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.
Updated for Fall 2020!
Between COVID-19, flu season, or changing a poopy diaper on the go, hand sanitizer can be a life saver. But a lot of commercial hand sanitizers can contain fragrances and some pretty gross chemicals. To make sure you're getting the best possible product, we reviewed a ton of options and made sure they're easy to find at stores. There are options for gels, sprays, and wipes and lots of yummy smells like lavender or coconut and lemon, or just simply fragrance free if you want something simple. Try out several and stash them in places where you might need them, like the car, a favorite purse, backpack, or laptop bag. All of our non-toxic hand sanitizer recommendations are safer for you but super tough on germs!
Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from any viruses and other sicknesses that are going around. It's also an important way to remove toxic chemicals like flame retardants that might be on your hands so that you don't accidentally ingest them when you snack or eat a meal. We would take washing hands with ANY soap over not washing your hands, but it might be nice to have some non-toxic hand soaps at home since you use them multiple times a day. Hands soaps can have harmful and unnecessary preservatives or unnecessary ingredients like synthetic fragrances or other things that irritate your skin. We also love bar soaps, but it's nice to have liquid hand soaps around, especially if you have kids. We researched and read reviews of a whole bunch of non-toxic hand soaps so that you can be sure that you are getting your hands clean without any unnecessary chemicals. They come in a variety of amazing smells or you can go fragrance free too! Pick some up today!
Also, just a quick reminder that proper hand washing involves getting into every nook and cranny of your hands, including between your fingers and around your thumbs! It should take at least 20 seconds if you're doing it right.
Updated for 2020!
Hand washing and removing shoes at home protects you from more than just germs
As soon as spring hits, we find any excuse to go outside and spend time in the sun. If you have kids, outdoor time is often synonymous with heading to the playground. We LOVE the playground and always encourage kids to get outside and play! Washing hands and taking shoes off is a must after the park- so many germs! These habits could also help prevent exposure to two questionable materials that may be a part of your playground.
The first material is wood pressure-treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA). This insecticide was sprayed on wood play structures because it made the wood resistant to degradation and insects. However, 22% of CCA is pure arsenic (1). Arsenic is a super nasty chemical that is classified as a known carcinogen by the World Health Organization. It can also cause "immune system suppression, increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disruption and diabetes" (2). This chemical is not to be messed with!
Over time, the CCA can be released from the treated wood and can end up on the hands and clothes of your little one. It can also end up in the soil around the playground, so your child may still be exposed even if they don't play on the wooden structure (3).
The good news is that CCA treated wood was banned from residential construction in 2003. So if your neighborhood park has been recently built or renovated, chances are you don't have to worry about this. You can always check with your city or neighborhood association to see if CCA wood is in your local park. It also wouldn't hurt to double check with your kid's school to see what their playground was built with. Usually, CCA treated wood has a green tint, which can make it easy to spot.
Even if your playground does have CCA, it's pretty easy to limit exposure. If you're planning to have a picnic or snack at the park, make sure to use hand wipes or wash hands (if a bathroom is nearby) before eating. After returning home, thoroughly wash your and your child's hands. It also doesn't hurt to wipe everyone down with a wet wipe too! This will help get rid of any chemicals and other undesirables like pollen as well. Leaving shoes at the door can stop CCA-contaminated soil from tracking all over your house.
Crumb rubber is another questionable material that could be found in your playground. Crumb rubber are those small black particles you find in artificial turf that seem to always end up stuck in your shoe/sock/bag/shirt/life/etc. It's actually made from old, used tires that have been chopped up into really tiny pieces. While this may seem like a good idea from a recycling standpoint, it's not great for health. Tire rubber contain a ton of bad chemicals like PAHs, phthalates, phenols and benzothiazoles (4), and the tires are not treated before they end up as crumb rubber. These chemicals are linked to serious health issues like endocrine disruption. The crumbs are so small that they have a habit of getting in your clothes and hair, accidentally getting eaten by curious babies, or sticking to your skin. Crumb rubber can also give off more chemicals as they're heated up in the hot sun. There's even speculation that crumb rubber might have played a role in the cancer of adolescent soccer players (5).
When returning from the playground, you can leave shoes outside so soil and rubber doesn't get tracked around the house. Also make sure to wash your hands or shower! Avoiding play time when it's really hot outside can also limit the amount of exposure. If you've been around crumb rubber, make sure to dust yourself and your play equipment off before you leave the playground to get rid of any hitchhiking rubber pieces. Changing your clothes after returning doesn't hurt either!
What are they?
Flame retardants are a group of chemicals that are added to a variety of different products to help them meet flammability standards. These standards were set back in the 70s, and we have learned a lot since then about flammability, chemicals, and even the health hazards of cigarette smoking (which used to be a large cause of indoor fires).
It's a good habit to get into, plus it will reduce toxic chemicals
We know that balancing your baby over the sink or corralling your toddler onto the step stool to wash their hands is not an easy task. Sigh... is anything about parenting easy?
Even if it's noon and you haven't managed to leave the house, it's still a good idea to wash your kiddo's hands before they start eating. Of course it's an especially good idea to prevent colds and for obvious dirt and grime from playing in the sand box. But it's also a good idea because a common place people don't often realize they are being exposed to contaminants and potential toxics is in their household dust. We know, gross!