School’s Out for Summer – So the kids have shut the books and the last bell has rung. School’s out, and everyone is ready for all the fun activities that come along summer.
The summer season also brings with it certain precautions that moms take when it comes to things like sun and bug exposure. For moms looking out for toxins as well, there is a desire to learn how they can protect their kids from these hazards while also reading ingredient labels.
For many of these moms, finding ways of accomplishing all of the above and leaving little to no trace on the environment is desired. All of these aspects — prevention, non-toxic, and green — can leave busy moms with a lot more on their minds than their busy summer can accommodate.
In this post, I will cover clean and green ways to provide your children with safety throughout all the pool parties, family hikes, camping trips and amusement parks. I want concerned moms to have peace of mind this summer to let their kids be active, have fun, and grow.
At the end of this post, you will also find a link to an awesome summer giveaway tote filled with non-toxic summer products and more!
Sunscreen has been aggressively promoted for decades. While it definitely has its value when it comes to keeping our kids safe from sun damage and later melanomas, it’s important to also be aware of its downfalls.
Most conventional sunscreens contain the endocrine-disrupting chemical, Oxybenzone. Its job is to filter out and absorb harmful UV rays. However, absorbing this chemical into the bloodstream through means of the skin, puts our kids at risk for lowered
testosterone. In pregnant women, the chemical has been found to lead to low birth weight babies and even a birth defect called Hirschsprung’s Disease.
On top of all that, oxybenzone has had detrimental effects on the ocean’s coral reefs that millions of tourists enjoy snorkeling among. The chemical runoff from all the sunscreen applications have resulted in significant bleaching, and has also affected their ability to reproduce.
Azobenzone, another common UV-absorbing chemical found in most sunscreens, doubles as an obesogen. Obesogens are chemicals that can interfere with a child’s ability to maintain a healthy weight.
This sunscreen component is popular for its emolliating properties, ability to neutralize UV radiation, and tendency to minimize long-term skin damage. While all of that is wonderful, octocrylene has also been found to damage cells and cause mutations, increasing our risk for certain cancers.
A derivative of Vitamin A, Retinyl Palmitate is included for its abilities to slow the aging process of our skin. The problem is that it is also believed to speed up skin tumors and lesions when exposed to sunlight.
So we have cancer-causing agents and cancer-promoting agents working in synergy. Add to that, the fact that these substances also block out the precious Vitamin D that we obtain naturally from the sun. This is one of the best defenses we have against cancer. The combination of the ingredients mentioned and a few others I haven’t, has led scientists to the conclusion that sunscreen may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Mineral sunscreens to the rescue
Fortunately, mineral-based zinc oxide sunscreens have entered the market in the last decade or so. Instead of filtering or converting the sun’s rays, these products provide a
shield for the skin. They are gentle on the environment as well. A few of my favorites are the Badger line and the Think line. Environmental Working Group’s website also offers a comprehensive guide to choosing the best sunscreen option for your family. If you prefer to make your own, there are tons of great options to choose from on Pinterest.
There are even options beyond sunscreen. Why not just cover them up? We all know how time-consuming and frustrating it can be to cover a squirming kid who is anxious to hop in the pool, in head-to-toe sunscreen. Very rarely do we feel completely confident in our application either. What could be simpler than throwing on a t-shirt or investing in a super cute rashguard suit? Just make sure that when you are purchasing a UV-filtering article of clothing, it doesn’t contain any additional harmful chemicals that can rub off and be absorbed into your child’s skin. A few reputable non-toxic brands are Coolibar and Ami-sol.
Sun protection from the inside out
There have been studies done providing evidence that dietary increases in sugars, processed oils and grains, contribute to the inflammation in our bodies which promotes sun damage. By avoiding these foods, we can provide our kids with a complimentary sun protection factor. Certain natural supplements and healthy fats have also been found to boost our natural sunscreening abilities. These include Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, and a good quality coconut oil.
Those annoying little critters mosquitos and ticks are on the rise. As our climate continues to change, this manipulates ecosystems and behavioral patterns of its inhabitants. Mosquito and tick populations have seen an increase, and are also carrying with them triple the rates of diseases such as Lyme and Zika than seen just 15 years ago. Reports of this, no doubt, rings alarm for moms all over the country.
DEET is not the only way to go
The prime candidate for tackling the mosquito problem is typically an ingredient labeled DEET. While many experts have deemed this a safe chemical to apply to children’s skin, there are some precautions to take.
First off, it should only be used in concentrations of less than 30%. DEET products should also never be applied under the clothing, on the hands and face, or where there are open cuts. Parents should also be aware that the product has been found to be toxic to pets, and that it can be damaging to certain materials.
There have been some reports linking its usage to seizures, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and Gulf War Syndrome under certain circumstances. Use conservatively and do your research, or keep reading for some healthier options.
Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a plant-based product that has been found to be quite effective against mosquitoes. However, it should be put through a skin patch test first, and it is not recommended for children under 3.
Citronella oil h as a very low toxicity in combination with high efficiacy, but it has not experienced very effective results in the warmer climates.
Picaridin, a more synthetic compound resembling the natural piperine, carries with it no real cause for concern. It also tends to work well as an alternative for those who find themselves allergic to DEET. And an added bonus–it provides tick protection, too!
Soybean oil and Geranium oil are two other effective and safe natural ingredients that have had great success at helping defend the skin against pesky bug invaders.
Four excellent store-bought sprays that work well without the DEET are:
Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Picardin
REPEL Lemon Eucalyptus
Badger Anti-bug repellent Spray
Safety at the Pool
Chlorine Protection Chlorine is not 100% safe. No one wants to enter a pool full of stranger germs that is not being treated in any way. However, if you enter a pool area where the chlorine scent is so overwhelming that you feel like you may pass out, that can not be deemed 100% safe either.
Exposure to chlorine has been found to cause irritation to the airway, skin, eyes and throat in some children. It has even led to difficulty breathing in certain cases. Children suffering from asthma and/or allergies are at a higher risk.
Other issues that have been linked to overexposure to chlorine include hormone disruption and imbalance to the gut flora.
Precautions to take
Fortunately, there are certain steps moms can take to keep their kids safe at the pool.
- Teach your children to always shower prior to entering the pool. Chlorine, in combination with either sweat or urine, creates a toxic effect. Therefore, among other obvious reasons, it’s equally important to encourage pottying before a swim as well.
- Apply coconut oil to the skin–and even the hair–as a protective layer between themselves and the chlorine. Exposure to the chlorine will remove the natural film that our skin usually provides. The oil will act in its place.
- You can also easily create a vitamin C spray, by mixing 1 teaspoon powdered vitamin C into 2 cups of filtered water. The Vitamin has been shown to have neutralizing effects on chlorine. Simply spray after your swim and go!
And, of course, whenever possible try to find a chlorine-free pool where another safer disinfecting method–such as a UV sanitizing system–is substituted.
What’s so toxic about the family bbq?
Who doesn’t love a chance to fire up the grill and enjoy some charred dogs and burgers with the family–especially on a nice sunny, breezy day? Yes, I know, it should be a completely carefree activity. Unfortunately, there are a few unhealthy aspects of this activity as well.
The number one threat of the barbecue experience is the chemical reaction that happens when fat from your meats drips down on either the grill or the flame and results in smoke. This creates carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, otherwise known as PAHs. Both eating the meat and inhaling the smoke are harmful to our bodies.
The other chemical reaction to be aware of is the one created from the typically high heats that occur during grilling. These high heats’ effect on the meat is a carcinogen called Heterocyclic Amines, or HCAs. HCAs have been linked to increased risks for colorectal, prostrate and pancreatic cancers.
The third reaction involved in grilling is created from the combination of protein or fat, sugar and high heat all working together. The end result is Advanced Glycation End Products or AGEs. The AGEs contribute to increased oxidative stress and inflammation, which is linked to diseases like diabetes, Alzheimers, heart disease and cancer.
The non-toxic approach to grilling
But don’t despair! All of that said, there are several ways to make healthy modifications and still enjoy this summer tradition.
- Opt for a gas grill instead of charcoal. In one recent study, scientists discovered that grilling over charcoal produced four times as many carcinogens as grilling over gas. You are also in more control of the temperature with a gas grill.
- Always include either a marinade or a spice rub in your grilling preparations. Studies show that doing so combats the carcinogenic effects significantly. Some of the most effective options include rosemary, garlic, thyme, sage, beer and wine.
- Whenever possible, allow yourself enough time to grill your food below 325 degrees. You can also pre-cook the meat so they only need to be grilled at high temps briefly.
- Try grilling salmon, chicken or veggies instead; they produce less carcinogens in the cooking process.
Let them be Kids!
I’ve provided you with a lot of information on many of the toxins your kids are likely to be exposed to during a typical summer season. I know it can be overwhelming and scary. But it doesn’t need to be! You are now armed with defenses against every single one of them, and there is no reason to worry when you are in the know. Let them be kids this summer–you are prepared.