I wish I didn’t have to address this topic but, unfortunately, I do. We live in a toxic world, and there is a valid reason to be concerned about the many harmful chemicals we’re exposing ourselves and our children to on a daily basis. Believe it or not, an alarming number of commonly used chemicals have never been tested for safety and are not effectively (or at all) regulated in the U.S. On top of that, the cumulative effects of chemicals are unknown. Crazy, right?
While toxic chemicals aren’t great news for anyone, babies and children are far more susceptible to their harmful effects. Why?
- Children are undergoing rapid and complex development and growth, and these delicate, precisely timed processes are easily disrupted. The nervous system in particular isn’t able to repair structural damage caused by environmental toxins.
- In general, children have greater exposure to toxic chemicals in air, food, water, and their immediate environment than adults. Pound for pound of body weight, children eat more, drink more, and breathe more air than adults do.
- Babies and children tend to play on the ground and have a tendency to put everything in their mouths which further magnifies their exposure to toxins.
- Children’s metabolic pathways are immature, and their ability to metabolize toxic chemicals and excrete toxins is different from that of an adult. Even though in some instances children are actually better off than adults when it comes to dealing with certain toxins, they are generally more vulnerable to them.
What are the most important things you can provide for the foundation of health and well-being of your children???
♥ LOVE ♥
☙ NUTRITION ☙
✹ A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT ✹
Sadly, many products marketed for babies and children these days contain chemicals that have been linked to various health issues, and some of them are not even required to be disclosed. What’s worse, many of the ‘recommended by pediatricians’ and ‘safe for babies’ items turn out to be some of the worst offenders on this toxic list.
Well, how exactly is that possible?
The truth is simple. While it’s obvious that corporations and retailers have generally vowed to start reducing the extent of toxic chemicals used in their merchandise, it’s not because someone over at the FDA’s headquarters has been worried about your health. It’s because the consumers themselves have made the push for healthier, more environmentally-friendly products. Oftentimes though, one toxic ingredient is just replaced with another or its name is simply changed. Many problematic or questionable substances remain because the FDA would actually have to start working for the average consumer rather than the corporations to really make a change (and to do what it claims to be doing).
Now hold up for a second if your heart is starting to race…
My intention is NOT to scare you but to make you AWARE. In no way am I trying to spread panic. I point out an issue and offer a solution, that’s all.
But before we dive in…
How to stay on top of this dirty game?
① ALWAYS read labels and learn how the identify the ingredients.
② Don’t be FOOLED by greenwashing with inviting and naturally sounding logos and cheerful pictures. After all, “natural” doesn’t always mean safe.
Here’s where toxic chemicals may be lurking:
➣ CONVENTIONAL DISPOSABLE DIAPERS
For most parents it’s difficult to imagine what their lives would be like without the convenience of a disposable diaper. Disposable diapers are widely available, easy to use, thrown away and gone (well, not REALLY gone, right?). Most people don’t bat an eye when they throw a box of diapers into their cart.
The thing is, conventional disposable diapers are loaded with chemicals, and diaper manufacturers aren’t required to list what their diapers contain. If you don’t believe me, try to find a list of ingredients on a box of conventional diapers.
Now let’s do some thinking. Your baby will likely be wearing diapers for 24 hours a day for about 2 – 3 years of his or her life. That’s a long time of constant exposure, right?
The kind of diaper you choose for your child will determine which chemicals will be absorbed by your child’s skin or inhaled and which chemicals will be released to the environment during the manufacturing process.
If you want to read more about disposable diapers and what to watch out for, please click here.
The truth is, many conventional wipes contain a number of chemicals that are actually far from suited for a delicate newborn skin. While some ingredients are disclosed, others are not and pose a risk as hidden contaminants, impurities, or by-products of the manufacturing process.
The good news is that there are safer alternatives available, or you can make your own.
For more information on disposable wipes, please continue to read here.
➣ DIAPER CREAM/OINTMENT
Barrier creams containing petroleum jelly or zinc oxide are widely available – zinc oxide being my recommended choice (even for cloth diapers when used with a flushable liner or in a very small amount and sparingly).
As with any other product, diaper creams are not created equal and can contain harmful ingredients. For the record, Desitin or Balmex do NOT make the cut. Sorry!
More on diaper creams, why I skipped this kind of product altogether and what I used instead can be found here.
➣ TALC-BASED BABY POWDER
Oh the sweet new baby scent…
Quite honestly, I’m not sure why is this product called “baby powder” when in fact it should be kept far, FAR away from babies! Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to NOT use baby powder on babies since it can cause breathing issues and some serious lung damage or even death when inhaled (to both the baby and the caregiver).
Since the news about dangers of talc-based baby powder came out, some companies have made the switch to talc-free baby powder. However, the other ingredients that talc-free baby powder contains are often still problematic.
No need to worry though! This baby item can be easily replaced.
Continue to read here and find out what you can use instead.
#2 FEEDING, FOOD PREP & STORAGE, ETC.
➣ BOTTLES, BREAST PUMPS & SIPPY CUPS
By now, the news about BPA have been widespread and, as a result, most bottles/sippy cups are made BPA-free. However, as plastic has taken over our world, we’re starting to realize that the risks aren’t limited to just BPA. In addition, some plastics may leach phthalates which are dangerous endocrine disruptors.
➣ PACIFIERS, SOOTHERS & TEETHERS
Pacifiers and soothers are made of latex rubber or silicone. I’d choose silicone to avoid a potential allergic reaction in a baby.
Soft plastic teethers can be harmful unless specifically marked PVC/BPA/phthalate-free. Because it’s an item that will go directly into a baby’s mouth, it might be wise to avoid plastic altogether.
➣ FOOD PREP & STORAGE
As a general rule, avoid plastic containing BPA (especially plastic marked with #7 unless specifically marked “BPA-free” since these are the most likely to contain BPA), and stay away from Teflon cookware.
Even in this case, always read labels! You’d be surprised how many “decorative only” plates and bowls are being sold in stores.
Don’t put plastic containers in the microwave (I recommend NOT using microwave at all, but let’s leave that for another time) or use them with hot foods/liquids, and if using a dishwasher, always place dishwasher-safe plastic items on the top rack only.
➣ BABY FOOD
I highly recommend making your own baby food using fresh organic fruits and vegetables (it’s very easy and can be cheaper than store-bought!) because then you’re more likely to know what your baby food really contains. OR, you can go the Baby-Led-Weaning way – my favorite!
If store-bought baby food is your pick, look for organic varieties (if possible), make sure you read the lists of ingredients, and opt for food stored in glass jars as opposed to plastic containers that are more likely to leach chemicals into foods.
If the cost of buying everything organic is cost-prohibitive, pick and choose wisely.
➣ BABY FORMULA
Obviously, baby formula is not the evil menace and is made to mirror breast milk as close as possible. Which sounds kinda tricky considering how much we DON’T yet know about breast milk and the fact that many known ingredients cannot be duplicated by the industry.
There are good news and bad news here.
Good news first?
Baby formula has come a long way.
Even though baby formula is regulated by the FDA, a number of cases of health risks and contamination issues have been registered. Many infant formulas contain the much less ideal kinds of sugar and lack quality probiotics (even when probiotics are listed as added) which are VERY important in the initial stages.
Depending on your stance on genetic engineering, you may or may not mind that conventional cow milk-based baby formula tends to be made with milk from cows treated with rBGH (a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone) and contains corn syrup solids, a gmo corn derivative.
With that said, I’d personally steer clear of soy-based baby formula at all cost (if possible) if I had to choose between the two.
Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles and neighbors and friends, be picky when it comes to toys!
Since babies put everything in their mouths, it’s important to provide non-toxic toys and to limit toxic exposure as much as possible.
I know, I know… First I’m making you read all these labels. And toys don’t even come with lists of ingredients!
So let’s just stick with the basics:
While stuffed toys can provide a heaven for dust and dust mites, there are worse things to worry about. Some serious offenders to avoid are heavy metals in dyes and paints, PVC (guess what the only toy starfish that my 4-year-old wanted at the ZOO 3 years ago is made out of and what her favorite toy is – ugh), flame retardants, certain types of plastic or fabric, and toxic glues. Be especially wary of soft plastic toys that squeeze easily, inflatable beach toys, and hand-me-down toys (because back then, the regulations may not have been as stringent). And if you believe wood toys are a better choice than plastic ones, the answer is maybe, but not always.
You must really hate me at this point. Because now I’m taking the fun out of fun! But that’s the reality we live in the wealth over health reality, you guys…
As with anything these days, check labels and contact manufacturers if you have specific questions or concerns. And remember, it’s quality over quantity, not the other way around!
For more information and solutions, please click here: — COMING SOON!!!
#4 BABY CLOTHES (AND LINENS)
Yup, even clothes…
There are many potentially harmful ingredients in most conventional clothing items and linens such as pesticides residues, fire retardant chemicals, toxic dyes, wrinkle-free and weather-resistant additives, formaldehyde finishes, and even plastic. Some chemical treatments are designed to never really wash out.
Gently/eco-friendly treated clothing from natural fibers is obviously the least toxic choice but not always available or affordable, right?
You can’t always avoid chemicals in clothing, but you can at least try to make better choices whenever possible.
◉ Second-hand clothing is less likely to contain chemicals than freshly manufactured clothes.
◉ Opt for natural fabrics as opposed to synthetics.
◉ Think twice about that adorable PLASTIC decoration on your baby’s clothes.
◉ Last but not least, check that sleepwear! Does is have “flame resistant” printed on the label? OK, here’s what you do: (1) Grab it; (2) Toss it. Say whaaaat????? Do it. Flame retardants are linked to developmental problems, impaired fertility, cancer and neurological issues, and are about as safe as DDT. And, should the house catch on fire when your family is asleep, the flammability of your sleepwear won’t be as much of a problem as smoke inhalation which is made much more dangerous with present flame retardants.
#5 BABY CARE
➣ PETROLEUM JELLY
Petroleum jelly seems to be a staple at most households here in the U.S., and many cosmetic companies use petroleum jelly in their products as well. It’s commonly used to heal dry skin or to treat diaper rash, applied on scraped knees, and parents slither a glob onto the winter cheeks of their kids. I mean, is there something you CAN’T treat with petroleum jelly?
After all these years, I was successfully brainwashed into thinking that this was a pure, NATURAL product. Well it’s good enough for a baby, it must be made by squeezing out a puffy white cloud… I never bothered to find out where it really came from. I bought a jar when I was pregnant, my husband brought home two more, and we got a large tube of petroleum jelly at the hospital to boot.
What a disappointment it was when I eventually found out that it’s actually a byproduct of the oil refining industry. Boo! In my eyes it’s not appropriate for use on baby’s skin no matter what angle I look from, and I’m glad I found out early enough and all 3 jars are still closed 7 years later. Can’t say that about the hospital tube though… Sigh.
However, I have no solid credible evidence that by using petroleum jelly you’re going to grow two heads, so if you’re smarter than I was but don’t see a problem in the origin of this product, I’m not going to talk you out of using it. However, do keep in mind that petroleum jelly comes in different grades of purity and runs a high risk of contamination.
If you’re set on using petroleum jelly, always check the ingredients for additives and opt for the purest source. (FYI: VASELINE is highly refined and triple purified.)
➣ BABY OIL
Baby oil tends to be another staple item in baby care, but guess what baby oil really is. Yup. It’s a mineral oil, petroleum jelly’s second cousin, and just another byproduct of petroleum processing. What makes this product even worse is that it’s often combined with synthetic fragrances (a well known source of phthalates). But don’t despair! It’s very easy to find natural, safer alternatives in your kitchen.
Please continue to read here: — COMING SOON!!!
➣ BABY LAUNDRY DETERGENT
Please do not get fooled by the combination of a picture of a cute happy baby and the magic words “Safe For Babies.” Like DREFT, for example, which is the holy grail of baby laundry detergents and recommended by pediatricians yet scores WORSE in toxicity THAN TIDE.
Laundry detergents commonly contain a number of chemicals and irritants which leave a residue on your clothes that never really washes out and can cause a number of health issues. Not only are many detergents not safe for your family, they’re also not safe for the environment!
Detergents tend to leave a residue in your washer as well, so if you’re using a more natural type of a detergent for your baby’s clothes but use the same washer to clean your clothes as well – your baby’s clothes are getting contaminated with each and every wash. Choose wisely!
As soon as I’ll get to it, I’ll elaborate more on natural detergents that work for us as well as those that I couldn’t wait to finish. In the meantime, if you’re curious and overwhelmed with selections, type in your detergent here on the EWG’s website to find out how it scores.
➣ BABY SHAMPOO/LOTION
Shampoos and lotions, even those marketed specifically for babies, often contain synthetic fragrances (which are packed with phthalates), harsh detergents, and other toxic chemicals – some of which are of high concern.
If you were paying attention at school, you probably heard that the skin is our largest and most permeable organ. Anything you put on your skin will eventually end up in your bloodstream and will get distributed throughout your body.
While I’d like to go as far here as recommending not putting anything on your baby’s skin that you wouldn’t want to eat, I know that’s hard to follow (and I don’t personally do that myself). So again, you’re left with reading long lists of ingredients (shopping with kids will be so much more fun now!) and researching if you don’t recognize them.
Another thing to consider is how often you decide to wash your baby. Call me crazy, but I honestly believe that babies don’t need to be bathed very often. You can gently wipe your baby’s face, hands, and genital area with a wet lukewarm washcloth instead of a regular bath if you deem your baby unclean. A baby’s skin contains natural oils, and frequent washing – even with just plain water (unless yours is pure) – removes these oils. Any contact with shampoos will then cause skin to become even more dry and irritated, and it may not show up until later on. And then you of course need to slither baby lotion on their dry skin, providing means for even more irritation. You see the vicious circle here?
There are many (MANY!) chemicals of concern when it comes to sunscreen, and the majority of widely available sunscreen products are of major concern.
Avoid ALL traditional chemical sunscreens and opt for a physical sunblock instead containing mineral ingredients (non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide). Try not to expose your baby to a scorching sun no matter what age and regardless of which sunscreen you use. Be smart and apply only when truly needed (we can all use some extra D3).
To continue reading and to see which products I recommend, please follow here: — COMING SOON!!!
➣ SOAP/HAND SANITIZERS ⤿ FOR YOU ⤾
Keep in mind that anything you put on your baby’s hands (and likely yours as well) WILL inevitably end up in the baby’s mouth.
Don’t use hand sanitizers on your baby, and say NO to soaps and hand sanitizers containing unnecessary and risk-posing chemicals – especially triclosan or chloroxylenol (PCMX) – for the rest of the family.
While the invention of an antibacterial product may have seemed like a great novelty once, rest assured that not all bacteria are the bad guys. By using antibacterial products, you’re likely making the gangs of viruses party and laugh while that nasty superbug silently brews in the background.
I know that motherhood and life can be messy, so for YOUR convenience on the go or for older kids, use alcohol-based sanitizers which also kill viruses and fungi, and use them sparingly.
#6 THE NURSERY
✎ If you cosleep, the following applies to your bedroom as well.
➣ BABY MATTRESS
Given the amount of time babies spend sleeping (Ha! Or I hear they should!), it’s essential to pick non-toxic mattress or the least toxic one if you struggle to find the right product or can’t afford it at the moment.
Babies and children are exposed to high levels of chemical emissions from the mattresses they sleep on which are only elevated by increased body heat.
What’s lurking in a conventional mattress?
Different types of chemical flame retardants (which are not only harmful but also get released from surfaces and some are considered persistent organic pollutants), a petrochemical cocktail (most conventional mattresses consist of petroleum-derived products); plastics, vinyl or PVC (all potentially releasing VOCs which are linked to a wide array of health issues).
How to choose the safest mattress for yourself or your child?
If possible, opt for a fully organic mattress, or one made with 100% wool or 100% natural latex to make an investment in your baby’s health.
➣ WATERPROOF MATTRESS PAD
The majority of conventional waterproof mattress pads and mattress toppers/protectors utilize vinyl to achieve water-proof protection, which may certainly work but poses as just another source of phthalates.
To read more about mattress and mattress pad off-gassing and to find out which mattresses we’re using ourselves, please follow up here: — COMING SOON!!!
Most bedding these days seems to be made of polyester or a polyester/cotton blend. Or at least I came to that conclusion 4 years ago after I scoured my town in search of 100% cotton sheets for my daughter’s first big-girl bed.
Synthetic fabrics tend to emit low levels of chemicals and may not even feel comfortable to touch. On the other hand, even if you find bedding made with natural fibers, it’s often subjected to several chemical treatments.
Don’t fall for the wrinkle-resistant health trap, and always wash bedding before use!
➣ NURSING PILLOWS
If you need to use a nursing pillow, check the outer shell material and filling fiber to limit unnecessary toxic exposure to both you and the baby (avoid synthetic fibers and polyurethane foam if possible), and find out whether the product has been treated with flame retardants. You may need to contact the manufacturer to get all available information.
➣ CHANGING PADS
Most conventional changing pads are made out of polyurethane foam which is generally treated with flame retardants. However, even if it isn’t, there is still a chance that the foam itself may off-gas.
If you’ve been paying attention, I think you know the drill at this point. Much like anything else, avoid flame retardants, polyurethane foam (especially non-certified), and PVC/vinyl waterproofing outer layer if possible.
Bear with me. Yes, even furniture. But we’re almost done, I promise.
The majority of cribs (and other baby furniture) are now marketed as “non-toxic.” But as you may already know, one can’t assume this means “safe” or truly “non-toxic.”
There are many harmful ingredients lurking in furniture such as heavy metals, phthalates, or VOCs. Many furniture pieces are now also made of particleboard which is a notorious source of formaldehyde as well as other chemicals that can off-gas for years.
If you’d like to be familiar with what your new baby furniture contains, you’ll likely have to do some research and contact the manufacturer directly. And if you’re not sure, you can always purchase furniture in unfinished wood and either leave it the way it is or treat it with something like teak oil or a safe(r) paint or lacquer.
✓ An easy way to decrease exposure to VOCs is to use ZERO (or at least LOW) VOC interior PAINT.
✓ Pay attention to the kind of BLINDS you have. Plastic blinds can emit chemicals, especially when exposed to heat, and some older types can contain lead (you can check with a simple lead test). Ideally, fabric curtains and drapes should be made of natural fibers that haven’t been treated since fabrics break down over time (especially when exposed to sunlight) and can release harmful chemicals.
✓ Consider hardwood FLOORS with area rugs over carpeting. Not only can new carpet contain toxic chemicals, carpets are also traps for dust, dirt, mold, bacteria, food, and urine. And when you have kids, you’ll be likely privileged to find ALL of these in your carpet and maybe some poop.
✓ If you decide to do any work, it’s ideal to start early and finish well in advance of bringing your baby home to reduce the chemical burden.
➣ ROCKERS & GLIDERS
Beware of products containing polyurethane foam, especially older hand-me-downs. Flame retardants are typically added to household items containing polyurethane foam such as chairs, couches, and rockers or gliders. Keep in mind that even if you verify that the polyurethane foam doesn’t contain flame retardants, the foam itself may off-gas.
#7 BABY GEAR
➣ STROLLERS & BABY CARRIERS
Some STROLLERS and BABY CARRIERS contain flame retardants and/or their fabrics/surfaces may be additionally treated.
However, a baby carrier needs to be safe and a stroller also needs to be practical, so take that into consideration as well.
If you’re looking to avoid anything in particular, the best bet is to check directly with the manufacturer due to changing practices and regulations.
➣ CAR SEATS
All car seats sold in the U.S. are treated with flame retardants as of 2016. Watch out for brominated (HBCD, TBC, UBC) and chlorinated flame retardants (TDCPP and TCPP). Look for non-halogenated, phosphate-based flame retardants instead, or Oeko-Tex certified fabrics.
The word is that you WILL be able to find car seats in the US that have NOT been treated with flame retardants starting in 2017. Yay!!!
➣ PLAYARDS/PORTABLE CRIBS/BOUNCERS/SWINGS
As with any of the previously mentioned products, if you want to minimize toxic exposure, avoid flame retardants, non-certified polyurethane foam, and synthetic fabrics. If a product doesn’t specifically state that it does NOT contain flame retardants, assume it does.
➣ ACTIVITY GYMS & MATS
The safest choices are natural materials (cotton – preferably organic, natural latex or rubber, or cork). Avoid flame retardants (check with the manufacturer), and PVC.
– – – – –
That concludes this toxic presentation because I’m a tired mom and can’t think of anything else at the moment. If you’re having heart palpitations and panic attacks, so sorry… But I thought you might want to know.
On that note, should you want to read about other stuff you shouldn’t be buying (hey, who DOESN’T want to save money?!), hop onto the post about 23 Completely Unnecessary Baby Products. You’re welcome.