Toxic water from landfills is all around us.

I’ve never wavered on my opinion about drinking tap water over bottled water for reasons that include BPA, an abundance of trash and the simple waste-factor. While I still believe in filtered tap water, new studies are becoming rather alarming.

landflRecently, in my home state of Ohio, the EPA reportedly found pollutants in all 30 of the landfill facilities they investigated.  Each landfill has waste-collection systems, ponds or pumps that make it possible to draw water (the other 25 do not).  But the concern is clear – all were found to contain arsenic, benzene and vinyl chloride (all suspected carcinogens) as well as lead (which can cause brain and nervous system damage).

In addition, as many as 29 pollutants were found at levels that exceed drinking-water health limits and pollution standards for streams, and it poses a hazard when it’s released into groundwater or surface water.  Simply put, this is polluting our environment, our soil, our wildlife and our families.

This makes my stomach churn and I have an instant headache.  Suddenly my glass of water doesn’t look so tasty!

But all joking aside, it makes me wonder when, or if, we will ever be able to drink water and not feel that we are potentially drinking a glass full of toxins at the same time.  To me it means the EPA needs to “step up” and enact tougher standards to prevent this awful contamination, and violators needed to be assessed astronomical fines until they cut it out!  WHERE exactly are we supposed to get clean water otherwise?water wst

To make matters worse, my husband also sent me an article from the New York Times regarding data compiled on more than 200,000 facilities that have permits to discharge pollutants.  Permits to discharge pollutants?!? “Permit” and “pollutants” should never even be in the same sentence.

The database comes from the Environmental Protection Agency and the California State Water Resources Control Board and includes businesses and industry in every state of the US.  Take a look, check your zip code and I hope you aren’t as shocked as I was.

To me, this says we sure have a long way to go.

April 27: National Healthy Schools Day

(Mom Goes Green is EXHAUSTED from chaperoning a Girl Scout Brownies weekend camping trip… {where do they get that energy and the ability to function on such little sleep?!?} so today’s post is by guest writer Janelle Sorensen.  Today is National Healthy Schools Day… enjoy the great info!)

When my husband and I first toured schools to find the one we wanted to enroll our daughter in, I’m sure I was silently voted one of the strangest parents ever. Why do I feel I was secretly endowed with this title? Because every room and hallway we were taken through, I sniffed. A lot. And, according to my husband, I wasn’t terribly discreet.

kids-playingI didn’t have a cold or postnasal drip. And, I’m not part bloodhound. I was simply concerned about the indoor air quality. My daughter was (and still is) prone to respiratory illnesses and I wanted to be sure the school she would be attending would support and protect her growing lungs (in addition to her brain). For many air quality issues, your nose knows, so I was using the easiest tool I had to gauge how healthy the environment was.

While air quality is a significant issue in schools (the EPA estimates that at least half of our nation’s 120,000 schools have problems), parents are also increasingly concerned about other school health issues like nutrition and the use of toxic pesticides. Many schools are making the switch to healthier and more sustainable practices like green cleaning, least toxic pest management, and even school gardening. What they’re finding is that greening their school improves the health and performance of students and personnel, saves money (from using less energy, buying fewer products, and having fewer worker injuries among other things), and also helps protect the planet. It’s truly win, win, win.

To highlight the issue, the Healthy Schools Network coordinates National Healthy Schools Day.  This year, over three dozen events will be held across the country (and more in Canada) on April 27th to promote and celebrate healthy school environments.

What can you do? Healthy Schools Network recommends simple activities such as:

  • Adopting Guiding Principles of School Environmental Quality as a policy for your School
  • Distributing information related to Green Cleaning or Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
  • Writing a letter or visiting your Principal or Facility Director to ask about cleaning products or pest control products
  • Walking around your school: looking for water stains, cracks in outside walls, broken windows or steps, and overflowing dumpsters that are health & safety problems that need attention. Use this checklist.
  • Writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper on the importance of a healthy school to all children and personnel

You can also help support the efforts of states trying to pass policies requiring schools to use safer cleaners. (Or, initiate your own effort!) There are good bills pending in Connecticut, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. According to Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, the key pieces to promote on green cleaning in schools are:CB106473

  • Not being fooled by ‘green washing’ claims—commercial products must be third-party certified as green (to verify claims)
  • Understanding that green products are cost-neutral and they work
  • Learning that “Clean doesn’t have an odor.”

She encourages parents and personnel to tune into one of the archived webinars on green cleaning (like the first module for general audiences) at www.cleaningforhealthyschools.org.

The fact of the matter is that whether you’re concerned about the quality of food, cleaning chemicals, recycling, or energy use – schools need our help and support. Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, it’s time to help do what’s right – for our children, our schools, and our planet.

What are you going to do? There are so many ideas and resources. Find your passion and get active on April 27th – National Healthy Schools Day.

Additional Resources:

(Thanks, Janelle!  Visit Healthy Child Healthy World for more great resources and information! — MGG)

Lawn care chemicals are the wrong “shade” of green.

Just the other day I was driving through the neighborhood with our kids and a smell started to fill the car (and it wasn’t “compliments” of either of the kids because there were no “accompanying giggles!”).

grassWe rounded the corner and I immediately spotted the TruGreen (ChemLawn) truck.  It was sitting in front of a house and idling(!) while the “lawn tech” doused the yard in streams of harsh, nasty, polluting chemical fertilizers and weed killers.  My first reaction was (sincerely) “my god, I used to let that happen in my yard”.  And then I felt ashamed that I ever let it happen.  Next, I wanted to tell my kids to briefly stop breathing.  Then I envisioned screaming at the lawn guy to “turn off his truck!” … followed by knocking on the door and vigorously shaking the homeowner.

Why such the obsession for having the greenest, most pristine lawn on the block?  Do they think the weeds will crawl in the window late some night?  Or someone will pass “judgment” based on their lawn? The reality is that these chemicals are pollutants.  The runoff works its way to ground water, pollutes surface water through the soil and causes major contamination.  It also threatens wildlife and the beneficial insects.

I think about walking through the lawn and then walking into our homes, WITH our shoes, and I shudder.  Every chemical you just walked through spreads itself all over your home and into the indoor air.  And what about those precious LITTLE BARE FEET that touch the lawn?  It’s like walking into a chemical field.  I could never dream of subjecting our kids to such dangerous conditions.  Research has shown that chemical lawn fertilizers and pesticides can present numerous symptoms, including respiratory problems, nervous system disorders, and aggravation of pre-existing conditions (such as asthma) and our children happen to be the most vulnerable.grass-lawn

Now consider this: Each year, in the US, over 103 million pounds of toxic chemicals are applied to lawns in our pursuit of “visual appeal”. That’s all it really is… an aesthetically pleasing look.  This post could go on forever (and in the very near future, I will give more information about regular practices you can adopt to have a healthier lawn) but for now, if you feel you MUST pamper your lawn, at least consider greener solutions.

Check out NaturaLawn of America or (if you’re in Ohio) GoodNature, provider of lawn care for our beloved Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  This hasn’t even scratched the surface, but there are great do-it-yourself solutions that I promise to provide… soon!

But, for now, to top things off, the very next day there was a ‘hanger’ dangling from a door knob on the front of my house.  TruGreen’s “Anthony” was offering me a monthly estimate of $53 to contaminate my yard… and family… and the environment.  Thanks, but no thanks, Anthony.  Move on.

Welcome to our home… so take off your shoes… NOW!

Well, wouldn’t that be the greeting of all greetings when you arrive at my house, but the more I learn, the more I realize this needs to become a new mantra in our home.

I never really thought about all of the horrible things that our shoes encounter (besides our stinky feet!).  Living in the seasonally leafy or snowy and often FREEZING climate in Cleveland my biggest concern was just tracking in dirt and “ick” and salt, but there is much more concern than just dirtyin’ up the joint… chemicals, toxins, pesticides, lead and just all kinds of things we don’t want to come in contact with are the issue.

Case in point… you were just at the gas station for a fill-up… or you trudge across a lawn just sprayed with chemical fertilizer… and DON’T remove your shoes… ugh.  Ugly picture.

I think about all of the time our kids spend playing on the floor, all of the time we ALL spend playing on the floor, and it can actually be like rolling around in a chemical dump if we aren’t careful.  Plus, when they get dragged into our home, these contaminants also become airborne so we actually inhale them too.  Top that off with a study I read about… it said that wearing shoes indoors was a larger source of children’s pesticide exposure than eating non-organic fruits and vegetables!  Okay, I’m convinced!

This weekend we are celebrating both of our kids’ birthdays with our families, and often times, when someone has asked, “do you need me to take off my shoes” I have been timid (yea, ME?  Timid?!) and said “no, you don’t need to” because I assume that question means they really don’t want to.  But this needs to change.

This time I will be parking a large rug right by the front door and hopefully that will avoid the question because it’s already suggesting the “answer!” Maybe, when I make my first million I can be like Tom Cruise and have slippers for everyone at the door.

I know the party is on a Sunday, but for now… come on in, take off your shoes and hope that you left your “holey” (holy?) socks at home!