The number of new chemicals being created in North America today is astounding.
"Since we were children, the world has been busy inventing millions of new chemicals," says Manda Aufochs Gillespie, president, founder and Chief Mama at The Green Mama. "Every two and a half seconds a new chemical is made.
Every single day we make or import 74 billion pounds of industrial chemicals that find their way into every aspect of our daily lives, she says.
And of these millions of chemicals, the U.S. and Canada have only required testing on about 200.
The beauty care industry is just one of the places where we come in contact with these chemicals. The average woman uses nearly 500 chemicals on her body in a day - and her children can be exposed to just as many.
To raise awareness about these issues and offer natural alternatives, Manda started her green living site and wrote the bookGreen Mama: Giving your child a healthy start and a greener future. Here, she checks in about why she advocates natural living and offers advice on shopping for greener products for our kids. Read on:
Tell us about The Green Mama ... when and why did you start your site?
I started www.thegreenmama.com eight years ago when I had my first child. After years as an environmental planner, I wanted to bring design thinking to those who most want and need it: families.
The Green Mama consists of a small team of mamas. We all share a curiosity for how we can keep our kids, family, selves and world healthy. We spend a lot of time researching today's science and traditional wisdom, testing the best products, and writing about what we find. I also am a consultant, and I am proud to have helped green day cares, homes, an urban ecovillage, and even an orphanage.
Why are you so passionate about natural living? Why is it important to you to raise your kids green?
We are only as healthy as our world. And while the problems we face - toxins, climate destabilization and bad community design - affect us all, it's our children who are most vulnerable. It's not parents who are to blame for the problems of the world, but parents feel responsible for protecting their children; and they have an amazing power to care and create change because of the radical brain development they undergo when they have children.
What do you think would surprise parents the most about the common skincare and hair care products they use?
Parents are routinely shocked to find out that known toxins are found in beauty care products used by us and our children. Young children can absorb into their bodies as much as 90 percent of what is put on their body; for adults, it's closer to 60 percent. That means that we can absorb even more through our skin than through our stomachs.
Most people that I work with are shocked to learn how chemical regulation works in North America. In short, chemicals are almost entirely unregulated for commercial use.
Which products do you think are the biggest offenders?
In my book I put a list of the common chemicals that our children are routinely exposed to in their beauty care products, but if you can just remember three you will be able to avoid many of the others as well. I always do a quick look on the labels to scan (and AVOID):
2. Triclosan (or anything with antibacterial on the label)
3. Anything ending in -eth (including SLS).
What do parents need to know about shopping for greener (and safer) products? What are the guidelines you use for buying skin care or hair care products?
When shopping for children, I try to avoid all ingredients for their bodies that I wouldn't eat. I look for the USDA-certified organic label or for all-natural, organic ingredients that are safe enough to eat.
What are some of your favorite homemade products for kids?
I love using homemade creams. That can be as easy as just putting sesame oil or coconut oil on the child, or you can pull out the blender and mix up something using a million recipes (there are some in my book), or you can find others online.