Mothers Exposed to Cleaning Chemicals Could Have Baby Boys With Genital Defects

Pregnant women who use cleaning products that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals could give birth to baby boys with genital defects, according to a new study conducted by researchers in southern France.

In addition to cleansers, detergents, pesticides and cosmetics could pose a risk if they contain phthalates, BPA (bisphenol-A), polychlorinated compounds, organic solvents, synthetic fragrances and other chemical compounds that mimic the natural reproductive hormones people normally produce.

After examining more than 600 children, the researchers found that babies exposed in utero to endocrine-disrupting chemicals while their genitals were developing were more like to suffer from a deformity called hypospadias. Hypospadias is a condition in which the opening of the urethra develops on the underside of the penis rather than the tip. The urethra is the tube that connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. In males, the urethra transports semen during sexual intercourse. It also is the way urine flows out of the body. Depending on its severity, the defect can cause problems with urination and later in life, sexual activity.

Fortunately, about 70 percent of deformities are relatively mild. However, fixing it can require surgery.

This isn’t the first time scientists have found a link between certain chemicals and hypospadias, reports Environmental Health News. Mothers in southeast England who were heavily exposed to endocrine disrupting phthalates on the job were about three times as likely to have a baby boy with hypospadias.  And in 2010, Italian researchers found that among 160 mothers, those who worked with more than one group of endocrine disrupting chemicals were four times as likely to have a baby boy with hypospadias.

What Can You Do?

1) Read product labels to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Women most likely to give birth to boys with hypospadias are those who work as cleaners, hairdressers or beauticians. However, you do not need to work in the cleaning or beauty industry to be at risk. Read the labels of the products you buy. Choose those that say they are BPA-free. Avoid synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and parabens, paying particularly close attention to cosmetics, perfume, food packaging and plastic packaging.

2) Make your own. It is simple, effective and inexpensive to make your own cleaning products, as well as body washes and even perfume. Most of the time, all you need is baking soda, white distilled vinegar, fragrance-free liquid dish soap, and water. Care2 offers many recipes for safe make-your-own cleansers, face scrubs, and perfume.

3) Frequent beauty parlors that make an effort to use BPA-free and phthalate-free products. Search out establishments that use natural products to protect the health of their workers as well as their customers.

4) Use green cleaning companies, or provide your own green cleaning products. An increasing number of professional cleaning services use only eco-friendly, non-toxic cleansers. If you have a household cleaning service, insist they use the safest, healthiest products available. Provide them yourself if necessary.

5) Spread the word. Through word-of-mouth and social media, tell your friends, family and co-workers — and especially women who are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant — what you’ve learned about the dangers of using products that contain phthalates, parabens, BPA, and other hormone disrupting compounds.


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Eight ways to get a great start to the new financial year

Decisions you make now will make a big difference to your savings this year.

First understand where you are

Before you can even think of creating a financial strategy you need to understand your financial position. Know what you earn and what you spend.  By looking at this you can get a good understanding of what you can potentially save and put in place saving mechanisms to capture this.

Also at this time of year it’s a good idea to get your records ready in preparation to lodge your tax return so you are aware of any refund or tax owing.

Check your super received in the last year

It may sound simple but you’d be surprised how many people don’t check that their employer is actually contributing to their super fund.  Compare your payslip to your super fund records and talk to your payroll if there are any discrepancies.

Review your salary sacrifice arrangements

Check if you super contribution caps have changed.  If you are over 49 your concessional or pre-tax contribution annual cap has increased to $35,000.  For everyone else it is $30,000.  If you are paid fortnightly, check to see whether you are getting 26 or 27 fortnightly pays this year and talk to your payroll about whether you need to make an adjustment to your withholding tax and salary sacrifice arrangements.  By doing this you won’t get caught at the end of the financial year.

Split your pay to help save for goals/investments.

Make it easy!  Once you understand what you can save, look to automate how you can capture these savings. If a portion of your wage is going straight from your employer into your investment account you are less likely to either forget to invest or choose a more appealing short-term purchase instead.

Check debts and credit cards

Clear personal debt and start fresh for the financial year and ensure you pay your credit cards off in full each month to avoid costly interest.

Set up bank accounts smartly

If you found yourself scrambling to find receipts or locating which bank account you used to spend money on tax deductible expenses, try setting up a bank account specifically for tax deductible expenses or even a small debit card separate to your everyday spending that saves valuable time at tax time in finding expenses and ensures you claim everything you are entitled to.

Embrace technology

There are so many useful apps that can keep you on track with a budget or help with track and store your tax receipts.  Most of these are free or only cost a few dollars so give them a go.

Keep on track

Having set your goals, ensure that you have them recorded somewhere to make sure you stick to them.  Strategies and goals are useless if you don’t focus on achieving them.

Use the support of friends and family and the services of an expert advisor to maximise your chances of success. Letting others know your savings goals will act to keep you motivated, as well as make those close to you a little more understanding if you are unable to spend as freely in order to achieve your savings goals.

Why not increase the financial savviness of those around you – pay it forward and pass on these tips to your family, friends and kids.

By : Olivia Maragna

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Sikh Man Who Removed Turban To Help Injured Boy Surprised When Friendly Strangers Return The Favor

After a 22-year-old Sikh man removed his turban to help an injured boy, a handful of friendly strangers acted quickly to return the favor.

Harman Singh, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, heard screeching wheels and ran outside to find that Daejon Pahia had been hit by a car.

“I saw a child down on the ground and a lady was holding him. His head was bleeding, so I unveiled my turban and put it under his head,” Singh told The New Zealand Herald. “I wasn’t thinking about the turban. I was thinking about the accident and I just thought, ‘He needs something on his head because he’s bleeding.’ That’s my job — to help. And I think anyone else would have done the same as me.”

The turban, or dastaar, is an “integral” part of the Sikh faith that is typically onlyremoved in the privacy of one’s home, according to the Sikh Coalition.

As television news crews traveled to the Singh’s home for interviews, the world saw a peek into the man’s accommodations — which were plain and lacking furniture.

Inspired by concerned comments from viewers, the staff at the Good News Networkgot in touch with a local furniture store owner and surprised Singh with a truckload of new furniture for his apartment. Singh said, through tears, “This the biggest surprise of my life.”


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Stressed At Work? These 5 Office Mental Health Tips Will Help

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to handle stress at work — but most of it assumes that you’re the boss, or at least someone powerful enough to demand that your office install some soothing non-fluorescent lighting. But while you might be stressed out like a boss, you might not yet have the kind of power needed to request that someone feng shui the filing cabinets. Luckily, there are plenty of work stress-relieving techniques that anyone working in an office can put to use immediately.

And odds are, you do need to put them to use immediately: the American Stress Institute estimates that work is the number one source of stress for Americans, with 40 percent of American workers claiming that they need help managing that stress. And if you work in an open plan office, those stresses become even more specific. Though open plan officeswere created in hopes that their lack of structure would lead to free and spontaneous exchange of ideas between coworkers, numerous studies have pointed out that open plan offices come with their own set of pressures — many of them related to lack of privacy and noise complaints. And since 70 percent of American offices are now open plan offices, that’s a lot of stress to deal with.

These five simple techniques can help you better manage office stress, which can make you more productive, more creative, and more able to have after-work conversations about things besides how stressed you are at work

1. Get A Plant

Why It Helps: What can having a plant on your desk do? I mean, what can’t it do? According to interior designer Sherry Burton Ways, maintaining something green and leafy by your work space can help “reduce absenteeism, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase positive feelings, lower noise levels, decrease room temperature and lower humidity.”

And studies have shown that as few as three desk plants can reduce the CO2 level by 25 percent in a room with no air flow. Plants are also believed to encourage productivity, and researchers at Texas A & M University found that workers with plants nearby had more creative ideas than workers who just had to stare at their bare office walls or Mandy from Human Resources.

How To Put This Tip Into Action: Get a plant, any plant, and plop it down on your desk. And no matter your specific office requirements or personal flaws, there is a plant out there to suit your needs. Bad at remembering to water plants? Snake plants don’t need to be watered very often at all. Work in an office with very little natural light? African violets, lucky bamboo, peace lilies, or other plants that thrive in low light can still keep you happy and remind you that there’s a world out there beyond your TPS reports. And even if you work in Sub-Basement Three, jade plants can grow with nothing but the soothing glow of your fluorescent office lights.

2. Stand Up

Why It Helps: Surely by now you’ve read some of the studies about how sitting for your entire work day can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack, and negatively impact your overall health in ways that can’t be fixed by popping out to the gym at six. But odds are, your job won’t throw down for one of those schmany standing desks. Luckily for you, you actually don’t need a standing model in order to avoid death by desk (in fact, standing all day can come with its own health problems, like leg, knee, and back problems). All you need to do is stand up throughout the day for short periods of time, to reap benefits like improved blood flow and increased metabolism.

How To Put This Tip Into Action: Experts recommend that you stand up twice an hourwhen you’re working, which can be easily integrated into regular office activities like going to the supply room, using the bathroom, or checking the office fridge to see if anyone has left any cakes unattended.

And if you tend to get in the zone and lose track of time for hours at a stretch, there are plenty of apps that can remind you to keep your butt in motion, like Stand Up, which reminds you to stand up at the interval of your choice, or Smart Break, which also encourages you to take strategically-timed breaks that help you avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and similar typing-related problems.

3. See The Sun

Why It Helps: Many of us work in offices so densely packed and window-free that we have to chat nine different coworkers before we find someone who can tell us what the weather outside looks like. While you might be inclined to punch your own skylight through the weird particle board ceiling, there is a better way to get the sunshine that you need to keep your mind and body healthy: go outside. Crazy, right? I know. But it works! Since UV rays can’t penetrate glass, you’re going to have to actually get outdoors to reap the stress-relieving and sleep-improving benefits of sun exposure.

How To Put This Tip Into Action:  According to experts, you may need anywhere from just a few to 20 minutes in the sun each day, depending on factors like your skin tone and the intensity of your sunscreen application — so you might have to get creative about how to find your time in the great-ish outdoors.

Try eating lunch at your desk and then taking a walk during your actual lunch break, or, if your work situation is just not conducive to mid-day sunny strolls, get some sun on the way to work, possibly by getting up a little earlier (sorry) and taking a longer walk during your commute.

4. Personalize Your Desk

Why It Helps: There’s a trend these days towards so-called “lean” offices — that is, offices that look like sexy, streamlined spaceships, with no traditional office distractions like piles of papers or someone’s collection of hideous big-eyed cherub figurines. These offices are usually assumed to lead to a sleeker, more productive work day, but the opposite is actually true.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Craig Knight, a psychologist at the University of Exeter, office worker productivity increased by 16 percent when workers were allowed to surround themselves with personal artifacts like art, plants, family photos, and hideous big-eyed cherub figurines. And a 2010 UK study found that workers who were able to personalize their workspace were one third more efficient than their decor-free counterparts.

How To Put This Tip Into Action: Bring in something that you like and keep it at your desk. Even if it’s small, and even if you have to bring it home with you every day. This reminder of your life outside of work — whether it’s a family photo or a limited edition framed Sharknado 2 poster — can help keep you going through your work day.

5. Block Out The Noise

Why It Helps: According to psychologist Nick Perham, the noise of open plan offices is the biggest irritant to the modern worker — it can prevent us from focusing completely on our projects, retaining and recalling basic information, and even doing simple math. But there is a way to cut through the noise: blocking it out can improve mood, cognitive functions, and other abilities that take a dive when we’re exposed to office noise.

How To Put This Tip Into Action: A good set of noise-canceling headphones can help — they won’t block everything out, but they can give you greater control over the sonic landscape that you’re immersed in. But even regular headphones can give you a boost: listening to music can help improve your mood or achieve the kind of focus that can help you get some kinds of tasks done.

And, most importantly, playing our own music makes us feel like we have some control in the sometimes-chaotic open place office environment — which is psychologically worth its weight in gold (or at least its weight in sleek, streamlined office desks).

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