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Growing Up Green: Baby and Child Care: Volume 2 in the Bestselling Green This! Series Paperback – April 15, 2008
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About the Author
Deirdre Imus is the founder and president of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology(R), part of Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in New Jersey. She is also a cofounder and codirector of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, and the author of the bestselling book The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A Letter to Parents
Half a century ago, most parents had a pretty good sense of their responsibilities toward their children: to provide them with food, clothing, shelter, an education, and, of course, love. Like parents throughout history, they did whatever was in their power to keep their children safe, to protect them from harm.
But what does it mean today, to "keep our children safe"? In recent years, the job of raising -- and protecting -- our children seems to have become a lot more complicated. Our lifestyles have undergone radical changes over the past few decades, and so has the environment we live in.
As a culture, we seem to be in constant motion. We work more, and sleep less, than ever before. Instead of making time for a good old-fashioned sit-down dinner at home, we opt for the drive-in window of the nearest fast-food restaurant. We live off processed foods loaded with sugars, synthetic additives, and trans fats. We skip our morning walk and instead spend hours of every day locked inside our cars or plugged into various electronic devices.
And perhaps most significantly, harmful toxins have become more and more present in our environment. Every week, more chemicals are introduced into our environment, often without first being tested for safety on humans, much less safety on children. These toxins pervade every aspect of our lives: the air we breathe, the water we drink, even the clothes we wear. We spray our lawns with pesticides, and eat fish contaminated with mercury, and drink milk pumped up with hormones. We sleep on mattresses treated with bioaccumulative flame retardants and scrub our kitchens -- and our faces -- with irritating chemicals. We're inundating ourselves with toxins twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and most of the time we don't even know it!
So what, you might be asking, does any of this have to do with raising a child?
The answer is absolutely everything. Over the past thirty years, these changes in our lifestyle, diet, and environment have taken a dramatic -- and tragic -- toll on our children's health. We're seeing epidemic levels of diabetes and obesity. Pediatric cancers have risen steadily at a rate of 1 percent annually over the last twenty years. A poor diet and lack of exercise have contributed to an epidemic of childhood obesity, with one in six children in the United States between the ages of six and nineteen considered overweight. Asthma rates have increased tenfold over the last decade. Approximately one out of every six U.S. children has a developmental disability, including speech and language disorders, learning disabilities, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Approximately 1 in 150 American children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).One out of every eight babies is born premature in this country, and the rate of premature births increased nearly 31 percent between 1981 and 2003. Rheumatoid arthritis has become the third-most-common childhood disease -- among infants. Childhood allergies are at record levels.
If you're like me, you probably feel pretty horrified upon confronting these sobering facts for the first time. But I don't want this information to frighten or paralyze you. On the contrary: It should empower you to start asking some critical questions about what's causing this extraordinary increase in diseases over the last twenty-five years and what you as a parent can do to reverse these trends.
The World Health Organization estimates that we could prevent more than 80 percent of all chronic illnesses by improving our lifestyles in simple ways, like working to reduce our exposure to environmental pollutants and eating a healthier diet. Eighty percent! So why aren't we doing more to protect our children?
For a number of reasons, children are more adversely affected by exposure to environmental toxins than adults. Pound for pound of body weight, they breathe and eat more than we do. Their still-developing immune systems might mistakenly treat the toxins as naturally occurring enzymes or hormones. And because children are growing and developing so fast, dangerous cell mutations can multiply at a faster rate. Children are also less capable of detoxifying and excreting chemicals than adults. Their blood-brain barrier is still porous and allows more chemicals to reach their brains.
The environmental toxins most harmful to children include:
- Mercury (in vaccines, fish, dental amalgams, coal-burning
- emissions, incinerators, landfills)
- Toxic cleaning products
- PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
- Air pollutants such as dioxins, volatile organic compounds
- (VOCs), asbestos
- Environmental and/or tobacco smoke
- Pesticides sprayed in the home and on the lawn
- Pesticides used in lice shampoos
- Pesticides in food and water
- Drinking water contaminants
- Industrial emissions
Many children, particularly those in lower-income urban areas, face a number of these environmental insults on a regular basis, even daily. All I can say is no wonder their health is suffering. Their bodies are overloaded with toxins and deficient in the nutrients they need to develop properly. How could our kids not be chronically ill?
As parents, and as a society, we need to become more vigilant about shielding our children from these environmental insults. We're already way past the tipping point. We can -- we must -- band together to reverse these frightening trends in our children's health.
With that goal in mind, I've written this book for you -- all the concerned parents (and future parents) out there who are ready to take charge of their children's health once and for all. Greening Your Baby is a chronological, stage-by-stage guide that will take you from the moment you first entertain the possibility of having a child all the way through the moment when you send that child off into the "real world," whether that means college or the workplace. Whatever your level of parenting experience, if you have one kid or nine, you can use the information in these pages to secure a better future for your children.
With the necessary tools, you can protect your children from environmental toxins. Throughout this book, I'll be examining how all sorts of different lifestyle choices -- about nutrition, physical fitness, even vaccinations -- may affect the development of your child. I've spoken to more than twenty of the most respected children's health experts in the country about the dangers toxins pose and the actions we can take to reduce kids' exposure to them.
Though I was interested in these issues long before I became a mother, the birth of my son, Wyatt, deepened my determination to clean up our toxic environment. I wanted to give my son the best possible start in life, and I knew that doing so meant reducing his exposure to toxins. How could I help Wyatt and millions of kids like him?
In 1998 -- the same year that I gave birth to Wyatt -- my husband and I realized a longtime dream when we founded the Imus Ranch in Ribera, New Mexico. That summer, and every summer since, we invited children suffering from cancer and various life-threatening blood disorders, such as sickle cell, and children who have lost a brother or sister to sudden infant death syndrome, to experience life on our authentic 1880s-style working cattle ranch.
My experiences over the last decade at the ranch have strengthened my desire to leave our children, and their children, a cleaner world to inherit. We've now had more than seven hundred kids at the ranch, and I've learned a great deal from every single one of them. I like to think that this book reflects many of the lessons I've taken from my summers in New Mexico -- and from every day of the year as a mother.
To me, it all boils down to knowing the right questions to ask and the choices that are available to you. Awareness is the essential tool here. Only when we truly educate ourselves about the widespread threats to our children's health can we take steps to avoid and ultimately eliminate those threats. With that goal in mind, in 2001, I founded the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology at the Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey, to raise people's awareness of the environmental factors that contribute to childhood cancer and other serious childhood diseases. In our campaign to reduce kids' exposure to environmental toxins, we place a big emphasis on the dangers of cleaning chemicals and pesticides in schools and homes. We believe that if more parents spoke out about the irreparable harm these substances were doing to our children, people would no longer use them.
The time has come to raise our voices and demand some changes. If we continue bringing up our children in this toxic soup, their health problems will only worsen, and then what will we be left with as a society?
Throughout this book, I've tried to make my suggestions as accessible, realistic, and affordable as possible, since I'm the first to acknowledge that most parents have too much on their plates for any complicated life-turnaround scheme. Even if, like so many families today, you and your partner both have full-time jobs, I promise you that you can make these changes, without any trouble at all. I've always believed that the most significant transformations are the ones that occur slowly, sometimes without our even noticing.
As you read, I'd like you to revisit the question I introduced at the very beginning: What does it mean, these days, to keep your children safe, to protect them from harm? I'm talking about more than just buckling your seatbelt or locking the back door at bedtime. I'm talking about protecting your children's health over the long term.
Yes, the rules of the game have changed over the last few decades. But if there's one thing that parenthood teaches, it's adaptability. And there's no time like the present to put that skill to good use. We must adapt our lifestyles and ... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
by Gerald T. Westbrook
This is my second book by Diedre Imus (DdI) that I have reviewed.
The first book was: "green this: Volume One - "greening your cleaning." .
The first review was: "Deirde Imus: A Second Coming of Rachel Carson II?" This review continues my quest to know more about what Ms Imus had to say. My review for Volume One concluded as follows:
"Among other findings, she has reported that BP has dumped more than 800,000 gallons of dispersants into the Gulf. And the EPA has ordered BP to stop using the toxic dispersant: Corexit. EPA admits it doesn't know very much about this chemical, but intends to work on that situation. The manufacturer, Nalco Chemical, also has little to say, but argues it is no more acutely toxic to marine organisms or hazardous to human health than alternative dispersants. The recipe for this dispersant is not public. However, DdI is highly concerned particularly for small children."
2.1 Introduction. My review for Volume Two: "growing up green - baby and child care" will start out by noting that the author reported that 50 years ago, parents had a good feel as to what to do to raise their children safe and to protect them from harm. Today that task has become far more difficult, for a variety of reasons. Our lifestyles have changed. We seem to be in constant motion. We surely work more, but sleep less. We have more drive-in meals/or other meals in places away from home, and less meals around the family table. From these sources we get more sugars, more synthetic additives and more trans fat. We also spend hours in our car, or watching TV and/or computer screens. And many of us do not get a daily walk or exercise of any kind.
Not only has our culture changed, but our environment has changed even more drastically. "Every week, more chemicals are introduced into our environment, often without first being test for safety on humans, much less safety on children." Some of these chemicals may be toxic.
In this review, I will look at what she has to say on vaccines, and on the relative safety of plastics used in bottles and toys. So I looked for the Index to look up vaccines, as I did in Volume One, on pesticides. However, there was no Index. Ouch! Next, I felt an inspection of her Glossary of Chemicals might be helpful, as it was for Volume One. However, there was no Glossary of Chemicals. Ouch again!
However, it does have a very good Table of Contents. This contents is divided into three parts".
* "one, the wake up call" two sections (Chapters 1 and 2).
* "two, from utero, to university" nine sections (Chapters 3 to 11, with 52 sub-chapters)
* "three, resources." one section, although not labeled as such.
The 52 sub-chapters were what I needed. Vaccines are covered in part of Chapter 8 entitled: Green Pediatrics. Plastic bottles are covered in part of Chapter 6 entitled: Better Bottles.
2.2 Review of Part of Chapter 6 Developing Your Baby's Palate
Sub-chapter 6.2 Better Bottles - Less than two pages are devoted to this subject, but reaches a strong indictment on Poly Carbonate use. This has exploded over the past decade. These bottles are made with bisphenol - A (BPA). DdI argues that this chemical can leach into your baby's drink. Consumer Reports also makes this argument. And several other organizations such as Harvard and Scientific America also support this case. I am still a bit skeptical, but will file this under more research required.
Sub-chapter 6.5 A Word on Microwaves - The microwave oven is incredibly convenient. However, beware of processed foods made for the microwave. Use the basic oven as an alternative. For example heating up frozen pizza. The result is less soggy, and it also starts to wean one a bit from the microwave. Now I'm not advocating getting rid of that oven, but learn to use it more effectively. DdI recommends one should never:
* microwave baby's bottles;
* heat up foods in plastic containers;
* never cover food up with a plastic wrap.
2.3 Review of Part of Chapter 8 "Green Pediatrics"
Introduction - In contrast to Sub-Chapter 6.2, here 46 pages are allocated to several subjects in this chapter with a major part on vaccines. The six sub-chapters, all with most intriguing names, are as follows.
* Vaccinations: Medicine's Greatest Achievement or Too Much of A Good Thing?
* Spotlight On: Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
* The Rise of Childhood Allergies.
* Antibiotics Overload.
* Spotlight on Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
* Green Cures.
Sub-chapter 8.3 The Rise of Childhood Allergies - DdI reports that "Allergic disorders are increasing in almost every country in the world." at epidemic rates, particularly among our children . But why such rates? Both genetic and environmental factors are involved. And constant exposure to a multiplicity of substances in the environment over stimulate our immune systems. Today we are exposed to high levels of allergens that were never there before, and our immune systems have become hyperactive, even to non-toxins. "The end result is an epidemic increase in the incidence of asthma and other allergic conditions."
Sub-chapter 8.5 Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis - The sub-chapter on Rheumatoid Arthritis is of particular interest to me as I knew an athlete in my high school who was two years younger than me. He was a five sport superstar: football, baseball, basketball, hockey and trap shooting. He won the Gold Medal in Trap Shooting in1952, at the age of 17. Attended McGill University and played on their hockey team for one year. After that he had to give up all sports as his Rheumatoid Arthritis and associated pain had become too severe. He completed his medical degree and had a useful career in medical research, but passed away at 54. Now I do not know if his condition included the word Juvenile.
' An Examination of Key Customer Reviews on Amazon.com. - There were 31 reviews listed, 4 at three stars, five at two stars and six at one star. Hence there were 15 reviews at three stars or less, or almost half the reviews. Titles for three of the reviews follow:
* This book lost it's credibility, when it's author questioned breast feeding benefits.
* No Prioritization, No encouragement to go against the tide, Overwhelming.
* Not the Best Choice.
Now, my impression of this book is a bit stronger than these three reviewers.
' Review of part of Sub-Chapter 11 "Beyond the House: Community Activism and Outreach." Here DdI notes that taking charge of your household environment is an essential first step in any greening process. She also argues that it is as important to "take control in a broader sense," of their children's environment. She gives many ideas on this subject, some that I agree with, others that I would have some concerns if I could support. On balance I would give this book three plus stars.
As the mother of three, I have always tried to give my children the best start in life - from good prenatal care, unmedicated births and exclusive breastfeeding to making my own baby food, not vaccinating, buying healthy foods and limiting their exposure to media.
I was appalled to read Imus' very limited and very uninformed information on breastfeeding - which I had assumed would be a very large part of "Growing Up Green." After all, what is "greener" than that? True, there are some toxins present in breastmilk, but what about the toxins and artificial ingredients in formula? What about all the toxins and wasted resources that go into making the formula? What about all the waste that goes into landfills from the packaging of formula and the bottles that must be used to feed the formula? I can't think of anything LESS "green" than that, not to mention the fact that infant formulas have been recalled many times due to contamination. To even imply that artificial feeding (organic or not) is in some way better for our children than breastfeeding is ludicrous.
Imus also writes about how unhealthy our diets are, which is totally true for most Americans. However, she fails to discuss that a mother who has a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods is exposing her child to various tastes through her breastmilk and is therefore more likely to have a child who will develop a taste for these foods.
She mentions several times about the childhood obesity epidemic and the rise in various childhood illnesses such as asthma, allergies and diabetes, yet fails to mention that breastfeeding has been proven to prevent obesity and these other childhood diseases that she speaks so often about. Not only is breastfeeding healthier for children, but also for mothers. Research shows that breastfeeding significantly reduces a woman's chances of pre menopausal breast cancer.
Perhaps one of the most important things Ms. Imus neglects to mention is the fact that breastmilk provides antibodies and immunities to protect our children from various illnesses. That is something that infant formula has never been able to replicate - and probably never will. Breastmilk is a live food, a perfect food. For someone who speaks so often of the importance of making whole foods a part of our diets, she is doing a real disservice to the women and children of this country by suggesting that artificial feeding is in any way equal to or better than breastfeeding simply because there may be toxins present in a mother's milk.
This book now is part of every baby shower gift and should be a way of life. Its practical and can help you take the necessary steps to improving your childs enviornment and health.
Most recent customer reviews
Pros: encourages asking about vaccines, encourages home remedies as opposed to too many antibiotics,...Read more