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.