Life

How to Pick the Best Candle for Your Spa Night

our tips for the healthiest way to set the mood

It's Friday night. Congratulations on making it through this brutal, long week. We completely understand that all you've got on your mind are the wine and cheese sitting in your fridge calling to you. OH, and maybe a bubble bath with those brand new candles you just purchased. It's the perfect spa night. Yep, it's happening. Forget going out, tonight is all about staying in. But before you light a million candles in the bathroom, hear us out on why maybe just one (or some cute string lights) will do!


Wait, why?

Candles release compounds known as volatile organic compounds whether they are lit or not (1). VOCs can have both short and long term adverse health effects and there are consistently higher concentrations of VOCs indoors than outdoors. The majority of the VOCs released from candles is because they doesn't burn cleanly, which releases acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, phenol, benzene, and toluene, many of which are carcinogenic (3). Phenols (one of the words in that list if you jumped to the end of the sentence when you started seeing a bunch of scary words) are the chemicals that make candles smell like brown sugar, wild mango, and clean laundry. It makes sense that it would take some pretty weird chemicals to bottle up the smell of a tropical island in a single candle, right? Definitely healthier and safer to go with candles scented with essential oils to avoid some of these nasty VOCs. A few of the other VOCs released can cause changes to our DNA (and in some cases, bad changes!). Of all of the VOCs released, formaldehyde and acrolein are the other two biggest worries because they are released in the highest concentrations. Formaldehyde itself can cause cancer (4) while acrolein, which is used to make weapons in high concentrations, can kill you if you breathe in too much of it - Yikes (5). I don't know about you, but those are some things I definitely don't want to invite to my relaxing spa night!

So what is in my candles?

Candles are traditionally and most commonly made of paraffin, which is obtained from petroleum or shale. Beeswax, soy wax, palm wax, gels and synthetic waxes are also used for candle-making in the U.S. market (2). These waxes themselves are also worrisome. When burned, they all can contribute significant amounts of particulate matter (tiny little pieces of smoke, dust, and general gunk that can get stuck inside your lungs when you breath) and release carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs – the same toxic chemical that is released when you burn grilled food!). It might be easy to confuse particulate matter and VOCs, but here's the biggest difference between them; particulate matter consists of small pieces of material and VOCs are made up of gases. Studies have shown that particulate matter can cause sharp, sudden irritative symptoms, especially for throat and upper respiratory tract irritation. There has also been research suggesting that candles made of paraffin wax might be more toxic than candles made of soy or beeswax, so try and stick to candles made with these waxes instead.

Noooo, but candles are the best! Don't make me give them up!

Don't worry! There's a silver lining! In many research studies, the amount of released toxic emissions was less than the health standards set up by the World Health Organization (WHO). This means that you don't have to say no to candles, you just need to be smart about when and where you use them. Here are our suggestions.

  • Keep candles on display in a well-ventilated area (since they also release VOCs even when unlit)
  • Only light candles in a well-ventilated area. Unfortunately, that means maybe don't use it in your bathroom with the door closed, but Zen all you want next to an open window (next Instagram post, anyone?).
  • Stick with candles that are scented with essential oils (think lavender, jasmine, or eucalyptus)
  • Try and purchase candles that are made from soy and beeswax, instead of the typical paraffin.
  • If you're really worried, or happen to be more sensitive, we suggest keeping candle use to a minimum and using just for special occasions (like birthdays!). For alternative ways to set the perfect relaxing mood, try hanging some string lights, setting out some flameless votives, and adding a slice of orange or dried lavender or eucalyptus to your bath water.

Stick with these guidelines and you can continue to enjoy their relaxing and festive properties!

References

1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304389414010243

2. http://candles.org/elements-of-a-candle/wax/

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231010010502

4. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=39

5. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp124-c1-b.pdf
Family

What to Know Before Heading to the Playground With Your Kids

Hand washing and removing shoes 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 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, tt'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!




References:

  1. https://www.ewg.org/research/poisoned-playgrounds

2. https://www.ceh.org/campaigns/legal-action/previous-work/childrens-products/arsenic-in-play-structures

3. https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/toxic-playgrounds

4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653512009848

5. https://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/health/artificial-turf-cancer-study-profile/index.html

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Family

3 Fun and Easy Ideas to Get Your Kids Playing Outside That You Need To Try This Summer

And Why It's A Good Idea to Spend As Much Time Outside As Possible

Let's face it, the allure of screen time is hard to pass up for kids... and parents too (who can deny that those 30 minute of silence when Paw Patrol is on are pure bliss). As tempting as it is to have shows on repeat all day, getting your kids to play outside is so important. Not only will it knock them out for bedtime, but outdoor playtime is good for your kid's body, mind, and happiness!

There are so many health benefits of outdoor time for kids that it's hard to keep track of them all. Researchers have shown that it can reduce the risk for obesity and diabetes, and decrease ADHD symptoms. On top of that, it can increase Vitamin D levels, improve critical thinking skills and can help boost test scores. (1). You might be saying, "this is great and all, but how do I actually get my kids excited about going outside?!" We hear you! In order to encourage more outdoor play, we came up with three outdoor activities that are super fun for kids but easy for parents to set up. Try them out this weekend!

1. Outdoor Art Time

Doing arts and crafts outdoors is a great way to get kids outside even if they aren't the run-around-in-circles type. Plus, all the mess is outside and you can just hose everything off after. One of our favorite outdoor arts and crafts is rock painting. We have the kids hunt for rocks in a variety of shapes and sizes and then bring them back to a station where they can paint some funny faces on them. It's so fun to see their creativity at work!

Another activity is creating hammered artwork from nature (we'll explain). This one requires a bit more parental supervision, but it's totally worth it. The kids go and collect a variety of leaves, grasses, and flowers and then pound them between sheets of paper with a wooden mallet or hammer. The colors and shapes transfer to the paper to create some seriously cool art. We find that a thicker textured paper like watercolor paper produces the best results. Kids enjoy this so much they'll ask to do it over and over again!

2. Adjective Scavenger Hunt

What if we told you that with just a few minutes of prep you could keep your kids outdoors and occupied for what can seem like countless hours? Sound too good to be true? An outdoor scavenger hunt will do just that! We like to make lists of adjectives (like soft, hard, green, round, pointy, long...etc.) and give the kids a basket to go find things in the backyard or neighborhood park that fit the description. Sometimes we even have the kids come back and do a show and tell and compare the objects they found.

3. Water Gun Freeze Tag

This one is a great activity as it starts warming up outside! Get a couple of water guns or squirt bottles and use them to play a version of freeze tag. Our version: someone is designated "it" and if they spray another player with water, they are frozen. If another player tags them, then they are unfrozen and can start running around again. Sometimes the game just devolves into everyone running around spraying everyone else, and that's fine by us! Feel free to kick back and enjoy a glass of wine and watch, but we find it pretty tempting to play too.

So there you have it- three easy outdoor activities that will help your kids get off their screens and back outside. We hope that they are a hit with your kids and will be on repeat all summer.


References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/...

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.

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A breakdown of the most sustainable and non-toxic leather products out there


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