Life

4 Tips for Healthier Flying

Expert advice from a flight attendant union

Headed to some white sand beaches, or snow-capped mountains sometime soon? Maybe it's just a quick business trip. No matter what, flying is almost inevitable these days. While air travel in general has been proven to be pretty safe, we have a few tips to make jetting off for that weekend vacay a little healthier. And nope, it's not about staying hydrated (okay, one of them is) or putting on a face mask, although both of those might make you feel better when you arrive, too.


Our tips are more about reducing your contact with the chemicals that are unavoidable on airplanes. These unavoidable chemicals are different kinds of flame retardants that are added to meet FAA performance and safety regulations. While other everyday items, like couches and electronics, have to meet regulations related to not catching on fire, airplanes are a little different.

"The aircraft cabin is very heavily treated by regulation. Pretty much anything on an aircraft has to pass one of a series of flame tests, where the item is exposed to a certain type of flame for a certain number of minutes or seconds, and it has to self-extinguish within a certain number of seconds. It is possible for at least some of these regulations to be met without flame retardants, but the flame retardants option is the easiest and the cheapest, so according to the FAA, that is how most manufacturers comply with these rules," says Judith Anderson from the Association of Flight Attendants.

Because of these stronger regulations, and the fact that adding flame retardant chemicals is cheaper, easier, and may weigh less than untreated but suitably fire-retardant materials, there are a variety of these chemicals in almost every inch of an airplane.

So, with that in mind, there are some easy ways to prep for a trip that can reduce your exposure to these chemicals. Most of them are from Ms. Anderson, but, while we had your attention, we threw in one or two of our own for good measure.

1) Dress for success

Generally speaking for airplanes this means wear long sleeves, long pants, and sensible shoes - You can take that to mean leggings and sweatshirts for the win! By wearing long pants and long sleeves, "You have reduced contact with the flame retardant treated surfaces, and long pants and sleeves with sensible type shoes, not flip flops or heels for example, are going to serve you better if you actually do have to evacuate the cabin in the case of emergency," says Ms. Anderson. Airplanes are often cold anyway, so throwing in some long sleeves, even if you're headed to a warm destination, isn't the worst idea.

2) Wash up

Basically, because almost everything in the plane is covered in these flame retardant chemicals, make sure to wash your hands before you eat anything and when you get off the plane. "A study published in 2014 by a researcher at Harvard found that after one single cross country flight that there was measurable flame retardants from the aircraft cabin on the surfaces of the hands of the flight attendants that participated in that research study. So, an obvious recommendation is to wash your hands before you eat, and to wash your hands after a flight, in order to minimize how much gets absorbed," says Ms. Anderson. While you're at it, it's probably a good idea to throw those long pants and sleeves that you wore in the wash, too. You don't want to accidentally drop a snack on your sweatshirt a few days later and pick up flame retardants that have just been chillin' on your cozy sweats.

3) Use your nose

This one sounds a little more out there, but it's important. Besides the potential for contact with pesticides, germs, and ozone gas in the cabin, there is the potential to breathe toxic engine oil fumes onboard.There are documented cases (about 5 a day on the US fleet) where engine oil fumes contaminate the ventilation air supplied to the cabin. The oils contain some nasty chemical additives that can cause neurological and breathing problems for passengers and flight crew. "It is important to be aware of the possibility for oils to contaminate the air supply system, and it is important to know that the fumes are most often described as smelling like dirty socks or like a gym locker, kind of a musty, moldy, foul kind of smell. If you smell dirty socks on a plane, the first thought that most people have is that somebody has taken their shoes off, but oil fumes is another explanation. It happens most commonly during engine start, take off, or what is called top of descent, at the end of cruising portion of the flight, when the aircraft starts to descend. All of those phases of flight are associated with engine power setting changes, and when the engine power setting changes, the mechanical changes increase the risk of oil getting into the air supply system. So [if you notice that distinctive smell] coming from the vents, report it promptly to the crew and report it to the airline and the FAA safety hotline after the flight," says Ms. Anderson.

4) Drink up

We're throwing this one in for good measure. Pack a reusable water bottle with you. Be sure it's empty when you go through security, then you can fill it up at any of the fountains or water bottle filling stations that are now super common in airports near the gates. This helps make sure you don't have to buy bottled water at the airport or while you are traveling, and it's good to stay hydrated while you fly anyway. Check out our roundup of some of our favorite water bottles if you don't have one you love yet.

Tired of changing and throwing away tampons or pads every month? Want a zero-waste alternative for your period? Heard of menstrual cups and period underwear, but not sure which one to pick? Well, look no further! We rounded up the 10 best-reviewed non-toxic menstrual cups and organic period underwear options for you to try out. All of the menstrual cups are made of a flexible medical-grade silicone that collect fluid instead of absorbing it. The period underwear options we found are made with organic cotton, and can be washed.

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Family

Environmental Factors May Have a Bigger Impact on Fertility than You Think

Breaking Down the Science and Ways to Limit Harmful Exposures

Trying to get pregnant should be an exciting time of planning for the next stage of your life, not one full of doctors visits, constant testing, and worrying about body temperatures. But, if you and your partner are struggling with infertility, you are not alone. According to the CDC about 12% of women have impaired fecundity, which is another way of saying that they are having difficulty getting or staying pregnant (1) [there are no statistics on infertility in men, but there is science showing that overall sperm count is decreasing(14)]. And, the science is clear, environmental factors definitely impact reproductive health - for both men and women. Some of the biggest impacts come from air pollution, pesticides, and endocrine disrupting chemicals (2), which are in all sorts of products and affect the way hormones interact with your body.

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For iced coffee, iced tea, and smoothies on the go

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Easy Ways To Keep Your Car Smelling Fresh Without the Synthetic Scents

Cause Traditional Car Air Fresheners Are No Good For Your Health

Those little tree-shaped air fresheners dangling from a rear-view mirror or air vent clip-ons may feel festive, but most car air fresheners can be bad for your health. They seem so innocent, so how is that possible you might ask?

One of the biggest issues with these products is the mystery behind what goes into them. Believe it or not, It's actually hard to be 100% certain about what chemicals are in air fresheners. There's a ton of secrecy into what actually goes into a fragrance product because companies can claim their ingredients are trade secrets. We definitely can't say a product is safe if we don't even know what is used to make it.

However, we do know that most air fresheners are made up of a ton of synthetic fragrances. There are literally thousands of chemicals manufacturers can choose from when making a product with synthetic fragrance. And a lot of these chemicals are known to have negative impacts on our health. (1)

On top of that, fragrance in air fresheners usually contain both phthalates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (2). Although these chemicals can make scents powerful, they can also be allergens that cause coughing, headaches, and runny noses (2). Phthalates are also hormone disruptors and VOCs can be carcinogens. We definitely don't want to be constantly breathing in those chemicals, no matter how good they might smell!

The amount of space inside your car is also a reason we don't like traditional car air fresheners. A smaller space = more concentrated exposure, and since you probably have your windows closed 90% of the time, a car is one of the worst places to keep a strongly-scented product.

Luckily, there are easy, nontoxic ways to make your car smell fresh! You can keep a container filled with baking soda or a baking soda freezer pack hidden somewhere. Baking soda is a completely natural way to eliminate odors and a box is only a couple of dollars! Using scents from natural sources are also a great way to add a little freshness to your car. You can put a few drops of an essential oil onto a clothespin or another wooden item and leave it somewhere in your car (3). When the smell goes away, just replenish with a few more drops of oil! If you prefer something a little more contained, we also love putting satchels of lavender or rose petals around our car.

But perhaps the easiest way to get rid of a bad smell is to simply roll your windows down! Maybe rolling down the windows will help make your commute a little more relaxing too.

References:

  1. https://www.nrdc.org/media/2007/070919
  2. https://kellybroganmd.com/is-your-uber-air-freshener-making-you-sick/
  3. https://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/how-to-make-3-naturally-scented-air-fresheners-for-cars/
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Our top recommendations for your baby's bottom that parents love

Updated for 2019!

We get it- you're busy but you also want the best for your baby. But who has the time to sit down and do hours of research on the best diaper creams for your baby's bottom? That's why we're here! We have nothing butt (get it?) amazing products for our non-toxic diaper cream roundup. These 12 products are free from irritants like fragrances and use soothing ingredients to keep diaper rash at bay. Some options have non-nano zinc oxide to protect the skin, and some work more as an ointment to prevent redness. Looking for an organic diaper balm? We've got those too. As always, we thoroughly researched consumer reviews to ensure you're getting a stellar product that actually works and that parents love.

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Why it's worth considering before your next redecorating project

Wall decals are the perfect decorating solution for nurseries, kids rooms, renters, dorm dwellers, or basically anyone who is a commitment-phobe. There are endless designs that can add just the pop you need, and they are easy to remove for when you want to change it up. But most wall decals are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), otherwise known as vinyl. These vinyl stickers have added phthalates which make the plastic stickers super thin and flexible, yet durable enough so they don't rip easily. Phthalates have endocrine disrupting properties that can wreak havoc on your hormones and have been linked to a variety of health issues like cancers, infertility, preterm birth, impaired brain development, and asthma and allergies. Basically, not good stuff. Plus, the manufacturing process of PVC is really bad for the environment and communities where it's manufactured (1) and there's no way to recycle it. Eek. Not good all around.

So next time you're shopping for a wall decal, check the 'details' section on the product page. A decal that says vinyl or doesn't specify anything is probably one you want to avoid. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites that make PVC-free options that still get high marks from designers. We pulled together our top 10 favorites sites down below.

  1. Chocovenyl
  2. Eco Wall Decals
  3. Koko Kids
  4. Love Mae
  5. Oopsy Daisy
  6. Petit Collage
  7. Pop and Lolli
  8. Sunny Decals
  9. Tiny Me
  10. Wall Dressed Up


References:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/vinyl-chloride.pdf
Family

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Let's face it, getting a child to eat, no less a picky eater, might actually be the most daunting task in the world. Whether you've been on the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches only train for the past week or past month and just want your child to add something green or leafy to their palate, we've got you covered. We've put together some overall suggestions to incorporate into meal-prep that are not only more kid-friendly, but will also help you avoid processed foods that might be less healthy or have added toxic chemicals.

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