January 13, 2009

Oh Baby, You Look Good in Green!


If you are just joining us, check out the first post from January 6 in this green series and be sure to take the body burden quiz before reading the other posts.

I'd be lying if I denied the fact that part of the reason we decided to start eating all organic foods and stop using toxic chemicals in our home was to begin to prepare the way for Simple Baby.....someday. I am NOT pregnant now!

It was important to us that our home be free of any chemicals and that my body be as free of any pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and steroids as possible. But what I am learning is that protecting your baby's health does not stop at those things. There are more things to be aware of and since so many of you have babies/children, I wanted to share with you what I have learned. You very likely may already know about most of these things, if not all of them, in which case, I invite you to post any comments about what you have learned in your own studies and experience, and products that you use. We all want to learn from you!

Oh, and for you grandparents out there, please do read this post. It's good for you to learn about this stuff, too!

This is a fact: asthma, autism, allergies, and ADHD are on the rise in children in the US. It is not coincidence that these life-altering, if not life-threatening maladies are affecting such a large population of children. Leading child health researchers and doctors are coming to agreement that the reason for these childhood diseases is chemicals. Chemicals that have been introduced into cleaning products, foods, and just about everything else children come in contact with.

Breast Milk
Breast milk is best and if you have a baby or had one, you know that. You also know that whatever you put into your body, even when your baby is in the womb, your baby gets some of that. So they are not only getting the good stuff- nutrients- but they are also getting the bad stuff- the chemicals you breathe in and the growth hormones and pesticides you consume through food.

There's not too much say here other than it seems wise to eliminate those chemicals you breathe in and the growth hormones and pesticides you eat by, you guessed it, switching over to non-toxic cleaning products and eating organic foods as much as possible.

The Food They Eat
Infants and children eat more food per pound of body weight than adults do and they are ten times more vulnerable to chemicals that come from the food they eat- chemicals in the form of toxins such as pesticides, antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones.

I'll talk about eating organic in detail in a later post, but you definitely want your children to consume organic products for these items:
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Meat
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Potatoes
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers

The reason I listed these is because unless the label says so, most dairyand meat products are made from cows or other animals who were treated with growth hormones and possibly given antibiotics to stay "healthy." The produce listed absorbs the pesticides sprayed on it in the crops since the skin is so soft/thin.

Baby Bottles
Clear plastic baby bottles are made of polycarbonate plastic (this means there will be a 7 on the bottom of the bottle- 95% of bottles are a number 7) and when they are warmed up, washed, even gently, or scratched they release a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical that mimics estrogen and can cause early puberty (scientists are beginning to study if there is a link to certain forms of cancer and early puberty), low sperm count, and hyperactivity.

If you insist on using plastic bottles, use ones with a number 1, 2, 4, or 5 on the bottom; they have not yet been linked to BPA leaking. These companies carry BPA-free bottles: http://www.adiri.com/, http://www.newbornfree.com/, and http://www.greentogrow.com/

Glass bottles are best. Check out glass bottles here and here.

A Word About Rubber and Plastic Nipples:
Rubber nipples (typically yellow) have been shown to leak N-nitrosamine, a known carcinogen when it mixes with saliva. Plastic nipples (and pacifiers) contain phthalates, which are known to cause liver, kidney, and testicular problems.

Use silicone nipples- they are widely available and are safest for your baby.

Diapers and Wipes
Diapers account for 3.4 million tons of waste dumped into landfills each year and it is not known how long it takes for diapers to break down. Diapers are taking up a lot of space in landfills, that's for sure!

Conventional diapers- you know, the Huggies, the Pampers, etc.- are made of bleached paper fibers, sodium polyacrylate absorbent gels and plastics. The manufacturing process of creating diapers is known to release dioxin, a probable human carcinogen and tributyltin (TBT), a highly toxic chemical to wildlife.

Cloth diapers may seem to be the best choice, but considering how much water, energy, and money that goes into washing them, they may not be. Also, if you use a diaper service, they likely use chlorine bleach, and we both know that chlorine bleach is not something you want touching your baby's porous skin all day.

So what's a mom to do? Look for unbleached, bio-degradable disposable diapers or flushable diaper liners. Check these companies out: http://www.tendercarediapers.com/, http://www.seventhgeneration.com/, http://www.tushies.com/, http://www.gdiapers.com/, and http://www.kushiesonline.com/

Conventional wipes can contain formaldehyde, propylene glycol, broponol (classified as a dangerous substance in Europ), DMDM hydantoin, and phathalate-fixed fragrances. Check out these products for a safer wipe: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/ and http://www.tushies.com/.

Clothes, Crib Mattresses, Covers, and Bedding
So many things and people touch your baby's skin, but none (except for diapers) as much as their clothes and all the things found in their crib.

Some of the cheapest clothing is made from petroleum-based synthetic fibers and some of them, especially those made in China, are made with toxic amine dyes, which, by the way, are banned in the European Union.

Ever notice how clothes have a stiffness to them? Companies put chemicals on the fabric to make the clothes hang nicer and seem sturdier than they really are. Can you guess what that "fabric finish" might be? It's likely formaldehyde- a known carcinogen and skin and respiratory irritant. And it pretty much stays glued to the fabric threads even after you wash the clothing. This is not so good considering how much more porous your baby'a skin is than an adult's.

So what is being suggested? Well, the best choice would be to buy organic cotton clothing for your baby, espeically pajamas or anything that they will spend a lot of time in or will come in direct contact to their skin. These companies offer great choices: http://www.naturebaby.com/, http://www.mommasaby.com/, http://www.purebeginnings.com/, and http://www.sagebabynyc.com/

"Most conventional crib mattresses are made of polyurethane foam. The EPA lists many of the chemicals used in making this foam as hazardous, and mattresses off-gas these volatile chemicals for years. The federally mandated material safety data sheets posted by manufacturers for polyurethane foam list it as having the following potential health hazards: possible cardiac arrhythmia, breathlessness, chest discomfort, irritation of mucus membranes, headache, coughing, asthma-like allergic reaction, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, and reduced pulmonary function." Green Goes With Everything, page 125

Considering how much time a baby spends in their crib, this is not comforting news. What also is not comforting to hear is that polyurethane mattresses are highly flammable and burn much faster and hotter than wood. And because they are so flammable, manufacturers spray heavey doses of flame retardants on these mattresses. Flame retardants are made up of chemicals that have been banned in the EU. Several states in the US are working on legislation to ban them as well.

Look for an all-natural, organic crib mattress. Some of the best organic mattresses have tempered steel coils and layers or organic cotton and wool- wool is a naturally flame retardant.

You'll also want to consider purchasing organic cotton bedding, but if you cannot swing for that, stay from bedding that is "wrinkle -free" or has "no ironing required." Fabrics with those labels are coated in formaledhyde.

Shampoos, Lotions, Creams, and More!
As with adult personal care products, children's products are equally laden with chemicals. Just because there is a picture of a sweet baby or cute duck on the packaging doesn't mean it's necessarily safe for your little ones.

With shampoos, body washes soaps, and lotions and creams, stay away from products that contain fragrances from phathlates; DMDM hydantoin, an allergen and irritant; ceteareth and polyethylene (PEG) and propylene glycol (PG), which can contain contaminants. Consider purchasing products from these companies: http://www.californiababy.com/, http://www.earth-tribe.com/, http://www.littletwig.com/, and http://www.vedababy.com/, http://www.erbaviva.com/, http://www.aromababy.com/, http://www.badgerbaby.com/, and http://www.babybearshop.com/

California has banned the use of phthalate compounds (they make toys soft or hard and often contain lead) in toys and several other states are working on legislation to ban them, too. The European Union has banned them completely. For some reason the US government is not banning them, and that is why states are having to write their own legislation to ban these harmful toxins from childrens' toys.

Who hasn't heard of a toy recall because something was later found to contain lead. Most of the toys recalled are made in China and so a fairly straight-forward rule to follow would be to not buy toys made in China, especially those toys that will end up in mouths! I once read that the safest toys are those made in western Europe- Germany, France, Spain, etc. The second safest are those made in the US.

Since 80% of the toys on shelves today are made in China it can be hard to find toys that are safe to buy, but here are a few companies that make safe toys: http://www.melissananddoug.com/, http://www.northstartoys.com/, http://www.holgatetoy.com/, and http://www.lego.com/

A Word About Childrens' Jewelry
Lead is a real concern in childrens' jewelry so be very careful about what you let in your home (and your child's mouth).

Well, I do hope that this was more informative than it was overwhelming, especially for you parents out there. Or maybe none of this was news to you at all and you may have some other tips to share or companies to tell us about......please do post whatever you know by leaving a comment on this blog.

Next lesson: Eating Greener, Eating Better


betty said...

I know this will sound very superficial...but, that is a great picture you just posted for your job search. Hate to sound like a mom-could I have a print of that as it's a great shot of you. You must think so too as I know how critical you are of all pictures you pose for!
On other far more important note..you are doing a fantastic job of informing us how to go green. I'm learning a lot. I still like my cinammon airspray though!!!!

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