Monday, May 23, 2011

Avoiding non-ionizing radiation during pregnancy with Belly Armor

Ironically I didn't get a mobile phone until I was pregnant with my first son.  I held out until I was one of only about 3 people (one of whom was my husband) I knew who didn't have one at the time (2005).  Now all three of us have mobile phones (I have the lowest radiation-emitting phone I could find in Australia - a Nokia 6700c SAR value 0.410 W/Kg), but I still try to avoid using it as much as possible, and when I do use it I always use speakerphone and set the phone down as far from me as possible.  I never carry it on my body.  But I do spend a lot of time at a computer, including while pregnant and breast feeding, and I do worry about the effect of this on my baby.  

I try to minimize the radiation from the computer by using an ethernet connection to my broadband instead of wireless.  We have also gotten rid of our cordless phones at home and replaced them with traditional landlines.  But there's only so much you can do in a world full of radiation, and sometimes where you live or work has wireless internet that you can't turn off, or lots of cell phones (or even worse, power lines or a mobile phone boosting tower).  Thankfully there are some products that you can use to cut down the exposure of your baby in utero.  Sadly I wasn't aware of these products when I was pregnant, but I've discovered them now and hopefully you can benefit from them.  (And I can use them if I have another baby!)

When Belly Armor CEO Aileen Chen was pregnant with her first child, she was working as a banking executive.  She became concerned about the impact of her frequent travel and use of electronic devices and started researching what the experts were saying about everyday radiation, and became more and more concerned with what she found. So, after looking for something to shield this everyday radiation, and not finding anything, she decided to create it herself and Belly Armor was born.

Aileen partnered with a company that creates radiation shields for industrial purposes and worked with them to create something for consumer use.  The resulting textile is incredibly light, breathable, machine washable and shields against everyday radiation with 99% effectiveness.  Belly Armor's products include maternity tops, a belly band, and belly blankets.  Aileen was named #11 in the Babble 2011 list of the top 50 Mompreneurs ("They cook, they clean and, between naptimes, they run kickass companies."). 

There is some fantastic information on the Belly Armor website, including a great collection of recent news items about radiation from cell phones and wireless networks, and an interesting/scary list of possible health risks from radiation exposure, especially during pregnancy.
Belly Armor were kind enough to provide me with one of their belly blankets to test, and I can confirm that the cell phone test works. I would recommend these products to any pregnant women wanting to avoid radiation, along with other radiation-minimizing tips such as these.  

*** You can get 10% off all purchases from with the promo coupon code Annies until June 24th 2011.  ***

I asked Belly Armor some questions to find out more about the company and their products:

"Q: Where are your products made and what mechanisms do you have in place to ensure safe working conditions?
A: Our products are made in our own factory in Indonesia and our CEO makes frequent trips out there.  It adheres to GMP standards (good manufacturing practices) and we have programs in place to ensure our processes are socially and environmentally responsible. This includes balancing our carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets through a great program called TerraPass.

Q: Would you ever consider using organic cotton or other eco-friendly materials in your products?
A: Yes, we will be introducing an organic cotton product later this year.  We also use eco-friendly recycled packaging and processes.

Q: Are you planning on expanding your range in the near future?
A: Yes, in addition to the organic product we plan on launching, we'll be doing another product launch with a next generation technology this summer that we are very excited about.

Q: Do you recommend using the blankets on babies after they are born?
A: Right now our products are only for use during maternity.  Risk from radiation exposure is also a big concern for babies and young children, so we do hope to expand our line in the near future to help address this as well.

Q: Any other tips on avoiding radiation exposure?
A: Use headsets or speakerphone while on your cell phone, especially when pregnant. When you have the option, use a landline and limit the time on your cell phone.

Don't set your laptop on your pregnant (or non-pregnant) belly. Always work with it on the desk or at least with a lap desk or laptop cooler between you and the laptop.

Be aware of the time spent using electronics and, when possible, increase the distance between yourself and electronic devices - particularly appliances that use high rotation or air flow, such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, blenders, etc."

Finally, I love this quote from a mom named Christine who was interviewed for another Belly Armor review: "It really is sad how unavoidable it is — unless of course you live in a bubble and even then, your bubble may be made of BPA plastic, therefore negating the whole bubble thing!"  Sad but true.  At least with Belly Armor there is something relatively easy you can do to reduce your exposure to radiation :-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Confessions of an organic mom who is sometimes normal

The last month or so has been a bit rough for our family.  Beautiful Organic Boy #2 (BOB2) has been unwell, primarily with infected eczema, which means that none of us has been getting much sleep, and since he wasn't sleeping unless one of us was holding him, we weren't getting much else done either.  I have a few posts planned about the whole saga, and how to stay as natural & organic as possible while navigating the conventional medical paradigm, but for now I wanted to share some quick thoughts on my recent revelations.  I have so much more appreciation now for what life must be like for families with chronically unsettled/unwell babies, or people who are carers around the clock.  It's hard work and you have very little time to look after yourself, just getting a moment to brush your teeth or wash your hair is a challenge.  That's why I've taken to wearing outfits that can go from bed to school drop off and back to bed a few more times without having to be changed (just reapply a bit of organic deodorant).

It's also hard to take the time and have the mental clarity to research and purchase the safest products for your family while being a full time carer for someone who is unwell.  I have to confess that I've done the following things in the last few weeks that I never thought I would.  They probably seem pretty normal to some of you, but for me it was a real insight into what life is like for people who are really busy/stressed/over-worked etc.  I realize now how much my lovely organic lifestyle has been made possible because of having the luxury of time (by working part time from home) to research and procure the safest products (or find ways to consume less but that require more time/effort).

So here are my confessions:
1.  I bought a pack of Huggies diapers (actually my husband did) because it was too much trouble to find a shop with the eco-friendly ones in stock.
2.  We bought a clothes dryer, which is being delivered this week hopefully.
3.  I bought some beef that wasn't organic because I couldn't get to the organic butcher (and it was really yummy).
4.  I used some petroleum-based skin care products on my baby because he was reacting badly to all of the natural/organic ones :-(
5.  I drove places that I could have easily walked to because I was too tired/didn't have time/couldn't be bothered.

PS: I've also taken to peeing in the shower lately, as it saves time and it's hard to pee when you're always holding a sick baby.  But I don't have to add that to my list of confessions since I reckon it's pretty eco-friendly, saving water and all...