Manitoba mother finds double bottom line of children's environmental health 

My question to the oncologist was ‘"Where does all this cancer come from and how can we prevent it?"

Melanie Derwin had just lost her father and felt there must be some way to help others avoid going down a similar path.

There was. As the doctor explained to her, age and genetics play a role, and so do toxic chemicals in the environment.

“It was that one last word ‘environment’ that made me think I could have a little bit of control. So I went home that day and began to look at what is happening in my house, in my world with my child,” says Melanie.

Starting in the bathroom, she scrutinized everything she and her family were putting on their skin, looking at the ingredients and learning the meaning of barely pronounceable words.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be putting this on our skin,” she thought. “It’s our biggest organ, absorbing everything that comes into contact with it.”

She looked at other household items such as the mattresses they were sleeping on and the types of clothes they were putting on their kids.

And so began Melanie’s journey, ‘greening up’ her lifestyle and putting the ‘Precautionary Principle’ into practice at home.

When her 2 year-old son developed what appeared to be asthma, she shifted into high gear, integrating complementary medicines, organic food and alternative therapies into a holistic, pro-active approach to promoting health.

“We put an HRV in our house that constantly pumps fresh air. We cut out dairy, sugar and gluten, switched to organic cotton sheets, made sure the pyjamas were all natural materials. And the soap - you could probably almost eat it,” says Melanie.

It was a steep learning curve, but the benefits in terms of the increased well-being of her family were more than worth it.

“As I went through all this and discovered that I could find some complementary medicine and other solutions that were working and helping, he stopped coughing. I never once gave him the asthma drugs. I was so ecstatic I thought I have got to share this with other people,” she says.

That’s when Melanie went virtual. She built a website where she could tell her story through blog posts, and slowly began to sell products for green living that had worked in her house.

With the help of many healthy practices, her son is now 8 and, along with his 4 year old brother, is a real going concern. And so is Melanie’s business, primarily serving the greater Winnipeg area where she is based and frequently getting inquiries from across North America.

“It was right in the thick of when they thought my son had asthma when I found the CPCHE brochure,” recalls Melanie. “That was one of the very first brochures I found on children’s environmental health when I started converting over our house.”

“I was so appreciative that there was a not-for-profit out there that was able to help –that they were there as an organization to kick start information that was credible and relevant.

“It is quite difficult in the ‘natural’ market to find studies that will back this up or that up and say this is going to work. You kind of have to be your own guinea pig.

“So I purchased 100 of those brochures for my business to share with other people who have questions,” says Melanie.

Melanie Derwin may be contacted by email at: