Dr. Alan Greene is a long time advisor of Pregnancy Awareness Month, and has provided much support to Anna and I thru the years. We have listened to him speak in a variety of venues, advocating for the health of babies and toddlers. His passion about organic food and nutrition as being a cornerstone for the foundation of a healthy life is immeasurable. However, I must admit, that I was the most moved listening to him speak about chemicals and toxins and the impact on the fetus. During this speech he articulated his concern for the health and welfare of babies and children that he has treated in hospital settings where he believed that our toxic environment had played a role in their disease process. Last weekend we were blessed with Alan speaking on panel again during our Pregnancy Awareness Month LA Event (his 7th consecutive year). He moderated our Healthy Start – Green Parenting panel, sigh, I wish you all could have been there… He has provided this blog post to us describing how we can thoughtfully reduce the impact of toxins via these 5 routes of exposure. Take a read. Alisa Donner, Co-Founder, Pregnancy Awareness Month.
For over a decade I’ve talked about three ways environmental toxins get into our bodies – “Harmful chemicals in our environment get into our bodies in three ways: what we put into our mouths, what we put on our skin and what we inhale through the air”. I’ve called it the three routes of exposure. Recently I realized how wrong I’ve been. There aren’t just three. There are (at least) five. We have five senses for a reason and each can be a route of exposure:
1. Touch – Skin is the largest organ in the body and surprisingly permeable – especially baby’s skin. What products we use make a big difference. So does our exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
2. Smell – When we can smell unsafe air conditions, such as air pollution from an industrial accident, we become aware of just how toxic what we breathe can be. We tend to think of our homes as a safe bubble that protects us from chemicals in the air, but the opposite is true. Believe it or not, the air in our homes can be 2-5 times more polluted than air outside. Our homes trap chemicals emitted from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harsh chemicals, such as the ones in many common cleaning formulas. Studies have found an average of 900 chemicals in the air and on surfaces in our homes. While it’s difficult to have control over outside air, the good news is you can significantly reduce the amount of indoor airborne toxins and have a huge impact on the air your family breathes.
3. Taste – Most of us are aware of the importance of the food we eat and the food we feed our babies. Shopping organic can have a significant impact on reducing potentially harmful chemicals in the diet, but eating organic can cost more. Figuring out the best places to make investing in organic a priority can seem overwhelming. My Organic RXlists the top organic choices a family can make to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals in the diet and to keep our environment cleaner.
4. Hearing – Noise pollution is often overlooked, but ask anyone suffering from noise related hearing loss and they will tell you how much impact the environment as had on their life. A recent study calls into question the use of high volume-white noise machines for baby. Some babies are soothed by these machines, but if you decide to try one, be careful with how it is used. Keep the volume very low and place the machine at the far corner of your child’s room to reduce the possibility that a white noise machine could become noise pollution for your child.
5. Sight – The invention of the electric light has had a profound impact on our lives. Without it our after-dark activities would be severely limited. Without electric light we wouldn’t have had the industrial revolution or the information revolution. Sadly, the impact of light on our health wasn’t studied before artificial light became widespread. The wavelength of light plays a huge role in the intricate dance of our hormone surges that allow us to sleep well and wake up rested. We function best with blue wavelength exposure during the day (the sun and sky) and different wavelengths at night (the moon, fire, and candle light). The cycle of healthy sleep gives our bodies and brains time to heal, sets memories in place, and impacts our moods. Sadly, most of us are exposed to blue wavelengths of light well beyond sunset. This stops the sleep-signaling surge of melatonin and makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. The good news is new products are being developed, after scientific study, that adjust the wavelengths of light to offer a healthier alternative. I’m proud to say I’ve just joined the Scientific Advisory Board of Lighting Science, a company with a revolutionary light made just for your baby’s room. The light emitted by the bulb appears white (this was the hard part of development) but the wavelength is the soothing spectrum that signals your baby’s brain that it’s time to fall asleep.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed by Dr. Alan Greene, MD, and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) or any employee thereof. PAM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Dr. Alan Greene.
**Thank you to Ingrid Franz Moriarty for the AMAZING photography image!