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I recently traveled to an airplane hanger perched on the side of a mountain in Warren, Vermont.


I was there to chat with Jenneth Fleckenstein about her water treatment company, Clear Water Filtration. It’s housed in the hanger along with two of her family’s other businesses, Jim Parker Airshows, and Vacutherm.  The whole place felt like well-organized inventors lab.

I was there to learn more about common issues with home water treatment, Clear Water Filtration, and Jen’s ongoing advocacy work for clean water access in Honduras and Haiti.

Edward Shepard for Parent Co 

Tell me where we are right now.

Jen: We’re Warren, Vermont, in an airplane hanger. I grew up about two miles north of here. My dad bought this hanger in the ’70s. He turned it into a variety of businesses, starting with a business around wood drying.

When he created that business, he found that the water supplying his machines was terrible. He found a water filter that worked. But when it broke, he figured out how to fix it. Word got out that he knew how to install and fix water filters, and that is how Clear Water started.

When you say the water was bad, what does that mean?

There was a lot of mineral content in the water. There was hardness, which is calcium carbonate. There was iron in the water. All of those minerals were clogging up all the mechanicals of the machine. He needed to make the water better for the process he was inventing for drying lumber.

When somebody has hard water, where does that come from. The earth or the pipes?

From the ground water. With the hydrologic cycle, as the rain precipitates down, it percolates down through the layers of soil and rock, and as it does that, it picks up minerals from the different layers.

Then, when it collects in aquifers, which is what we drill into when we drill a well, all of that dissolved mineral content comes with the water that we pump into our house.

Jen and her twin brother Jim Parker in Warren, Vermont.

 

Tell me more about Clear Water Filtration.

At Clear Water Filtration, we install and service water treatment equipment throughout Vermont, for residential and commercial applications. We improve residential, commercial water quality.

We do that by testing the water, going into people’s homes or places of business, testing the water, free of charge, for a basic mineral content, or taking it a step further and analyzing it through a lab, to understand contaminants in the water.

Then we focus on finding the best solution to meet the needs of the customer.

 

What does somebody install in their home to improve their water?

Depending on what you’re removing, let’s say it’s hardness and iron, you can install what’s called a water softener, which is basically a big fiberglass tank, and it is filled with a resin media, and it goes through a process called ion exchange where it takes the calcium and the iron out of the water and exchanges it for a sodium ion or a potassium ion.

Otherwise, your boiler or water heater will become inefficient from calcium scaling. It even reduces it at your faucet head.

Meanwhile, people who are on city water – who don’t usually have to worry about high mineral content –  instead have to deal with drinking chlorinated water or chloraminated water.

What’s the difference between those?

Chlorine versus chloramine, Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia bonded together. They use chloramine as a disinfectant because it’s more stable in distribution. It doesn’t produce what are called disinfection byproducts.

Chloramine and chlorine are perfectly acceptable ways of disinfecting water to protect against bacterial contamination.

However, once it reaches your home, you don’t need it anymore. It can be removed so that you’re not drinking it or showering in it.

Chlorine smells terrible. To me, it seems like you don’t want to drink too much chlorine.

Yeah, you don’t. Chlorine, frankly, has been linked as a carcinogen. It’s not that stable in terms of being a disinfectant with big municipal supply so that it can break down, and it can produce what are called haloacetic acids or trihalomethanes, which are carcinogens.

They are known carcinogens, and those are tested for, typically, in the distribution so you would know if they’re there.

Chlorine, as a disinfecting agent, has been used forever. It is monitored, heavily. They know how much is in the water, but it is not something you want to be drinking.

It’s not good for us, so you can remove it once it reaches the home. It’s easy to do.

When you go to somebody’s home, and you test, let’s say, what are the things you typically find? Water in the country must be quite different than water in the city. 

Well, we find a wide variety of things. Calcium is very prevalent. Iron is very prevalent. We’ve found that people are experiencing high levels of sulfur, which is that rotten egg smell that you can detect.

We constantly get calls from people who have that odor in their water. We see that a lot.

Can you remove that?

Yes. Then we also see high levels of arsenic and radionuclides, and occasionally people have total coliform hits, which is pretty simple to take care of and remediate.

What is that?

Total coliform is a form of bacteria. Most municipalities inject chlorine to combat it, but some people who are selling a home, for example, have to take a total coliform sample, to prove that the water is safe for consumption. Occasionally, they get a hit, and they say “Oh, my gosh, I have bacteria in my water. Now, what do I do?” There are a number of ways we can solve that.

What are some things that you want people to know about water in their home?

I think that the most important thing that people can do with regards to their water is to test it, regularly.

I think that the most important thing that people can do with regards to their water is to test it, regularly.

People are starting to swing towards wanting to have a better understanding of their water supply and what they are feeding their families and pets and domestic animals. Testing is number one. This schedule gives you a base line of what is coming into your home:

  • Let us come in and take a basic mineral test. You then know what your water is made up of.
  • We also recommend an additional test for bacteria annually, especially if you are on a well.
  • Test for arsenic every three years.
  • Test for radionuclides every three years.

Also, go into your basement and look at what you have going on down there. Where is your water coming from? How is it supplied? Knowing this is really important.

One thing that surprised me is what you said about how the water cycle changes. Your water supply will change, year to year.

Yeah, water is always changing. That is one thing that is tricky in our industry. We will go into a home, we will test the water, and get a full snapshot of what’s going on, and we will make a recommendation.

Then, let’s say in five years, they’ll call back. The taste, smell or even hardness has changed, and they don’t know where it’s coming from.

That’s because water is a natural element. It’s part of the earth. It’s always changing. There are environmental factors that play into that as well.

Not to be too fear-based, but I imagine water impurities or problems with the water are more serious in a smaller child, and a pet, even.

I was talking to a customer the other day who has horses. She was feeding the horses with water that had a lot of iron in it. So the horses refused to drink the water.

She didn’t know why. She kept bringing them water, piping it right to the barn, and the horses would totally reject it.

Then we came out, tested the water, and she had abnormally high levels of iron. She ended up having to develop another source, a surface water source that didn’t have as much mineral content. Immediately, they started to drink the water.

What about nitrates?

Yeah, definitely. That’s one thing we test for regularly. It’s a contaminate that can get into your drinking water supply, especially if you’re surrounded by farm land.

Nitrates in water can lead to something called blue baby syndrome.

Nitrates in water can lead to something called blue baby syndrome, which is basically that the child’s skin will have a bluish tint. It’s a result of a lack of oxygen traveling through the blood.

Nitrates are something to definitely be aware if you are mixing formula and using a water supply that might have high levels of nitrate in it.

Let’s talk a little bit about that because a lot of people do rely on bottled water. Not just when they’re traveling, but at home. Costco sells it by the pallet. Or people buy the big five-gallon jug of water for their home or office.

There are so many elements of bottled water that concern me. One is that bottled water is municipal water. Bottled water is municipal water that goes through a variety of treatment processes and then is put into a plastic bottle.

The other thing that people don’t consider is the real consumption of water that goes into manufacturing and shipping the bottle. Gasoline requires two gallons of water to every one gallon of gas, so if you’re trucking water from one part of the country to another part of the country, you are using a massive amount of water. And making the plastic bottle itself requires a lot of water.

Read more about reducing water consumption in your home. 

My number one argument against bottled water is simply the hydrologic cycle. We all know what the hydrologic cycle is. It’s the water cycle. It’s how water continues to regenerate itself both on the ground and on the surface.

The hydrologic cycle exists on a massive scale, but then there is also these little localized hydrologic cycles.

For example, if we were pumping the water out of Lake Champlain and bottling it, then trucking it to California, we’re interrupting the hydrologic cycle that exists for that body of water. We are effectively removing the water that could be recaptured by the environment and used for the people that live here.

It’s gone. It’s totally off the grid.

That is my biggest pet peeve of bottled water. We have very, very precious ground water sources, and they have to be replenished by the hydrologic cycle.

If we remove and pump out the ground water and move it to a different place, we’ve lost the ability to recapture that water and keep it where it needs to be.

Tell me more about some of the water work you have done around the world.

In 2012, I traveled to Honduras with Pure Water for the World, which is a non-profit based in Vermont. Their focus is purely on safe drinking water, proper sanitation and hygiene education for very rural communities in both Honduras and Haiti.

We describe this program as WASH. It is an acronym for WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene.

We installed about 25 to 30 filters in homes. We got to observe how the staff, which is a local staff of Hondurans, interact with the beneficiaries and teach them about hand-washing practices and how to protect your water source so that you are not putting your goat next to your source, and you are not going to the bathroom next to your source. They simply don’t have the means to proper infrastructure for both drinking and cooking water and water for sanitation.

Since then, I have gone to Haiti a number of times. I became a board member, and now the Vice President of the board. It’s a huge passion.

Essentially, what Pure Water does is exactly what Clear Water does, except they’re doing it for people who have a critical need. It is a life or death matter for them.

What do you think people need to know about water in the world today? 

Water in the world today is scarce, and what we have, we are contaminating, really rapidly.

Read more about reducing water consumption in your home. 

My perspective is really about conservation and source protection. We need to be mindful about what we are putting on the ground because anything that we put in the ground is going to get into our water source, and we are going to have to treat it. We see it. Clear Water sees it every day.

We are not so much on the source development side regarding drilling wells or anything like that, but we see the aftermath of what’s coming into the home, both from a municipal supply or from a well. It starts with protecting the source and conserving what you have because we have a very, very limited supply.

What we have now is all we will ever get, and if we don’t protect it, we are done. We are done.

Earlier, we talked a lot about how your water may not be toxic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.

What I pride our company on is that we don’t sell, we educate.

We go into a person’s home, and we explain, “There is your well. This is what your well pump does. This is your pressure tank. By the way, your pressure tank isn’t working. That needs to be replaced,” and then we focus on the testing.

Then we recommend what’s the best solution for that particular person’s goals. It’s often a global solutiuon. How can they improve the quality of the water in their home so that other processes of their home is also more efficient and improved? How can they keep their family as healthy as possible by drinking the water that they have available to them?

There is a bunch of filtering stuff around. What are the components of the home water filter by the way? For drinking water.

Typically, where the water comes into the home, it goes through a pressure tank. If you are on city water, you don’t have a pressure tank, but if you are addressing the working water of the home, it will usually go through a pre-filter which is like a canister filter, and that can have a variety of different types of filters in it.

Usually, it is for sediment, and then it will go through a valve, which is what is responsible for regulating what the filter, what the softener does.

Then, specifically for a drinking water system, you have a dedicated tap that is just for your drinking water, so at your sink, in your kitchen, you have your regular faucet that you are using for washing your hands or washing your dishes, but then you would have another faucet that is dedicated to your drinking water or even your cooking water, or making ice cubes, if that is how you’re doing it.

That system is much smaller, and it can go under your sink, or we can plumb it in your basement if you don’t want to take up space in your sink, and it’s portable, so if you move or if it’s a rental, you can take the drinking water system with you.

Tell me about “What’s Your Watermark.”

Yeah, What is Your Watermark? It is an effort that Clear Water started after we returned from Honduras, and basically, it is a sort of philanthropic program that we have created that hopefully inspires people to think more about water, so a lot of what we are talking about today is how are you conserving water, how are you treating your water, how can you get off … how can all of us get off our dependence on bottled water.

It is an effort to try to unite and network people who are using those efforts. Several businesses are part of the Watermark program.

Wow, great. Where should people go to learn more about that?

You can go to our website, Clearwaterfiltration.com, or you can go Whatsyourwatermark.com. The two are intermixed. They are two separate sites, but you can go to either one. They are linked. I want to make it clear.

Written in partnership with Clear Water Filtration, who also sponsored a giveaway for a free home water mineral test and chance to win a $250 credit toward a home filtration system! 

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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