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Monthly Archives: October 2008

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Ask me why I’m throwing my tupperware away.

Poisonous plastic

By Kim O’Hare

A move by the Canadian government in late April has caught the attention of health conscious people around the world. Canada announced its intention to ban the import, sale and advertising of baby bottles with the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA). That could be just the tip of the iceberg, since the chemical is widely used in many food containers ranging from plastic drink bottles to food storage containers.

UAEasy.com pictureThe proposal marks the beginning of a mandatory 60-day consultation period. The announcement comes after a lengthy review of the chemical under the government’s Chemicals Management Plan. Recent research has shown that bisphenol A is an estrogenic hormone disrupter that causes reproductive damage and may lead to prostate and breast cancer in adulthood. Babies are particularly vulnerable, since most traditional plastic baby bottles leach bisphenol A into the milk they drink.

“Although our science tells us that exposure levels to newborns and infants are below the level that cause effects, we believe that the current safety margin needs to be higher. We have concluded that it is better to be safe than sorry,” said a government release.

While the proposed ban does not include sale, import and advertising of water bottles and other food containers, major retailers across the country were pulling plastic drink containers containing BPA off store shelves within hours of the announcement. Retailers say demand for baby products with the controversial chemical come to an abrupt halt.

Depending on whom you talk to, BPA is either perfectly safe or a dangerous health risk. The plastics industry says it is harmless, but a growing number of scientists are concluding, from some animal tests, that exposure to BPA in the womb raises the risk of certain cancers, hampers fertility and could contribute to childhood behavioural problems such as hyperactivity.

According to its critics, BPA mimics naturally occurring estrogen, a hormone that is part of the endocrine system, the body’s finely tuned messaging service. “These hormones control the development of the brain, the reproductive system and many other systems in the developing foetus,” says Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., a developmental biologist at the University of Missouri. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can duplicate, block or exaggerate hormonal responses. “The most harm is to the unborn or newborn child,” vom Saal says.

BPA is not some new kid on the chemical block. It was first discovered in the 19th century and concerns about health risks were first raised in the 1930’s. It was thrust into the spotlight by a laboratory mishap in August 1998. An American geneticist noticed chromosomal errors in the mouse cells she was studying had shot up – from one or two percent to 40 percent. She traced the effect to polycarbonate cages and water bottles that had been washed with a harsh detergent. When her team replaced all the caging materials with non-polycarbonate plastics, the cell division returned to normal.

UAEasy.com pictureConcern over bisphenol is likely to spread due to its wide use. If you consume canned soups, beans and soft drinks (organic or not) you may be swallowing residues of BPA that can leak out of the tin linings into your food. Nearly all tin can liners contain BPA, says the Can Manufacturers Institute.

Part of the problem lies in the chemical’s tenacious behaviour. BPA has been found to leach from bottles into babies’ milk or formula; it migrates from tin liners into foods and soda and from epoxy resin-lined vats into wine; and it is found in the mouths of people who’ve recently had their teeth sealed. Ninety-five percent of Americans were found to have the chemical in their urine in a 2004 biomonitoring study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you own polycarbonate bottles, including those hard plastic refillable bottles that have become so popular in recent years, Check the bottom for a number #7 inside the recycling symbol. If you have a bottle like that, wash it by hand, away from the extreme heat and harsh cleansers of a dishwasher, to avoid degrading the plastic and increasing leaching of BPA.

Look for cracks or cloudiness on your reusable clear plastic bottles. Use glass baby bottles or plastic bag inserts, which are made of polyethylene, or switch to polypropylene bottles that are labelled #5 and come in colours or are milky rather than clear. Choose soups, milk and soy milk packaged in cardboard “brick” cartons, by Tetra Pak and SIG Combibloc, which are made of safer layers of aluminium and polyethylene (#2) and also recyclable.

Eat fresh foods in season and save the canned foods for convenience or emergencies. The exception is some canned fruit such as that found in smaller fruit-cocktail cans, which do not require a liner, according to the Can Manufacturers Institute. Some wines have been found to contain up to six times the BPA of canned foods. While most wines probably don’t, it’s another good reason to drink in moderation.

There are seven classes of plastics used worldwide in packaging applications. Type 7 is the catch-all “other” class, and some type 7 plastics, such as polycarbonate (sometimes identified with the letters “PC” near the recycling symbol) and epoxy resins, are made from bisphenol A monomer. When such plastics are exposed to hot liquids, bisphenol A leaches out 55 times faster than it does under normal conditions,

Types 2, 4, and 5 are believed to not leach chemicals in any significant amount. Type 1 and Type 6 have unreacted phthalates and styrene, respectively, which could leach under certain conditions, but these resins do not use bisphenol A during polymerization and package forming.


CANADA ACTS — First nation to ban BPA
Government protecting citizens from harmful chemicals

Anthony Kovats
Monday October 27, 2008
The act is groundbreaking and once again places Canada at the forefront of progressive thinking.
Just days after the last ballot was cast in the 40th federal election, the Tory minority government has jumped into the international spotlight by being the first nation banning the use of bisphenol A (BPA), the controversial plastic used in popular water and baby bottles and as a liner in food tins.

The announcement, made over the Oct 17 weekend, has been on the government agenda for the better part of a year and is now a reality — BPA is on Canada’s toxic substances list.
“With our chemical management plan that we’ve put in place, this is one of 16 chemicals or substances we have tried to reduce or eliminate,” said Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins.
“Canada is taking a leadership role when it comes to eliminating these products from our environment, especially in situations where it can harmful to our young children.”
BPA is a chemical used in the manufacturing of a diverse range of plastic consumer products ranging from beverage containers, dental sealants and even car interiors.
There is yet to be any definitive agreement among scientists on how much BPA exposure is safe for humans, but the consensus is that BPA does pose a health risk.

Federal Health Minister Tony Clement announced six months ago that Canada would become the first country to label BPA a dangerous substance and ban its use in baby bottles.
The health minister now has the option to ban the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA.

The levels of bisphenol A that most Canadian adults are exposed to are not considered harmful, but Canadian and international environmentalists have said studies support the need for a complete ban on the use of BPA in consumer products.

However, it is still too early to determine how the government will implement this measure or how this will affect industry.

“Most Canadians understand that we are what we eat and we are a product of our environment and this is a way to improve the health and safety of all Canadians,” Calkins said.

In Great Britain, researchers discovered in a study of approximately 1,500 people, that those diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes had higher concentrations of BPA in their urine.
And other studies have found that BPA leached out of the linings of cans heated to temperatures similar to those used during sterilization processes.

It has also been recently discovered that BPA interferes with brain processes involved in learning and understanding and may cause infertility and obesity in mice.
Canada’s decision to declare BPA a toxic substance is being seen as proactive, but Calkins added it is what Canadians should expect from government.

Cognizant of the potential effects this can have on the public all the way to landfill management; Calkins believes this is just another example of the country’s proactive measures when dealing with the overall health of the nation. We are able to take this chemical out of the environment.”

Recipe: Cream of 3am Soup

  • One suddenly awake, insanely cheerful baby
  • Two small onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • One baby-bouncer
  • One rubber Spatula
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock (or water & 2 chicken cubes)
  • Frozen mixed veggies
  • 2 cups finely chopped chicken breast
  • 4 cups milk

Combine baby and baby-bouncer, set aside. In a medium soup pot, saute onion and garlic until onions are golden brown.

Entertain baby with rubber spatula and periodic tickling. Add chicken breast to sauteed onions and cook over medium heat with:

  • 1tsp sage
  • 1tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

When the chicken is cooked, add chicken stock and frozen mixed veggies. Allow to boil for 15-20 min because frozen mixed veggies can be tough little suckers. Sing to baby, ward off drowsiness, mix 1/2 cup flour in 1 cup cold water. Dissolve flour well (else, suffer from lumpy soup) and add to pot. When the flour thickens, take the baby out of the bouncer (because she’s getting kind of cranky now) and add 3 cups milk to the mixture. Bring to boil and allow soup to thicken. (5 min, max).

Dance around kitchen with baby in arms, add salt to taste.

T’was the night before Wednesday and all through the house…

It’s 2:12 in the ay-em, and Iman is finally asleep. Me, I think I’m pulled back together now. 🙂 For a while I was feeling like a Jenga tower when you’ve pulled too many of the bits out of the bottom and tried stacking them on top, but I’m feeling better.

Also, I think Iman deserves a post. She’s been shuffled to the sidelines by her Prima Donna brother on the blog, which is fitting, since that’s what tends to happen in real life too, but that’s a post for tomorrow maybe. Right now, I just want to crawl into bed behind HF and fall happily asleep.


You guys…

If I’m not responding to my comments it’s because I feel… embarrassed.

I am not brave, I am not strong, I am not amazing.

I alternate between insane optimism and resigned dread.

I am not the Super-Mom of a Special-Needs Child, I am the “So, how do we cope today?” type.

I am pushing forward because the only way out is through.

Still. It’s warm and fuzzy to feel believed in though.


The Autism Post, Take One

I’ve tried to sit down and write about this several times, but I keep hitting a wall. I’ve only spoken about it to one or two friends. HF has informed the general rest of them, and me, I don’t want to talk about it. Not because I’m embarrassed, but because I’m emotionally raw. I can touch on it briefly, clinically, lightly, and be ok. But emotionally, I’m avoiding the topic in a way you want to avoid standing beneath a dam suspiciously crisscrossed with duct-tape.

So we’ll be brief, clinical, light.

Autism is a brain development disorder that Khalid has. His in-depth assessment begins on Sunday, Insha’Allah. It will take several sessions with the clinical psychologist. After that, we will begin the necessary therapies to help him learn as much as he can and bridge the verbal, social, and physical development gap between him and “normal” children.

(There’s a lot of duct tape on the dam. A few post-it notes too. Some sad-looking safety pins…)

Well, at least now we know what’s wrong- why nothing I’ve ever tried to teach Khalid has worked, why everyone and their mother seemed to be waltzing through motherhood while I stumbled, blundered, and tripped my way over “such basic things” as sleeping, talking, shape-sorting, social interaction, potty-training… Grim satisfaction can be had in knowing that hey, when all those things they said should work failed, at least it was for a reason other than my own maternal incompetence.

(It’s because you spoil him)
(It’s because you’re babying him)
(It’s because you’re not being consistent)
(It’s a matter of will-power)
because you nursed him too long)
because you always picked him up when he cried)
because you are working when you should be paying attention to him)
basically you)


Take Two: Well, that thread was going down the negative tubes fast, so I closed the draft and left it alone for the last week. Fast-Forward to today, Wednesday, and Khalid’s assessment is done and we’re waiting for the detailed report upon which the therapy outline will be based.

Khalid is, as the clinical psychologist said, “definitely autistic,” which dashed my slim hopes of him somehow, someway, not really being autistic. At the same time, I felt relieved to be confirming the problem, because now we’re one step closer to the solution, InshaAllah.


There, I typed a smiley face, and I actually mean it. 🙂

The Autism therapy center we’ve picked is a bright, colorful, toy-crammed, series of rooms in Dubai where Khalid and I will be spending a few hours a day for therapy. I don’t know how many hours yet, but the average is 20 a week. I’m looking forward to it, and can’t wait to start seeing progress- I feel nervous and happy and excited at the prospect of Khalid talking, or signing, or finally communicating with us in some way.

What I’m not looking forward to though, is the daily drive from Abu Dhabi down to Dubai, which has already started to play havoc with my knee. My busticated knee is also my driving knee, so I’m scheduled to visit the orthopedic surgeon again (who is by now, a family friend) on the 19th. I think I’m supposed to get Hyalgan injected into my knee again. It’s nature’s WD-40, whee! It’s also kept in a small refrigerator somewhere in the doc’s office, and when he shoots it, cold, into my knee, it’s the weirdest, inside-out kind of feeling.

Hmm, what else is up. I had a custard apple for the first time in my life today. I understand the ‘custard’ part, since it does have a sweet and vanilla-y flavor. The ‘apple’ part is still off though. In Thailand, the name for the custard apple is the same word for ‘grenade,’ and that would make slightly more sense, if grenades were creamy instead of explosive.

And in the continuing spirit of randomness, I met a nice employee of a -Large Bookstore Name Here- yesterday whose name was Sugar Rey. I wonder if he thinks women are always hitting on him. (Hey there, Sugar…*heart*)

By Zeba, The End.

Khalid has been diagnosed with autism. I can’t even begin to explain how this feels. We’re still in planning/coping/assessing mode. I just quit my job. Regularly, I cry myself to sleep. I can’t write about this right now. I’m too busy trying to figure it out.

Eid Mubarak!