Switch to Organic Cotton Tampons-Now!

 

Did you know the average woman will use over 11,000 tampons in her lifetime?  That is 11,000 plus exposures to whatever chemicals or toxins are in the tampon material.  That is not counting sanitary napkins or liners.

A few months ago I sent out a round of Industry Action Letters to make sure companies knew I had switched to safer, chemical free alternatives.  I received a letter  back refuting my points about rayon blend tampons.:

The cotton and rayon purification process is a chlorine-free process Even non-chlorine bleaching methods are done with chemicals
Our tampons are made of materials that have been safely used in feminine care products for many years  This companies current pads contain plastics, rayons, and petrochemical additives for absorption

Every year, we find out companies put chemicals in products formerly overlooked as “safe” and then later when independent research finds them unsafe, they are recalled.  For example, when a popular baby shampoo was found to have preservatives in them that turned into formaldehyde over time.

“Formaldehyde, which last year was identified by government scientists as a carcinogen, is released over time by common preservatives like quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin, which do appear on labels. And 1,4 dioxane, which has been linked to cancer in animal studies, is created during a process commonly used to make other ingredients gentler on the skin.” [9]

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Tampons are considered Class II medical devices and are not required to disclose their ingredients. This doesn’t make any sense; these products are used by women monthly- shouldn’t the list of what they are composed of be and openly stated on the packaging?

 

 

Why not just use organic cotton to make tampons and be done with it? Why are companies so averse to using organic cotton? The bottom line: money and profits.


Rayon is Used in Most Mainstream Tampons

Rayon started being used in tampons due to it’s cheap production costs, but the way rayon is produced involves chemicals- Yes Chemicals!

Rayon is:

“Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber. It is made from purified cellulose, primarily from wood pulp, which is chemically converted into a soluble compound. It is then dissolved and forced through a spinneret to produce filaments which are chemically solidified, resulting in synthetic fibers…” [10]

Organic cotton is costlier and the company’s products cost more, which in a competitive environment, many will choose cost over safety (unfortunately).

I gladly will pay more for organic cotton tampons ; this is my feminine health after all.



Regular Cotton Vs. Organic Cotton

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Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Other environmental consequences of the elevated use of chemicals in the non-organic cotton growing methods consist of:

  • High levels of agrochemicals are used in the production of non-organic, conventional cotton.

 

  • Cotton production uses more chemicals per unit area than any other crop and accounts in total for 10-16% of the world’s pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants chemicals used in the processing of cotton pollute the air and surface waters.
  • Residual chemicals may irritate consumers’ skin.
  • Decreased biodiversity and shifting equilibrium of ecosystems due to the use of pesticides.       [1]

Organic Cotton is different primarily as it’s not treated with chemicals.

“Farmers have been growing cotton without harmful chemicals for years. Their yield is high, and the quality of the cotton they grow is equal to or better than conventionally grown cotton. Their methods support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, improve the quality of soil and often use less water. Organic farming is more time consuming, requires more knowledge and skill, and, for now, costs more. But it’s worth it.” [8]

This graphic from Organicfacts.net explains  why organic cotton is so much better: Production does not involve chemicals, better quality, reduces potential for pollution by pesticides, natural fiber, and environmentally friendly farming practices.

organiccottoninfo


 What Else is in a Tampon or Sanitary Napkin?

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Not only the chemicals are a factor, but the synthetic plastic applicators take longer to biodegrade than cardboard applicators. In fact, even cardboard applicators can be treated with chemicals or a “plastic finish” to give them a smoother feel, so we have to be careful there also.

Also, artificial fragrances should not be used in a woman’s vagina. The lining of the internal vagina wall is highly permeable, even more so than our skin.  Aside from pesticides, traces of dioxin, and GMOs, if you’re using scented tampons, be aware that such products may contain any of the nearly 3,000 fragrance chemicals in use. [5]

Tampons are made of cotton, rayon, polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, and fiber finishes. Aside from the cotton and fiber finishes, these materials are not bio-degradable. Organic cotton tampons are biodegradable, but must be composted to ensure they break down in a reasonable amount of time. [6]

The letter also stated that “independent” research study showed no pesticides. It mentioned that research by a certain government agency deems their product safe. These agencies need to overhaul the  regulations in our cosmetic industry. So many products on the market simply are not safe.

Yes, most cosmetics in this country are on the market as “safe” and our government agencies allow it. For now… read the end of this article for how that may change!


Our regulators allow over 3,000 toxic chemicals to be used in the US makeup industry. Did you know the EU bans more than 1,300 chemicals and the US only bans 8 and restricts 3? WOW.

Even “non-chlorine” bleaching methods, in my opinion, are unsafe.

“A common method used in bleaching rayon, elemental chlorine-free bleaching, can still pose a dioxin risk because of the use of chlorine dioxide (the bleaching agent). In theory, these elemental chlorine-free processes can generate dioxins at very low levels, even though the process is considered “dioxin free.”  

According to the EPA, dioxin exposure causes cancer in lab animals and poses a high risk for humans as well. The agency also finds it to be a risk for damaged immune systems, reduced fertility, an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, and endometriosis.”  [7]

I’m not trying to slander this company and it was actually very nice that someone  took the time to respond to my letter. Most of their big competitors use the same ingredients in their products, but I would like to see them take more responsibility for what is in their products and give consumers   what they want- safer alternatives.

A trace chemical is still a chemical and in a delicate area it’s more dangerous with repeat exposure.

The average woman ends up with up to 5 lbs. of chemicals in her body per year. Per year! [2] Of course, this includes our makeups, soaps, lotions, tampons, etc…

Many of today’s feminine hygiene products are made primarily from rayon, viscose, and cellulose wood fluff pulp… not cotton — let alone organic cotton. Rayon and viscose present a potential danger in part because of their highly absorbent fibers. [5]


Safe Alternatives- Organic Cotton Tampons and Cups

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I  love Natracare organic cotton tampons and sanitary products (their pads are so soft). They are a company I trust.  Mercola is also producing organic cotton products and so does Seventh Generation brand and Honest Company.

Of course, there are even greener alternatives, like silicon reusable menstrual cups. I did try a cup and I simply could not get enough privacy (a 4 year old that is always following me into the bathroom) to master the skill of it.

I do joke around with my husband (we are big The Walking Dead fans) if the zombie apocalypse happens and we have to go survive in the wild- I’m grabbing that Diva cup!

As consumers, we must be wary of what we put in or on our bodies. I’ll be teaching my daughter to use safer products. Hopefully by then some of these companies will be forced to change their product formulations.

I’ll stick with the progressive companies that did what is right from the start.


Change on the Horizon

The Personal Care Product Safety Act, S-1014, is a bipartisan bill that is backed by the Environment Working Group: www.ewg.org.   Although certain companies I don’t trust (Ahem, companies who previously added formaldehyde releasers in baby care products) are also supporters, this is still a pivotal step in regulating the US Cosmetic industry.

The FDA must review the safety of at least five cosmetic ingredients each year, and it may establish conditions for safe use of an ingredient, including a limit on the amount of the ingredient or a requirement for a warning label. A cosmetic cannot be sold if it contains an ingredient that is not safe, not safe under the recommended conditions of use, or not safe in the amount present in the cosmetic. [3]

There is an excellent chart that shows you a breakdown of current law vs. proposed laws under this act.

Click here to view it from CosmeticsandtheLaw.com

The first 5 chemicals up for review in 2016 would be the following:

  1. Diazolidinyl urea (a formaldehyde used as a preservative in a wide range of products including deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath and lotion)
  2. Lead acetate (used as a color additive in hair dyes)
  3. Methylene glycol/formaldehyde, which is used in hair treatments
  4. Propyl paraben, which is used as a preservative in a wide range of products including shampoo, conditioner and lotion
  5. Quaternium-15, which is used as a preservative in a wide range of products including shampoo, shaving cream, skin creams and cleansers [4]

Although we have a long way to go, consumers like you and a strong social media activism can help propagate the message that we will not use toxic products.


What Can I Do?

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You can write an Activism Letter or sign online petitions. Support the labeling of personal hygiene products. Switch brands NOW!

If organic cotton tampon sales went up significantly I guaranteed big companies would consider a shift from rayon blends or offer an organic line as an option.

I have to drive to a different town to get my organic products, convenience would be nice, or even if my local grocer would start carrying these smaller company brands.

The potential for them to affect our health and wellness outweighs extra costs or the extra measures we have to take to buy these safe alternatives. I may drive to a different town to buy Natracare products, but they are available online.  Check out the Genbumom Amazon link for safe alternatives.

 Will you be making a switch to organic cotton feminine hygiene products?


Sources:

  1. Organic Cotton from Wikepedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_cotton
  2. Stuff You Should Know Podcast: “How Makeup Works” Broadcasted March 17, 2016.   www.howstuffworks.com
  3. https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1014
  4. April 21, 2015.  Cosmetics and the Law website:  www.cosmeticsandthelaw.com
  5. Dr. Mercola. May 13, 2015.  Conventional Tampons are toxic and not sustainable.  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/13/tampons.aspx
  6. Tampon from Wikepedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tampon
  7. Donsky, Andrea. Rayon: What you need to know about this fiber and your health.  Accessed May 4, 2016 www.naturallysavvy.com
  8. Patagonia Clothing website. Accessed April 25, 2016.  http://www.patagonia.com/us/patagonia.go?assetid=2077
  9. Johnson, Katie. August 5, 2012.  Johnson and Johnson to remove Formaldehyde from Their Products.  www.nytimes.com
  10. Rayon from Wikepedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rayon

Save the Monarchs! Create a Butterfly Haven

The Monarch Butterfly is on a rapid decline as a species.  The US populations have plummeted 90% over the last 20 years! This is huge.

This Guardian Article outlines the U.S.’s plan to help repopulate and encourage monarch growth.  $2 million is being spent to increase milkweed and native species that the Monarchs breed and thrive on.

Photo courtesy of Andria Edwards

Several factors could be at cause- decline of natural habitat, climate change, toxins in their environment (pesticides, insecticide and herbicide use has increased since the introduction of genetically modified crops in the 1980’s). Click here to learn more about why GMO’s are bad for our health and environment.  www.nongmoproject.org

A 10 state endeavor is underway as of November of 2015 to regrow the Monarch population. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation are spearheading the movement, along with the Obama Administration (public and private funds- donations are being matched and the efforts are underway!)

Migratory pattern of the Monarch

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November 12, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new conservation effort to help agricultural producers provide food and habitat for monarch butterflies in the Midwest and southern Great Plains.

This targeted 10-state effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $4 million in 2016 to help combat the iconic species’ decline.  [1]


Interview with a Monarch Mom

Andria Edwards, a local monarch advocate is quickly becoming an expert in attracting monarchs and helping them thrive.  Andria offered us these AMAZING pictures that she took from her experience cultivating monarch butterflies last year. She is ramping up her efforts this year by planting more milkweed and native plants.

She has done her research and is involving her two children and husband. Her efforts are building a lasting legacy for our planet and teaching the next generation about the beauty of nature and what we can do to help ensure the Monarch population rebounds.

She raised 8 monarch caterpillars last year and will increase that number this year. She did report her statistics as well, which is important.

There is a website called Journey North and it tracks migration of Monarchs and hummingbirds to name a few.  It allows you to see what else is being reported in your area.  Locally, in Indiana, McCloud Nature Park does a Monarch tagging event in late summer.  These tags can be tracked all the way down into Mexico and are reported back up here when they are found!  Monarchwatch is a great site for that as well!

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” The kids learned a ton!!  First the life cycle of a butterfly: start to finish.  It also taught them responsibility…you have to feed the cats daily, sometimes multiple times of day and clean up their poop multiple times of day.  They learned how to recreate their habitats inside.  They learned that sometimes we (humans) have to step in to help nature or correct a problem that humans have created. “

To protect her caterpillars or “cats” she did move them inside to protect from predators, such as birds. Once hatched into butterflies they released them outside so they can live and migrate to Mexico as natural.

 “The Monarch decline is manmade so it has to be man corrected.  Watching the entire process then having Monarchs walk all over you during their release is nothing short of miraculous.  Its awe-inspiring and worth making changes so that future generations can see the same thing.”
  


 How to Plant for Monarch Butterflies:

I did a Q & A with Andria Edwards so she could share her experiences and advice for maintaining a proper Monarch habitat.

Do they need to be protected?

Full sun and little wind is ideal.  They love to be warm but don’t like to blow around.

Why a host plant?

Each butterfly species has a specific host plant, basically where they will lay their eggs and the caterpillars like to eat. Monarchs host plants are Milkweed, so if you want caterpillars you need to plant it also and incorporate nectar plants for the full life cycle.

How much do you plant?

I normally plant 3 of each plant. I do this for everything I plant that way they have a pollination buddy nearby.  I also think it’s more visually appealing.

Another important thing to consider is that you want flowers that will bloom in late spring, summer and into early fall. This provides a continuous nectar source for the adult butterfly.

When do you plant your flowers and plants? /What do you plant?

Fall or spring is a great time to plant perennials, annuals have to wait till after the last frost to be planted.  Normally I plan during the winter but really gardening is a continually evolving work in progress.  I am constantly adding to it and constantly learning new things so I change things often!

Some types of milkweed seeds need to be cold stratified so I will sprinkle those seeds in the late fall.  Other types of milkweed, along with Mexican sunflowers, I will start 6-8 weeks before the last frost alongside my veggies.  Zinnias and Cosmos will be sown in mid May.

Annuals: Lantana, Tropical Milkweed, Zinnias, Cosmos, Mexican Sunflower

Perennials: Milkweed (swamp or native)*, Bee Balm, Shasta Daisies, New England Aster*, Goldrod, Coneflowers*, Sedium, Russian Sage, Joe Pye Weed*  *denotes native to Indiana

Per Landscapingabout.com: Common milkweed plants grow best in full sun and in a well-drained soil, but, as tough as they are, they tend to tolerate clay soil, as well.  Many find butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), with its bright orange flowers, a more attractive type of milkweed than the common milkweed.

Butterfly_Weed_Asclepias_tuberosa_Umbel I agree 100% when Andria says to find plants that have not been treated chemically. Your best bet is to visit a local nursery and ask questions or visit a native plant sale in your area. Some other species that butterflies are attracted to: English Lavender, Black Eyed Susans, Wild Violets, Passionflower vine, Hollyhock and Snapdragon.

 

Even the herb dill will attract butterflies, like Anise Swallowtails. [2] So you may find your dill, parsley, or carrots being used as caterpillar host plants.

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“Be leery of plants from Lowes or other big box stores because a lot of times they are pretreated with pesticides and are genetically modified to be insect resistant…this is not good for butterflies.”- A.E.

How far apart do you plant?

I plant 1-2 ft apart.  You can intermix various species of plants all around your yard.  Monarch watch.org says that you want 2-10 plant mix per square yard.  Keep in mind how big a plant might get.

You want to make sure you give everything enough room to grow.  A butterfly bush could get 3ft across so I would plant a milkweed several feet away from it, whereas a Mexican Sunflower will grow straight up so I could plant milkweed closer to it.

When will the monarchs return to our area (Indiana) to start breeding?

Monarchs will start to arrive up here in June, I spotted my first last year the beginning of July, and they will stay till the end of September-mid October.  So it’s important to have plants ready for them by then!

The caterpillars will travel up to 20-30 ft. away to cocoon!  They prefer a hard surface, for example trees, bushes, underneath side of pots or patio furniture, or sometimes even plants with broad leaves.  They will look for a quiet area that is well protected.

 The butterfly life cycle is 6-8 weeks start to finish, with the butterfly portion lasting 2-4 weeks.  Except the last round of butterflies that are born end of September/October- that round will migrate to Mexico so they will live 6-8 months.

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Sources:

1.)   http://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/

2.) www.birdsandbloom.com

 

Save the Bees!

We are at a critical crossroads in regards to the planet’s bee health and population declines.  After reading this article you will know more about Colony Collapse Disorder and what you can do to help.

What is Colony Collapse Disorder?

Per Wikepedia: “Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.”

Basically, the Queen is intact, but the active worker bees are not returning to maintain the hive. CCD is different than complete hive abandonment  (Queen included). However, the end results are the same- the colony ceases to survive to function correctly.

The website Beeinformed.org tracks scientific reports each year on bee population. This chart highlights the recent issues:

Figure 1: Summary of the total colony losses overwinter (October 1 – April 1) and over the year (April 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each of the nine years of the survey. Winter and Annual losses are calculated based on different respondent pools.

Figure 1: Summary of the total colony losses overwinter (October 1 – April 1) and over the year (April 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each of the nine years of the survey. Winter and Annual losses are calculated based on different respondent pools.


Theories – May Cause a Colony to Collapse?

Natural Causes:

  • Varroe Mites, Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), funguses
  • General weather pattern changes and extremes in weather that would stop bees from foraging as normal
  • “Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV): This virus, first discovered by Israeli scientists in 2002, causes trembling, paralysis and death in bees.
  • The mites deprive bees of nutrition, as well as open the door for other pathogens to enter. Varroa mites, as well as other nasty mites, pathogens and fungi, can invade a hive and give the bees a run for their money. ” [8]
  • Food stresses caused by drought or heavy rain

Unnatural causes:

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  • Neonicotinoid pesticides: These pesticides — including clothianidin — are neurotoxins used to protect crops against pests. But, these chemicals may also be harming helpful pollinators. The EPA has noted clothianidin as highly toxic to honeybees, and many beekeepers in Germany are blaming it for the massive die-off rates that struck their colonies in May 2008. [8]
  • Bee Stress- traveling stressors, overworking bees
  • Antibiotic use
  • Supplementing with high fructose corn syrup or unnatural food sources
  • Any other chemicals used in our environment- pesticides, herbicides, insecticides
  • General air pollution

At this point, mainstream sources cannot attribute the CCD to any one factor, however, a correlation between chemicals and man-made causes may prove to be a driving factor. What manmade impacts have we created? We must look at those causes for CCD. Pinpointing the cause(s) means we can work on a solution.

If we are blind to the fact that we are intrinsically linked we are going to ruin our environment even quicker.

Global warming can occur in normal patterns in nature, but humans ramp up it’s effects with our pollution.  The same concept can apply to CCD. Reports of CCD run back as far as 1869. However, there has been an increase in CCD   [9]

The use of pesticides in farming has increased by 404 million pounds from 1996 to 2011!  [10] The use of these crops that are genetically engineered to be “ready” to be sprayed with chemicals has caused super weeds to form, resistant to these chemicals.  Note: GMO “chemical ready” seeds were introduced circa 1996.

Which means? More chemicals (of different varieties due to the need to find a way to kill the super weeds) are being sprayed. If it seems confusing let me simplify it:  GMO Crops= More chemicals being used“Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Benbrook said” [10]

By February 2007, large commercial migratory beekeepers in several states had reported heavy losses associated with CCD. Their reports of losses varied widely, ranging from 30% to 90% of their bee colonies… [9]

Even the USDA found, “Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with more pathogens than control populations, suggesting either greater pathogen exposure or reduced defenses in CCD bees.”[54]

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The Research

This Science Direct article abstract briefs on the causes of bee colony collapse. ‘The authors, independent scientists from around the world, compiled information on how two key factors in bee decline—disease and pesticides—are interconnected.’  [4]

     “Immune suppression of the natural defences by neonicotinoid and phenyl-pyrazole (fipronil)      insecticides opens the way to parasite infections and viral diseases, fostering their spread among individuals and among bee colonies at higher rates than under conditions of no exposure to such insecticides.”  [3]

Whether chemicals are the cause (direct or indirect); if they are involved– the blame can be placed on the people and companies that use them.

For example, drinking soda may not directly kill me; however, the indirect effect of excess sugar consumption, weight gain, and the chemical cocktail could lead me to develop diabetes, kidney, or heart disease. Those health issues could kill me one day indirectly. for this reason, I rarely drink soda!

To help the environment- we don’t spray chemicals on our plants or lawn.

img_9974The chemicals affect the bee health (more susceptible to disease or insect attacks) and cultural practices (aka not leaving the hive), opening them up to greater harm from ‘natural’ diseases that would occur or ‘natural’ insect infestations.  Normally populations could recover from these natural causes, but these man-made chemicals are far from normal in nature.

The biodiversity of our planet’s food sources and upwards of 1/3 of all our fruits and vegetables are pollinated by bees!

There is a huge list of species that need bees to pollinate them, including avocados, peaches, apples, cashews, cucumbers, broccoli, lemons and coffee. [8]

DO NOT mess with my coffee-  mommy needs it to survive and the bees need OUR HELP to survive.


Awareness is the First Step to Change

DID YOU KNOW: Pollinators are necessary for the reproduction of nearly 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants, including about three-quarters of crop species. Bees especially are important for the pollination of most of our crop plants. [2]

  • Directly, honey bees pollinate the flowers of 1/3 of all fruits and vegetables. [1]
  • Indirectly, honey bees pollinate 70% of the food crops, through seed production, etc.  [1]
  • In just the last ten years, over 40% of the bee colonies in the US have suffered Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). [8]
  • Catastrophic loss of honeybees could have significant impact, therefore; it is estimated that seven out of the 60 major agricultural crops in North American economy would be lost. [9]

Bees are critical for the continuing biodiversity of species on our planet, we MUST save them!

Image courtesy of: Bring Back the Bees via www.greatsunflower.org

A recent analysis by the Xerces Society for example, found that nearly 30% of North America’s bumble bee species may now be at risk of extinction! [2]


The Fighters

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John and Oxana- John is President of Operation Honey Bee

 

My husband grew up with with John Baxter, the founder of Operation Honey Bee. They spent their summers playing outside and doing what boys do best- getting dirty and playing. John’s  passion for saving the honey bee is evident in his beliefs about the honey bee decline; mainly the causes and what we need to do to change the tide of  population decline and hive abandonment.

Per this How Colony Collapse Disorder Works article by Jessika Toothman: “Bees by the billions are heading out for a busy day of gathering nectar and spreading pollen, but mysteriously aren’t returning to the hive. Between September 2007 and March 2008, U.S. losses were estimated at about 36 percent of managed hives.” [6]

According to our friend John, bee colony abandonment is causally linked to GMO’s and chemicals in his observations and research:

“The bee may take pollen from a plant that has been contaminated [by chemicals] and quickly realizes it has been contaminated, it goes off alone and does not return to the hive.

Organic bee farming is what it takes for the bees to thrive.” – John Baxter President and Founder of Operation Honey Bee

John’s main method for sustainable and organic bee keeping includes:

  1. Distilled Water
  2. Organic and non-GMO feed
  3. Boxes that do not use wood that is preserved or painted on the box that doesn’t leach into the wood (since the bees reproduce in this box)
  4. Do not take too much of the bee honey supply and substitute with processed sugar

This method increases the health of the bee in general. The average bee life is 45 days, if you shave off even a few days, it can throw off the entire population and have adverse affects.

Bees are very smart in keeping their colony healthy. If a bee becomes contaminated, the bee itself will not go back to the hive. Air born contamination on a micro level, will only leave questions to where the bees have gone and why they are not in their box.”

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We commend John for his work in representing our precious bees with Operation Honey Bee! He truly cares about their immune systems and overall health. He likens it to taking care of our own bodies- avoiding processed foods and eating pure foods free of GMO’s and toxins.

He currently takes care of 3 hives using these organic practices. He even donated a hive to another who lost one due to theft. He saw their story on Fox Carolina and contacted the owners of the stolen hive.

Since Genbumom is for ACTION and what we can do to help- below is a list of ideas.

You can also urge your State Senators to vote IN FAVOR of GMO (genetically modified organisms) labeling laws and to reduce the amount of chemicals being sprayed on our food sources, which harms our local wildlife. Why are other developed nations banning GMO crops ?  Germany, France, Mexico, and Australia ban GMO’s to name a few… I urge you to research the reasons why GMO’s are so bad for our earth and our human and wildlife health.


What Can I Do to Help?

I do not have plans any time soon for becoming a beekeeper, perhaps one day, but it’s not conducive to our lifestyle right now. So what can our family do to help?

Buy Local – Support your local honey cultivators and farmers. One stressor on bees may be travel, by supporting local farms and fruit/veggie producers you help reduce the stress to the bees.

“The total number of managed honey bee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to only 2.5 million today. At the same time, the call for hives to provide pollination services has continued to increase. This means honey bee colonies are being transported over longer distances than ever before.” [5]

Do NOT Spray  with Pesticides/Insecticides.  Encourage your neighbors to do the same. If we want to play out back or have company over, we will mow the clovers that the bees love so we can play freely. The clovers grow back within the week and the bees return. In the meantime, our bees are happy because we plant bee friendly flowers and plants.

You don’t want your children or pets around these chemicals, neither do we want the bees (and butterflies) exposed!

Plant Pollinator Attracting Plants: To find your local, native pollinator plants click here. This is an easy-to-follow list from the University of MD for all zones in the US. It details what wildlife they attract and if easy to grow or not. (Key to a gardening novice like myself!)

“Want an easy, relaxing way to help save bee populations? The Great Sunflower Project studies population trends by gathering data about geographic areas where bees are struggling.

Interested bee enthusiasts can register at the project’s Web site and receive free sunflower seeds that arrive in the mail.” [7]

This is a good beginner article from www.gardening.com on attracting bees.  You want two aspects covered when planting for pollinators.

  1. Nectar
  2. Pollen

Even herbs like basil, rosemary, and lavender will attract bees. Most herbs grow well in containers if you have limited space in your yard.

Companion Plant in your garden to help reduce unwanted bugs, like Aphids, instead of spraying chemicals. Aphids dislike mint, garlic, onions, and chives. Plant these items around the garden veggies that aphids like best, like tomatoes or lettuces.

Make a Donation!  You can buy an Operation Honey Bee T-shirt or donate to Operation Honey Bee– This is a 501c3 nonprofit site dedicated to saving the bees! Donate here!

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Consumer Dollars-Buy Products from Companies that Support the Bees.  I noticed this information on my Cascadian Farms cereal box one day and I will continue to buy from them not only because their cereal is delicious but because they support bee health and organic practices.

Cascadian Farms Bee Support

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Involve Your Children Explain to them why we plant flowers and how crops are pollinated. Teach them why chemicals are bad for our earth. Get their daycare or school involved in spring seed planting activities.

Any other ideas to help the bees-Feel free to share in the comments section. Also share this link to your social media!


Sources:

  1. www.operationhoneybee.com

2.  http://www.cascadianfarm.com/programs/save-the-bees/what-you-can-do

3.

Are Bee Diseases linked to pesticides? – A brief review.  January 9, 2016. www.Science Direct.com.

4. Code, Aimee Pesticide Program Director.  Research Update: Are Bee Diseases Linked to Pesticides? February 16, 2016. www.xerces.org http://www.xerces.org/blog/research-update-are-bee-diseases-linked-to-pesticides/

5. USDA Website:  www.ars.usda.gov

6. Toothman, Jesskika. How Colony Collapse Disorder Works. www.howstuffworks.com Accessed

7. www.greatsunflower.org

8. By: Christina Sarich, Natural Society. August 15, 2013. List of Food We Will Lose if we Don’t Save the Bees.  www.honelove.org

9. Wikepedia. Colony Collapse Disorder. Accessed March 2016. www.wikepedia.org

10. Gilliam, Carey. Genetically Modified Crops have Lead to Increased Pesticide use, Study finds.   www.huffingtonpost.com

Industry Action Letter

What does this Vonnegut quote mean to you? What has disappeared?  Simplicity and transparency.  As educated consumers, we must command respect and not be misled. Products and foods go into our bodies, into our homes, on the fabrics we put on our children’s skin, and in the air we breath.

Change is not overwhelming if you pivot it accordingly and incorporate it into your lifestyle. If moderation is important to you, think of small changes you can do today. One is writing an industry action letter to a company whose products you do not feel are safe.

You can involve your children. They can investigate the ingredients in the products in your home and sign the letter. Post pictures of what your family is doing to make an impact on social media. Start a letter writing campaign with families you know.

Please feel free to copy and paste this letter verbiage and make it your own.  Share this page or this concept with friends on social media and start some action today!

I wanted to provide you with the words… now you can help make changes happen.  Go out with courage into the world and act!

Sometimes we have to be against something to be for something.

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It only takes about 15 minutes to type and send letters to companies whose ingredients you do not want in your home. Don’t throw out the products you no longer will use.  Return them to the manufacturer if you feel it’s worth the cost of shipping them back. Perhaps you will receive a refund.

Start buying organic, fair traded, locally made, cruelty-free, non-toxic and non-GMO products. Put your consumer dollars towards change.


Your Full Address

January 15, 2016

  • Full title and name
  • Company or organization name
  • Company Full address (use two or more lines, as needed)

Dear (last name)  (try to find a CEO or President’s name) and if you cannot:

Dear Sir or Madam,

The purpose of this letter it to inform you that I will no longer be purchasing products from your company.  My family formerly used the following products (x,y,z). The reason I am no longer your customer is that you use the following chemical ingredients (or company practices-i.e. animal cruelty to test your products) in your products. (Pick and choose from below list)

  • Aluminum- linked to nerve damage and brain disorders.
  • DEA/TEA- potential carcinogen
  • PEG/ceteareth/polyethylene-“Ethylene oxide (found in PEG-4, PEG-7, PEG4-dilaurate, and PEG 100) is highly toxic—even in small doses—and was used in World War I nerve gas.” [5]
  • Triclosan & Triclocarban- endocrine disruptors; found in breast milk, cord blood, and in pregnant women. Triclosan is not necessary to be used in soaps to kill germs.“Recent research demonstrates that triclosan has effects on the thyroid, estrogen, and testosterone hormones in laboratory animals, including mammals” [4]
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate- linked to skin irritation, endocrine disruption, eye and oral toxicity, hair loss, respiratory and congestive issues.
  • Parabens (Methyl, propyl, ethyl, butyl)- rapidly absorbed by the skin; may show up in breast tissue and an endocrine disruptor.
  • Propylene Gycol- known to cause dermititis, kidney and liver abnormalities in animal studies.
  • Phthalates- “Studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates can trigger what’s known as “death-inducing signaling” in testicular cells…hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities.” [1]
  • Non-stick cookware- Perfuluorinated Chemicals (PFCs and PFOA)- “Peer-reviewed research suggests that certain nonstick chemicals can contribute to cancer, birth defects, flu-like symptoms, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation, weakened immunity, and other health problems.” [2]
  • Artificial Coloring and/or Food Dyes, such as Yellow #5, Red and Blue- linked to behavioral disorders in children, cancer and allergic reactions. [6]
  • ‘Fragrance’- a cocktail of who knows ? There is no regulation in the US what ‘fragrance’ may include.
  • Retinyl palmitate and Oxybenzone- (sunscreens)- biochemical and cellular level changes, endocrine disruption, bioaccumulates, photoallergenic toxicant.
  • Toluene and Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)- (found in nail polish)
  • PEG/cetearetj/polyethylene-(found in acne products)
  • BHA, Boric acid, and Fragrance (found in diaper cream)
  • DMDM hydantoin-(found in baby wipes)- derivatives of formaldyde and linked to  allergies, fatigue, depression, weakened immune systems. [7]
  • Alpha and beta hydroxy acids (lactic acid and glycolic acid)
    • “FDAsponsored studies find UV-caused skin damage doubles for users of products with alpha hydroxy acid.” (anti aging products)-[4]

Your company has a social and environmental obligation to protect its consumers, rather than harm their health and our fragile ecosystems. I feel that (company name) cannot meet the needs of public safety as long as it uses toxic ingredients/animal testing/lack of sustainable practices/non-organic ingredients in its products.

In the future, if (company name) decides to eliminate the use of harmful ingredients I may consider becoming a customer again. In the meantime, I am  a former customer.  I will be placing my trust and spending my money with companies that source for organic/non-toxic/sustainable/fairly traded/vegan ingredients.

Sincerely,

(Sign)

Your name 


 

Final Thoughts from Genbumom

Did you Know?

“The rate of new childhood cancer cases, including leukemia, has steadily increased over the last 40 years.” [3]

Why is this occurring? Research across the board from 3rd party and university studies are pointing to environmental toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, mercury, and artificial hormones in our food and water sources, as well as our personal care (bath and beauty products), not to mention household cleaners (laundry soaps, toilet cleaners, fabric sprays, dish soaps, etc.)

Toxic ingredients

I used to put this on my body!  I use essential oils now for pure lavender benefits. This lavender body wash was a chemical cocktail absorbing into my skin. All you need is Castile soap, water, a little coconut oil and essential oils if you prefer fragrance for a body wash. So simple.

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Source for new products that you feel safe to use. I make many household products using vinegar, Castile soaps, baking soda, and essential oils for cleaning.


I purchase items like organic coconut oil and pure shea butter for moisturizing and use essential oils for their anti-aging properties. (My skin looks better than it did 5 years ago- so does my husbands).

imageFind companies you trust. I love Shea Moisture and Acure brand products for bath and skin care. I use Ava Anderson nontoxic for makeup.

I use Young Living Essential oils. I buy my bulk products (for cheap) and organic via Bulk Apothecary or Mountain Rose Herbs.

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Sources:

  1. October 28, 2013. Environmental Working Group. Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors. www.ewg.org
  2. Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc.  April 17, 2012.  How Safe is your Cookware?  www.huffingtonpost.com
  3.  Dellavalle, Kurt. September 20, 2105. Childhood Cancer: More Evidence Points to Chemical Exposure. www.ewg.org
  4.  June 16, 2014. Triclosan containing antibacterial soaps neither safe nor effective. www.ewg.org
  5.  October 2, 2013. What are PEG’s. www.truthinaging.com.
  6.  Center for Science in the Public Interest. Food Dyes a Rainbow of Risks.  accessed January 14, 2016.
  7.  Lipman, Frank. MD. What Chemicals should you Look Out For in your Personal Care Products? www.drfranklipman.com 

 

Why Buy Fair Trade Coffee?

 

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This article is the first in a Fair Trade series that will explore what Fair Trade means, its vital importance in the world, and what you can do to start practicing Fair Trade efforts in your home.

According to FairTradeUSA.org (a 3rd party certifier) Fair Trade in regards to coffee means:

  1. Fair Wages
  2. Long Term Contracts
  3. Direct Trade (no middlemen)

This sounds ideal, right? It contributes to worldwide environmental and sustainability efforts also. However, roughly 95% of the coffee being sold in the U.S. is not Fairly Traded.

Fair Trade is a system that aims to provide farmers the tools and knowledge necessary to ensure the 3 items listed above occur.

Fair Trade may not necessarily mean organic, however the use of GMO’s (genetically engineered crops) are prohibited for it to be labeled Fair Trade.

“About 85% of Fair Trade Certified coffee is shade grown and either passive or certified organic. Over half of the certified organic coffee is produced by Fair Trade cooperatives, but unless the coffee is Fair Trade Certified, there is no guarantee that the farmer received the benefit.” [1]

Fair Trade USA practices include:

Banning use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas

Promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn

Restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers

Requiring proper management of waste, water and energy [5]

So Fair Trade aims to empower workers and protect local environments. These are the two main aspects of Fair Trade movements.  We will explore this more…

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Human Rights & Labor Issues

The preamble to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the following powerful message. We often enjoy these parameters in our everyday lives in the developed world and may take them for granted.

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”

An example of when Fair Traded conditions are not being met in regards to minimum wages:

“A recent study of plantations in Guatemala showed that over half of all coffee pickers don’t receive the minimum wage, in violation of Guatemalan labor laws.”

 image  To meet quotas workers may resort to bringing their children to work and it is overlooked by their employers. “…children as young as 6 or 8 years old at work in the fields. We believe that the best way to prevent child labor in the fields is to pay workers a living wage.” [1]  It’s not uncommon for younger children to work and contribute to their family income.

Agricultural workers often do not have the right to unionize or organize and fight for fair rights; such as fair wages, fair working hours, pay for overtime, or health care benefits.

To view a graphic of the basic supply chain for Traditional Coffee versus Fairly Traded coffee click here: coffee graphic. Feel free to print and share. (Note: I am not an economist-this graphic  is meant to be a basic representation based on my own research.)

Buying Fair Trade products contributes to a greater world in which local communities thrive, children are able to obtain an education, women are empowered, and people are treated humanely.  Earning a living wage is humane treatment.

Reinvesting profits in local economies means families thrive.  15 cents an hour is a much better income than being paid 3 cents per hour. A farmer who is able to make better business decisions and know what their product is worth will know how to keep corporate interests at bay.MD-Infograph-843x843


Devastating Environmental & Health Impacts

In the 70’s and 80’s technological advancements and the desire for higher product yields led to “sun-grown” and cultivated crops. Traditionally, coffee is grown in shade groves.  Growing and harvesting is not rushed. Local wildlife, such as birds, can co-habitat safely in the tree growing areas.

There are major environmental impacts because of this shift in agricultural practices to sun crops. Deforestation and the adverse affects of growing coffee trees unnaturally, leads to more usage of toxic herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides.  Basically, local farmer’s hands became tied and corporate interests became highly involved.

“…the US Agency for International Development and other groups gave $80 million dollars for plantations in Central America to replace traditional shade grown farming techniques with ‘sun cultivation’ techniques in order to increase yields. This resulted in the destruction of vast forests and biodiversity of over 1.1 million hectares. ‘Sun cultivated’ coffee involves the cutting down of trees, monocropping, and the input of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This type of industrial coffee farming leads to severe environmental problems, such as pesticide pollution, deforestation and the extinction of songbirds through habitat destruction.” [1]

The use of toxic chemicals can ruin local water sources; the runoff affects locals and their clean water resources. Their children often bath, wash their clothing in these water sources, and consume it.

Health Impacts: Children and Women

Environmental toxins such as these can lead to neurological damage and developmental disorders in children.  “In 2010 the journal Pediatrics published a study by the Harvard School of Public Health which found that children with high levels of pesticides known as organophosphates were twice as likely to develop ADHA (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity-Disorder).2″  [4]  This information is on American children, but it would apply to any child exposed to pesticides.

Indigenous Latin American woman is harvesting ripe coffee berries on organic coffee farm. Food and drink coffee background. - stock photo

This also affects any pregnant women who work in tree farms that use pesticides. “A new University of California, Berkeley study linked prenatal pesticide exposure to lower levels of IQ in children. The study measured pesticide exposure in the urine of pregnant women in Salinas and found a 7 point IQ deficit in children whose mothers had the highest pesticide levels.3” [4]

What I glean from this is you want to find ORGANIC coffee. Organic foods cannot be grown with the use of these chemicals. I know you are probably worrying about price tags at this point, Fair Traded and Organic?  I can buy a 10 oz. Meijer True Goodness brand ground coffee for under $10.  It is Fair Trade Certified, USDA Organic, and non-GMO. With minimal effort, you can find a brand you enjoy at a reasonable price.

Linked here is a comprehensive list of the product partners in Fair Trade Coffee practices. To name a few: Trader Joe’s, Crazy Cups, Einstein & Noah, Mountain Peak, Stone Creek, Equal Exchange (a personal taste favorite), Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts Incorporated, Meijer Grocery, 20 Below, Macy’s, and Nordstrom’s have pledged to use Fair Trade resources.


If I’m buying products sourced from other countries (even if fairly traded), am I harming the U.S. economy?

Ideally, we would buy locally and I highly encourage buying from local businesses that use American-made products to fuel our national economy.

However most of our food products, especially coffee beans are imported from other countries (see graphic below). The top coffee exporters are Brazil, Veitnam, Columbia, Indonesia, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, and Guatemala.

You could find a Fair Trade brand whose beans are sourced locally and make the switch (extremely unlikely on the local source for beans). Or, a local coffee roaster or retailer whose sources are bought direct from fairly traded sources oversees.

Screen-Shot-2015-02-19-at-6_30_16-PM

There are a few U.S. coffee growers, Hawaii grows coffee in the Kona “coffee belt.” There are also  coffee growing efforts underway in Santa Barbara, CA and GA. [2]

So, What Can I Do?

Buy Fair Trade Certified and if you can buy organic coffee. Explain to others what you learned today. I think true empathy is lacking in our country today.  We must be aware where our products come from.

Coffee beans - Guatemala - stock photo

Cherries are picked by hand and shelled to reveal the bean.

We are intrinsically linked with the rest of the world but we forget in the daily grind. Try to visualize what the people who pick the cherries lifestyles may be like. Don’t we all want better lives for others? Get involved. Go to FairTradeCampaigns.org.

According to this CNN article, Hugh Jackman wants you to
Drink Better Coffee
:
 “About 5% of coffee sold in the U.S. is Fair Trade Certified, up from about 1.5% 10 years ago.”

This is great progress but not enough. We must start investing our consumer dollars in Fair Trade products and tell companies what we value. If you value humane rights, children’s health, education, and our earth’s health it is 100%  worth investing a few extra dollars per week.

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Sources:

1.) http://www.globalexchange.org/fairtrade/coffee/faq#2

2.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_production_in_Hawaii

3.) Beller, Debra. How Coffee Works. accessed January 2016.  http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/coffee4.htm

4.) Bishop, Tandis. Studies Show the Effect of Pesticides in Children. January 29, 2009. www.downtoearth.org

5.) FAQ: Fair Trade USA. Accessed January 2016.

 

 

Syrian Refugee Assistance

Something struck a chord with me last fall in regards to the Syrian refugee crisis, perhaps I was able to somehow ‘picture’ myself in that situation with two children, seeking safety and shelter, trying to protect them. I cannot really and truly imagine however having to flee my home for religious or cultural persecution.

Videos of people from Samaritan’s Purse helping as refugees departed a raft in Greece  brought so much sorrow into my heart. I also felt inspired by the people I witnessed helping. A surge rose up in my body, an energy. I couldn’t sit idle anymore.  I have  much respect for the volunteers that provide medical attention and provide social service care to the families who are arriving on the shores of Greece daily. Refugees are also arriving in other parts of the world via land, but escaping to Greece is a dangerous route as it’s via water. Once in Greece, they often must walk to their destination and safety camps.

“Refugees can end up walking hundreds of miles to their asylum destinations. They desperately need a safer, more comfortable way to carry their babies and toddlers.” – Carry the Future site.

I cannot do much from where I sit in Indiana and I don’t have much money to give but I do have time, resources, and social media to spread the word.

I’m currently collecting donations of gently used soft-structured baby carriers, like Baby Bjorns to send to Carry the Future, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sending carriers and volunteers to help fit parents with carriers. (NO wraps) They must be able to be quickly-fitted and instructions given. Often they only have a few minutes to fit the parent.  Carry the Future also accepts money donations and provides relief packs if you wish to donate towards that area.

What YOU CAN DO

Simply wrap the carrier (loose plastic wrap if you can) and ship to the address below.   You may also add a small soft toy, pair of socks,  hat, or mittens, and a handwritten note or picture of hope for the family.

You can contribute directly. You can send a new or used baby wearing carrier to:

Carry the Future

121 West Lexington Drive

Suite L, 106D

Glendale, CA 91203

I’m excited to say I have 5 carriers so far and one person who has promised to ship hers directly.

I wish I could see the faces of the parents relief in person when they receive these carriers. A simple but much needed assistance to help them carry their children to safety. .

I appreciate you taking the time to learn more about this worthwhile cause. I cannot even pretend to be an expert, but what I do know is NO child deserves to suffer while trying to escape violence and a war torn home. Regardless of your religious or political affiliations to see a child in a desperate situation is simply horrible and humanitarian efforts are necessary. I urge you to try to put yourself in a similar situation; a civil war and lack of safety is always a reason to seek a safe haven for your family. Always.

 

Migrant Crises Explained:

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Image courtesy of bbc.com

Resettlement plan

Tensions in the EU have been rising because of the disproportionate burden faced by some countries, particularly Greece, Italy and Hungary where migrants have been arriving by boat and overland.

In September, EU ministers voted by a majority to relocate 120,000 refugees EU-wide, but for now the plan will only apply to 66,000 who are in Italy and Greece.

The other 54,000 were to be moved from Hungary, but now this number will be held “in reserve”, until the governments decide where they should go.”

How many migrants die?

The voyage from Libya to Italy is longer and more hazardous. According to the IOM, more than 2,800 migrants are reported to have died trying to make the crossing this year – altogether, 3,406 people have died in the Mediterranean in 2015. [1]

Sources:

  1. Dec. 16, 2015: Migrant Crisis: Migration to Europe Explained in Graphics. www.bbc.com

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911