RIP Susan Niebur aka @WhyMommy

February 6th, 2012

Four and a half years ago, I started this blog with a dedication to Susan Niebur, an incredibly inspiring, brave, brilliant, funny, compassionate woman whose many wonderful posts about life with kids in DC introduced me to the world of blogging. Sadly, over time, there were more posts about fighting Inflammatory Breast Cancer than about museum trips, but Susan retained the same joyful voice that endeared her first to Moms in the DC area, and later, to people around the world.

Susan passed away today.

In Susan’s memory, please consider a donation to The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

RIP, Susan, a woman much loved.

– Lynn

 

Helping Those Who Need It Most

January 7th, 2011

I woke up early this morning to retrieve Big Boy from Children’s Hospital. We’re so fortunate. In and out world-class medical care just 30 minutes from our home.  At Children’s, they treat anybody – from the children of DC’s power brokers to the poorest kids in our nation’s capital.  As one of the doctors there said to me yesterday,

“We’re $50 Million in the hole this year. We can be doing fine financially, but then one bone marrow transplant for a patient without insurance will set us back. And can you really say no to a child with cancer?”

And while I give thanks for the incredible staff at Children’s National Medical Center, I also thought of others with cancer – adults. Do people say no to them?

According to my friend Susan from ToddlerPlanet, they do. Susan has world class medical care and  tons of resources at her disposal to fight her fourth recurrence of cancer in four years. She just found out about this latest round, and while she’s intent on beating this back, her focus is also on a very personal campaign: getting lymphedema sleeves onto the arms of cancer patients.

If you haven’t heard of lymphedema sleeves, you’re not alone. In fact, when I first met Susan at BlogHer this summer, I gasped and said, “You blog about everything! How come you never blogged that you have tattooed arms??!!”

Well, this brilliant astrophysicist does not have tattooed arms – but she does have lymphedema sleeves, which reduce the pain and swelling associated with cancer – while looking like radical fashion accessories.

Read more here.

– Lynn

A Wonderful Day: What to Say?

May 6th, 2010

I hear that some bloggers complain about not having enough material for their blogs.

My problem is the opposite: it’s hard to know what to cover – there’s so much stuff going on!

Today was a perfect example:

- That incredible government report about environmental causes of cancer. The very same topic we’ve been tackling via Green Moms Carnivals! Yes, eat organic and avoid toxic household cleansers and personal care products!

- The re-opening of FRESHFARM Market by The White House. Where does the time ago? It was less than a year ago that the Market launched. Now it’s back, with more farmers and more food for everyone! Check out these pix of Chef Jose Andres with his giant paella!

-  Oprah tackling #saferchemicals reform and overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act. Yes, really!

-  Moms Rising naming the Mother of the Decade!

- And Green Moms Carnival being named one of the top ten most influential Moms groups online. This is no “green list.” This is top 10 out of ALL Moms. I love it! It shows we’re spreading our message out beyond the “green choir” and out to a more mainstream audience. It means we’re achieving our goal – …”increasing the likelihood that our eco-conscious messages will be heard, understood and adopted by more people.” You can check out the press release from Groupable here.

Now…if only Boo would recover fully and go back to “camp school” for the first day this week (tomorrow is Friday)…it would truly be a great week!

– Lynn

Disclosure: My company, 4GreenPs, was retained to help with the re-launch of the FRESHFARM Markets by The White House, which I blogged about here. There was no compensation for this post, I blogged this out of sheer excitement!

A First Look at What the New Safe Chemicals Act May Mean for Parents: It Won’t Be an Immediate Panacea

April 15th, 2010

This morning, the Safe Chemicals Act,  long awaited legislation to reform the nation’s outdated chemicals law, The Toxic Substances Control Act, was introduced in Congress. This came in response to years of lobbying by environmental health watchdogs like the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition; Healthy Child, Healthy World , The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and The Environmental Working Group; physicians like Dr. Alan Greene; authors like Stacy Malkin of “Not Just a Pretty Face,”  Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse, Jennifer Taggert of The Smart Mama’s Green Guide, and Nena Baker of “The Body Toxic,” and yes, activists like Moms Rising and bloggers like my Green Moms Carnival friends.

It was just a year ago this month that the Green Moms Carnival bloggers were  taken to task by the chemical lobby and others for our “hysterical” reaction to finding out that our favorite baby bath products contained probable human carcinogens.  Some of us, like Sommer of Green and Clean Mom, who hosted the Toxic Tub Carnival, were even attacked by other Mom bloggers for being so rude as to question those companies that market baby products with 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde.

But in the end, all of our probing, phone calling, and blogging contributed to the consumer outrage that led retailers to pull BPA-tainted products and state legislators to restrict the use of harmful chemicals in common everyday items. Now,  with today’s introduction of the Safe Chemicals Act, we are a huge step closer to an even safer marketplace.

But don’t celebrate just yet – this bill’s not a panacea. I still foresee the most diligent among us dutifully consulting databases to figure out which products are safe to buy. Incredible, isn’t it?  That’s because the bill regulates the EPA, not the FDA – which regulates 1,4 dioxane, as J&J explains on their website.   And because the bill doesn’t mandate that the EPA look at multiple exposures, as the esteemed National Academy of Sciences has recommended. It just “allows” it to do so.

But for those of us who are still waiting for our simple questions about chemical reform to be answered? Well, today we got some answers. Here’s what I asked and here is the response from Dr. Alan Greene, M.D., Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford School of Medicine, author, Raising Baby Green (and every green Mom’s favorite twitter buddy):

OrganicMania: “My readers are particularly interested in probable carcinogenic  compounds like 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde which are commonly used in infant and childrens  baths. Given that there are  80,000 chemicals in the market today – and some of them – like asbestos – are very directly linked to deaths, how likely do you think it is that specific action will be taken against the use of 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in terms of being classified as most dangerous?”

Dr. Greene “1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde  would meet a a number of the criteria for prioritization. A safety determination will be made early in the process relative to 1,4 dioxane.  Formaldehyde might also get expedited action.”

At that point, Dr. Richard Denison, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund, noted that the FDA has jurisdication over formaldehyde, not the EPA. (But I knew this, thanks to  The Smart Mama.)     As Dr. Denison put it,  “EPA must have authority and the  mandate to look at all uses of chemicals under another agency’s jurisdiction.”

I then went on to ask about multiple, cumulative exposures. Because how are those little babies being exposed to neurotoxins? Its likely through the chemical-laden creams, lotions and potions that the average American woman slathers over her body every day. And as The Smart Mama has blogged, the industry would like us to believe that “just a little bit of carcinogen is okay.

How to tackle that issue? It’s far trickier.  As Maureen Swanson of the  Learning Disabilities Association of America, said, “We would like to see strengthened language that would direct the EPA to go by the National Academy of Science’s   recommendation on looking more closely at cumulative exposures. It is mentioned in the bill, but they are not directed to adopt those recommendations.  How do we enact real reform to make a real difference in our products and in our health risks?..I totally agree..there are a lot of different chemicals which can interfere with the thyroid, and the thyroid gland impacts brain development. It is essential to work on the science, to get stronger language directing EPA to use those recommendations, and to make clear that both versions of the bill define the safety standard and to require they at least take into account aggregate and cumulative exposures. “

Dr. Greene then jumped in to explain, “It’s left to the EPA to flesh out, and there’s no immediate change on that because there’s not science to deal with it {multiple cumulative exposures}. But by requiring the EPA to take those factors into account, we have a structure that moves us forward far beyond where we are now.”

So what can you do?

First, support this bill. It’s the best we’ve got, and it’s the best we’ll get.  Pay attention to the debate raging in the mainstream media and at action sites like Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, the Environmental Working Group’s Kid-Safe Blog, and Healthy Child, Healthy World.

And remember, as you start talking up the Safe Chemicals Act, don’t let anyone accuse you of being a hysterical mom. Or you’ll have to answer to:

Tiffany of Nature Moms Jennifer of The Green Parent, Beth of Fake Plastic Fish Katy from Non-Toxic Kids, Micaela from Mindfull Momma, Alicia from The Soft LandingAnna from Green Talk , Christine Gardner of moregreenmomsAlline of Passion for Green Business , Diane from Big Green Purse and one of Glamour Magazine’s 70 Eco Heros,  Jess from The Green Phone Booth,   MaryAnne   at EcoChild’s Play and Not Quite Crunchy Parent, Karen from Best of Mother Earth, Katherine from the Safe Mama, Sommer of Green and Clean Mom, Jennifer aka The Smart Mama, and of course, me, Lynn from OrganicMania.

Oh, J&J? No need to answer those questions now. I got my answers today.

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

The Hypocrisy of Cancer

March 7th, 2010

“Thank God for those writers, activists, and demonstrators who have the courage to dig around in the manure and expose hypocrisy,” my rector said this morning from the pulpit.

That was it!

I could have blogged about my contempt for pinkwashing, defined here as “the term used to describe the activities of companies and groups that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer while engaging in practices that may be contributing to rising rates of the disease.” Or I could have asked why the many  environmental links to cancer are not more widely acknowledged in our society.

But then again, why did I want to risk being pegged yet again as just  one of those “hysterical Mommy bloggers?”

Sadly, many people shrug off cancer, perhaps as a means of coping with the fear of this horrible disease.  “Everything causes cancer!,” they’ll joke. “We can’t live in bubble wrap,” they’ll say.

It  doesn’t have to be this way. If we would only clean up our environment, ban known carcinogens from use in our personal care products and household cleansers, and prevent exterminators from spraying pesticides inside homes,  we’d be well on our way to reducing and preventing the increasing numbers of breast cancers.

Don’t just take it from me. Listen to what these experts say about environmental linkages to cancer. And please check out the round-up of posts on this topic from the other members of the Green Moms Carnival. Among them are some experts as well. We’re posting Monday over at Nature Moms.

  • The Breast Cancer Fund: “No more than 10 percent of breast cancers are genetic, and science points to toxic chemicals and radiation as factors in the sharp rise of breast cancer incidence.”

    • Dr. Devra Lee Davis and the Environmental Health Trust. Dr. Davis says, “We should…find  safer substitutes for the things we use every day that appear to be toxic, according to their labels…For nearly a century, the following things have been understood to cause cancer: tobacco, benzene, asbestos, tars, sunlight, hormones, and radiation.”

    To be kept informed of the latest developments in the fight against cancer-causing environmental contaminants, follow these groups:

    – Lynn

    Copyright OrganicMania 2010

    Why I Hope the EWG is Wrong

    July 20th, 2009

    No one makes a habit of displaying the inside of their medicine cabinet. But I’m doing it to make a point.

    medicinecabinet-photo

    The other night I took my skeptical husband to watch the filming of what’s being billed as “ ‘Inconvenient Truth’ for environmental health.” The Environmental Working Group’s  President,  Ken Cook, has presented “10 Americans” to countless groups across the country, and it’s even available on the web. But at this filming at DC’s Source Theatre, the EWG captured the reaction of a group of Washingtonians who gathered  to hear that:
    •     82,000 chemicals were declared safe for use in household and personal care products with little or no data to support their safety;
    •    the US has the highest cancer rate in the industrialized world;
    •    industrial chemicals are showing up in the womb. In other words, embryos are being exposed to chemicals in the mother’s body before birth;
    •     chemical exposures in people are increasingly associated with a range of serious diseases and conditions from childhood cancer, to autism, ADHD, learning deficits, infertility, and birth defects.

    So why am I showing you my medicine cabinet? I’m like most Moms – my heart is “deep green,” but my buying patterns are a lighter shade of green.   The items I buy organic and green are those that my family consumes most often, particularly those items that are most often used by my children. But we still buy plenty of conventional  products (although we try to use them sparingly).

    When I first learned about the linkages between probable human carcinogens and everyday personal care and household products,  I was shocked. That’s why I reached out to industry representatives to get some reassurances, as you can read here. And their reaction? While they spend hundreds of thousands to court Mom bloggers at  BlogHer and other conferences and launch fancy viral advertising campaigns, they still haven’t answered these three simple questions I posed here.

    - What is your stance on the Kid Safe Chemical Act?
    - What do you think about the adverse affects of long term exposure to the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products?
    - Is this issue even being discussed at the industry level, through groups like the Personal Products Council?

    In fact, as I blogged here, the Industry reps did everything they could to discredit the Moms asking these questions.

    So now you know why I hope the EWG is wrong. Because like so many of you, I still use a lot of these products.

    And as for my skeptical husband?

    As he put it after watching Ken Cook in action,

    DDT used to be called safe too.”

    Watch the video yourself and tell me what you think.


    @ Yahoo! Video

    If you want to do something now that you’ve seen this video, visit the EWG’s Action Page.

    And please leave a comment and let me know  your thoughts!

    Lynn

    Copyright OrganicMania 2009

    The BPA Battle Heats Up: The Endocrine Society Takes a Stand

    June 15th, 2009

    The other week I noticed that a somewhat-obscure scientific organization, The Endocrine Society, was meeting in Washington, DC. For a moment, I stopped and wondered if they too might weigh in on the bisphenol A (BPA) debate now raging in DC.

    “Nah,” I thought. “They’re non-political. I’ve never heard about them. They’ll just report on research, but they won’t actually make a  statement or engage in the debate.”

    Wow. Was I wrong.

    As I learned from – once again – the Environmental Working Group – The Endocrine Society actually issued its first ever scientific statement on BPA – the first in its 93-year-history.  The Society warned that BPA and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) “ have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology.”

    The Society also warned that “The Precautionary Principle is key to enhancing endocrine and reproductive health, and should be used to inform decisions about exposure to, and risk from, potential endocrine disruptors.”

    [For more on the Precautionary Principle, see this OrganicMania interview with Diane MacEachern, author of The Big Green Purse and a Founding Member of The Green Moms Carnival].

    You can access the entire Scientific Statement here. It’s dense reading, and I confess I haven’t made it all the way through as yet – but what I have read is troubling. The report documents possible links between  endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA and a host of serious health issues such as cancer, ADHD, autism, and low sperm count.

    In a separate action, EWG President Ken Cook sent a letter to Coca Cola’s CEO in which he noted “More than a decade ago, because of concerns about high levels of BPA in bioassays of teenagers and young adults, most Japanese food processing removed or dramatically reduced the use of BPA in can linings, switching to safer, less expensive PET(polyrthylene terephthalate) film lamination. As a result, a 2002 study found that BPA levels among Japanese students dropped by fully 50 percent between 1992 and 1999.”

    Can you believe it? Those numbers are stunning.

    When I started OrganicMania, I thought the main health issue we Moms faced was the food we put in our bodies. Little did I know it was just the tip of the iceberg. Plastic bottles, cans, household cleaners, make-up, baby shampoos, lotions and potions –   I’ve learned that substances like these contain minute amounts of carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other chemicals. Scientists and regulators are still sorting out the cumulative effects of all these exposures.  As for me, there’s enough evidence there to follow the Precautionary Principle. That means sticking to simple, basic foods, make-up and personal care products, buying organic and natural whenever possible, and avoiding synthetic compounds.

    I’ll be blogging a lot more about these issues in the future. I feel like the scales have fallen off my eyes. It’s not just about the food. It’s about so much more than that.  What do you think? Leave a comment and share.

    Lynn

    Copyright OrganicMania 2009

    Thank You, Anonymous Leaker. Now What?

    June 2nd, 2009

    Thank you to whomever had the gumption to send the now infamous Bisphenol A (BPA)  meeting notes over to The Washington Post.  Notes that exposed discussion about  developing  a  PR plan to restore BPA’s luster and to block  proposed bans on the controversial chemical.  BPA is used in the linings of canned foods and beverages in the US, yet has been linked in numerous independent studies to  myriad health concerns such as endocrine disruption, cancer, diabetes and heart disease (as I’ve previously blogged  here.)  (You can read the meeting  notes from the Cosmos Club discussions with  Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Del Monte, Crown, the American Chemistry Council, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc. and the Grocery Manufacturers Associations here at the Environmental Working Group’s website.)

    There’s nothing unusual about industry insiders sitting down to craft an image campaign to bolster a failing product’s allure.  These steps outlined in the memo are standard marketing tactics:   Fund a consumer perception study. Craft some new messages. Find a marketable spokesperson (in this case a pregnant woman).

    But was is unusual is this: for a chemical that is supposed to be so safe,  why do the notes show no discussion about the overlooked benefits of BPA? If the problem truly is “perception,” why didn’t the participants spend their time talking about the key points supporting their position that BPA is safe? And why did someone feel compelled to leak the notes if everything truly was on the up-and-up?

    According to the notes, the accuracy of which were verifed by a NAMPA spokesperson in The Post article, the attendees spent their time discussing budget ($500,000 for the campaign) and tactics. Funny thing is, they’ve already had a big PR firm, Stanton Communications, representing them. According to O’Dwyers, Stanton also represents The Formaledehyde Council, coincidentally the same group that left snarky comments on  Mom blogs after we blogged about the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’  Toxic Tub report.

    Now, in this recession, in this town, $500,000 is a lot of money for PR work.  NAMPA and its allies can secure the finest communications council  DC has to offer for that princely sum.  But according NAMPA’s  website,  Stanton already reported  in February that “In just the first four weeks of 2009, more than 150 articles have been published in various trade, environmental, health, and consumer media. While the specific content of the articles has varied, the underlying message is the same — BPA found in plastic products and metal cans is harmful to people and should be avoided or eliminated. .. . This underscores the need for swift and consistent response to articles as they appear, to set the record straight on BPA, specifically in relation to its critical usage in metal packaged food and beverage products.”

    In NAMPA’s response to The Post story, also posted on their website, they state,  ”The use of BPA-based epoxy liners in metal food and beverage cans serves a critical function by preventing a myriad of contaminants from penetrating into the food, affording longer shelf life and significant nutrition, convenience, and economy. Unfortunately, the one-sided reporting so commonplace in the media has left consumers to conclude that rather than preventing health impacts, the epoxy liner itself causes problems because it contains infinitesimal amounts of BPA.”

    So is this their entire defense?   BPA prevents contamination from penetrating into food and it’s approved by the FDA. NAMPA appears to imply that we should ignore advice such as this one issued on May 21st from  Harvard’s School of Public HealthWith increasing evidence of the potential harmful effects of BPA in humans, the authors believe further research is needed on the effect of BPA on infants and on reproductive disorders and on breast cancer in adults.”

    Hmmm…how do they sell Coke in Japan? The Japanese, who banned BPA, must have found a suitable alternative that does not contaminate the food supply. And while it’s true that BPA is not banned in Europe, it’s also true that countries around the world are reviewing their laws. From NAMPA’s own May e-newsletter I read “NAMPA has learned that the Danish Parliament has proposed a law to ban BPA in baby bottles and other consumer products.  The proposal acknowledges the European Food Safety Agency’s (EFSA) approval of the use of BPA in 2008, but dismisses this finding and indicates its
    unsuccessful efforts to have EFSA apply more severe rules governing BPA.”

    Here’s an offer. When NAMPA gets its act together, I’d love to talk to their new high-priced  PR firm to get answers to my questions. I’m sure I could get some other Mom bloggers to join me, those who’ve just posted their own reactions to the specter of a pregnant woman hawking BPA products:   The Smart Mama,    Green and Clean Mom, Nature Moms,     Safe MamaNon Toxic Kids, The Soft Landing, Jenn Savedge of Mother Nature Network and The Green Parent,   Retro Housewife Goes Green , and Leslie aka La Mama Naturale over at Eco Childs Play.  How about a blogger conference call?

    To round it out, let’s invite Consumer Reports too – as their blog says, “We have repeatedly called for BPA to be banned from food and beverage containers, and for the government to take immediate action to protect infants and children from BPA exposure. Some manufacturers and retailers have already begun removing BPA from their products. We hope that more will follow that example rather than relying on cynical public relations gimmicks.”

    What do you think? Leave a comment and share.

    Lynn

    Copyright OrganicMania 2009

    The Aftermath of the Green Moms Carnival: Hysterical Mommy Bloggers?

    April 10th, 2009

    By now, I thought my mind would be on blogging about Tips for an Eco-Friendly Easter. But instead, I keep thinking about how the personal care products industry responded to the concerns raised by last week’s Green Moms Carnival. The Green Moms asked questions about the safety of the tens of thousands of untested, unregulated chemicals used in personal care products such as shampoos and household cleaners, and the presence of small amounts of probable carcinogens such as 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in products such as baby wash.

    The industry’s response was to:

    1) ignore our questions – even when we telephoned;

    2) send out form emails like this one that didn’t address our questions; and

    3) engage this “crisis management” PR firm to leave comments on our blogs alleging that both the Green Mom bloggers and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group, the environmental groups behind the studies, were “irresponsible,” were causing “hysteria,” and suggesting that we needed to do more “critical thinking.”

    Check out my friend Jennifer Taggert’s post, “Oh, don’t worry, you’re just a mommy blogger & just a little bit of a carcinogen is okay.” Read the comments.

    Prior to the carnival, I was a bit skeptical of the need for the Kid Safe Chemicals Act. Because Ad Age recently reported on J&J‘s new social media campaign and their desire to “deepen engagement” with Mom bloggers, I expected they would welcome a call from a blogger asking for J&J’s perspective prior to publishing a blog post. Regrettably, that was not my experience with J&J, nor with the Personal Care Products Council.

    I hoped that my efforts to reach out to industry before publishing my post for the Green Moms Carnival would lead to more confidence in the state of the industry and the existing regulatory system, not less confidence.

    As Mary Hunt says here, “I find it amusing that if women are surveyed by a paid for research firm, their answers are sanctified and considered valid feedback. But if women give the same opinions freely on the web without “being asked,” then they are hysterical or overreacting. The only difference is that someone in the middle was paid to ask the question. Go figure.”

    Happy Easter, Happy Passover, everyone. I’m going to try to go off and focus on dying eggs the natural way. I’ll try not to eat too much Fair Trade Easter chocolate. But this isn’t over. If anything, the industry’s response to our concerns has galvanized us to action.

    Lynn

    Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

    Online Environmental Activism? We’re Just Getting Started!

    November 5th, 2008

    It’s the day after the election, and I figured by now I’d be exhausted from staying up so late watching the returns. Or perhaps I’d be practicing the remarks I’m making on Green PR at DC’s PRSA meeting tomorrow.

    But no.

    Barack Obama is not the only one who immediately turned his attention to setting the agenda for his administration. My group of green online activist friends is already planning how to best advance the green agenda in the next administration.

    This morning I received an email from Big Green Purse author Diane MacEachern, who has become a good bloggy friend since her interview on OrganicMania. Diane was reaching out to all of the Green Moms Carnival participants to invite us to participate in a new online forum she created called “The Prevention Agenda.”

    Diane is hoping to create an agenda (or series of agendas) focused on preventing environmental and human health threats, rather than just cleaning up after them. As she says, “My hope is that the forum will help create a groundswell of support for changing our approach to threats to human health and the environment. Hopefully, response to the forum will be strong enough to lead to a series of Prevention Agendas on specific topics that can be presented to the Obama administration before the inauguration.”

    I immediately jumped online and registered (Member #1), posing a question about one of my main concerns: the chemical soup of ingredients that are allowed in our personal care products. You can read and respond to my question here.

    The emails started flying. The Green Moms are charged up. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

    Come check it out The Prevention Agenda. Because as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    What do you think about this? Leave a comment and share!

    – Lynn

    Copyright 2008 OrganicMania