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Are Allergies Another Thing to Blame on Climate Change?

Yep, but we have 3 tips that might help

It's finally spring and we are loving all the warm weather - sandal season FTW! What we love less is all the pollen bringing out the best of allergy season. But, it might not just be allergies that are making it hard to breath this time of year. Climate change is also to blame. Why you ask? It's because warm air holds more water, which leads to more humidity and rain. April showers are washing away the winter blahs and bringing those gorgeous May flowers, but climate change is bringing longer pollen seasons, and creating damp little ecosystems perfect for mold to grow and spread - not as pretty as flowers, *sigh* we know... If you are thinking you're safe because you are in a part of the country that is more prone to drought than rain, say hello to more dust and soot in the air from things like cars, trucks and buses. Globally, air pollution from burning fossil fuels is the 4th highest cause of death after high blood pressure, diet, and smoking. These airborne chemicals and particulates damage our lungs and can lead to heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Even less fun, ozone can make you more sensitive to allergens creating a double whammy effect. While we've healed the ozone layer in the sky that protects us from harmful UV rays, we need to do better to keep it out of our lungs. And, all of these are a result of our use of fossil fuels.


While we can't control the weather and climate change makes it harder to predict, we do have some tips for things you can do to help you breathe easier and reduce your contribution to fossil fuels.

1) Keep those allergens outside

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Allergens and respiratory irritants are basically tiny particles like pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust, and bits of black carbon floating around in the air. For those who suffer from allergies (30% of adults and 40% of kids), this means coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes. For those who have asthma, these little specks could have you reaching for the inhaler, rushing to an emergency room, or worse. You can keep those specks at bay by washing your hands and face or taking a shower when you get home, doing laundry regularly, and keeping your pets clean. Some air conditioners, purifiers, and vacuums come with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) and activated carbon filters that can grab more of those little buggers out of the air and carpets. HEPA filters catch teeny tiny particles smaller than your eyes can see, while activated carbon filters absorb chemicals like VOC's and odors. Using a purifier and a HEPA filter will catch up to 99.97% of the particles that might be entering your home through the air your breathe - but even adding just one to your home will make a huge difference. There are a variety of options from stand alone units like window air conditioners and tabletop purifiers to whole house filtration systems that can be a part of your heating and cooling system. Pick the option that works best for your health and your home - just be sure to clean or replace your filters regularly.

2) Stay indoors or limit outdoor time on air quality alert days

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A recent study estimates that the average American is exposed to so much air pollution that it's like smoking nearly a half a cigarette per day. If you want to know if it's safe to go outside, there a bunch of apps to help you figure it out. Most weather apps that come standard on your phone include alerts about air quality in your town. And, the Shit! I smoke app (App Store or Google Play) will tell you how the pollution level in your town today equals to the number of "cigarettes you smoked". The apps use the air quality index or AQI to report on how clean or polluted the air is and if it is hazardous to your health. On the scale, anything from 0-50 is safe for everyone, 300-500 is hazardous for everyone, and anything in between is harmful to sensitive individuals like people with asthma or other respiratory issues. It's something to be aware of if you are pregnant or have kids. While we know kids love to run around outside and get out all their pent up energy, kids breath faster and their bodies are still developing, so it is especially important to limit outdoor time on high alert days. It's a great excuse to break out the puzzles and board games, build an indoor campsite or have a dance party to get them moving. Exposure to PM2.5, really tiny specks of dirt and dust smaller than a strand of hair, during pregnancy has also been linked to pre-term and low-birth weight babies and learning and cognitive disabilities of children. The AQI doesn't include pollen, but most weather apps and local weather reports include an alert for high pollen days too, which while not as dangerous for those without allergies or asthma, can still be pretty annoying.

3) Kick the fossil fuel habit

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We can all do our part to keep climate change (and allergy season!) from going from bad to worse. And, as an added bonus, it makes our neighborhood air healthier.

Three tips for reducing your consumption of fossil fuels are to:

1. Limit household energy use when you can and ask your local utility if your energy can be sourced from renewables like solar and wind. If they say yes, flip the switch to renewables! And if not, ask them to make it happen. They won't supply renewables if there's no demand, so let them know that's what you want. An easy way to limit household energy usage is to plug things into a power strip and flip the power strip off when you leave for the day or have it on an automatic timer. That way things like your TV, phone charger, and wifi router aren't eating any extra energy throughout the day when they aren't being used.

2. Combine car trips (like doing all your errands in an afternoon instead of one a day), carpool, or take public transportation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution. Walking or riding a bike when you can is an even better way to improve the health of the planet and yourself while you're at it.

3. Planting trees and gardens have also shown to improve air quality by reducing pollution and mitigate the urban heat island effect. Plus, they look pretty and can provide food if you go for something like a citrus tree or tomato plant.

Roundups

Non-Toxic Kitchen Items Roundup

Bye bye plastic, hello reusable!

Looking for a way to be more sustainable but don't know where to start? Try the kitchen! Kitchen utensils are usually made from plastic and other harmful chemicals. Some items, like sponges, are also meant to be periodically thrown away, which just creates more trash. That's why we rounded up our favorite non-toxic kitchen items! These items are made from natural or reusable materials like wood, natural sponge, and copper. They're all durable and can stand up to the toughest kitchen messes!


Non-Toxic Kitchen Items


a) REDECKER Horsehair and Beechwood Bottle Brush

b) If You Care 100% Natural Sponge Cloths

c) Küchenprofi Classic Dish Washing Brush

d) Miw Piw Natural Dish Sponge

e) REDECKER Copper Cleaning Cloth

f) REDECKER Natural Fiber Bristle Pot Brush


We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

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COVID-19

Safer Cleaning and Disinfectant Use During Coronavirus for Early Childcare Providers and Schools

why it's important, other best practices, and a comprehensive resource list

This is a toolkit that is an easy to understand guide to best and safe practices for reopening childcare providers and schools during COVID-19. The toolkit has summaries of best practices from the CDC, EPA, and others in one place. Our recommendations also take into consideration disinfectants with safer ingredients. If you are a parent who is concerned about safe and best practices when schools are reopened, please download our toolkit to send to your childcare provider or school administrator. We even have a sample email that you can use to write your school administrator or childcare director and attach these materials. Or if you work as a childcare provider or at a school, we have made this resource for you. We hope that it is helpful.

Download the toolkit with all the links here:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at for Schools During Coronavirus.pdf



safer disinfectant use during coronavirus for schools




hand washing and hand sanitizer during coronavirus



safer cleaning and disinfecting resources for schools during coronavirus

COVID-19

Safer Cleaning and Disinfectant Use During Coronavirus at Home

plus DIY disinfectant and cleaning recipes and when and how to wash hands or use hand sanitizer

We've created a one stop shop for all your questions on using safer disinfectant at home to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Please share with your family and friends. We hope they are useful!

You can download the entire PDF with links here:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at Home During Coronavirus.pdf


safer cleaning and disinfectant use during coronavirus at home


hand washing and hand sanitizer during coronavirus


DIY cleaners, disinfectants, and hand sanitizers during coronavirus

We've all heard that reducing meat consumption is a great way to combat climate change, but for many people giving up meat completely is just really hard. That's why we're all for meals that reduce meat, but don't give it up completely. Just eating less meat on a consistent basis can have a big impact on carbon emissions and plant rich diets are really good for your heart health too. Adding veggies into ground beef tacos is one of our favorite ways to do that. This recipe is super kid-friendly and doesn't sacrifice on taste; it will definitely become a go-to recipe that everyone will gobble up. It's also budget friendly because it can stretch a pound of ground beef to last two meals. Sounds almost too good to be true, right?!

This recipe is also great for using up any veggies that are languishing in the fridge. Here we use onion, celery, zucchinis, and kale, but most veggies will work in this recipe. Broccoli stems, wilted leafy greens, leftover bell pepper, and even eggplant and mushrooms will work in this recipe. By using up what you have, you're reducing food waste, which is another way to combat climate change. So give this recipe a try the next time Taco Tuesday rolls around!

Ground Beef Loaded with Veggies Recipe

Ingredients

Ground beef tacos that include veggies like onion, celery, zucchinis, kale, broccoli stems, wilted leafy greens, leftover bell pepper, eggplant and mushrooms

For the Filling

  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • ½ onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 3 small zucchinis (or 2 medium)
  • 1 bunch kale or other leafy green
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp chili powder (or sub taco seasoning mix for all spices)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the Tacos

  • Flour or corn tortillas or hard taco shells
  • Garnishes like avocado, salsa, shredded cheese, sliced radishes, shredded lettuce, sour cream, pickled onions

Instructions

  1. Finely chop or food process onion, celery, zucchinis, and kale. You can use any other vegetables that you have in the refrigerator. Broccoli, swiss chard, cabbage, mushrooms all work well.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet and add vegetables. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the veggies have lost most of their water content. Depending on the moisture in the veggies you used, this may take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove veggies from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Add ground beef to the skillet and break up with a spatula. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Feel free to change the amount of chili powder so that it's more spicy or less spicy depending on your preference. You can also substitute some taco seasoning mix if you have that on hand. Season with salt and pepper as well.
  4. When the ground beef is browned evenly, add the veggies back into the skillet and mix with your spatula until the mixture is well combined.
  5. Serve in heated tortillas with any garnishes you may have. Leftover filling is also really good in quesadillas, as a side to a big salad, or as part of a scramble.
COVID-19

Preserving Your Sanity During COVID-19

Why it's so important to look after your mental health throughout this pandemic

The Re-Opening Waiting Game

It's beginning to feel like the "end" of COVID-19 will never arrive. The surging, flattening, and re-surging of Coronavirus has created a roller coaster of emotions that often leave us feeling like we've reverted back to square one (or worse). It's no wonder why some of us have been feeling drained, moody, hopeless, and unable to think straight.

Fears and concerns surrounding this virus are becoming increasingly common (1), as many of us are worried about our health and the health and well-being of our loved ones. This level of uncertainty has really put a damper on our emotions and has strained our mental health (1). Social and physical distancing, economic uncertainty, and the onslaught of bad news has left us feeling isolated, anxious, depressed and unsure of how to cope with these feelings, and left wondering when our lives will return back to normal.

Fortunately, there are tons of things we can do to mitigate the negative impacts many of us are experiencing. Keep reading for some tips and advice on trying to reach some level of zen through these trying times.

How COVID-19 Can Impact Mental Health

The rise and spread of COVID-19 has subjected us to a whole new lifestyle, one that many of us have had difficulties adjusting to. Some are grieving the loss of loved ones or economic stability, while others are grieving the social connection we had pre-COVID-19. Around half of all US adults have recently reported that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health (1).

From front-line workers to non-essential workers, the level of stress, anxiety, and depression is negatively impacting mental and physical well-being. Health care workers and grocery store workers, along with others, are faced with choosing whether to keep working and increase the risk of contracting the virus or leaving their jobs and losing their income (2). On the other hand, many non-essential workers who are losing their jobs are not only losing their income, but are faced with increased rates of depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem, which can lead to higher rates of substance abuse and suicide (1). Shelter-in-place orders, business and school closures and travel restrictions are fueling the impacts of loneliness and social isolation, and for many, financial distress (1).

How Mental Health and Physical Health are Intertwined

Mental health is just as critical to our well-being as our physical health, as the two are inextricably linked (3). Have you ever been so stressed you get a stomach ache or headache? Yeah, us too.Social isolation and loneliness are public health concerns, as the latter is associated with reduced lifespan and is a risk factor for mental illness (1), an increased risk of a heart attack (4) , and suicide (1). Anxiety, stress, and depression can physically manifest itself as heart disease, asthma, gut problems and dermatitis, among a list of other health concerns (5,6,7,8). Stress can also cause shortness of breath, trigger asthma symptoms, and can flare up your eczema too (6,7). Taking care of your mental health is a critical component in staying healthy.

Be Proactive About Your Mental Health

With so much uncertainty, isolation, and fear surrounding COVID-19, we have to remind ourselves to pay attention to our mental health and to what our bodies are telling us. In addition to the typical things people think when they hear about ways to enhance your mental well-being like meditation, yoga, exercise, and eating healthy, here are a few other strategies to boost your mood and achieve better mental health:

You can find additional resources below for you or your loved ones to assist with navigating with mental health emergencies:


References

(1)https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

(2)https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/double-jeopardy-low-wage-workers-at-risk-for-health-and-financial-implications-of-covid-19/

(3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071612/

(4) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/psychosomatic-disorder

(5) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/psychosomatic-disorder

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5260801/

(7)https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-10-5541-6_13#:~:text=Psychological%20stress%20is%20a%20major,deterioration%20in%20quality%20of%20life.

(8) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0706743719874168

Food

Thinking of Eating More Plant-Based Meals?

Here are our top tips for healthy plant-based eating

here's been a lot of talk these days about eating more plant-based foods. What's good for the environment is good for you, right? Well, the answer lies in the ingredients list. Not all plant-based foods are equal and some are definitely more unhealthy for you than others. This is especially the case for plant-based processed foods. These include things like frozen veggie burgers (yes, the Impossible Burger included), or chicken-less chicken nuggets, or vegan pizza. So what's the key to healthy plant-based eating? There isn't one golden rule to follow, but we've rounded up some good tips to help you avoid plant-based processed foods below!

Here's what you can do…


So you can steer clear unhealthy ingredients like these...

  • High salt content: Just like most processed foods, plant-based frozen meals are also very high in salt.
  • Tertiary butylhydroquinone (a.k.a. TBHQ). TBHQ is a lab-made preservative that helps processed foods retain its flavor (1). For instance, making sure your smoky-fire roasted veggie burger tastes smoky. Unfortunately, animal studies have shown that TBHQ can cause cancer in animals, which is why the FDA limits the amount of TBHQ allowed in products (1). A safer and naturally occurring preservative alternative used by some food manufacturers is vitamin E (2).
  • Artificial food coloring. Artificial food colorings are ones like Red #3 and Yellow #6. High doses of artificial food coloring have been linked to a higher risk of cancer (3).
  • Emulsifiers. If you've ever looked on an ingredients list and saw ingredients like soy lecithin or mono and di-glycerides, these are emulsifiers. They help keep ingredients in a product mixed together and not separate, particularly if a product is made up of solids and liquids (3). However, animal studies have shown that emulsifiers can alter the microbiome of mice, cause inflammation and also increase the risk of obesity and other metabolic disorders (4).

When it comes to plant-based foods, the bottom line is that they are not perfect. Even if a product is plant-based, it doesn't automatically mean that it's healthy or safe, or even as nutritious as its meat counterpart. The best thing to do is use your best judgement (and this handy dandy article) when your plant-based craving strikes.

References
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814609003148
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jsfa.7835
  3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/processed-foods/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25731162
Life

Your Summer Guide to Water Safety

How to Promote Fun and Prevent Drowning

Summer has arrived! Cue the backyard BBQs, ice cream sandwiches (or DIY popsicles), and Will Smith jams. During long, hot days, water activities are basically a necessity for creating fun memories and staying cool. Unfortunately, water-related accidents are a leading cause of injury and death for young children (4). So to keep things fun this summer, let's talk about drowning prevention.

Drowning happens in seconds and often quietly (1,3). Permanent disability can result even when drowning isn't fatal (3), since any prolonged oxygen disruption injures our brains. Though it can happen to anyone, drowning is the second most common cause of death for 1-4 year olds (3). Almost 90% of these incidents occur in home pools and hot tubs5,6 (and anything that collects water, even buckets, poses a risk) (3). To keep the children in your life safe and cool, here are 5 water safety tips as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, CDC, National Safety Council, Pool Safely, and Red Cross.

1. Kids' water activities require close supervision at all times

Most drowning incidents occur unsupervised when adults briefly step away or become distracted (4). For this reason, children need vigilant supervision by a designated adult whenever they're around water (4). We can appreciate a relaxing poolside novel or margarita, but the responsible adult/Water Watcher (7) needs to be completely free of alcohol impairment and any distractions (not even Insta). Consider water supervision to be like your greatest Netflix binge – your attention is totally focused, and you don't want to miss a thing. For young children the guiding principle is "touch supervision"– being within arm's reach at all times (3). 5-9 year olds are more likely to drown at public pools (4), so designate a supervising adult even when lifeguards are present (3).

2. Modest safety measures make a massive difference

Physical safety measures are imperative, especially when delightfully curious and unintentionally stealthy toddlers attempt to swim without you! Installing the right type of fence can reduce drowning risk by over 80% – 4-sided pool fences (completely isolating the pool) are far more effective than 3-sided property line fences (3). The safest fences measure at least 4 feet high, prevent climbing, and have self-latching, self-closing gates (3,7). Door alarms and rigid pool covers are also preventive, though their effectiveness is less studied (1). Always check that the pool you use has intact anti-entrapment drain covers (mandated by federal law) to prevent suction-related accidents (7). For portable pools, check out this specific safety guidance.

3. Life jackets are way better than floaties

Sadly those super cute floaty wings aren't designed for safety, according to the CDC, and should not replace life jackets (3) (on the upside, this means less flimsy plastic!). Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacketwhenever near water (1,9). And, regardless of swimming ability, all children need USCG-approved life jackets if playing around lakes or the ocean (2). Life jackets are only effective if they fit well, so check the weight and size limits before using (9). Remember that nothing replaces close supervision! (To help start your life jacket search, we tracked down a more eco-friendly option.)

4. Teach children swimming and water safety

Learning to swim is crucial for water safety. We all benefit from learning how to swim, and swimming lessons can prevent drowning in 1-4 year olds (3). It's never too early (or too late!) to learn – YMCA and community centers often provide affordable lessons for all ages. (We get that communal activities are probably not your jam with the current Covid-19 situation, but, at some point, formal swim lessons could be a fun family activity.) Knowing how to swim does not make us "drown proof" though, so we still need to exercise caution with kids of any swimming ability (1). Teaching children not to climb over pool fences, swim without an adult, or play near pool drains is also crucial for preventing drowning incidents (7).

5. Assess surroundings and swimming ability

Being aware of location-specific water dangers and knowing a swimmer's ability can help discern which activities are safe. Every water activity presents an assortment of fun and risk. Case in point: sprinklers are a simple joy but also an understated toe hazard (been there…). Oceans, rivers, and lakes offer wilder adventure yet can even prove dangerous for expert swimmers – rip currents are an infamous threat in oceans, and lakes and rivers can have undertows (6). Older children and adolescents are more likely to drown in these natural bodies of water (3). Since alcohol can impair your ability to assess surroundings and react appropriately, avoid drinking while swimming or supervising others (7).

Prevention first, but CPR can still save lives

We hope you'll never ever need to use CPR...ever. Prevention with the above measures can massively reduce drowning risk for everyone, but CPR is invaluable during a drowning incident and can improve the likelihood of the drowning victim's survival (3). The American Heart Association provides in-person Family and Friends CPR courses, as well as socially distanced, at-home instruction with Family and Friends CPR DVD or Adult/Child CPR training kits (includes a training manikin and DVD – fun for the whole family!).

With safe water play, we know your summer days will be full of adventure and excitement. Have fun!


References

1. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2019/03/15/drowning031519

2. https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/drowning/

3. https://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html

4. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/2020-Submersion-Report-4-29-20.pdf

5. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/pdfs/blk_media_SafetyBarrierGuidelinesResPools.pdf

6. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/drowning

7. https://www.poolsafely.gov/parents/safety-tips/

8.https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/drowning-prevention-and-facts.html

9.https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/swim-safety.html

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