Environmental Causes of Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders



For many years, autism research has focused on genetic factors. But researchers estimate that "the total fraction of ASD attributable to genetic inheritance may be about 30–40%." Now many are calling for more extensive research of environmental factors, including the tens of thousands of untested chemicals that individuals are exposed to via consumer products as well as the environment at large (air, water, soil). The brains of embryos and fetuses are believed to be especially susceptible to toxic chemicals. A workshop of leading researchers convened by the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center, with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Autism Speaks, generated a list of "10 chemicals and mixtures widely distributed in the environment that are already suspected of causing developmental neurotoxicity":

Do You Live in One of the Most Polluted U.S. Cities?

See a larger version of this infographic here.

I've spent 27 years of my life in cities that rank in the worst ten U.S. cities for air pollution. I don't live in one of the worst 10 now, but my current area earns an "F" for Ozone and Particle Pollution. 

Check the air quality ratings for your city here.
Read about how to protect yourself from the health risks of air pollution here.
Read facts about air quality here.
Read the key findings from the State of the Air Report 2012 here.
Read the full report State of the Air 2012 by American Lung Association here.

Most importantly, tell your representatives to stand up to big oil and fight for clean air here.

The Green Phone Booth: Homemade Snacks Linky



Today at the Green Phone Booth I posted a Link Up for homemade snacks. If you have a favorite homemade snack recipe or idea, please link up your blog post or leave the recipe in the comments. My post also includes several of posts from the archives of the Green Phone Booth about snacks, including simple ideas for easy, unprocessed, kid-friendly snacks, as well as recipes for homemade fish crackers, English muffins, and bagels.

Click here to read the post.

My 5-month-old Baby Uses the Potty

Happy Earth Day last Sunday!

For 4 of the last 5 days, I have put my 5-month-old baby on the potty first thing in the morning. And all 4 times she has both peed and pooped (sometimes an incredible amount). Of course I make my "pssss" and "uh uh uh" cue sounds when she does. So we are having some success. I'm smart enough to know that it won't necessarily be smooth sailing from here out. I'm just trying to be happy that wiping her bottom has been so very simple during this past week.

That Works for Me! (e-book Giveaway and Review)



Every Wednesday hundreds of bloggers link up a post about what works for them at the Works for Me Wednesday blog carnival hosted by Kristen Welch of the blog We Are That Family. I'm guessing it's the biggest blog carnival around. It's been going on for years. You may have noticed that at the bottom of some of my posts is a little blurb that reads "This post is part of...Works for Me Wednesday." If you've ever clicked on that link, you've visited the WFMW blog carnival.

Whenever I submit a post to the carnival I like to browse the titles of the other linked-up posts, and every week I find some treasures. But with hundreds of submissions each week, obviously I'm not able to peruse all the submissions and I'm probably missing out on some good ones. Wouldn't it be amazing and terribly useful if someone were to go through all of those posts, identify the choicest gems, and compile and organize them into a handy e-book? You guessed it. Someone has.

How I Shop for Food

A week's worth of produce from the farmers market

First you should know that one of my principal aims in life, now that I have three little ones, is to never set foot in a real store. I never loved shopping, and now with kids, I find that I really don't like it.  You should also know that I am willing to spend a significant amount of money on food. Maybe not more than the average household of five, since we rarely eat out, consume little meat, cook many things from scratch, and do other things that help lower our food bill.  But we try to eat mostly local organic foods, which can be expensive.

I aim to purchase most of our groceries from local organic farmers for a number of reasons: to provide my family with delicious fresh foods; to avoid eating weird things; to promote animal welfare and environmental health; to prevent the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria; and to support my local food economy. But I'm not a purist. While some items are non-negotiable for me (I will not buy conventional beef or eggs), about other things I am flexible. I'll occasionally buy a conventional watermelon since it's on EWG's Clean Fifteen; I still buy South American bananas even though I enjoy an abundance of local produce here in Northern California; and I sometimes purchase conventional animal products (buttermilk, ice cream, drumsticks) as long as they don't contain any growth hormones. I avoid GMOs (and would like to see them labeled) but don't agonize over them. My shopping priorities change as I learn more, but they are also subject to cost, convenience, and whim. If you are on a tight budget, I think the best thing you can do is cook more at home and learn to garden.

This is how I currently shop for food.

Homemade Chewy (Not Crumbly) Granola Bars



At last, I have found a granola bar recipe that my kids love. Good enough that they don't ask me to buy the Trader Joe's granola bars anymore. Good enough that my husband has stopped putting granola bars on the grocery list. I alternate making granola bars with my whole-grain "cookies," so that I always have a delicious kid-friendly snack that's easy to take and eat on-the-go.

I've been looking for the perfect granola bar recipe for a while. Over a period of many months (years?), I've googled, perused, and bookmarked a gazillion recipes. Then I tried the most promising ones. Some recipe authors admitted that their granola bars were crumbly. I did not want crumbly. After making a few duds, I decided to try Bittman's granola bar recipe (the peanut butter variation) which uses granola, oil, honey, and peanut butter.

For the "3 cups not-too-sweet granola" I used my usual granola recipe. The bars were chewy (yes!) but also way too sweet. I tried using significantly less honey, but that made them crumbly. In any granola bar recipe, the sweetener is the glue or binder that holds the granola together. So I made a modified version of my granola recipe with no sweetener, and then used that not-at-all sweet granola to make the granola bars. I also used a little less peanut butter and honey than the original recipe called for and they are still wonderfully chewy. I've made these with almond butter as well. Note that the recipe below is double the size of the Bittman recipe.



Eco-novices Chewy (Not Crumbly) Granola Bars

Combine:
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/3 cup sunflower/ sesame seeds
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup oil
Bake 20-25 minutes at 325 on half-sheet pan, stirring every 5-10 minutes. Let cool and then put into a large mixing bowl. This gives you 6 cups not-sweet granola.
Combine in a sauce pan and heat until boiling on the stove (don't let it burn!):1/2 cup oil
1 cup honey
2/3 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter, such as almond)
Pour boiling mixture into bowl of 6 cups granola (entire recipe above). Mix well. Push into greased 9x13 pan (I use butter to grease). Use a spatula to press down and spread evenly. Cool in refrigerator. After a few hours and once completely cooled, take out of fridge and let them warm up a bit so you can easily slice with a knife or bench scraper into bars. Store in air-tight container.

I store mine in Pyrex in the fridge with wax paper between the layers (see photo above). I also always keep 3 or 4 in a small reusable container in the fridge, so that I have something I can quickly grab and take with me to the park or other outing. In my experience, they keep for at least 2 weeks in the fridge.

As you might imagine, they are also just delicious with chocolate chips thrown in (while hot, if you want melted chocolate mixed throughout or once cooled a bit you can put chips on top). I consider the chocolate version to be a sort of homemade candy bar. Dried fruit could easily be added in as well (stir into granola mix before adding hot liquid mixture).

Do you make granola bars? What is your favorite recipe?

Potty Training a 4-month-old Baby



Yesterday I wrote about how early potty training turned out with my second child, now 2 1/2 years old. I first put her on the potty around 9 months. Today, I'm writing about how I'm starting even earlier with my third baby.

What does early potty training (or elimination communication) look like with a 4-month-old baby? Some folks try to "catch" a newborn's pee by holding a bowl between their knees or holding the baby over the sink or toilet when she needs to pee. I tried that once and decided it wasn't for me. I decided to wait until my baby could pretty comfortably sit on a Baby Bjorn little potty before I would try any pee/poop catching.

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