My first career out of college in the early 2000’s was as an Environmental Scientist for an environmental consulting and engineering firm, GeoInsight, Inc., in Connecticut. There, I learned from the best* about how water is sourced, treated and delivered to our homes, along with the state and federal water quality standards that public water is required to meet. I learned how to properly collect a water sample from the tap, submit it to a lab for testing to look for contaminants and interpret and report the results. I also learned that I can be in charge of my home’s water quality by learning more about the testing that’s regularly done on it, along with the filtration systems I can use to supplement the treatment the water has already received.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has made being in charge of your home’s water quality much easier by publishing a national Tap Water Database and Water Filter Buying Guide.
What does this tap water database do? It compiles results from drinking water testing done by our public water supply companies across the nation. And it answers these questions for us:
EWG also provides an in-depth guide to the water filtration options out there. It contains descriptions - in one easily-accessible place - of every type of water filtration system one can buy, from the tiny ones inside a water bottle to the big expensive whole house filtration systems that are professionally installed. Based on the water quality results you find for your water system, you can choose a filter that's right for you. Each filter description is linked to options for purchasing: how handy!
I was pleasantly surprised at the under-sink options available in the $100-$200 area, a price point I feel like my family can manage.
To see whether your water supply company is in compliance, along with any contaminants found in your water in the last quarter, enter your zip code by clicking the link for EWG's Tap Water Database. Then click through to research water filters that make sense for your needs:
For a more in-depth review of water filtration systems available, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#EWG #environmentalworkinggroup #tapwater #tapwaterdatabase #waterfilters #drinkingwatersafety #publicwatersupply #toxinfree #consumerbeware #ismywatersafe
*Don, Jim, Eric, Tim, Rick, Chris - good memories!
We've updated our labels!
On March 31st this year, the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy CT, an advocacy group that aims to protect our children from toxic chemicals, held a press event to voice concerns over the use of recycled tire rubber as a ground cover in playgrounds and urge passing of the bill to ban its use. I saw firsthand the world in which the Coalition works and learned a few things about the legislative process, the science, and the impact of simply showing up to relay my concern. Here are three things I realized:
1. Showing up is actually not that hard to do. Driving into the CT state capitol to the the Legislative Office Building is easy. And I managed to stand for a half hour with my two year old, and keep her occupied in front of the cameras, in order to express my support for this legislation. You can do it too; if you have interest in learning more and lending your support on these issues, follow the Coalition on Facebook, and you'll see all their calls for action.
2. Standing up for what you believe in is worth a little inconvenience. When the Coalition asked me to come with my kids to the press event on March 31st to show how much we care, I wasn't sure I could do it. My oldest daughter had a fever, had to stay home from school, and we had no child care plan other than me! My husband stepped in, knowing how important this issue is to the health of our children, and stayed home from work for the morning so I could attend.
3. My presence was impactful. Adding to the voice of the Coalition to support the passing of a piece of legislation is humbling and empowering. Representatives and the Coalition work SO hard to bring awareness, digest the science for the general public, relay our concerns and rally the masses, but the impact of a mom holding her child and talking about her concerns can be massive. The legislators listen.
The reason we care so much is because tire rubber is not a natural material, being made of toxic chemicals such as benzene, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, styrene-butadiene, arsenic, heavy metals and other carcinogens. Children young and old playing at the playground on this surface are exposed via ALL routes of exposure: inhalation, absorption and ingestion. And when the material gets hot, the chemicals "off-gas," into the air. While the use of old tires as ground cover on our playgrounds seems like a solution for what to do with all our discarded tires, it's absolutely NOT. Weighing the risks, it is not an acceptable solution.
We absolutely need to do better for the health of our kids. A HUGE thank you to the Coalition for protecting our children from toxic chemical exposures. I am proud to be a part of your mission.
And it doesn't come with an increased risk for early puberty or cancer. Spinning this gift set around to read the back label, there is a clear, large warning that reads:
"This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer."
Did that make you pause? It should. This warning is now required due to the progressive legislation in the State of California aimed to protect human health.
(Track the legislation efforts and progress in your state at the Safer States website here.) Let's look a little deeper into two of the ingredients in these adorable little pink tubes and bottles.
All the items in this set have fragrance on their list of ingredients. As I have reported before, fragrance is one word to describe a mix of synthetic chemicals and odor masking agents. In the name of not disclosing "proprietary" blends of ingredients, companies generally do not report the chemicals used in their fragrances.
So, let's take diethyl phthalate, a common chemical included in fragrance formulations. We know that diethyl phthalate interferes with thyroid hormone regulation (animal studies) and is an immune system toxicant and allergen (human studies)...not to mention its toxicity to wildlife and the environment (1).
Click here for more information on Fragrance.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) in the lip gloss
BHT is a toluene-based ingredient used as an antioxidant (preservative) and scent masking agent in products. Toluene is a highly volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner (2). Very high levels of exposure (much higher than in the use of these products) can damage the nervous system, skin, eyes, respiratory system and kidneys. A woman's exposure during pregnancy can result in birth defects and abnormalities in child's development and growth…[in addition to] spontaneous abortion (3). And toluene has been linked to malignant lymphoma (2). BHT, which comes from toluene, is in the lip gloss your daughter is putting on her lips.
So why do we give our kids these products?!
Our little girls' bodies, at every stage until adulthood, are still growing and developing, so why in the Lord's name do we buy these products and give them to our children...to apply to their lips and skin? Science is documenting that environmental factors play a role in early puberty and hormone-related cancers. Let's just quit spending our hard earned money on products like these. And if you're not sure the origin of a product, such as the adorbs little blue lip gloss given out at the fast food place, just toss it in the trash. 'Cause we both know our preschoolers are not only going to apply the lip gloss but ingest it too.
So save the money on toxic personal care items for your little girl, and instead promote her physical fitness, confidence and team-player attitude with a good old fashioned sports gear!
The bottom line is: if we stop buying it, stores will stop selling it and instead focus those dollars on something else (perhaps signing up for the Chemical Footprint Project or taking steps to contract with product suppliers who have responsible chemicals policies).
And we get to see our kids grow up living the healthiest life they can!
Thanks, boys and girls, for reading :)
3. OSHA: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/toluene/health_hazards.html
By Katie E. Boyle, MPH
I researched the blend a little more and found that its main ingredient is oil from the needles of spruce trees (followed by the oil of Ho Wood, Frankincense, Blue Tansy and Blue Chamomile, each of which on their own have powerful therapeutic properties!). Spruce tree oil, however, was the particular standout.
We know that, upon inhalation, smells in the air go through the olfactory bulb, which is closely connected to the memory and emotion centers of the brain. Trees are a familiar and welcome smell to me and draw out amazing childhood memories.
The second nugget I unearthed is Grounding Blend's ability to evoke feelings of whole-body tranquility, balance and relaxation. Based on chemical constituents, tree oils are classified as renewing and uplifting oils, as shown in the tan and yellow sections of Oil Properties Wheel. Upon smelling them, some "feel right" to me; some don't. The Oil Properties Wheel is one way to organize them by chemical make-up and was the starting point for me to understand why I felt I *needed* Grounding Blend. (I, and many of us, know without any chart when we are stressed, busy, tired, burnt out. I know every time I am awoken by my crying child in the middle of the night, or am fighting off another head cold, or encountering chaos and mess in every room of the house that my body's energy and spirit need some positive energy, renewal and plain old calm.) But this chart adds more depth to my understanding.
The truth is, each and every oil has a potential to interact with the human body, and I am only at the tip of the mountain top in my understanding of this! (As a practical note, I suggest beginning your day by putting Grounding Blend on the bottom of your feet to lessen stress throughout the day. See if it works for you!)
So putting it all together, there is a sacred stretch of lake in northern New Hampshire on the southern side of Lake Winnipesaukee that, as most of you know, is as sacred as it gets for me. Memories of my father resurface most vibrantly when I'm there.
How many days did I spend playing in woodsy areas by the lake..building things with sticks and sap-covered hands in front of Rachel's camp? How many dusks did I walk back from the beach with pine needles stuck to my feet, hungry for dinner? Countless and countless.
As I approach the 20th year since my father passed, it is obvious to me just how powerful, important and necessary it is to find things that trigger the good and rid the bad. The fact that I am blessed enough to know about the existence of essential oils and be *in place* to have this most powerful of parallel experiences: the smell triggering past memories while also helping me find tranquility in the present day?! That is powerful and an unbelievable gift.
There is a supreme relevance and need right now in our world to fill up our lives with good, healthful things. So I ask that you leave this page and go find these positive, powerful things for yourself. And do not only encounter them by chance. Seek them out!
By Sarah Tyrrell
Boyle Public Health
Almost two years ago Congress passed a bill known as the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 amending the FDA “to ban rinse-off cosmetics that contain intentionally-added plastic microbeads beginning on January 1, 2018, and to ban manufacturing of these cosmetics beginning on July 1, 2017.”
Most of us are familiar with these microbeads. They exist in many of our favorite scrubs, facial cleansers and toothpastes. They aid in exfoliation, add sparkle to toothpaste and can help fill wrinkles in some “age defying” makeup.
A 2015 study estimated that nationwide 8 billion microbeads are emitted into aquatic ecosystems everyday. While they may be small, as defined as being less than 5 millimeters at their greatest dimension, the quantities released into the environment are devastatingly large. They are so small that they slip through our filtration processes where they enter our rivers, lakes and oceans. These microbeads absorb pollutants, such as pesticides and motor oil. Mistaken for food, they are eaten by marine life and can physically cause damages such as cellular necrosis or lacerations to the digestion track, according to a statement released by Society for Conservation Biology in 2015.
However, what is potentially more concerning is the chemical harm that can be done to animals. With microbeads being composed of complex chemical mixtures, the consumption of these 'cocktails' can lead to an accumulation of chemicals overtime, which can bring on liver toxicity and disrupt the endocrine system.
Although phasing microbeads out of these products is a huge step, the bill only pertains to “rinse-off” products, leaving plastic abrasives in deodorants, lotions and some makeup. Additionally, companies selling over the counter products containing microbeads have a one-year extension to phase out these products or change the ingredients.
Until July 1, 2018 it is in the hands of consumers to choose whether they opt for or away from the products containing microbeads. With these chemicals sometimes being difficult to spot with just a glance, the FDA mandated ingredient labels help expose products that contain plastic. If you spot polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, or polymethyl methacrylate it’s safe to say that product contains plastic.
Likewise there are so many better alternatives to choose from that provide exfoliation without the use of plastic. Top rated exfoliants have been rated by the Environmental Working Group in their cosmetic database, an amazing tool to explore healthier cosmetics. There are also several natural, DIY exfoliant recipes available online which are easy to make with typical household and kitchen ingredients.
By Katie E. Boyle, MPH
(Hint: the reason is not because I sell it! To all the guys, you need to read this.)
By Katie E. Boyle, MPH
Sometimes we get advice that’s just not practical. Or we see advertisements to which we just can’t relate. I’m reminded of an old ad for vacuums, as the mom in full makeup sits adorably curled up in a chair in the corner of her living room drinking tea while both of her children play nicely on the floor in front of her. We all know that never happens. Based on my life experience, I don’t believe that two toddlers can even physically do that, even as hired actors, so I was convinced all three were mannequins.
In contrast to the above, here’s some advice that I deem somewhat easier to digest. These are easy. These have relatively high impact on the home air quality and/or chip away at our regular, daily intake of pesticide residues and byproducts of the breakdown of plastic. Now I know many people out there resist being told what to do. Lest I sound dictatorial, I do assume we can all agree that not taking in chemical residues and byproducts is better than taking them in.
Here are a few relatively simple steps you can take today if you haven't started them already to remove toxins from your home environment.
1. Start buying organic produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes an annual “Dirty Dozen” list with the produce that consistently test positive for pesticide residues that year. In 2016, it’s strawberries, apples and nectarines that top the list, with peaches, celery and grapes rounding out the top six. They also name the cleanest conventional produce. This year the safest conventional varieties include avocado, corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas and onions, among others. And a great place to buy produce? Farmer’s markets! UConn’s snap4ct site has an interactive map with info on all of Connecticut’s farmer’s markets. Connecticut is ripe with farmer’s markets (tee hee).
Here is a tip that is not only free, but will save you some money.
2. Just. Stop. With. The. Air fresheners.
Cease. Halt. No mas. Checkmate. Save the money. Take them off the shopping list and Amazon subscriptions. The spray ones, the plug in ones, the automatic ones, the fabric ones, the nighttime ones... They are made of chemicals that are added to your air.
Air fresheners add formaldehyde, p-dichlorobenzene, petroleum distillates and aerosol propellants among other pollutants into the air. Some of these chemicals are asthma triggers, and can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, damage the nervous system, and cause headaches. Some even cause cancer. What’s worse, plugging those little jobbers into outlets at ground level sends high concentrations of toxic mist into the air our toddlers are breathing as they crawl or walk past! Children’s lungs are still developing, so the effects listed above can be exacerbated and more easily triggered in them.
(Digressing again to examples of ads I can’t relate to: the one where they spray the air freshener right in front of their nose and then take a deep inhale through the nose to smell it? Astounded every time, I yell at the TV, “LADY, ARE YOU SERIOUS WITH THE TAKING A DEEP BREATH THING?!!”) The only things that will clean the air are 1) ventilation, which allows indoor and outside air to flow in and out, diluting pollutants to lower concentrations, or 2) an air cleaner that removes particles from the air via a HEPA filter, or another air cleaner design that targets the pollutant gasses listed above, such as a UVGI or PCO air cleaner. More info can be found in EPA’s Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home here. I try to open the windows once a week to clear out the air, and use my whole house fan every once in a while.
3. Place plants next to sunny windows.
So long as you keep them alive, plants are actually a great choice for filtering and cleaning the air. In NASA’s fantastically old-looking 1989 report, “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement,” plants were tested for indoor air purification qualities, and these common indoor plants were the top of the list: peace lily, philodendron, spider plant, golden pothos, gerbera daisies, chrysanthemums and Dracaena Massangeana. Some of these are poisonous, however, so be mindful of the risks and benefits, or just keep them up very high if you have young children or pets.
4. Don’t eat or drink from any plastic that has been heated.
This means microwaving or dishwashing anything plastic is not advisable. The heating of plastic water bottles, plastic containers or plastic wrap can break down the integrity of the plastic, allowing the individual components of the plastic to leach into your food or water. Allowing water to sit excessively long in a water bottle, especially in the sunlight, can do the same thing. Buying BPA free plastic can help but not completely solve the problem. Hand wash plastic bottles (or rinse anything plastic after it has dried in the dishwasher). To microwave food, transfer it first to a ceramic or glass plate, heat it, wait for it to cool, and then give it to the kids in their plastic bowls (I know; it's so many steps!). Skip the plastic wrap covering and instead use a napkin or go without.
5. Use natural alternatives to harsh cleaners.
Hydrogen peroxide (which, diluted with water, can even be used as mouthwash) has been shown in repeated experiments by a mom with a PhD in biochemistry (who I don’t know personally, but love her work) to work better than conventional sanitizing and disinfecting products. I recommend everyone take a look at Annie Pryor’s blog. Her work is fascinating.
One last point about the cleaners: if you’re simply doing the end-of-day counter and table wipe down, what about using a water, vinegar and lemon mixture? If you’re not aiming to kill bacteria and viruses, but simply scrape off the caked-on remnants of the three meals your children had at the table that day, a harsh cleaner isn’t really necessary. In that case, it’s more about the elbow grease. You can find a recipe online for a vinegar-based spray or, better yet, attend a Clean Cleaners workshop! Or watch my Clean Cleaners video here.
And I would like to reiterate that we all have areas in our lives where we choose to put our time and energy. Environmental health happens to be one of my interests and passions. There are absolutely ZERO judgments coming from me toward other moms regarding whether this information is accepted or kicked to the curb (see Mommy Wars post). I am simply offering it up for your consideration!! Thanks for reading!!
Have you already implemented any of these? Was any of this info brand new to you? Let me know!!
By Katie Boyle
If you buy 100% organic items or items with USDA Organic label on them, they ARE also non-GMO (not genetically modified). The USDA defines organic agriculture as one that preserves the natural biodiversity, supports animal health and welfare, uses no genetically modified organisms, is subject to annual inspections, and separates organic food from non-organic food.(1) The USDA organic label indicates that 95% or higher of product/ingredients in the product are organic.
Non-GMO means that, technically, 99% of the product and the ingredients in the product are non-GMO.
An organic products is also non-GMO.
A non-GMO product definitely does NOT automatically mean it's an organic product.
More info at these links:
By Katie E. Boyle, MPH
Over the public radio waves earlier this year, I heard John Dankosky heatedly interviewing Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy about the state budget. They seemed to disagree. However, despite disagreeing, they discussed. They respected each other, the role each serves for the public, and had an honest conversation about the budget. I remarked to myself that I learned a whole lot about two sides of this issue and heard a great example of putting emotions aside to discuss a polarizing topic.
Now, imagine yourself coming upon a social media post in your newsfeed, from any source, about any topic. You click. You read. You *eek* read the comments. You agree, disagree, or care less. Or, according to Facebook at time of publishing, you can like it, love it, laugh at it, make a surprise face at it, an angry face at it or cry at it. When you wholeheartedly disagree with the opinion espoused in said post, and that post comes from a friend, what do you do next? Coming from a family not afraid to interject, my first inclination when disagreeing is to say, “Are ya serious with that?” or, “Ummm….yea. None of that is true.” Or I would least offer a friendly, well thought out and well researched rebuttal.
The post in question was from a dermatologist's blog. The writer explained how the media and other outlets such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are using scare tactics and ‘bad science’ to scare us into not using sunscreen. Wait. What? (More on that later.)
Of course, here is the public health tie in if you were wondering.
Other write-ups, such as the one picked up by Huffington Post, NBC/TODAY and ABC, rail against the barrage of warnings about chemicals in various products and general parenting advice/instruction spouted at moms at every turn. And it’s getting personal, as the author, Sarah Kallies, writes, “We are all just out there slogging it out. Doing our best to raise our kids. To keep them safe. To protect them from the big bad world. But what happens when the world tells you that you are the problem? That you’re not being careful enough. Aware enough. Diligent enough.”
To add the absolute worst insult to injury, apparently the world’s reaction to Kallies’ post included some massively negative reactions, such as death threats and assertions that she should have aborted her twins. What.in.God’s.name? Just: on behalf of humanity and having a soul, I apologize for that happening. Good Lord, I still start to tear up when I think of what people can do when keyboard muscles are running the show.
The War of the Mommies :(
Sadly, I was reticent to admit, it seems the newest Mommy Wars’ front, after vaccinations and staying-at-home vs. working, is toxic ingredients in our children’s personal care products. EWG churns out what I estimate to be great direction on this topic. And then there are the lone mommies out there like me who have decided to offer up their ideas to any takers. Given the GRAAAND quantities of information out there, I guess this idea has popped up that the existence and sharing of this information infers that those who don't follow it are careless. Oh man, in all seriousness, that was the last thing I wanted to see happen.
I am an ardent supporter of education for myself and the public about the risks associated with chemical exposures, and I definitely steer clear of companies that have no regard for the safety profile of chemicals in their products…..that is, unless I’m in the grocery store with my two and four year-olds in complete berserk mode. Seriously, my youngest can damage ear drums in a 20-foot radius without even trying (I do hear ringing when it’s quiet), at which point I’m tossing Hail-Mary passes of the $1.00 shampoos and conditioners into my cart. But, as with any topic I learn about, there’s information out there from good and not-so-good sources that I can choose to read, research, incorporate, respond to, or simply let lie.
So yes, the post from my friend that I encountered in the middle of my work day, was, I felt, uninformed and inflammatory. No one, I repeat, *no one* is saying we shouldn’t use sunscreen. Somehow linking EWG to an argument against using sunscreen, is for me, a complete distortion. With regard to EWG’s methodology, described on the site, it is completely true that their product scores are limited by the research done to date on each ingredient. However, not having safety data about a chemical is not ‘bad science;’ it’s ‘not having safety data about a chemical.’ Remember, there is no requirement for chemical producers to test chemicals before putting them on the market. No law=no testing=no safety data available to the public. Progress on this issue has historically been meager or nil, but, more companies are being proactive, and initiatives such as the fabulous Chemical Footprint Project, which has so many companies, including Walmart, voluntarily opting to inventory the chemicals their suppliers use and pledge to do better. There is even progress *gasp* legislatively. Congress actually passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which gives the EPA more authority and requires safety testing of new and existing chemicals, with enforceable deadlines.
Taking it Personally
After reading that post I disagreed with, a trusted colleague and I walked across the campus of the university where we work. I asked her, “How do you typically handle a fundamental disagreement with one of your friends? Like, an issue that is fundamental to you, that you believe in and are passionate about?” She asked me whether I had read the book, The Four Agreements. I responded affirmatively, and instantly knew she recommended taking the proverbial ‘high road.’ She said, “I think, trying not to take it personally has always helped me in disagreements,” and I totally agreed. It was good, good advice.
There are four fundamental principles in life, says Don Miguel Ruiz in his 1997 book, The Four Agreements. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.1
Brilliant. With all this as a backdrop, away I go, concluding:
Am I defending this effort to educate? Yes. Am I defensive about it? Really, really trying not to be. I’m human, after all. By trying to educate on this topic, I’m not inferring that moms who use conventional products (me included) aren’t careful, aware or diligent…. If someone is saying that, they are up on a high horse. My take is: We have choices. We are spending the money on sunscreen, right? So armed with more information, why not choose one with no chemicals? That’s all it is, really. And it’s completely and totally every person’s choice; no judgments about it.
The feeling that moms are overwhelmed and don’t need another ‘rule’ making their lives harder is not new and is completely and totally justified! I am in that boat too. So I pick and choose where my energy goes and let the rest just BE.
Might it be that humans have a natural tendency to take things personally, that clouds their ability to argue fair, allowing defensiveness to creep in? Maybe so.
Let’s Make a Pact: The Mommy Agreement
Despite disagreeing with the content of my friend’s post and despite how invested I am in this, I decided not to comment. I am doing my thing, trying to educate, and that’s all. I had no interest in starting an online war in the middle of my workday. It was easy for me to make that choice because this person is my friend. When the post is from not a friend but a stranger, and when it's not an academic subject matter but an emotional one (such as recent horrific accidents where children were killed), the anger, hate and blame toward the parents cruelly and callously flows in the comments section.
So let’s make a pact to hold back on our commentary, and, as Sarah Kallies put it, “…stop shaming each other. Whatever our beliefs are. However we choose to raise our children. Let’s be about supporting each other.” If you disagree, agree to disagree. Leave the emotion for real life, not online life. It can be damaging, and in the case of teens bullying each other, catastrophic.
One thing I have learned is that defending your side doesn’t have to mean defending your self. Let's fight fair.
We all love our children with every thread of our being (BTW, also don't tell me I can't use "thread of our being" because it's lame; I'm fully aware this phrase belongs in a romance novel and I proceed with its use). We can try our best to follow The Four Agreements, but we all have a specific amount of energy to use up on the efforts of our days, after which, if we are lucky, each.and.every.mom.out.there (don’t you try to hide) crashes with a glass of wine and binge-watches Blue Bloods.
So, Moms out there (and everyone else for that matter), let’s make a pact to refrain from judging each other. Let's choose not to waste our fleeting bursts of energy on that.
The Mommy Agreement: “When I disagree with something online, from this day forward, I pledge to either (1) continue on with my day without typing my opinion, making a judgement or spreading any hate, or (2) recognize how the post makes me feel, and then type a message of support. I'll subscribe to that! If you wish to sign The Mommy Agreement, sign your name in the comments below.
If you have input on this topic, other good sources for me to review, or can relate, please email me directly or leave a comment below. If you have a better name for this pact other than The Mommy Agreement, leave your ideas in the comments. I am no wordsmith and will pick the best one! And thanks.
1. Ruiz, Miguel. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing, 1997. Print.
By Katie E. Boyle, MPH
Lead poisoning in children causes serious impairments to neurological and physical development, and the damage is permanent. Lead poisoning most commonly occurs by ingestion of small particles of lead paint in household dust. Children encounter the lead dust by crawling and putting their hands and toys coated in lead dust into their mouths. Ingestion of lead via eating paint chips, drinking contaminated water and inhalation of airborne dust are other routes of exposure. Here are some general truths about the most common route of childhood exposure to lead:
More facts about lead poisoning specific to Connecticut can be found here.
A great fact sheet on HEPA filters from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is here.
EPA list of Lead-Safe Certified contractors by state here.
Questions? Did this information help you? Contact me here to let me know.
By Katie E. Boyle, MPH
On a freezing cold day on the Northshore of Massachusetts, as a junior at Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody, I stood up from my desk in the middle of class in the tiny classroom reserved for the tiny number of students registered for a class called, “Death and Dying.” I exhaled, and walked to the front and out of class. The irony of being enrolled in this class at this moment in my life washed over me. Cringing at the details of embalming, I asked myself why I had ever returned to this class at all. Not three weeks before, my father had died after an arduous week trying to live, and trying to heal, at Mass General.
As a telephone line technician, one day at work in Lynn, Massachusetts, he fell from the bucket of his truck. He fell 15 feet, and landed in the worst possible way: head first. And then the Perham Family’s Lives Changed Forever was the new title of our book.
After a bunch of days of improvements, during one overnight, things turned for the worse: pressure in the brain led to emergency brain surgery, then talks of “being a vegetable” and “removing life support.” And hours later, I found myself with a Valentine’s Day card for him in-hand, learning my father would die, on February 13, 1997.
This was how this week would end? Wind being sucked out. The brightest, sterile lights. The contrasting black and white tile floor. The horrifying heaviness in my body and imagining, wanting, my feet and body to sink through all the floors of the hospital below me. Everyone’s guttural emotions from their positions holding hands in a circle around my beloved father’s bed.
Then, saying goodbye. Laying my head on his chest, the chest of a body being kept alive, the wires and scratchy white hospital fabric against my face and smelling of bleach. Hearing his heart and feeling his chest rising and falling, but focusing on the heart and taking it in. This was my first experience of mindfulness: focusing on remembering the sound and feel of his beating heart (a heart that went on to another living soul to try at this physical life again). This mindfulness task was for my survival, for a mind viciously shoved into survival mode.
Waking up. “It’s still true,” I would say to myself, for months. And the image of him lying in his casket in the funeral home-and lying in his casket underground-would always be there.
Why Did This Happen?
I would like to think my father’s death contributed to a shift in the culture of safety at Nynex, later Verizon, and its health and safety policies. I have never actually asked.
So now it’s almost twenty years later, and on an almost daily basis, as I drive to work, I see the line technicians, fathers of children, working up high in the buckets. I am reminded of him falling, and that impossible week ending with his death. I am reminded that he was not wearing his safety harness. I am reminded that the broken door to the bucket on his truck was not fixed, despite his repeated requests to have it fixed. I’m reminded how preventable it all was.
I learned then that I will need to be my own advocate for my own safety, and refuse to live or work in an unsafe environment, even if it (at best) makes me appear uptight or (at worst) costs me my job. After all, lack of safety cost my father his life. I will do everything I can to prevent that. And now, with two beautiful children of my own, after that formative life experience, I am unabashed about my and my children’s safety in all domains. For example, their car seats are installed precisely and correctly. And there are the seemingly nit-picking instructions I give to anyone other than me putting them in the seat: make sure there’s enough space between the baby’s rear facing seat and the front seat; no puffy jackets in the car; and always do the “pinch test” on the straps (they should be tight enough such that pinching the strap’s fabric across the width of the strap isn’t possible). You see, these “nit-picky” instructions matter. If they are compromised, that negates the seat being correctly installed. And if the safety of the seat is compromised, the risks of injury and death in a crash increase dramatically. Whereas if the rules are followed - ALL the rules are followed - and the safety of the seat is not compromised, all points of safety across all domains are maintained and we’ve done everything we can to prevent massive injury and death.
It is part of my ‘being’ to work very hard to prevent what’s preventable. I did not want to consider the safety of my children’s car seats after a crash. If this level of scrutiny for safety seems daunting, that’s perfectly ok. It’s not daunting to me. It’s part of my fabric. It’s not work; it’s woven into my heart and head and legs and arms. It’s why I went back to study public health. And it’s why I am very good at seeing the risks and, more importantly, seeing the solutions.
There is no ego in my effort to reduce the chemical exposures and safety hazards in our lives. I’m just doing what I was shaped into doing by my life experiences. It’s true that there are a daunting number of risks in products, in methods we use, and there are hazards for small children all around. In many cases, we can control those risks. So why not control what we can control and try to prevent what’s preventable? There are positive steps to be taken if we mindfully evaluate all the risks.
Trying to prevent disease and injury comes naturally to me, and it translates into the silver lining of what happened to my father. So, with the memory and sound of my father’s heartbeat softly in the back of my mind, I move forward, hopeful, in this new adventure.