Actress and mother, Jessica Alba has joined the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition! Take action today, click this link and ask your Senators to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011! The Safe Chemicals Act would increase the safety of chemicals used in your consumer products, increase public access to health and safety information, and protect vulnerable populations like pregnant women and children.
Jessica Alba has been busy having babies for the last few years, and being pregnant got her thinking about issues far more important than getting her pre-baby body back.
When the actress - who gave birth to her second daughter, Haven, over the summer - was pregnant with her first daughter, 3-year-old Honor, she started doing a lot of research about how to create a safer environment for her baby. And she didn't like what she learned.
"I was shocked," the 30-year-old mom tells HealthySELF. "There are so many toxic chemicals - not just obvious ones like bleach - in crib mattresses and baby shampoo that are known and proven to be harmful to be people's health."
Frustrated, Jessica contemplated her next move. "There's gotta be a better way than to shop around the problem," she decided. So she joined the "mom-led" Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a group that's petitioning Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 - which would make sure that companies test chemicals before using them in consumer products.
"There are 80,000 chemicals in consumer products - chemicals that frankly haven't been tested," Jessica says. In fact, now that she's "educated" herself, the actress has even changed her beauty routine.
"My daughter, she's big on nail polish (she's 3 and a half). We use non-toxic nail polish. I try to use as much non-toxic makeup as possible, certainly on my lips because I kiss my kids," she says. In her home, she also avoids "anything made with petroleum or formaldehyde, or anything derivative of petroleum-based products."
Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City - who has consulted Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families as well as Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), sponsor of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 - says Jessica is on the right path toward minimizing her family's exposure to toxic chemicals.
"In the past 50 years in this country, there has been an absolute explosion of new synthetic chemicals. Many have brought benefits to all, but we've done a terrible job of testing these chemicals to determine whether they're toxic," he says.
The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 would update a piece of legislation that has not been updated since 1976 - one that was supposed to mandate testing of chemicals but which Landrigan refers to as a "dismal failure."
"They've banned a total of five chemicals out of 80,000," he says.
According to CDC surveys of blood and urine samples, there are more than 200 synthetic chemicals in virtually every American, Landgiran says. And most of these chemicals did not exist in 1960.
So which chemicals should YOU avoid, whether you're of child-bearing age, pregnant or already a mom? Here's the scoop from Landrigan.
Brominated flame retardants (PBDEs)
Regarding crib mattresses, Landrigan says Jessica is really referring to brominated flame retardants (PBDEs). These are synthetic chemicals added to mattresses, furniture, carpets and computers to reduce flammability. The problem is, they are very toxic, especially to the infant brain. You can buy mattresses without PBDEs, but they are generally more expensive, Landrigan says.
When it comes to baby shampoo, Landgrian says Jessica is avoiding endocrine disrupters called phthalates, which are found in many cosmetics. Phthalates have been found to cause disordered behavior among babies exposed in the womb, and to affect the development of baby boys' genitals, Landrigan says.
Petroleum or anything derivative of petroleum-based products
As for petroleum, Landrigan said Jessica is basically minimizing the use of plastics in her life, as most plastics are based on petroleum. Some plastics contain phthalates, which leach out and get into food, Landrigan says (which is why you should never microwave plastic!).
Using chlorine bleach, cleaning sprays and disinfectants more than once a week is linked to asthma, says the author of a 2010 Spanish review of studies (as reported in the August 2011 issue of SELF).
Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical used as a cleaner as well as in new plywood and wallboards, Landrigan says. Like bleach, it's a respiratory irritant and it's also carcinogenic.
Landrigan says pregnant women should avoid pesticides, which are toxic to brain development. "The easiest way is to switch the diet to organic-grown food as much as possible," he says.
Mercury also hurts infant brain development, according to Landrigan, and the main source is certain types of fish, like shark and swordfish. Other types of fish, like salmon, sole and flounder, are low in mercury.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA, the synthetic estrogen linked to cancer and abnormal brain development, is found in plastic baby bottles (a lot of baby bottles are now BPA-free, thanks to the mom-led consumer movement). To avoid BPA, steer clear of plastics that have #3 and #7 on them and beware of canned foods. BPA is not very harmful to adults but it can be toxic to early development, Landrigan says.
The best time to make these changes? Before you even think about trying to have a baby.
Have a Blessed Day!