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Archive: Breast milk - MOMS.

PBDEs, IQ and Your Couch!

9:59 pm in Activism, Body Burden, Breast milk, Children's Health, Consumer Products by Analisa Garcia

kid_couchYou may have heard warnings about exposure to flame retardant chemicals in everyday products, and a recent article put out by environmentalhealthnews.org links flame retardant exposure with lower IQ, poorer attention and motor skills in children. This is yet another reminder why everyone, especially women of childbearing age, pregnant women and young children should avoid exposure to PBDEs and other toxic flame retardants.

What began as an attempt to save lives from fires in homes has now been linked to neurodevelopment effects in children; including higher probabilities of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as lower reasoning, verbal, and IQ test scores.

Flame retardants were added to home furnishings in response to pressure on tobacco companies to address the issue of fire safety related to cigarette smoking. Instead of creating cigarettes that would self-extinguish, couches and other household items were doused in toxic flame retardants. Without government regulation that would require proof that exposure to flame retardants is safe, chemical companies have been able to profit while flame retardants have done far more harm than good. Fire safety experts and government studies conclude that flame retardants are ultimately ineffective. Furthermore, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune shows that these flame retardants are harmful and unnecessary!

PBDEs 101

Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDEs) is the second largest class of additives in the plastic industry used in home furnishings and in computers and other electronics.
PBDEs are considered Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), meaning they leach out into the air and dust, and are ingested by animals. Humans consume PBDEs through inhalation of dust and consumption of animal fats. PBDEs levels in dust exceed levels in food by up to a thousand times, making dust a primary route of exposure.

PBDEs are stored in our fatty tissue, where they remain for years. This makes them highly concentrated in breast milk, which poses an increased threat to nursing infants. Infants who are not breast-fed are still exposed to PBDEs in the womb from maternal blood.Children have higher levels of PBDE concentrations than adults because they tend to play on the ground where dust accumulates. Dust also gets onto their hands, which they often place in their mouths, increasing exposure.

Californians are even more susceptible to PBDEs exposure compared to the rest of the United States, and have levels seven to ten times higher than other states. The cities with some of the highest known levels of PBDEs were found to be Oakland and Salinas, areas where predominately low-income communities of color reside.

Although some flame retardants have been phased out, others remain in older furniture. This poses a higher threat to low-income families who do not have the financial means to purchase new home furnishings. Californians are likely to have the highest exposure because of the outdated flammability standard known as TB-117 (take a look at the tag under your couch- it’s likely that your couch complies with this standard).

While this all sounds overwhelming, you can take action! We need to let our elected officials know that we want to get toxic flame retardants out of our homes and our bodies. California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration is proposing new rules that would change California’s flammability standard. The changes would exempt many baby products including car seats, changing pads and infant mattresses from the flammability standard. There is a 45-day public comment period in which chemical companies will try to dispute the proposed changes. It is urgent that we show our support now!

Exposure to PBDEs is unavoidable, but there are things you can do to limit your exposure:

• Wash your hands frequently to reduce exposure from dust.
• Use a vacuum fitted with a high-efficiency particulate air(HEPA) filter, which can be found in most home improvement stores, and wet mop to reduce dust.
• Avoid products filled with polyurethane foam and instead purchase products with wool, organic cotton, or polyester fiberfill.
• Cover and seal rips in upholstery that may reveal polyurethane foam
• Reduce your consumption of animal fat, because PBDEs bio accumulate in fatty tissues
• Check the “Do Not Remove” label on your mattress to see if it contains PBDEs. If you cannot afford to buy a new, natural fiber mattress, you can purchase an allergen barrier casing for your mattress to reduce leaching.

The Common Bonds of Mammal Motherhood: Pregnant Whales and Me

5:40 pm in Body Burden, Breast milk, Children's Health, Fertility & Reproduction, Legislation by Mary Brune

As a pregnant woman in the third trimester of pregnancy, I confess I sometimes feel an affinity to the whale. While no one has (at least not to my face) used the term “whale” in reference to my growing midsection, it’s still true to say that I feel like whales and I have a lot in common these days. (Although I must say I do not share their grace. I’m very un-whale-like in that regard when putting on underpants, tying shoes, or heaven forbid, trying to shave my legs.)

But last week I was reminded of another common bond between myself and the majestic mammals of the sea: the chemicals we are exposed to are taken into our bodies and passed on to our children in utero. A truth I wish neither of our species had to contend with.

In one of the first studies to measure the transfer of toxins during pregnancy, Arctic researchers sampled blubber from pregnant whales, and then took samples of the calves and compared the exposure levels of PCBs and PBDEs (two classes of flame retardant chemicals) and they found about 11 percent of the total of each chemical was handed down from mother to fetus.

What’s so significant about this study is its ability to show directly that the chemicals are passed on to the fetus during gestation. Depending on when the fetus is exposed,   exposure to these chemicals can interfere with normal growth and development and could even impact future health well into adulthood. Especially concerning is that the chemicals sampled in the study –PCBs and some of the PBDEs tested for—have already been banned. In the case of PCBs, which were banned back in the 1970s, it means that chemicals long extinct from the manufacturing plant are still wreaking havoc in our environment and on our bodies and will continue to do so for generations to come.

That’s quite a heady realization to have while pregnant. And it would be so easy to climb into my bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend it’s not happening. If only it were that easy to make it go away.

So, you might ask, what DO you do? To which I might reply: Whatever it takes. Knowing what we know about chemicals like PCBs  and PBDEs  and knowing what we know about the health effects of those and other long-lived, persistent, bio-accumulative toxins in our environment that are still in use, we must do whatever is necessary to get rid of them now, so what we can to stop the cycle of replacing old toxic chemicals with new toxic chemicals that pollute our environment and damage our health.

You can start by helping to pass The Safe Chemicals Act, which will be up for a vote on the Senate Floor in September.

You can also help put an end to outdated flammability standards that require the use of these flame retardant chemicals in the first place. Encourage the CPSC to enact its draft standards now!

Now I’m off to go to the pool. All this talk about whales makes me want to go swimming.

Avatar of GraceP

by GraceP

Best Foods to Eat for Healthy Breast Milk

7:15 pm in Breast milk, Food by GraceP

Baby is here, and you have made the important decision to breastfeed; how wonderful for both baby and you! It is just as important now as when you were pregnant to carefully consider your diet, focusing on gaining maximum nutrition. Your body needs excellent, nutrient-dense foods to recover from birth and to produce highly nutritious food that your baby will be relying on exclusively for her first few months of life.

Your diet should be well rounded, with plenty of fresh, wholesome foods. This is certainly not the time to diet to lose those extra pounds you put on while pregnant. Mothers who breastfeed actually get back to their pre-pregnancy weight faster than those who don’t, so there is no need to even think about cutting calories. You actually need extra calories to produce healthy breast milk, so go ahead and eat. Just be sure you are eating the most nutritious food possible, while making sure to avoid toxins that could be transferred to breast milk.

Calcium Rich Foods
Calcium is all important for providing the raw materials for baby’s rapidly growing bones. Although milk is a great source of calcium, you don’t have to drink milk if you don’t like it. There are plenty of other calcium rich foods. Hard cheeses like Swiss and cheddar are excellent, so are yogurt and kefir. Since many environmental toxins found in breast milk are lipophilic (or fat-loving), opt for organic, low-fat varieties of dairy.  If you don’t like dairy, try eating sardines or salmon with the bones in. Wild-caught salmon is available canned and is an excellent source of not only calcium but omega-3 fatty acids. The bones are soft and you can just crush them with a fork before   preparing the canned salmon. Broccoli and kale are excellent vegetable sources of calcium.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetable
Start every grocery shopping trip in the produce department, picking as many varied fruits and vegetables as you can. These foods are simply packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. A trip to your local farmers market in season is also an excellent place to find wholesome, locally grown produce. Make the most of your purchases by splurging for organic varieties of the fruits and vegetables found to have the most pesticide residues.

Complex Carbohydrates
In addition to fruits and vegetables, whole grains are a great source of complex carbohydrates for vitamins and fiber and are also an excellent source of energy. Avoid refined grains, sticking to whole grain products. Be sure to read the ingredients, as many grain products say they are wholegrain but in reality have refined grains as the primary ingredient.

Look for lean meats, dairy and eggs, and fish for your daily protein. Of course meats and fish are great sources of all the essential amino acids the body needs, but vegetarians get adequate protein without eating meat. So, nursing mothers who are also vegetarians just need to be careful about getting all the essential amino acids on a daily basis. Recent studies show that it is not necessary to get them all in one dish as long as you get them throughout the day. Because fish can be a major dietary source of toxic exposure, it’s important to understand which types of fish have the lowest contaminant level and are therefore safest to eat. Not all fish are created equal. For instance, Atlantic farmed salmon has high levels of mercury and PCBs (a class of banned flame retardant chemicals), while wild-caught Alaskan salmon has low levels of mercury. And according to the USDA, Breastfeeding women should opt for canned light tuna over Albacore (white) tuna, which contains more mercury.

You must get adequate liquids to produce milk, and pure water is the absolute best way to get your liquids. If you’re not sure what’s in your tap water, consider having it tested for heavy metals and if necessary, using a water filter to screen out contaminants.  Weak green tea, 100 percent fruit juice, milk and even soup provide liquids. Aim for ten, eight-ounce servings per day.

What Not to Eat
As with any diet that focuses on maximizing nutrition, avoiding empty-calorie foods including junk foods, desserts and soft drinks is important at this time. Be careful to minimize processed foods, filled with additives and preservatives. So for your own health and that of your baby, avoid eating processed foods. The best foods are those that you cook at home from fresh ingredients. Think of this as the perfect time to change your family’s eating habits to those that promote maximum health, making this a life-long habit. The health benefits are simply astounding!

Helpful Resources:

About the Author
Grace Pamer is known as the love letters lady and is the author of www.RomanticFrugalMom.com. She runs a popular section related to love letters on her blog, a guide to help couples compose love letters for their nearest and dearest.

Can’t breastfeed in public? That sucks.

6:15 pm in Breast milk by Hailee Hallahan

When I read that toplessness is legal in New York City, the first thing I thought (after, I wonder if it’s legal in Berkeley? – never mind, legality is probably irrelevant) was, Finally! Maybe people will begin to see breasts as beautiful parts of women’s bodies, and not sectioned off as objects existing for solely sexual purposes. Let’s face it: breasts are there at pivotal points in our lives – upon being born, they feed and nourish us; upon reaching puberty, they grow on us (figuratively and literally); and upon motherhood, they continue our mothers’ favor and begin to feed and nourish our children. How’s that for magical?

But aside from NYC, current law doesn’t recognize the beauty of breastfeeding – outside of the home, that is. Current legislation protects mothers breastfeeding only if they are doing so on federal property. Breastfeeding on private property – shopping malls, airlines, restaurants – is not protected. So if your baby is hungry in a restaurant, you may not have the right to feed your child. Read the rest of this entry →