Let's stop poisoning our children!

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Thanks to Mother Nature Network and Ecomom, here is a great graphic that helps us find the hidden GMOs in 70% of the food in the supermarket. If you’re trying to avoid it like I am for my family, this is a great help. America needs to require labeling of products that contain GMOs!

How to find real food and make healthier choicesAn estimated 70% of food sold in the supermarket contains genetically modified organisms. Are you ready to eat smart?

Thanks to Mother Nature Network and Ecomom, here is a great graphic that helps us find the hidden GMOs in 70% of the food in the supermarket. If you’re trying to avoid it like I am for my family, this is a great help. America needs to require labeling of products that contain GMOs!


How to find real food and make healthier choices
An estimated 70% of food sold in the supermarket contains genetically modified organisms. Are you ready to eat smart?

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Filed under Genetically modified organism Genetically modified food Monsanto Food Science and Technology Biotechnology Genetic engineering Genetics


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Why We Aren’t Eating Our Veggies

Fruits and vegetables from a farmers market. c...

I had an epiphany this weekend while making my baby’s food. Earlier in the day, I had gathered the last of my first crop of carrots from my garden to steam for my little pumpkin. As I washed and trimmed the bright orange spears, I snuck a bite. My immediate thought was, “Oh, that is wonderful!” You see, the carrots from my garden make the ones from the grocery store taste like cardboard. My carrots are tender, sweet and juicy and their skin is so thin that I only need to wash thoroughly and trim the roots before cooking. There is a very important reason for that which I will explain. I enjoy vegetables and fruit so much more when they are the product of my own garden or other local small gardens because they simply taste so much better. That’s when it hit me: the reason more people do not eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables is that the ones they get at the store just do not taste very good.


Starting around the 1950s, agriculture began seeing big changes. Before that time, American crop yields were comparable to those of India, China, and other nations. Then American farmers were introduced to petroleum-based pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and hybridized vegetable seeds. Crop yields skyrocketed, and fewer farmers could feed more people. As famine touched different parts of the globe, America became the gold standard of farming. Large-scale, commercial agriculture was seen as the solution to feeding an ever growing world population. The negative aspects of heavy pesticide and fertilize use soon became apparent, but it was accepted that the benefits outweighed the costs. That is a whole other book that I could write. For today, I want to teach you a bit about vegetable seeds and why you should care.

Hybrid plants, also known as F­1, are the result of breeding two distinctly different parent plants to produce offspring that have reliable characteristics. Certain dominant traits of each parent plant override recessive traits of the individual plants to product offspring with the best of both parents. While this sounds good in theory, it diminishes the genetic diversity of the plant and eliminates some desirable traits of the parent plants. For example, a hybrid tomato plant might produce large fruit that stand up to shipping, mature early, and produce for a longer amount of time but its fruit lack the desirable taste, texture, and smell of the parent plants’ fruit. That’s where we are at the moment. We have tomatoes that look beautiful but lack taste or smell. We have carrots that are tough enough to be pulled by machine yet they make your jaw hurt because they are so hard and tough.

Opposite to hybrid seed is heirloom seed. Like any family heirloom, heirloom seed have been handed down from generation to generation in families. Heirloom seed have experienced a growth in popularity in the last ten years as more home gardeners seek to preserve the past and grow better tasting produce. These open pollinated plants are not laboratory clones of their parents. Instead, they are genetically diverse and robust plants that closely resemble their parents. The genes for great taste, smell, texture and heartiness are expressed freely. Your tomatoes will be different shades from pale yellow to almost black with lumps and bumps that make them look positively pumpkin-esque. But you are sure to experience love at first bite! Another plus to heirloom seed is that once you establish a garden, you have your own free supply of seed for life. Simply collect seed each year from your produce, dry them and save for planting next year.

Even if you are not a gardener, heirloom varieties of many fruits and vegetables are becoming more available if you know where to look. Seek out local farmers’ markets and co-ops for sources. The variety of colors, shapes and tastes will surprise you. Of the hundreds of potato varieties, only a handful are grown commercially. Purple heirloom potatoes are a treat that will surely trigger curious questions at your dinner table. Even if you are one of those adults that resists eating your vegetables, I encourage you to try out a few heirloom varieties. I know you will be impressed at the improvement in taste over run of the mill varieties. It’s a discovery that will benefit your health!

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Filed under EAT Vegetable Fruit Health Gardens Meatless Monday Vegetarianism Secret Life of Food green green living heirloom vegetables


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Time for CAs Fire Retardant Law to Burn Out

California has long been known as a state that leads the front on safety and environmental law. In 1975, California passed into law Technical Bulletin 117 detailing the requirements for testing the flame retardance of upholstered furniture.  To meet these requirements, manufacturers have turned largely to bromated fire retardant chemicals. In fact, if you want to buy a sofa in California without fire retardants, you have to have a doctor’s prescription. What this means for Californians and many other Americans, is an elevated level of toxic chemicals in their blood. The good news is that change is on the horizon, but dealing with all of the waste created by this law is going to be a problem for many years.

Bromated fire retardants were used in the 1970s in children’s pajamas to delay the fabrics’ combustion time. This practice was later banned due to concern over exposing children to such toxic chemicals. These chemicals are still finding their way into our lives through upholstered furniture, pillows, car seats, portable cribs and many more places that contain polyurethane foam. Duke University researcher Dr. Heather Stapleton has found reason for concern. Stapleton states, “We’ve been investigating the levels of flame retardant in infant products. We tested 100 products recently and found 80 percent of them had a known flame retardant with a known health effect associated with it.” Stapleton says that, in animal lab tests, the chemicals impacted brain development, thyroid regulation and were even linked to cancer. But exposure is not limited to touching these tainted products. Polyurethane foam treated with flame retardants is mirroring an old familiar problem: lead paint. Toxins are showing up in the dust generated by these treated foam products, and that poses a direct specific health threat. Inhaling contaminants provides a direct path to the blood stream and poses a threat for all ages but especially children.

California state senator Mark Leno is working to change the way manufacturers meet California’s furniture flammability standards. Senator Leno has introduced SB 147, the “Consumer Choice Fire Protection Act,” which would require the California government to develop an alternative flammability standard that would still make products fire-safe, but could be met without the use of harmful chemicals, and would allow people the choice of buying furniture and baby products without them. This would mean safer products for all of us as manufacturers make products reflecting California laws since so much of the population lives in California.

Unfortunately phasing out bromated flame retardants will not eliminate the problem. Many BFRs are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic as outlined in this peer reviewed study from the University of Environmental Engineering in Israel. Long-term research has shown that BFRs cause infertility, thyroid dysfunction, and cancer. The persistence of these toxic chemicals will continue to be an issue for many years to come.

An important question to consider is have flame retardants given us any additional protection from fires? The standard to be met is that flame retardants help furniture resist bursting into flame for 12 seconds. Nonprofit group Physicians for Social Responsibility share their concern, “While we continue to risk our health through exposure to these retardants, they do not provide measurable fire protection. From 1980 to 1999, states that did not regulate furniture flammability experienced declines in fire death rates similar to that seen in California which has a unique requirement for flame retardants in furniture and baby product foam. While retardants may decrease the time for a material to ignite by a few seconds, they increase the carbon monoxide, toxic gases, and smoke that contribute to most fire deaths and injuries.  More effective fire safety strategies include decreased smoking, fire-safe cigarettes, fire-safe candles, and the increased use of sprinklers and smoke detectors.  These can prevent fires without adding potentially hazardous chemicals to consumer products.” The physician’s group also stated that the overwhelming amount of research showing the dangers of these toxic chemicals is not reaching the public. Most of us have no idea that 5% of the weight of that nursing pillow in our lap is due to endocrine disrupting chemicals that can stay in a child’s body for many years to come.

As a consumer, your best line of protection is to look for furniture, pillows, car seats, and other products WITHOUT tags that say “complies with California Technical Bulletin 117.” You can also find furniture made with organic cotton or wool. Flame retardants are not bound to the foam, so they are released into the air and bind to dust as your furniture, carpets, and fabric age. Dust frequently with a damp cloth and vacuum furniture, drapes, and flooring regularly. Keeping a clean home environment can minimize your family’s exposure.

The evidence shows that flame retardants are not successful in reducing fires, and they are responsible for a mountain of health problems faced by Americans. Alternate methods of fire prevention that do not rely on introducing toxic chemicals into our lives that persist as environmental pollutants are much more desirable. It is time for this well-intentioned law to burn out.

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Filed under California United States Flame retardant Duke University Brominated flame retardant Physicians for Social Responsibility Fire retardant green green living environment


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'Our Sustainable Future: Decomposing BPA-containing plastic using a “fungus among us”'

What a promising solution to a major problem! Score one for science!


“Scientists are reporting discovery of a more sustainable way of disposing of plastics that contain bisphenol A (BPA) — without releasing that potentially harmful substance to the environment. The new method involves exposing polycarbonate plastic waste to ultraviolet light and heat. Just as cooking makes food more digestible for humans, this pretreatment approach makes polycarbonate plastic more digestible for certain fungi, which the scientists used to break down polycarbonate plastic. Their study appears in the ACS’ monthly journal Biomacromolecules.”


Filed under bpa environment science news green


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Starbucks Going Natural Bugs Vegans

It’s the ultimate irony. A popular company switches from petroleum-based artificial food coloring to a safe, widely used, natural food coloring, and someone has to be bothered by it. Go figure!

I am neither vegan nor vegetarian, but I understand their ethical and health concerns. Being vigilant about their food is a challenge that I understand and liken to my daily challenge of reducing my family’s contact with toxic chemicals. Recently the website revealed that Starbuck’s strawberry frappucino drink is dyed with crushed dried cochineal bugs. This bugs vegans because they thought the drink was okay for them to drink. The buzz surrounding the announcement has Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schulz surprised. In an interview with CBS This Morning, Schulz said, “No good deed goes undone.” He was referring to the company’s decision to switch from artificial food coloring to natural food coloring. “We tried to embrace an all-natural method for this product. In fact, we discovered that most women in America wearing red lipstick have this ingredient,” he said. “It’s everywhere, it’s all-natural.” reveals eight other foods colored with crushed bugs. Products ranging from Nerds candy to Mango Snapple find themselves on the list. So what is the key word to look for on the ingredients list? It is carmine. Carmine is a coloring agent extracted from the female cochineal insect. The insects are collected from prickly pear cactus plants primarily in South America and Europe.

The use of carmine doesn’t bother me. It’s safe, green and all-natural. I’m not opposed to killing bugs. I am not a relentless bug assassin, but if a spider wanders too near me inside my house, its days are numbered. My personal philosophy on bugs is that if I am outside, I’m on their turf. Inside my home, they’re on MY turf! Most people probably do not realize that they are eating bug parts every day without their knowledge. Surprised? You would be surprised to learn about the long list of insect contaminants that the FDA allows in canned and frozen goods. For example, 100 grams of frozen broccoli can contain up to 60 aphids. Canned or dried mushrooms can have up to 20 maggots per 100 grams of drained product! I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s day, especially vegans. I am just trying to put things into perspective. I understand it is one thing to purposely use bugs as food coloring and another thing to allow natural contaminants into our food, but eating bugs is eating bugs. Same end result, right?

As a proponent of natural products, foods, and choices, I think it’s great to have natural food coloring choices. I seek these out as there is a mountain of research that shows that artificial food dyes affect the behavior and development of children. For example, I searched high and low for a sports drink that had no artificial colors or preservatives to give my kids. Their low-sugar drink of choice is naturally orange flavored and has its coloring from beets. That makes this picky mom happy. I am interested to hear what vegans have to say about eating bug parts, intentionally added or not. Where do you draw the line? I hope that as it reformulates its controversial drink, Starbucks won’t feel burned by bad press and will consider using other plant-based natural colorings.

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Filed under Starbuck Cochineal Food Colors South America Food and Drug Administration Insect Frappuccino green green living eco vegan vegetarian


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FDA Punts BPA Decision

WASHINGTON - JUNE 21:  Secretary of Health and...

Last Friday, the FDA denied a ban on BPA in food packaging citing “a lack of scientific evidence” necessary to impose a ban. Regulators’ lack of action endangers the health of millions of Americans daily. With puberty at age ten becoming the new normal for American girls and health issues such as cancerreproductive problemsheart disease and neurological issues being scientifically linked to BPA exposure, did the FDA make the right call?

“While evidence from some studies have raised questions as to whether BPA may be associated with a variety of health effects, there remain serious questions about these studies, particularly as they relate to humans,” the FDA said in a statement. While medical research uses mice as a standard research tool, the FDA has chosen to question the outcomes of such studies that show a multitude of health problems arising from BPA exposure in mice. With much longer life spans, humans are slow to manifest the effects of chemical exposure to endocrine disruptors. Mice, on the other hand, show the effects of exposure rather quickly and have shown reproductive problems, early puberty, cancer, heart disease, and neurological problems from exposure to this estrogen mimicking chemical.

Sufficient evidence of BPA’s potential to harm infants has resulted in the ban of BPA in infant feeding accessories across ten states. Despite rejecting the petition, the FDA maintains that there is “some concern” over BPA’s effect on children, and the government has $30 million earmarked to conduct additional studies on the chemical’s effects. There are many dissenting opinions that continue to voice their concern about widespread BPA exposure that Americans face. Jean Halloran, the director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, said in a statement, “We’re disappointed with the FDA’s decision because we think there’s ample scientific evidence about the health risks of BPA for the agency to take action now and ban it from food and drink packaging.”

The fight is far from being over. Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said “We’re going to keep pressing the FDA to ban BPA. We also support congressional efforts to take BPA off the market entirely.” Fortunately, consumer demand is producing more results than the FDA in the fight against toxic BPA. Recently companies such as Campbell’s Soup and Kroger grocery stores have joined ranks of others like Eden Foods in switching to BPA-free cans. Slow to join the move are soda bottlers using cans lined with plastic containing BPA. Manufacturers defending the use of packaging containing BPA cite the low levels of the chemical present in packaging as a reason to continue their use. However, studies reveal that with endocrine disruptors, more effects are seen with lower doses. This is countering traditional logic and research techniques for chemical exposure and imposes yet another difficulty in researching the dangers of BPA and other endocrine disruptors.

Eden Foods Inc.

The best defense for a public left unprotected is to stay away from processed foods as much as possible. Minimize your consumption of canned foods and soft drinks. Look for brands that use BPA-free packaging. Unfortunately, even many organic canned foods are still sitting in cans lined with BPA. You have to do your homework to protect yourself. I believe the FDA passed on a great opportunity to protect the health of all Americans. I suspect they faced pressure from a food processing industry that does not want to change current practices. Let’s hope that further research produces convincing evidence to ban this toxic chemical from our lives for good. Until then, it’s up to us.

Lara KimbrellAKA GreenTXmom & Physicschickis a wife & mother to three precious little boys. Her family is her whole world & inspire her in so many ways. Also a regular contributor to The SNSPost & a published childrens author, she’s a physicist w/ a degree from Texas A&M & taught H.S. physics for years.  She became interested in environmental health due to her oldest son’s asthma & inspired by her curious children she writes to engage all children in the amazing world of physical sciences.

Filed under Food and Drug Administration BPA FDA United States Endocrine disruptor Consumers Union Eden Foods Campbell Soup Company green green living green tips tips


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100 Things To Compost

If you consider yourself a green living person, you probably are concerned about limiting the amount of garbage you send to the landfill. At my house we do two things: recycle and compost. A family of 5 can create a lot of waste! Packaging is a problem best solved through recycling, but there seems to be an endless list of other sources of extra stuff to deal with. I’ve scoured the lists from lots of experts and compiled them into my own list of what can go into our compost bin. Before I get to the list, I want to explain two strategies in composting.

Composting produces nutrient rich soil that is great for your garden or flower beds. You can fill raised beds with compost for a fabulous growing environment for vegetables. But composting takes time and a little bit of planning. There are two basic strategies to composting: batch composting and heap composting. If you are in an urban setting and are concerned with the smell or space that a compost heap takes up, you should consider batch composting in a tumbler. I purchased a tumbling composter last year, and I love it. It is basically a barrel on a stand that locks into place then releases so that you can spin it while a spiked axis inside stirs the compost. If you put it in a sunny place, balance brown (carbon) and green (nitrogen) materials, and tumble it every 2-3 days, you will have nice finished compost in about a month. I use this method with small things that I know will decompose quickly. I also leave a bit of compost from the previous batch in the tumbler to give the new batch a quicker start. A larger, slower strategy is to create a compost heap.

The first critical decision to make in planning a compost heap is location. An unbalanced compost heap can smell a bit unpleasant, so it’s best to plan for that even if you’re a composting genius and never have to deal with an unbalanced heap! Along the Texas Gulf coast, we get a nearly constant sea breeze from the south-east. So I will put my heap on the north-west side of my property. Make sense? I also want it to be in a location that is at least 2 feet away from any structure and out of standing water. Heaps can be free-standing or enclosed. They will have to be turned with a pitch fork periodically, so you want to have access to your heap. However, some people have to build an enclosure to keep nosy critters out. This little raccoon now has a new home in the woods about 20 miles from where we found him. He’s such a cute little bandit! The first layer of your heap should always be a bed of sticks. That will allow air into the heap which is critical for decomposition. If you have the space, go with both types. That way you always have a place to put your scraps (the heap) and a place to quickly process larger batches of materials like dried leaves and grass clippings (the tumbler).

Kitchen scraps are just the tip of the composting iceberg. You may be amazed at the variety of items that you can compost. A general rule to follow is that smaller pieces are better, so you may need to tear/shread some items. Never add synthetic materials, grass clippings that have been treated with chemicals, or greasy food scraps. Here are 100 items you can add to your compost heap. The garbage collectors are going to thank you for a lighter load!

  1. Dryer lint
  2.  “Dust bunnies”
  3. The insides of a vacuum bag (just empty the bag into the compost bin)
  4. The contents of your dustpan (just use discretion)
  5. Coffee grounds
  6. Coffee filters
  7. Tea bags/loose leaf tea
  8. Soy/rice/almond/etc milk
  9. Nut shells, crushed (but not walnut, which may be toxic to plants)
  10. Seeds (chop them to ensure they won’t grow)
  11. Avocado pits (chop them up so they won’t sprout)
  12. Pickles
  13. Fruit peel and cores
  14. Vegetable peels
  15. Stale tortilla chips/potato chips
  16. Stale crackers
  17. Crumbs (bread or other baked goods)
  18. Old breakfast cereal
  19. Bran (wheat or oat, etc)
  20. Seaweed/nori/kelp
  21. Tofu/tempeh
  22. Frozen fruits and vegetables
  23. Expired jam or jelly
  24. Egg shells
  25. Old, moldy “soy dairy” and other dairy substitutes
  26. Freezer burned fruit and vegetables
  27. Stale Halloween candy and old nutrition/protein bars
  28. Popcorn kernels (post-popping, the ones that didn’t make it)
  29. Corn cobs and stalks (chop)
  30. Brown paper bags
  31. Old herbs and spices
  32. Cooked rice
  33. Cooked Pasta
  34. Oatmeal
  35. Peanut shells
  36. Shrimp, crab, lobster, and crawfish shells
  37. Tree bark
  38. Wooden tooth picks
  39. Hay
  40. Grass clippings
  41. Weeds that haven’t produced seeds
  42. Leaves
  43. Corks
  44. Egg cartons, paper
  45. Toothpicks
  46. Q-tips (not the plastic ones)
  47. Bamboo Skewers
  48. Matches (burned)
  49. Sawdust (from untreated lumber)
  50. Pencil shavings
  51. Chicken manure (well dried)
  52. Cow manure (well dried)
  53. Fireplace ash (fully extinguished and cooled, mix in small amounts only)
  54. Burlap sacks
  55. Cotton or wool clothes, cut into strips
  56. Alfalfa pellets
  57. Wood shavings from hamster/guinea pig cages
  58. Paper towels
  59. Paper napkins
  60. Paper table cloths
  61. Paper plates (non wax- or plastic-coated)
  62. Crepe paper streamers
  63. Balloons (latex only)
  64. Raffia fibers (wrapping or decoration)
  65. Excelsior (wood wool)
  66. Old potpourri
  67. Dried flowers
  68. Fresh flowers
  69. Dead houseplants (or their dropped leaves)
  70. Human hair (from a home haircut or saved from the barber shop)
  71. Toenail clippings
  72. Trimmings from an electric razor
  73. Pet hair
  74. Feathers
  75. Domestic bird and bunny droppings
  76. Feathers
  77.  Fish food
  78. Aquatic plants (from aquariums)
  79. Dry dog food
  80. Rawhide dog chews
  81. Dry cat food
  82. Ratty old rope, not synthetic
  83. The dead flies on the windowsill
  84. Pizza boxes and cereal boxes (shredded first)
  85. Toilet paper and paper towel rolls (shredded first)
  86. Paper muffin/cupcake cups
  87. Kleenex (including used)
  88. Condoms (latex only)
  89. Old loofas (real, not synthetic)
  90. Cotton balls
  91. Natural sponges
  92. Tampon applicators (cardboard, not plastic)
  93. Tampons (including used)
  94. Newspaper
  95. Junk mail
  96. Old business cards (not the glossy ones)
  97. Old masking tape
  98. Greeting card envelopes
  99. White glue/plain paste
  100. Urine (nitrogen accelerates breakdown and urine adds great micronutrients)

My little guy eating a rainbow on St. Patrick’s Day! He loves to pee on the compost pile! LOL

That ought to keep you busy for a while! And just think of all of the rich soil you are going to have at your disposal for free. Oh, and item 100 may seem a bit strange, but if you have little boys running around your house, have them go out and pee on the compost heap occasionally. They will get a kick out of it, and your compost heap will really benefit from the nitrogen and mineral boost!

Lara KimbrellAKA GreenTXmom & Physicschickis a wife & mother to three precious little boys. Her family is her whole world & inspire her in so many ways. Also a regular contributor to The SNSPost & a published childrens author, she’s a physicist w/ a degree from Texas A&M & taught H.S. physics for years.  She became interested in environmental health due to her oldest son’s asthma & inspired by her curious children she writes to engage all children in the amazing world of physical sciences.

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Filed under Compost Vegetable Garden Home Soil and Additives Shopping Business Home and Garden green green living eco tips free

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