Monday, April 25, 2011

New and Improved! EWG's Skin Deep Database

Environmental Working Group has revamped their Skin Deep database and it is now way easier to use. I have already written once about Skin Deep when I researched my daytime moisturizer options. Doing that research was a little slow going. Now searches are faster and the site is easier to navigate. Great job, EWG folks.

I am going to start in on my shampoo and child products research next and I'll post the results. But don't wait for me - I strongly encourage you to check it out yourself!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday's recipe links are finally up

I'm on single parent duty again this week and I just can't do everything! Do I look like your maid? Oops sorry - bad mom moment.

Happy cooking!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday's health links

First up, Go Canucks! Second, congratulations to everyone who ran the Vancouver Sun Run yesterday. What a lovely sunny day you had - you deserved it. You're better people than I. :-)

Now, on with the links...
  1. Drs. Oz and Roizen on why sugar is really bad for you. And though the American Heart Association wants women to limit themselves to 6 to 7 teaspoons a day, and men to 10, these docs want you to eat even less. Remember to carefully check the labels of the foods you are eating; processed foods are where most sugars you consume are hiding. Another reason to cut processed foods out of your diet.
  2. A comprehensive article on how to reduce your BPA exposure. San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. To screen or not to screen for prostate cancer. The Western Star.
  4. Too many Canadians don't have access to enough safe, affordable, nutritious food. The new report, Resetting the Table: A People's Food Policy for Canada, calls for more local production, processing and distribution of food, a new school-lunch program and more environmentally-friendly farming practices.
  5. More on the shift to cancer prevention strategies. In comment threads, some people are voicing anger with this approach. After all, fit people with healthy diets still get breast cancer. But until we know why, I am going to continue to make healthier lifestyle and dietary choices.
  6. A director of cancer research weighs in on the prevention vs. cure debate. lfpress
Finally, I am totally rocking the poached egg on sauteed spinach for breakfast these days. Yum yum yum. I heartily recommend it.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    "An ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure"

    So says Dr. Joseph Ragaz, director of the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada and a senior medical oncologist and clinical professor at the University of British Columbia. He also says if known prevention strategies such as improved diets and increased exercise were used more widely in Canada, several thousand breast cancers could be prevented each year.

    Today, the Cancer Advocacy Coalition released its annual report.  And it is calling for something I am very passionate about - a new emphasis on cancer prevention. Until there is a cure, I believe we should be doing more to educate people on how to lower their risk for developing cancer. While we need to continue research with the aim of finding new and better treatments and, one hopes, a cure, more space must be made in the cancer dialogue for talk of prevention.

    But something goes unsaid in the report. In the comment thread, a reader raises a valid concern: where is the criticism of the many corporations who continue to expose us to carcinogens in our cleaning supplies, personal care products, food, water and air? Where is the criticism of the governments who fail to regulate them? I have to say, the absence of this part of the equation was shocking. Surely, decreasing the presence of carcinogens in the things we touch and consume should be near the top of the list for cancer prevention. 

    The reader goes on to accuse the report writers of once again "blaming the victim." But, while I understand the anger behind the statement, I don't see it that way. I see no blame in this report. I don't feel that the report writers are holding me responsible for my tumour. Instead, I see a call to arms to take back the power we have handed over to others. While we wait for a cure, we can educate ourselves on better lifestyle choices. While we wait for the development of less devastating treatments, we can educate ourselves on better dietary choices. [And, might I add, while we wait for the implementation of stricter manufacturing regulations, we can educate ourselves on how to select less toxic products.] The absence of an official request for the Canadian government to hold the corporate world accountable should be noted - and noted loudly. But its absence does not discredit the very good advice to educate ourselves on what we can do to help ourselves and those we love.

    I do appreciate the anger this person's letter expresses. I am angry, too. I am angry that profit comes before the public's health. I am angry that more politicians don't care about this issue as much as I, and this reader, do. Let's channel that anger and use it to make some real change. And while we gather momentum at the grassroots, national and international levels, let's also make some smarter choices in our homes.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    New links on my recipe blog

    Yummy vegetarian dishes, a ridiculous sandwich and cookies you make in a skillet. Click here to jump straight there.

    And, if you have a moment, scroll down and check out my weekend postings. My university rocks, literally. And I test drive the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic toxin database, Skin Deep.

    Have a fantastic week!

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    I don't think I have ever been prouder to be a UBC alumnus

    Way to go, guys. This is AMAZING! And, it's a fundraiser for Make A Wish Foundation.

    Made me cry.

    Decreasing my chemical exposure part 1: daytime skin care

    What are the toxins in my environment? When I consume or inhale a toxin, how long does it stay in me? What impact do toxins have on my health? Which ones should I fear the most? Cheery questions, right? But if I want to get serious about disease prevention,  I believe I need to start learning about the connection between my health and toxins in my environment.

    First up, learning about the chemicals in my personal care products, specifically, my daytime skin care. In 2004, environmental advocacy organization the Environmental Working Group started the online database Skin Deep.  Skin Deep is a searchable safety guide consumers can use to learn more about what the ingredients in their personal care products may be doing to their health. The Skin Deep database links to more than 50 toxicity and regulatory databases to produce current data on what the known health risks are. Think of it as a little new found transparency for an industry that historically hasn't been terribly interested in being transparent.

    To help you learn about how the site works, I'm going to share my experience using it. Feel free to use my learning if you want. Better - go there yourself to check out what you have been using and see if you think you need to consider alternative products.

    Typically, I use one of three moisturizers and two sunscreens on my face during the day:
    1. Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream SPF 15. Nuts. This isn't listed but they have tested the lighter Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion SPF 15. It gets a rating of 7 out of 10 which means by their standards it is a hazardous product and is not recommended. Ingredients in it have been linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies and a whole passel of other things. Ugh. (Note: you can click on the product names to see the detailed ingredient breakdown and the related hazards.)
    2. Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 45. Crap. This gets a 7 as well. Next.
    3. Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Anti-Aging Daily Moisturizer Fragrance Free. This is a little better. It gets a 5 making it a moderate hazard and, even though they have been linked to almost everything else, ingredients in it have not been linked to cancer. I am comfortable using up the rest of my current bottle while I try to find a less hazardous product.
    4. L'oreal Ombrelle Sunscreen SPF 45. Again, this one isn't listed! So if I want to keep using it I should sit down with the ingredient list and do the research myself on this one.
    5. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream. Woo hoo, folks, we have a winner. My ridiculously expensive sunscreen (which I buy once a year for the summer months because I had a basal cell carcinoma removed when I was in my early 30s) gets a 2!!! I can continue to use this product for as long as my pocketbook will allow me. Interestingly, I had been recently considering upping my SPF protection by switching to one of their SPF 60 products but those products get ratings of 7. :-( I'll have to remember to plop on my hat and stay in the shade this summer to give me the boosted protection instead.
    So, I will back out of my own searches, and start paging through what I will consider their recommended products, those numbered 0 and 1 on the hazards scale. One thing I notice right off the bat is that while there are a lot of low hazard products listed in the database, I haven't heard of most of them. That's a problem. I want to locate products that are easily purchased in my local stores. I will make a note of some of the more popular low-toxin brands to look for online and in my local health food store and Whole Foods. But my priority today is finding something I can pick up in my neighbourhood. Doing that, this is what I come up with:
    1. Daytime moisturizer  - if I want a facial moisturizer with a built in SPF, I can't seem to get much below 4 on the hazard scale. At least not with the moisturizers at my local stores. So, let's say I switch to a sunscreen-free moisturizer used in conjunction with a separate sunscreen. There are a few examples from my expensive  friends at La Roche-Posay (for example, Toleriane Soothing Protective Facial Cream gets a 2) but I will start with Kiss My Face Organics Under Age, Ultra Hydrating Moisturizer (a 1) or, if I can't find that, Burt's Bees Carrot Seed Oil Complexion Mist (also a 1).
    2. Sunscreen - if I want a less expensive sunscreen than my La Roche-Posay, and if I want to be able to find it easily at my drugstore, I could opt for Neutrogena's Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 50 with Purescreen. It gets a 4, making it only moderately hazardous. Better, I could go with Jason Natural Cosmetics Sunbrellas: Mineral Natural Sunblock SPF 30 which gets a 2 and is half the price of my La Roche-Posay.
    My verdict? The Skin Deep website is an easy to use, comprehensive resource. If the science behind the findings they present has any integrity, than this is an important tool for people looking to lower their exposure to toxins.

    Try it out!

      Friday, April 8, 2011

      Pain rating

      I don't know about you, but cancer changed the way I see lots of things.

      From xkcd.

      Tuesday, April 5, 2011

      What the heck did you do to your forehead?

      Play this game with me, will you. Watch half an hour of morning television and call out, "What the heck did you do to your forehead?" whenever you see a woman with that odd, waxy flat facade up there above their eyebrows. I've done it three times with the Today Show today. Three women in half an hour. Three women who appear to be telling the world that looking like you are older than 30 is a bad thing. That it is more beautiful to appear odd than normal. That inanimate is better than experienced. That cyborg is better than woman. It's NOT!

      Watch them smile! That looks great, right? That's the way you want to communicate joy to the world around you, like you are trying to make up your mind if something is funny or horribly, horribly dull.

      If you are freezing your face enough that people are noticing, PEOPLE ARE NOTICING! And guess what they are thinking - there goes a woman who thinks she isn't good enough. Is that the message you are trying to send? Cause it's certainly what I'm thinking. It's what our daughters are thinking, too.

      Ease off on the Cosmetic Botox, ladies. You are beautiful without it.

      Monday, April 4, 2011

      Monday's health links

      Sorry for the blackout. I was away on spring break holiday with my lads and could not think of a single interesting thing to say. It was all, play quietly please while we make supper, put your brother down, let's play hide and seek, take that out of your nose, let's go to the park, put your cousin down! Not much time for research or reflection. But I'm back!

      And a big shout out to my husband for driving too much in conditions that were too terrifying. He told me with great love that he will not drive over mountain passes with me anymore unless I medicate myself. He's getting ready for an extended business trip to India. If anyone has some insights that will help him prepare, I would love to hear them.

      On with the news:
      1. Is Vitamin D really a powerful tool to fight breast cancer? Maybe not.  A new study calls into question many previously produced reports on the sunshine vitamin's benefits for a range of diseases. Speak to your doctor about what this may mean for your treatment or prevention plan.
      2. Early diagnosis is key in treating lung cancer.
      3. A scary but necessary article to read - the superbugs like MRSA may be winning the war unless we start making new advances in antibiotic research. Wash your hands! And, please, please, even if you think your hands are clean, if you enter a hospital please use the provided hand sanitizer to give yourself an extra debugging.
      4. Closer than ever to fixing cat allergies. My husband and I are brutally allergic to cats. Visiting friends and family with cats is a miserable experience.
      5. Finally, laughter is good for your heart.