Also check out our Healthy Baby Guide [pdf] and Healthy Baby Guide [web]
Toxic Chemicals in Baby & Children’s Products
Have you heard the saying that a worried mother does better research than the FBI? Unfortunately, parents almost have to be professional sleuths to figure out what’s safe to use for their children. Scant regulation of chemicals, confusing labeling, and rampant greenwashing can make the simple act of going shopping for your family feel like you’re navigating a minefield. And when our children’s health is at stake, a misstep is not an option.
Avoiding toxic chemicals is particularly crucial when it comes to protecting our babies and children, who are uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemicals. They aren’t just little adults; their immune, neurological, endocrine and entire bodily systems are still developing, and studies show that even small exposures during critical windows can lead to breast cancer, infertility, learning disabilities, and other serious health problems later in life.
The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to reduce your children’s exposure to toxic chemicals. Start by avoiding these five common chemicals!
Where: Bedding, car seats, and foam baby products like nursing pillows and nap mats.
Problem: Studies show that flame retardants appear immediately in the bloodstream and urine, and have linked these chemicals to long-term impacts like endocrine disruption, lower IQ, ADD, fertility issues, thyroid disease and cancer. What’s worse, studies show that these chemicals can’t prevent fires and aren’t necessary.
Avoid it: Switch to 100% cotton or wool bedding, or place an organic cotton or wool topper on top of a regular mattress to minimize exposure. Avoid foam baby products where possible.
Where: Fragrance in cleaning and personal care products, and plastics, as it’s a plastic softener.
Problem: Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that are linked to reproductive malformations in baby boys, reduced fertility, developmental disorders, asthma, and increased allergic reactions. They’ve also been identified by Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks) as “a prime example of chemicals of emerging concern to brain development.”
Avoid it: Go for fragrance-free cleaners and personal care products. Look for baby bottles with nipples made from hospital-grade silicon and skip plastic food containers where possible.
Where: Bug repellent, disinfectant cleaners and hand soaps, and residues in non-organic produce.
Problem: Cancer rates in children are up 25% since 1975 according to Pesticide Action Network, which has taken a very clear stand relating the increasing rates to the increase in use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. The American Academy of Pediatrics points to pesticide residue in food as the most critical route of exposure, which luckily, is one we have some control over.
Avoid it: Buy organic food where possible, and refer to resources like Pesticide Action Network to find foods grown with less pesticides. Reduce use of disinfectant cleaners and hand soaps, and opt for regular cleaners and soaps for everyday use. Learn more about choosing bug repellents without high-risk pesticides.
BPA & BPA Substitutes
Where: Plastic containers like baby bottles, sippy cups, and other feeding containers, plastic food packaging and canned food liners.
Problem: The good news is that the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and children’s sippy cups in 2012. The bad news is that research is emerging that its replacements (BPS, BPE, BPF and numerous others) are also toxic. Some studies suggest that almost all plastics have estrogenic activity and therefore could leech endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Avoid It: Switch to glass and stainless steel where possible, and don’t reuse one-time use plastic bottles. Avoid microwaving plastic containers or putting them through the dishwasher as high heat causes toxics to leech.
Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde Releasers
Where: Baby personal care products like shampoo and liquid soaps.
The Problem: Formaldehyde is linked to cancer and considered a known human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Formaldehyde can be added directly to personal care products or it can be released over time in small amounts from certain preservatives in the product.
Avoid it: Read ingredient lists to avoid formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal.
Find MADE SAFE certified bottles, bedding, cleaners, personal care, and more here.