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Why You Should Care About Soil Contamination If You're Starting a Garden in Your Backyard

Here's the dirt-y details you're going to want to know and what to do about it

Dreary winter blues might have you dreaming of blue skies, warm weather and some home grown vegetables. But before you go jetting off to your nearest Home Depot or nursery, you might want to take a second and get to know your soil. We're serious! No, not the hello, my name is ____, more like the hey, what's in my soil? Not all soils are created equally and trust us when we say that you'll definitely want to make sure the soil you're using for growing food to eat is top notch!

Why should I care about my soil?

Believe it or not, the soil that you use matters! Soil in older neighborhoods tend to contain higher levels of lead since those houses were built before the ban of lead paint in 1978 (1). Most soil in urban areas also have residual lead from the days of leaded gasoline (don't worry, that has since been banned too!) (8). One of the concerns with heavy metals, especially lead, is that your vegetables can take in some of the metal during the growing process (1). You're probably getting the picture just from these two examples. BUT if you take away nothing else, here is the most important thing to know - a study by the University of Washington found that the benefits of urban gardening definitely outweigh any of the potential worries. This definitely doesn't mean that you can't take steps to make sure that you reap all the benefits and none of the yucky toxic chemicals (3).


What might be in my soil?

The biggest concern by far in soil used for home gardening is heavy metals, particularly lead, cadmium and arsenic (1). Heavy metals are concerning because while they do not have immediate effects, the buildup of these metals in your body can result in negative health effects over time. For instance, lead can slow down child brain and motor development, while cadmium buildup can result in kidney and lung damage (4). Children, pregnant women and individuals with health conditions are most vulnerable to heavy metals (4). Particulate matter (a.k.a. the different chemicals that float around in the air and blow around in the wind from things like car exhaust) can also build up on the surface of your produce (5). This is often why vegetables that are grown near a busy road have higher levels of heavy metals because of dirt and dust getting kicked up into the air and mixing with your soil (2).


What can I do to reduce the chance my vegetables will be contaminated?

  • Get you soil tested if you can. This is especially important if you live in an older neighborhood as the chance of lead buildup in the soil is greater (1, 6). Testing generally costs between $10-20 and this is good not only to test for toxic compounds, but can help you know which crops to grow or how to amend your soil. Most land-grant universities in your state can test your soil for you, check here to see where the nearest university is to you.
  • Bring in new safe topsoil and create raised beds - 6 to 12 inches of additional topsoil is recommended. Purchase soil that is Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certified to guarantee the lowest lead levels in soil available for commercial purchase (7). Hey bonus, no more bending your back alllllll the way to the ground!
  • If you're not sure, stay away from growing root vegetables and leafy greens as they absorb heavy metals more easily through the soil (5). Stick to growing vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini and beans which take in less heavy metals (5).
  • Double or even triple wash all your produce before using to make sure all the yucky particulate matter and heavy metals in the soil are rinsed out (5).
  • Don't forget to wash your hands after working in the garden! This will make sure that you don't ingest any contaminated soil when you're enjoying your fresh grown veggies.

Basically, don't let the worries of home gardening stop you from growing your own fresh vegetables! Even though there are some concerns, just by paying close attention to the type of soil you have and carefully choosing which vegetables to grow, you'll be A-okay!

References

  1. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749114004692)
  2. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13593-015-0308-z)
  3. (https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/jeq/abstracts/45/1/26?access=0&view;=pdf)
  4. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/PHS/PHS.asp?id=46&tid;=15
  5. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/uow-rol020216.php
  6. https://gardencollage.com/wander/gardens-parks/get-the-lead-out-how-to-test-your-soil-for-contaminants/
  7. https://www.sfdph.org/dph/files/EHSdocs/ehsCEHPdocs/Lead/LeadHazardUrbanGardening.pdf
  8. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=34&po;=5

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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Roundups

9 Stainless Steel & Glass Tumblers

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

Getting iced coffee in a plastic cup with a plastic straw is a lot harder to do after watching that video of a plastic straw being removed from a turtle's nose. Plus there is also that pesky condensation that creates a pool of water at the bottle of your cupholder or on your desk. So we found the 9 best reviewed stainless steel and glass tumblers, so that you can have your iced beverages in style this summer. Many of the brands have different sizes ranging from 20oz to 30oz and variety of colors. We prefer stainless steel or glass because many of the acrylic or plastic tumblers may have chemicals similar to BPA. We also link to some stainless steel straws because not all of these tumblers come with straws. And if you're like us, drinking iced coffee through a straw is just synonymous with summer.

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Life

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/
Roundups

12 Best Non-Toxic Diaper Creams

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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Home

10 Places to Buy PVC-free Wall Decals

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

5 Tips for Healthy Kid-Friendly Meals (cause the struggle is real!)

Dreading dinner time every night? We're here to help.

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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