Life

Everything You Need to Know About Ergonomics and Staying Healthy while WFH or Distance Learning

An Interview with Dr. Brad Metzler

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many of us who are lucky enough to be able to work at home were thrilled by the flexibility, but also figured we'd be back to the office in a month or two. Fast forward six months later and we're still working at our dining room table in sweatpants… that's 2020 for you. Since many of us are still working from home for the rest of the year (and maybe even longer…), it's important to take a critical look at our set up for work. A lot of the time home workplaces are less than ideal ergonomic setups, which can lead to poor posture, eye strain, and back pain and more.

That's where Dr. Brad Metzler comes in! He's a chiropractor and certified ergonomic specialist who focuses on whole body care with an emphasis on ergonomics and movement. As well as having a private practice in San Francisco, Dr. Metzler works at Crossover Health as an in-house chiropractor/ergonomist for companies like Facebook and Square.

Dr. Brad Metzler, chiropractor and certified ergonomic specialist

We sat down with Dr. Metzler to ask him his thoughts on home workplace setups, how to improve your work setup, and why ergonomics is important for everyone, including ergonomics for kids who are distance learning

Because Health: Thanks for talking with us today! Can you tell us about your ergonomics work? Why are ergonomics important?

Dr. Brad Metzler: I started focusing on ergonomics after I noticed many of the issues my patients were experiencing were due to their faulty workspace and how they interacted with their work environment. Many employees are spending a large portion of their time at a desk with little movement throughout the day. I realized that addressing poor workplace design was key to helping them achieve their health goals. The goal of ergonomics is to make a person the most efficient at their workspace; I view it as examining both the hardware (equipment) and software (how the person interacts with workspace).

BH: Many people are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What are some common ergonomic problems associated with working from home?

BM: The common ergonomic problems stemming from WFH include neck, upper back, and low back pain. Many people feel they don't have the right space or equipment to be set-up properly to work from home. People are used to the standard cubicle or office setting.

BH: It sounds like many would benefit from improving their home workplace setups. What are your top tips for home ergonomics?

BM: Some of my favorite tips include:

  • Your shoulders, elbows, wrists and hips should be at a 90-degree angle or slightly tilted down. Imagine placing a ball on your head. It should be able to roll down your neck, shoulder, forearm, wrist and onto your keyboard. It should be able to roll off your chest, down your thigh and shin and onto the ground without getting caught.
  • Windshield Wiper Rule. Imagine your body is a car and your elbows are windshield wipers. All your primary tasks (generally typing and mousing) should be within windshield wiper range. Avoid reaching with an extended arm for your keyboard and mouse.

  • While sitting upright in a good position with your head over your shoulders and looking straight ahead you should see the top third of your screen. Typically, people have their external monitor at the right height but then have their laptop too low and far off to the side.

  • Move more often! It is better to be in a bad position for 5-10 minutes and then switch positions then try to be in perfect position or any stagnant position for long periods of time.
  • Avoid working on soft, unstable surfaces like your couch or bed.
  • Avoid using only your laptop. There is no good ergonomic position when just using a laptop. Get a wireless keyboard and mouse/trackpad and connect it to your laptop.

BH: Great tips! Love the visualizations and how easy they are to remember. Do you have any creative hacks for how to get a better ergonomic set up without spending a lot of money on new furniture?

BM: I tend to put more emphasis on software (microbreaks and proper biomechanics) than hardware (equipment). The most important equipment to have is a basic but functional wireless keyboard and mouse or trackpad. With these relatively inexpensive devices you can hack your workstation and will give you versatility to work from multiple places.

You can hack the rest of your workspace using household goods to make any space work! It doesn't take much to improve your ergonomics. An ironing board can magically become an adjustable desk, a game box or books can be a laptop riser, a pillow to raise your chair height, you can use your kitchen counter as a standing desk…. All you need is a little creativity!

BH: We can feel our setup getting better already! Now onto overall health. What are some ways you stay healthy throughout the work day?

BM: Microbreaks are key to staying healthy throughout the day. A microbreak is taking a brief break every 20-30 minutes for 30-60 seconds to do some type of movement-based stretch or strengthening exercise. This could be some squats, stretching out your hip flexor, squeezing your shoulder blades together, stretching your neck, or looking out the window at a far distance to decrease eye strain.

BH: We've got ergonomics for adults down now, but what about children? Many kids are stuck at home doing distance learning via Zoom. Are ergonomics also important for kids?

BM: The same principles apply to children and their remote learning environment. The great thing about kids is they get fidgety and move frequently which is one of the reasons they have less pain than adults. Movement is medicine!

BH: Who knew fidgeting was beneficial?! That's great. What should parents look out for when designing a remote learning area for kids at home?

BM: Have them avoid using just a laptop, phone or tablet, as there is no good ergonomic position with just these devices alone. Consider getting a wireless keyboard and mouse/trackpad. Now is a great time to educate them on proper biomechanics, alternating sit/stand and incorporating movement into their long study hours. Trying to ingrain these principles now will pay major dividends in the future. Parents can also advocate for their teachers to incorporate proper posture and breathing and movement breaks into their classes as well.

BH: What else can I do to ensure my kids' bodies stay healthy when they are in front of the screen learning all day?

BM: Make sure to have them switch positions frequently, take microbreaks, and move! Remember the amount of movement your child typically gets from commuting to/from school, recess, and moving from class to class and now they are stuck on a screen all day. Get creative and have them move outside or inside. Races, scavenger hunts, obstacle courses... whatever you need to do to get them to move even if it's just for 5 minutes before another virtual class.

BH: And finally… what's the #1 most important thing you recommend to your patients to maintain a healthy body and prevent work related injuries?

BM: We are meant to move! Your best posture is your next posture. Keep moving!

We all want our homes to be a safe haven for ourselves and the ones we love.

The single easiest thing you can do for a safer home is to take your shoes off at the door. If you're already doing it, congratulations! If you're not, you can start today and science shows it makes a difference!

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Roundups

Non-Toxic Target College Dorm Picks

Everything you need to make a dorm feel like home!

Starting college is so exciting for so many reasons! A new school, new friends, and new adventures are just a few weeks away. If you're going to be living in a dorm room, you've probably already started thinking about decor and living essentials. That's why we picked out some of our favorite non-toxic dorm room essentials from Target! Our picks are made from safe materials like glass, stainless steel, and organic cotton. Each cotton item is also made with OEKO-TEX guidelines, which means it's been independently tested and certified against a list of over 350 harmful chemicals.


Organic Cotton Sheet Set

Getting a good night's sleep is a crucial part of any school routine. These 400 thread count cotton sheets will have you catching ZZZs in no time! We love that they're pill and shrink resistant, and made to strict Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX guidelines.

Organic Bath Towel

This soft, organic cotton bath towel is Made in Green by OEKO-TEX and will help any dorm shower feel a little more like home.

Chunky Knit Bed Blanket

This chunky knit blanket will add some serious cozy vibes to any dorm room! It's Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® certified and comes in a ton of cute colors.

Seventh Generation Easy Dose Laundry Detergent

This ultra-concentrated laundry detergent will keep your clothes fresh and clean without harmful chemicals found in traditional laundry detergents.

Biokleen Stain and Odor Remover

If you're a workout aficionado with lots of athletic clothes, or if you just have a neglected pile of dirty clothes in the corner of your room, this stain and odor remover is perfect for you. It gets rid of those tough, lingering odors safely and naturally without the use of harsh chemicals.

Everspring Dryer Balls

Dryer sheets can be full of harsh chemicals, which is why we love wool dryer balls instead! These dryer balls will keep your clothes static free!

Grove Co. Multi-Purpose Cleaner Concentrates

Even a dorm room needs some TLC every now and then! Clean hard surfaces with this multi-surface cleaner from Grove Co. This streak-free cleaner will effectively remove dirt, grime, and residue leftover from that late night study session or post-finals party.

Lysol Power and Free Multi-Purpose Citrus Sparkle Cleaner Spray

Sometimes you needed a heavy-duty cleaner. We get it. That's why this Lysol hydrogen peroxide all-purpose cleaner is perfect for life's bigger messes. This product has an EPS design for environmental certified disinfectant, which means it was reviewed for both human health and environmental health, so you don't have to compromise on safety.

Ello Meal Prep Food Storage Container Set

That dorm room mini fridge was basically invented for leftovers. Keep your food fresh in these Ello food storage containers. Since they're made from glass instead of plastic, you can use them in the microwave without having to worry about harmful chemicals leeching into your food. Bonus: they're dishwasher safe!

Brita 20oz Premium Double-Wall Stainless Steel Insulated Filtered Water Bottle

Students do a lot of walking while on campus, so make sure to stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle! This insulated Brita stainless steel bottle will keep your water cool even on the hottest days. Bonus: It has a built in filter to keep your water pure and delicious.

Bodum Goose Neck 27oz Electric Water Kettle

You don't need a kitchen to enjoy a kettle! This compact glass kettle is perfect for dorm snacks like hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.

Klean Kanteen 12oz TKWide Insulated Stainless Steel with Café Cap

This stainless steel travel mug by Klean Kanteen is the perfect mug to toss in your backpack while you're on the go! It's spill and leak proof lid means you can enjoy your beverage on the go in any situation!

Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap

Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap is a multi-use concentrate. Great as a body wash or even a shampoo or detergent. Its highly concentrated and made with great ingredients to ensure you get a bang for your buck and peace of mind.

Schmidt's Charcoal + Magnesium Aluminum-Free Natural Deodorant Stick

Aluminium-free deodorant is where its at! Stay fresh and free of unnecessary harmful chemicals.

Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream

Keep that skin moisturized and toxic-free with this rich cream. Perfect for dry weather.

Stasher Reusable Silicone Food Storage Snack Bag

Great for taking a snack to lecture or for a weekend adventure, these Stasher snack bags are the answer to a useful plastic bags without all the waste and plastic made from harmful materials.

Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap

This dish soap will cut through grease and leave your dishes shiny and spotless without all the unnecessary harmful chemicals.

Life

Everything You Need to Know About Artificial Turf

And why natural grass is a safer, eco-friendly, and healthier alternative

Have you ever been at your kid's soccer game and wondered if artificial turf is safe for them to play, snack, and lie on? What about those small black bits of infill that end up in every nook and cranny of your home or car?

Turns out that scientists are studying these same questions and artificial turf poses a number of health and environmental concerns. These include toxic chemicals in the artificial turf infill, artificial grass blades, and shock pad, as well as health concerns due to excessive heat. Environmental impacts of artificial turf include chemical runoff, microplastic pollution, and habitat loss. Is there a good alternative to artificial turf? Yes - just regular natural grass! Studies have shown that natural grass maintained with organic or sustainable practices provides a safer, practical, and affordable alternative for playing fields.

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Roundups

Non-Toxic School Lunch Packing Essentials

Get ready for school with these eco-friendly options

Packing lunches for school is a lot of work! We know from firsthand experience how hard it can be to pack something nutritious that your kids will actually eat. Plus if you're trying to reduce the amount of food packaging or plastic waste in your kid's lunch, it can just seem overwhelming. To make things easier, we rounded up our favorite non-toxic school lunch packing essentials. We included stainless steel lunchboxes, a hot food container, snack containers and bags, reusable food wrap, and a couple of cute and functional lunch bags. All of these items are free of lead, phthalates (commonly found in vinyl), BPA, and PFAS (Teflon-like chemicals). Check out these lunch packing essentials and get inspired to pack the best lunches ever.

a) Lunchbots Large Stainless Steel Lunch Container

Lunchbots is a great stainless steel bento container that will last for years. This one has 5 compartments for every type of lunch and snack combo you can come up with. You can get dip condiment containers that are leak proof that neatly fit inside. Lunchbots also has smaller containers for snacks that you should check out as well.

b) Planetbox Lunchbox

This stainless steel lunch box is easy for kids to open with a simple latch. The lunchbox comes with containers for wet foods and dips and you can buy extra dividers. The different compartments make it easy to pack a variety of foods. We love how it comes with magnets on the cover so that kids can customize the look. Planetbox also has an insulated carry bag, just make sure to pick one of the patterns that is made without a PFAS durable water repellent. Planetbox also has a smaller sized box for snacks or for little ones.

c) Bentgo Kids Stainless Steel

Bentgo is a favorite bento container that now comes in stainless steel! The silicone lining on the lid makes it leak resistant as and the latches make the container easy to open. It comes with 3 compartments and an extra silicone container.

d) Thermos Stainless Steel Insulated Food Jar

This container keeps food hot for 5 hours and is perfect for days when soup or mac n cheese are on the menu. The handle make it convenient to carry and helps kids open the top.

e) Stasher bags

Stasher bags are so popular for a reason! Say goodbye to single use plastic bags and say hello to a reusable food packing essential that comes in lots of fun colors. We particularly love the sandwich and snack sizes and use them daily.

f) Zip Top Snack Containers

These Zip Top container are as convenient to use as they are cute! We love how they sit flat and are easy to open for small hands. They are perfect for some sliced fruit or any loose snack.

g) Ukonserve Round Nesting Trio Stainless Steel Containers

These snack containers come with see through lids so that kids know what's inside. The are great for snacks, or use all three to pack a bento style lunch. They also nest for easy storage.

h) If you care Sandwich Bags

Sometimes you need a disposable sandwich or snack bag. No judgement! These If You Care unbleached sandwich bags are made of greaseproof, nonstick paper which is biodegradable, compostable, and microwave safe. Perfect for a cookie, sandwich, or other dry snack.

i) Bee's Wrap Reusable Food Wrap

Replace plastic wrap with this sustainable alternative. Bee's Wrap is made from GOTS Certified organic cotton, sustainably harvested beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. We love wrapping up snacks, sandwiches, and cut up fruits and veggies in these.

j) Fluf Lunch Bag

This organic cotton canvas lunch bag is fully machine washable! The interior is lined with a food safe water resistant lining (free of PFAS, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals) and has a pocket for a ice pack. The bag comes in so many cute prints and has a very durable canvas handle.

k) Fjallraven Kanken Mini Cooler

This well insulated lunch bag is made of durable, waxed fabric that is PFAS free! Bonus that the the fabric is made from recycled plastic. It comes in lots of cute colors and is sure to be a favorite for kids of all ages.

l) Petit Collage

A roomy insulated lunch box that is easy to wipe clean thanks to a biodegradable laminate made from sugar cane. It comes in several cute patterns and comes with a handle or a strap.

m) Ukonserve insulated lunch bag

This lunch bag is made from recycled plastic bottles and is free of PFAS, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals. It holds ups well to daily use and is roomy enough to pack a lunch plus snacks.

Family

The 3 Easiest Things You Can Do for a Non-Toxic Pregnancy

Some no brainer, healthier swaps for you and baby

First off, congrats! Feeling overwhelmed? Excited but nervous? Well, fear not! You have plenty of time to set up your nursery, nest a bit, and even think of some names. But right now, it's time to take care of yourself. At this point, that is the best way to take care of your baby.

We've narrowed it down to the 3 easiest changes you can make that will help you have a non-toxic pregnancy. We promise, they are relatively no brainer swaps that have been shown to impact the health of your growing baby. If you start now, these are all things you will want to do once the baby is born, so you'll have created some healthy habits.

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Roundups

Non-Toxic Paints for Your Nursery or Kids' Rooms

Baby safe and kid safe paints that are zero VOC and APE free

Painting and decorating a nursery is one of the best parts of waiting for a little one. Or adding a splash of color when making the transition from nursery to little kid room is also super fun. Whether you're painting just one accent wall, the entire room, or an unfinished pieces of furniture in just the perfect shade, it's important to pick a paint that not only looks good, but is baby and kid safe. Paint fumes and chemical additives can linger and baby's systems are especially vulnerable and sensitive. Luckily, there are safer paints on the market so that you can feel good about using them so close to where your little ones will sleep.

Best Practices While Painting

First things first- how to paint. Who paints a room and how the room is painted is super important in protecting your health. If you're currently pregnant, ask your partner or a friend to do the painting for you. You definitely don't need to be exposed to paint fumes while you're still growing a little person. You're doing enough as is! Also make sure there are no toddlers around while painting. Although having a little helper would be really cute, toddlers are in a critical developmental period and are especially susceptible to the negative effects of paint fumes. Plus you probably don't want anything with wet paint on it to become a messy toy!

It's also critical to ventilate as much as you can while painting. Have all windows and doors open and a fan running if possible. Even a box fan in the corner will help! When you're not using the paint (whether it's a small break or overnight), keep the lid sealed securely on the container. This will prevent emissions from escaping while the paint isn't in use.

What to Look for in a Safe Paint

Now that you know how to paint, which paint should you use? There are a ton of paints on the market right now that all boast different features. Who knew there were so many different paint finishes?! But here's what you really need to be on the lookout for:

  1. Zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are toxic gasses that are released from solids or liquids. Basically they are released when paint dries. You know, the weird new paint smell? Well VOCs can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat but repeated and long term exposure can cause cancer and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system (1). Also, the pigments added to paints can have VOCs, particularly darker pigments, so be on the lookout for paint with zero VOC colorants.
  2. Look for APE- free paints. Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) are a group of chemicals that are suspected endocrine disruptors (a.k.a these little guys mess up how hormones should normally work in the body) (2). You don't want those around babies or children or when you're breastfeeding. APE-free paint can be found easily, so just ask or look on the label.
  3. Avoid paints that are advertised as antimicrobial. Many paints contain a preservative to keep the paint fresh during storage, but paints that are advertised as antimicrobial may have other additives that are really just not necessary and there are no standards for efficacy (like does it actually kill harmful germs? And for how long?) It might sound good, but in reality they are also harmful to humans and don't do much (3).

Our Baby Safe and Kid Safe Paint Recommendations

Our recommendations will take the guesswork out of choosing a non-toxic paint brand, although you'll still have to pick the color! These paints are all zero VOCs and are free of APEs. In addition to the standard latex paints, we also included 2 options for milk paint, which are made from milk proteins and pigments. Milk paints are a bit more work to use, but are easy to use once you get the hang of it and you can create antique or smooth finishes. They are also great for painting furniture and decorations. No matter which paint brand you pick, you can feel safe about using them.

a) AFM Safecoat Zero VOC- This paint was designed specifically for those with allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitive. It comes in flat, pearl, eggshell, and semi-gloss finishes. Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, APE free, and contains no mildewcides and fungicides. All ingredients are disclosed and the paint is SCS certified for indoor advantage gold.

b) Benjamin Moore Eco Spec- Benjamin Moore recently stopped making their Natura paint, but their Eco Spec paint is very similar and available nationally. Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, and APE free. It is Green Seal 11 certified. It does contain isothiazolinone compounds to inhibit the growth of mold or mildew on the surface of the paint film.

c) Clare Paint- This paint come in specific designer curated colors, which can really help if you can't pick a color! Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, and the eggshell and semi-gloss paints are APE free. It is also Greenguard Gold certified. It does contain a mildewcide to inhibit the growth of mildew.

d) Lullaby paints or ECOS paints- ECOS paint, which also makes their Lullaby paint line is a great zero VOC paint, with zero VOC colorants, APE free, and contains no algicides, mildewcides, and rust inhibitors. They have a color catalogue or you they can color match any national brand. They have both a Declare label and a Health Product Declaration in which they disclose all ingredients. Declare labels are issued to products disclosing ingredient inventory, sourcing and end of life options. Health Product Declarations are third party verified and include the health impact of all product ingredients.

e) Sherwin Williams Harmony- A zero VOC paint, zero VOC colorant paint that is available nationally. The primer and flat finishes are APE free. The paints are also Greenguard Gold certified. It does contain anti-microbial agents that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on the paint surface.

f) Real Milk Paint- A natural paint option where the main ingredient is casein (milk protein). It comes as a powder that you mix it with water. The ingredients are casein (milk protein), calcium lime, natural pigment colors, and an edible plant based filler

g) Old Fashioned Milk Paint Farmhouse Finishes Safe Paint- This line of milk paint is formulated especially for painting walls. It comes as a powder that you mix with water. The ingredients are casein(milk protein), calcium hydroxide, chalk, clay, natural pigments, natural salts, and crystalline silica.

Updated for 2022!

Your little one deserves a crib that is both good looking and healthy. While we can't promise they will sleep through the night, we can promise that these cribs aren't covered in harsh chemicals or releasing large amounts of potentially dangerous fumes into your baby's room. We all want a nursery that will be a nurturing and loving place so that our babies can grow up strong and healthy. So we did our research and found all the highest rated cribs and then limited our picks to cribs that are GREENGUARD Gold certified, meaning they have been tested and meet stringent chemical and VOC emissions standards. That means your baby can sleep without fumes damaging their fragile lungs or irritating their eyes. And when your little one starts chewing on the rails, you can be rest assured that these paints and finishes are safe. We also included a non-toxic budget crib, which is a solid-wood choice from Ikea. While you are looking for a safe crib, you might also want to peruse our roundup of safe crib mattresses, to double down on the safest of safe sleeping places for your kiddos.

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