FDA study in the context of the thousands of other studies I’ve read that raise red flags when it comes to BPA and health—especially for kids. I recommend these six easy steps to reduce BPA exposures.
What do you think? Does this FDA study change how you feel about BPA? What are you doing to reduce exposures? Please leave me a comment below. Thanks!
Photo Credit: Natural Grocers
To read more from Rachel Sarnoff, check out her blog
By Susan Howard
Poop is on my mind, the whole family has been struck with a pretty bad digestion flu. My oldest daughter struggles with a fear of pooping. One thing I know is that if I can’t poop I am not happy. Another thing I know is cardiovascular exercise helps you poop, running being number 1 on the poop o meter. Almost as good as a shot of double espresso, working out helps you to metabolize your food and thus poop. Have I said poop too much? Really I am just getting started.
Workouts help aid your digestion so much I am convinced I had a client 3 mornings a week, just so he could get the elusive bowel movement. Some sessions were shorter than others.
Which brings me to my next point, people that workout are happier. Why? Because they are not walking around with a full colon! It’s uncomfortable to not be processing your food correctly. There is a sluggish bloated feeling one gets from carrying around meals of yeaster year. It is not happy or healthy. If you’ve ever walked by a garbage can of old rotting food sitting around you can tell from the stink it ain’t right.
Let’s flashback several years to a little me. Little me had no formal exercise routines, made random food choices drank small amounts of water and had HORRIBLE digestion. It’s only in my adult life that I have cracked the code to my own awful stomach. Thank the porcelain gods for that!
So if you are not pooping daily you need to up your anti in cardiovascular activities.
Just another reason to workout and be happier in your day.
After last week when I blogged about some postural hints for parents from a physical therapist’s perspective (mine), I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback:
“Good tips, thanks!”
“Is that really you in the picture?”
“Got anything else to share with us?”
Well, you’re welcome, sorry that’s not me, and of course I can scrape up a few more pointers. Here goes.
When you’re lifting your child, remember to first get them close to your center of gravity as we discussed. Of equal importance, however, is making sure they are in your “safe zone.” Your safe zone is the area of your body between your chin and your belly button. So if your child is sitting or standing on the floor begging to get into your arms, be sure to kneel down so that your child can climb himself onto your body in the safe zone, instead of you reaching down and lifting your child up to your arms. In the same way, if your child is up on her loft bed and wants to get down for breakfast, do not try to grab her and lower her to you or the floor. A better plan is to ask her to climb down the ladder a few rungs until she is level with your safe zone, and then climb aboard. The likelihood of injury is greatly diminished with this technique, especially when it comes to some action that you might potentially do day after day after day, for years!
Here’s another one. I’ve been guilty of this, have you? I’m trying desperately to get my child to fall asleep in my arms on the sofa. He is fussy and cranky, and I admit that I am fussy and cranky too. All I want is to get this kid to sleep. I’m fantasizing about lying in my own cozy bed. But I’m stuck on the sofa and there’s no end in sight. But wait! He has found his sweet spot in my lap and has miraculously fallen asleep. I slow down my breathing and even reduce my heart rate so as not to wake him up again – I’m that desperate. I stay absolutely frozen in that position that he has chosen for me, but unfortunately it’s very uncomfortable for me. I’m developing a deep ache on one side of my neck, and one of my hands is falling asleep. I try to shut out the pain and discomfort. Sometimes I even manage to fall asleep myself right then and there, only to wake up hours later with more profound aches and pains.
This is not a smart move. Pain is your body’s alarm system. Ignoring the alarms can lead to more permanent changes and chronic pain. Make sure that you are comfortable before your child gets comfortable.
Keep yourself well conditioned. A rule of thumb of 30-60 minutes of exercise for 3-4 times per week is a good one. I personally try to incorporate walking, one of the world’s greatest exercises, into my conditioning regimen. Even though I run 10 miles or so about 4 or 5 times per week, and swim whenever I have the chance, or else ride the bike, I still try and squeeze some walking in. My husband recently gave me a Fitbit for Valentine’s Day, a device worn on your wrist that keeps track of your daily steps and syncs the data to your computer for your review. In order to maximize my step count, I’ve taken to walking around much more. I walk the stroller and baby to the store instead of drive. If I do drive, I try to park a block or two further away than I normally would park. I’ve noticed that my boys are even getting more used to the thought of waling everywhere. Just the other day I planned a visit for us to the in-law’s house on the other side of Los Angeles (26 miles away), and as we headed out the door my middle son asked “Are we walking or driving?” I think this is a good thing.
If you’re not a walker, at least try to sit less during the day. Sitting wreaks havoc on the spine, especially when done improperly. It’s not a coincidence that most of the occupations that involve lots of sitting (truck drivers, desk workers) also have a high rate of back dysfunction.
As you can see, there’s a lot of information to share. Hopefully I’ve made you at least more aware of some issues that affect you as a parent. Instilling this information in our children at a young age is one of the best things we can do to help them grow up to be healthy smart parents themselves. That is if we ever let them date.
By John Jericiau
At the moment, I’m sporting a deep dull ache in my low back. It came to me one morning, quite out of the blue. I don’t recall any incident or event that would bring this pain on, except last week I did act as ball boy during my sons’ tennis lesson. I pay good money for the session and I didn’t want time wasted while they themselves retrieved balls in the middle of their session, so I darted around the court catching a ball here and reaching down for a ball there, just like you see the boys 40 years my junior do during Wimbledon.
This pain hasn’t reared its ugly head since my last smart move years ago while washing the white picket fence in the front of our house. Both boys were around two years old and had just started their midday three-hour nap, allowing me to pick a project each day and attempt to complete it in the allotted time. To save time on this particular day, I got into a good rhythm of plunging my sponge into a large bucket of soapy water, scrubbing a slat with said soapy sponge, and then lifting and moving the bucket to the next slat, where I would repeat the cycle of plunging, scrubbing, and moving. It was an efficient way to get the job done – unfortunately, I chose to perform this job while remaining in the bent-over position for close to the three-hour mark. Upon hearing one of the boys cry out from inside the house, thereby marking the end of my allotted time, I tried but was unable to get erect (my body), or retrieve from the crib two important individuals (my sons.)
The pain eventually subsided – I think it was a week later – and now this current pain feels like a less intense reminder of that crippling incident. Luckily, I am a physical therapist, so I at least know what to do to soothe the pain (in general use ice, anti-inflammatories, and a good massage, but bag the useless Ben Gay, the TENS unit, and too much time on the heating pad.) I can help you to reduce your pain level, but as a knowledgeable PT I pride myself in being able to give information to help prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Some of this info is definitely applicable to us parents.
For one, think before you act. Don’t try to wash a fence in the bent-over position for three hours. Duh. Don’t just hop out of bed in the morning and start your Yoga routine, just because you’re worried that little Dustin will wake up at the sound of your first om. Get warmed up first. Walk around a little.
Don’t hold your baby over one hip while cooking, walking, or talking on the phone. That baby has grown right before your eyes into a 25-pound sack of potatoes. I doubt you would hold a 25-poung sack of potatoes for any period of time like this. You’d get on the floor or sit in a good chair and put said sack right in the middle of your lap, where your spine will remain protected and balanced.
Speaking of good chairs, your comfy cozy sofa is not one of them. Good low back support is crucial to maintaining the normal arch in the lumbar spine, and most sofas are notorious for forcing you to sit in a slumped position. Be sure to grab at least a couple of throw pillows and place them behind your back before you sit, so you can maintain what we call “lumbar lordosis” while feeding your baby and catching up on shows from your DVR.
When lifting or transporting your baby or toddler, be sure to remember these few tidbits: Keep breathing while lifting, so as not to increase the pressure between your vertebrae. Get your child as close to your body as possible before doing any lifting. It’s pure physics that having the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible reduces the strain on your back muscles and ligaments. This is exactly why you’ll see a fireman carrying a victim out of a burning fire slung over his shoulders instead of in his arms. And always ask your child to hang on to your neck/shoulders during the lift. Splitting the work with them makes everyone happy and healthy.
Easier said than done, but try to get some good sleep each night. A tired body means a tired back, and a tired back is more easily injured. Eat nutritious foods; what you put in your mouth directly affects your body’s ability to perform. Try to keep your stress level to a minimum. Stressed muscles lose a large amount of their normal flexibility, which means that simply reaching down to the floor for a fallen diaper can be met with disastrous results. Herniated discs have been known to occur simply by reaching for a pencil.
Any exercise routine would be beneficial to keeping your body in good condition, but if you only had time to focus on one body part I’d suggest your six-pack. It’s there (somewhere), and by performing a few crunches here and a couple of sit-ups there, you are keeping strong the natural “girdle” of your trunk. Act like you have strong abs at all times, keeping them squeezed in the “set” position during all activities. Do not protrude your stomach out and allow it to act as a shelf for your child to sit on while you carry him.
Our bodies don’t come with an owner’s manual. It’s up to us to use the knowledge we gain in order to break some of our life-long habits. And don’t be afraid to share this knowledge with your own children. Forming good postural habits at an early age (e.g. lift with your legs, not your back) will lead to a lifetime of good health.
By Susan Howard
A client of mine having great success in both fitness and weight loss, goes to a Weight Watchers meeting once a week to weigh in and to hear words of inspiration. Although she has maintained her weight loss for over two years, she goes to be reminded of good habits and to support a friend in his weight loss endeavor. At one meeting, her leader explained that every meal you eat doesn’t have to be sexy. To those of you that are foodies this may ring a bell. To my client, who is an excellent gourmet cook, this idea floored her. No amuse-bouche? No farm to table? No burrata pizza with a balsamic reduction?
As the Food Network has transformed food into porn, we tend to obsess about our next meal or feel the need to try the newest snout to tail eatery. To maintain a healthy weight, it’s easier to just come up with some nutritious choices and push repeat. That’s why I say on Sunday night get yourself set up for the week by hard boiling a dozen eggs, sautéing some chicken breasts and make a yummy grain, quinoa or brown rice. So you are ready with quick easy fix ups when you are hungry. Sometimes for a meal you just got to get it done. Success favors the prepared. At any given time I have on hand string cheese, Greek yogurt, raw almonds, chopped greens, and various fruits.
Sometimes I don’t have the extra time to make a whole meal, but I can grab a string cheese and an apple and off I go. Don’t expect every meal to be the most delicious fried crispy saucy morsel you may crave, remember you are feeding your body. Think protein, carbs, and fat, some of which should be in most meals and snacks, the less processed the better. If you find a meal that is fairly good tasting and healthy, push repeat.
Let me take this notion a step further and say every workout doesn’t have to be sexy. I used to think if I didn’t max out weight training or run it wasn’t worth doing it at all. Now my goal is consistency over intensity. Which isn’t to say a hard ass session isn’t useful, merely that it’s better to make it to the gym than to worry you only have thirty minutes to workout. Just go and turn in the best workout you can do that day.
Above all be kind to yourself. You’re all you got.
By: Susan Howard
This is my tater tot series part two, furthering the inquiry about how to keep your child at a healthy weight and give them habits for years to come.
Never tell your child to eat everything on their plate.
Teach them to listen to their body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness. Let them be in charge of taking inventory as much as possible.
Fill their plates with tons of colorful nutritious options and then let them decide how much of what they eat. Our pediatrician, Dr. Liddy, told us kids will self regulate if given the chance. Isn’t that what you ultimately want?
When they are out of the house you aren’t going to be there telling them to finish their veggies. (Unless they are still in the house after college, which seems common these days, but is a different story.)
Teach them about what food does. Brandy is tireless in explaining that protein builds your muscles, milk helps your bones get strong, carbohydrates gives you energy and veggies help give you vitamins to see, and keep you feeling good. It doesn’t have to be too complex simple stuff like that broccoli has fiber in it so you can poop. Then they understand what a balanced diet is and why they need it.
Take them to local farmers markets, farms, and berry picking spots. Teach them that food doesn’t come from a package, it comes from the ground or a pasture. Allow your children to have a connection with what real food is. No it’s not in a Twinkie wrapper.
Plant a garden, herbs is an easy one to start with, and let them help. My daughter loves dirt and worms and being a little pioneer toddler, she’s a regular Laura Engles. She also now loves basil, parsley, and rosemary, and can pick it right off the vine.
Cook with your kids. Start with something easy that involves a lot of stirring and pouring. There is a fun recipe that is basically penne pasta, veggies and cheese in a muffin tin, super easy pasta muffins.
Make healthy foods flavorful. Take a cooking class, buy a new cookbook, watch the Food Network. If your kids aren’t eating it, up your game.
Limit excessive television watching. One of my clients just told me her house rule, if the sun is out no television. I like that because it seems to encourage kids to take on the day be active.
Inquire about the hot lunch program at your school. Be involved and try link fresh produce with the cafeteria. It is a battle worth fighting for.
By: Susan Howard
It used to be, if I didn’t sprint three 8 minute miles up hill, followed by 100 pushups and 500 crunches it wasn’t a workout. If the veins in my head weren’t about to explode I wasn’t doing anything. A 45minute hike was something I did to shake my legs out. Even an hour and a half yoga class didn’t count as more than a rest day. It was then that I taught at Barry’s Bootcamp in West Hollywood, where all the supermodels and twiggy actress go. There is something funny about Hollywood in that it attracts very pretty people who will stop at nothing to be in ridiculously good shape. As the instructor, it was my job to push the clients to the furthest possible place their bodies could handle. This method brought results. Assuming the overstressed ultra routine didn’t leave you injured you might get down to 10 percent body fat with toned muscles.
That was ten years ago. Now I count EVERYTHING as a workout. Hikes with friends, walks with the dog, tennis you name it. My point of view has changed from needing to max out every gym visit to celebrating movement in my day. Each day I aspire to move for at least 20 minutes. I tell my clients to try for the same. I do still go to the gym and sometimes put myself through a balls to the wall routine, it just depends on my mood.
My point is this, don’t discount activity, pay attention to each day and even if it’s not the max reps, gasping for breathe effort, commit to an active life.
You will feel better. You will see thinks clearer.
The world is waiting. Start now.
Susan Howard is a private trainer in Los Angeles