Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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Top 10 Toxic Baby Products May 16, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 3:44 pm
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Overwhelmed by all the info?  Not sure which “non-toxic” items for baby are essential purchases?  Here’s my list of Top 10 Toxic Baby Products, in order of approximate danger.  Balance this priority list against your budget to determine what to buy for baby:

1.  Baby Mattresses:  for the crib, bassinet, cosleeper, etc.  avoid like the plague mattresses that are covered with vinyl, filled with polyurethane foam, and treated with chemical fire retardants.   Babies and toddlers spend 10-14 hours a day sleeping, inhaling air just inches away from these dangerous chemicals.  For more info see, What’s Wrong with Conventional Mattresses?  Organic mattresses are made with materials like cotton, wool and natural rubber.

2.  Waterproof Mattress Pads:  “Normal” mattress pads designed for babies utilize vinyl to provide waterproof protection against diaper leaks or accidents.  For the same reasons as above, these are definitely not safe.  A dense wool puddle pad can also provide waterproof protection, without the poisonous fumes. 

3.  Cheap Wooden Toys:  In general, choosing wooden toys over plastic ones is a win-win for the environment and for your child’s safety.  However, know your source.   Toys cheaply made (and often in China) often use lead-tainted paints.  Lead poisoning is so serious that it’s just not worth taking a single risk.  A responsible toy-maker has it’s paints tested for lead.  Testing is routine for European manufacturers and may become routine in the US starting in 2010.

4.  BPA-contaminated Bottles:  Baby bottles made with polycarbonate plastics (clear and hard) emit the toxin BPA.  While the seriousness of BPA exposure to young infants is debated in our country (Still Not Sure about BPA?), other countries, like Canada, have outlawed BPA-emitting plastics in children’s feeding products.  Nowadays, BPA-free baby bottles are easy to find and quite affordable.  Still, don’t assume it’s BPA-free.  Read the label.  Or, just choose glass – it’s definitely safer and more environmentally friendly.

5.  BPA-contaminated Sippy Cups:  Same as above.  Sippy cups are workhorses.  It makes sense to opt for stainless steel sippy cups, over BPA-free plastics since they wear well and minimize the use of any plastic.

6.  Soft Plastic Teethers:   It’s smart to avoid plastic in general, but any soft plastics – like those most baby teethersare made with – are likely to contain phthalates.  Phthalates are a class of chemicals that soften plastics.  They are hormone disruptors, like BPA.  Not something you want baby chewing on.  For more details see, Toxic Toy Alert – Phthalates.  Opt instead for cloth or wooden teethers.  If you must do plastic, check that the label claims its phthalate-free.

7.  Baby Washes and Lotions:   Phthalates come into play here too.  Most baby washes and lotions use artificial scents or “fragrances”.  Any artificial smell is typically packed with phthalates, ready to do their hormone-disrupting worst.  What’s more, these cosmetics are often packed with cancer-causing chemicals, even ones declared “unsuitable for use on infant skin”.  There is no adequate policing of the cosmetic industry.  You’ve got to become informed at www.CosmeticDatabase.com and/or rely on brands that are certified organic, free of chemical additives.  For a case study, see Johnson & Johnson products Removed from Shelves in China!

8.  Popular Diaper Creams:  Diaper creams are cosmetics too and likely to carry the same concerns as the above.  I list them separately because your loyalty to Desitin, Balmex, Butt Paste or the like may be so strong that you forget to evaluate it’s safey too!  Check your miracle cream’s toxicity rating at www.CosmeticDatabase.com.  Here are some case studies I’ve done: Desitin – Safe or Toxic? and My Cosmetic Purge.

9.  Pesticides in Baby Food:  Pesticides are poisons.  Their “safety” levels are based on exposure in adults, not in tiny baby bodies that eat far more produce than the average adult.  Buying organic baby food definitely adds up faster than conventionally grown baby food, but it’s worth it.  I can’t, as a parent, feel very good about serving up bug poison.  If your budget burst a few items earlier on this priority list, try to make baby food at home from organic produce.  It is a bit cheaper.  Or, for maximum savings, grow your own.

10. Disposable Diapers:  Not too well known is the fact that disposable diapers aren’t entirely “pure” no matter how white they’ve been bleached (and actually, bleach is part of the problem).  Disposable diapers contain chemicals that are known to cause skin irritations, bleeding, fever, infection, cancer, sterility, and even death if ingested. Read more about Health Risks with Disposable Diapers.  Of course, using cloth diapers is actually cheaper.  But, if cloth is not your style, safer options include Tushies and 7th Generation disposable diapers.

*Note:  It was difficult to order these dangers, but I realize that some kind of frame of reference is helpful when dealing with the realities of life (limited budget).  Because of the extremely well documented dangers of lead poisoning, I placed “Cheap Wooden Toys” above BPA issues.  In reality, we are still learning about the potential ramifications of BPA and phthalate exposure.

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Do your Homework Before Buying an Organic Mattress! March 17, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 8:52 pm
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Barry Cik, the Founder of Naturepedic, responds to an article questioning the transparency of the organic mattress industry.

A recent article in the New York Times called The Stuffing Dreams Are Made Of?, details the growth of the manufacturing industry for organic and natural mattresses. It points out (in a gentle manner) that there is more than a bit of trickery used by manufacturers in order to have the magic word, “organic”, on the label.

So why is this happening and what’s going on? Well, it all boils down to a lack of regulation of the term “organic”. Ah, but you thought that use of the word “organic” was highly regulated? Yes and no. If you’re buying an organic carrot or cucumber, then yes, those items are regulated. For agricultural products there are strict regulations in place to label the product as organic. (This includes organic cotton as well, as it doesn’t matter whether or not the item is edible, but only whether it’s under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

However, if the item is not under the jurisdiction of the USDA, then there are no regulations. So Mattress A may be called organic even if it’s basically made with “natural” latex, which, by the way, is a potential allergen. Mattress B may be called organic because they mixed some soybean or castor oil into the polyurethane foam. Believe it. Mattress C may highlight the crushed organic coconut husks, but forget to point out that it’s dipped in latex which is the glue that holds it together. Mattress D may highlight various animal hairs but fail to mention the chemicals used to clean up the dirt, grease, and dried sweat. And Mattress E may add some aloe vera to the filling. Yet, due to misleading marketing and lack of disclosure, the public thinks that it’s all “organic”.

Truly organic mattresses originally began when manufacturers removed polyurethane foam and replaced it with organic cotton, with the point being to remove harmful chemicals. The term “organic mattress” quickly became a convenient consumer term to describe these mattresses. Today, consumers understand the term “organic” to mean healthy and safe, but without regulation there is no guarantee of either. Organic mattresses, like many consumer products, have fallen victim to the practice of greenwashing (or shall we say organic-washing?), when companies disingenuously spin their products and policies as environmentally friendly.

Courtesy of Healthy Child Healthy World: a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.

 

All about Fire-Retardants September 4, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 3:46 pm
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People everywhere are growing concerned with chemical fire-retardant treatments.  And, rightly so.  Recent studies link fire-retardant chemical exposure to cancer, birth defects, autism, thyroid disorders, hyperactivity, learning disabilities such as ADD, and more.  Yikes, that’s a long list!

Sadly, fire-retardants are stored in our bodies and passed on to future generations via the placenta and through breastfeeding.  Virtually every American who has been tested has been found to have fire-retardants, with babies showing the highest levels (probably since their bedding, pajamas and toys are treated with fire-retardant chemicals).  In fact, when scientists examine North American women’s breast milk, they find that we have levels of fire-retardant chemicals at almost 10 times those found in European and Asian women’s breast milk.  Eeek!

So, what’s a parent to do?  We know that breastfeeding is best… so focus on reducing or removing your family’s exposures to fire-retardants and make it habit to buy products that don’t have these toxic chemicals.  Your buying power is the strongest way to send a message to big-business that they had better mend their ways. 

How do you know?  Manufacturers aren’t required to reveal whether their products are treated with fire retardants.  However, if a product boasts that it is flame-resistant or mentions flammability standards, take that as a big red flag that chemicals were used.  Wool is pretty much the only natural fire-retardant fiber.  That’s why wool mattresses and wool waterproof pads for baby’s bed are growing in popularity.  Innovative companies, like Haba Toys, are also finding that weaving polyester into cotton fabrics makes the cloth of their toys resistant to short-duration heat exposure.  Choose natural cotton pajamas for your children that fit close to the body.  Those are the only pajamas not required to undergo chemical treatments.   

The bottom line is – ask before you buy items such as soft furniture, carpets, mattresses, etc.  If a company is not able to answer your questions regarding the use of fire-retardant chemicals, consider taking your business elsewhere.  Fire safety should not come at the expense of poisoning our families and our environment, especially when safe, non-toxic alternatives exist!

 

Once Upon a Mattress September 2, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 3:47 pm
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I’m reading a wonderful book for creating a safe, “green” home, “Healthy Child Healthy World” published by a national non-profit by the same name.  This excerpt, written by actress Laura Dern, is long but worth reading: 

Once Upon a Mattress

“We hear the news that we’re having a baby and we want to be really healthy and careful.  So we eat organically, avoid mercury in fish, don’t drink, don’t smoke: we don’t use hair color or paint our nails.  We spend all this energy and time creating a really healthy environment – and then we totally switch gears.  We stop thinking about health and somehow lead ourselves to believe that the most important thing for the baby when it comes home from the hospital is… a pretty room…. And so we choose the coolest crib design, instead of the safest or healthiest crib.  We pick the absolute cutest linens, even if they’re covered in flame-retarants and other chemicals (never mind that baby can hardly see at first).  Unwittingly we put loads of toxic chemicals into the room as we strive to make it look right.

But think about it: A newborn baby is spending something like sixteen hours a day asleep.  And that newborn baby’s face is pressed against that space, breathing in what is probably a fresh-off-the-conveyer-belt mattress whose off-gassing is at its height.  On top of that you put a bleached, chemically treated cotton sheet that’s newly dyed – oh, but it’s really cute! – and perhaps not even washed first, or washed in a conventional detergent that’s high in chemicals.  Then ther’s the crib itself, which is often made of partical board, and which continues to off-gas for a long time.  Unbeknown to you, you’ve created an environment with risks when all you wanted to do was make your baby happy and safe.  But it looks good.  Even though the kid is not going to enjoy it for the first two years of his life. 

Most of us do it because nobody told us not to….”

The article goes on, but I’m sure you get the gist.  And, to confess, I’m guilty of exactly what Laura Dern describes.  I read and make careful choices about my pregnancy to give my children a healthy start, but I placed them on conventional, vinyl-topped mattresses and used cheap, chemically dyed and treated bedding without a clue.   

Laura’s right, nobody told met not to.  I would have listened.  That’s why I’m telling you.