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4.01.2009

Immunizations and Air Fresheners

I just happened to catch Jenny McCarthy on Good Morning America this morning. That, paired with an article I read in the LA Times this past Sunday, brought the oft discussed topic of immunizations to mind. I'm not looking for a debate (really, I'm not). I just wanted to highlight the points of both the article I read and of McCarthy's visit.

First, the article. I knew that a growing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate, but what I hadn't thought of was how this was going to be distributed demographically. This article was fascinating- it is predominately middle to upper class white parents who choose not to vaccinate thier children, in contrast to times in the past when it was lower class minority parents who didn't vaccinate their children (due to either cost or lack of knowledge, not due to choice). The article pointed out that in more affluent neighborhoods, specifically in non-catholic private schools and charter schools, the likelihood of a dangerous outbreak of the measles (like last year in San Diego) or another life threatening disease is high. They pointed out that what so many non-vaxing parents count on- herd immunity- is becoming non-existent in some communities because so many children aren't vaccinated. One school in Del Rey had over 50% of it's entering kindergardeners for the past two years non-vaxed.

Now, I totally understand why many parents choose not to vax. While I find the diseases they prevent scary, the thought of autism as a side effect is terrifying because it's uncurable. I choose (based on what I've read) not to believe that vaccines are such a huge factor in autism. But I still understand why some parents go the other way.

HOWEVER... part of the reason this works is because of what I said before- herd immunity. It's a totally legit thing. As long as the vast majority do vaccinate their children. But I have two questions.

If you're considering not vaxing, would you still choose not to if you know that around fifty percent of your child's peers were also not going to be vaccinating? I know that many of the parents whose kids are now entering kindergarden probably didn't know that when they made the choice, though.

And secondly, the thing that baffles me most, if you did choose not to vaccinate your child, wouldn't you be extra careful? Like, say, if you were going to take your child to Switzerland wouldn't you do a little research first to make sure there had been no wide spread cases of things like measles? I say that because the outbreak in San Diego was caused by a child who had just returned from Switzerland, where apparently there have been several outbreaks of measles. Wouldn't you do that, then either choose not to go or vet your child vaccinated before the trip?

Just some thoughts on that.

And then on Jenny McCarthy this morning. I usually think her rants are a little, um, over the top. But this morning I was listening to what she was saying (mostly what the doctor with her was saying, actually) and I was like "yes!" They talked about toxins in the environment and in our homes and how these toxins are very likely causing things like autism, allergies, asthma, and possibly other childhood ailments. Things like VOC's and pthalates that pollute our indoor air and come from virtually everything in our home- furniture, carpet, cleaning supplies, AIR FRESHENERS (I have a very serious distaste for air fresheners, particularly the aeresol kind), candles, anything made out of PVC (like, for example, most cold water pipes), paint, cribs, mattresses...

But what can we do about all of these chemicals? I mean, most of us can't afford to clear out everything dangerous in our homes and replace it all with organic, non VOC, or otherwise safe stuff. So what do we do?

Well, unless you've just gotten new carpets or furniture, it's probably fine (or at least better) NOW. New furniture and carpets tend to off gas the most when it's new, and although it continues to do so the chemicals released decrease over time.

The prime offender in furniture is usually the formaldehyde in particle board. Particle board furniture is hard to avoid because it's much cheaper than solid wood. If you have furniture with exposed particle board you can seal it with laminate or varnish (both of which would also require some off gassing.

If you are looking to buy something new, look into antiques, or at least used furniture. At the very lease, these have off gassed significantly. In the best case you may find something made of actual wood! Older furniture tends to contain more natural woods and fibers, which makes it safer.

If you do buy something new, let it sit outside to off gas as long as possible, and continue to ventilate your home after you bring it inside. Wash or wipe anything new to remove surface chemicals.

Get plants! Plants are the best natural air filters, and they freshen the air as well, which leads me to...

...skipping the air fresheners and chemical laden cleaning supplies! Anything that smells strongly most definately contains VOC's. I have never liked the smell of air fresheners, even before I was green. But if you need scented air, look for safer ways to achieve it. I like to boil some apple juice with cinnamon and cloves in the winter for a festive smell. Or look for safe candles- soy candles with natural fragrances and non-metal wicks (Etsy has great candles, just make sure you check the contents). There's also this citrus spray that we used to be able to use at the first child care I worked at that was supposedly safer, but I've never looked into whether it is or not.

Skip plastic when possible. Especially when it comes to toys, I try to stick to fabric or wood.

That was a much longer post than I intended, and it kinda went off topic:)


Sources:

Organic Housekeeping

http://isyourhousekillingyou.sbs.com.au

http://www.karlasbonanza.com/2008/11/thrift.html

5 comments:

cait said...

This is where I butt in and mention that many of the studies on pvc and BPH (help me brandis, is BPH the chemical in plastic and canned food?) and some VOCs are non-conclusive. That means there's a possible connection. Possible. Its also possible, but not conclusive that marijuana causes testicular cancer in men. Sometimes I feel like raising kids has become a game of Fear Factor with all the potential side effects of materials that have either been in homes for decades, or from materials that are so new to begin with the effects thereof haven't had time to be properly studied because no one knows what will happen years down the line.

Have you heard any of the studies that say people are raising kids with weaker immune systems due to the amount of anti-bacterial anit-whatever stuff they put them on? That the crazy killer strains of menengitis are results thereof?

I guess I'm not looking for a debate either, I just can't seem to pick one side of the fence. It all sounds well and good to have healthier homes, but how much is TOOO healthy?

I will say this: I hate bleach.

Brandislee said...

Ah caitlin, you will so understand better when you have kids. The whole "inconclusive" and "might" thing means something different when it's your kid. If you would have handed me a plastic bottle of water four years ago and told me that the water therein was probably laden with chemicals that may or may not cause me problems I would have been like "so" and drank the water. But when it's YOUR KIDS, these little helpless people who trust you and rely solely on your judgement in almost every single matter in their tiny lives, "might" cause problems, at least for me, is a big red flag that says "this is something my kids need to avoid." I mean, it doesn't cause me any inconvienience or extra money to keep my kids away from a lot of these chemicals- in fact, in a lot of ways it saves me money, so double bonus!

And while you're right, a lot of the studies of these chemicals is inconclusive, but some, esp on the VOC's are very conclusive that VOC's can at least exasterbate asthma. And I'm just going with what makes sense to me. Chemicals introduce toxins into our systems, toxins that weren't there or weren't as plentiful years ago. So the rise of the auto immune stuff (asthma, allergies, autism, possibly even parkinson's, but who knows?) may be directly linked to the rise in chemical exposure. Makes total sense to me. Plus there are so many cancers out there that they don't know the cause of yet and that may also (in theory, in my brain at least) be caused by chemical exposure. I just don't want to take that chance with my kids.

And I totally agree with you about sanitizers. I hate them, and I only keep bleach around (far far away in the garage) to strip my diapers once a month. I may actually blog about that next. I just read on one of the blogs on my crunchy blogroll (little green blog? IDK) about how terrible Triclosan is (which I already knew, but hey), which is the active ingredient in a lot of antibacterial things.

Brianna said...

If no body vaccinates their kids we're going to have an incredible outbreak of polio, measles, mumps, the black plague, and all those nasty diseases that wiped so many people out years ago. Do people really think that those diseases are wiped out just because there hasn't been a recent outbreak? We will soon see since there are so many unvaccinated kids these days. Thats the nurse in me... VACCINATE YOUR KIDS.

kaboogie said...

Ahhh, Brianna, there was never a vaccine for the Black Plague, you can thank natural herd immunity for the disappearance of that, coupled with KNOWLEDGE of where diseases come from and basic human hygeine. Also, whooping cough, measles and mumps have never GONE away, they just don't sulture for them, and call them something else when kid get them.
Question: If you don't think vax's have anything to do with autism, yet in the next paragraph you worry that toxins may cause, allergies, autism, etc., are you now aware of the contradiction here? And that vaccines are FULL of toxins? Like formaldehyde? Alum? And the same stuff that is in anti-freeze? Are those not toxins also? Just askin :-)
I must point out, as a non vaccinater, we are not depending on the herd-immunity of, well, the herd, we're depending of knowledge of disease, health and alternative as well as allopathic treatments. And calling measles a "deadly" disease, is like calling the flu deadly, Only in immune supressed and weak persons. Well, 30+ vaccines in less than 5 years does go far in supressing the immune system. And many vaccines fail. Good thought provoking blog!

Brandislee said...

I do realize that I contradicted myself. I got so caught up in my circular reasoning that I forgot to clarify that. I don't think that immunizations are the SOLE cause of the increase in autism. I think they contribute, paired with the general increase in toxins and certain other genetic factors (as McCarthy said on GMA, now they're thinking that people with a family history of auto-immune disorders are at a higher risk).

Like I said- not wanting to debate the issue. I just think that there's a lot of new information out there on both sides of the proverbial boat. Being a parent is all about risk/benefit analysis, and I try my darndest not to judge other parents, especially those who are making informed decisions based on their own research, even if their decision is different than mine. Thanks for your input!

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