At no other time in history have there been more toxic chemicals in our environment. The most toxic environments are indoors. Of the indoor environments our homes are the most toxic and pose the most danger to humans because we spend 65% of their time indoors. New mom’s and babies are at greater risk of long term exposed to toxic chemicals in the home because they spend 95% of their time at home. That is why it is important to start now protecting yourself and you newborn baby. The best place to start is now and in the nursery.
If you are like most expectant mothers you want to create, design, and decorate a special place for your baby, a place that speaks from your heart that it is safe, comfortable, it is just for baby from you.
However, your good intentions could be endangering your new born. What most new mom’s don’t know is that redecorating means brand new paint, new carpet, washable vinyl, wallpaper, new crib with synthetic mattress, new no iron sheets, new easy care synthetic clothing, disinfectants, scented baby lotions, powders, synthetic fiber stuffed animals, plastic rattles all of which are potential health risks to your new baby.
Children and babies are more susceptible than adults to the adverse health affects of toxins because pound for pound since they are growing their little bodies are metabolizing faster than adults, they breath faster, their blood brain barrier that protects adults from toxins, is not yet fully developed, their detox system, the liver and kidneys are still developing which means that their bodies have a difficult time eliminating toxins so they are stored in the fatty tissue.
Furthermore, babies and small children play and crawl on the floor and ground where many toxins are found. They put their hands and toys into their mouths which increases their exposure to toxic elements in the home. They don’t know what is toxic and what is safe.
By planning now for your child’s safety and health you will be protecting them from dangerous house hold toxins. To get started follow the easy suggestions below, I have also included some shopping resources at the end to get you started. Many of the resources have more information about toxins and safe products.
I’m going to start with the crib because in the beginning your baby spends most of it’s time in the crib thus being exposed to toxic chemicals for prolonged periods. Chemicals like phthalates and PBDE – flame retardants, polyurethane, foam, polyester, plastic, formaldehyde all emit dangerous toxins that your baby breathes in or absorbs through the skin.
Some examples of the dangerous chemicals mentioned above and the adverse health risks:
- Phthalates. Studies show they have been linked to damage of the liver, kidney and lungs, harmful to the reproductive system, and developing testicles.
- PBDE, fire retardant, has been linked to brain development and thyroid problems in lab rats. PBDE is found in most furniture fabrics and woods, cabinets, beds and on children’s pajamas.
- According to the EPA the health effects of formaldehyde include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing, fatigue, skin rash, severe allergic reactions and may cause cancer. In asthma suffers formaldehyde has been known to cause asthma attacks.
However, don’t worry there are many solutions for a safe crib. Look for mattresses made of natural cotton or wool. Find blankets, sheets, clothing, and toys that are made of natural or organic cottons and wools. A good rule of thumb to follow is to find out if they are using natural materials or synthetic materials to make the bed, linens, clothing etc. Synthetic materials are manufactured with chemicals. When buying natural buy organic, when possible.
Furthermore, when buying the crib be sure to buy something with a safe non-toxic finish. Maple is said to be the least toxic wood. See if you can find a crib made of maple with a non-toxic finish. See below for some resources, they are a great way to learn more about safe alternatives.
Do not ever paint the room yourself. Breathing in the toxic fumes from the paint can harm your unborn child even if the paint is no or low VOC (volatile organic compounds).
Sanding the walls and scraping may expose you to lead dust which can be extremely dangerous to your unborn child as their brains and central nervous system aren’t yet fully developed. Furthermore, your child may store the lead in fatty tissue in their body because their liver and kidney’s aren’t yet fully developed and able to eliminate it. Even children under the age of 6 are vulnerable to lead poisoning because their organs aren’t yet fully developed. Exposure to low levels of lead have produced adverse health affects like low IQ, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, stunted growth, attention deficit disorder (ADD), impaired hearing, and kidney damage. High levels of lead exposure have contributed to mental retardation, a coma and even death.
Get someone else to paint and sand the room for you. Make sure they use water based or low or no VOC (volatile organic compound) paint. See resources below. I thought that you might like to know that due to increased environmental regulations by the EPA (http://www.epa.gov/ttn/uatw/183e/aim/aimpg.html) paint and stain companies have been forced to reduce the VOC’s in their products. However, the VOC levels are still dangerous in conventional paints so make sure that you ask for low or no VOC paint or stain. Most paint companies carry this kind of paint. See below for some resources.
What are VOC’s? For years conventional paints needed VOC’s to perform. These VOC’s are toxic and have contributed to indoor air pollution. Paints with high VOC’s emit low levels of VOC’s into the air for many years to come. Moreover, VOC’s have been linked to nausea, cancer, damage to liver and kidney, headaches, nose and throat irritation to name a few. For more information go to http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html#Health%20Effects
Be sure that you finish painting at least one month before baby is born. To dry paint use a room space heater. By drying the paint you will help the paint to harden so it doesn’t release toxins into the air.
Absolutely stay away from new carpet and flooring, keep what is already in your home. New carpet is among the most toxic material in your home, it is treated with many different chemicals. If you absolutely have to put down new flooring use pre-finished hardwood or natural linoleum. The best finish is water based as it is less toxic than oil based finishes. When you are shopping ask the manufacture if the finish is water or oil based. Below are resources for safe flooring and finishes.
Toys are difficult because you want to give your child everything. However, most toys are made with plastics which can be toxic. The best bet is to do what Toucan Sam says, “Follow your nose.” If the toy smells weird or toxic don’t buy it. The best toys are wood or made of natural fibers like cotton or wool. See below for some resources.
Diapers. Beware of disposable diapers. They are made of plastics and synthetic fibers. Some companies add unknown deodorizing chemicals that can be irritating to your baby’s skin.
Common health problems linked to disposable diapers are diaper rash; chemical burns, noxious chemical and insecticide odors, and babies pull diapers apart and put them into their mouths and noses. The synthetic, plastic materials don’t allow babies skin to breath and thus contribute to diaper rash. Furthermore, because disposable diapers feel dryer than cloth to parents and many parents postpone changing the diaper longer which means the bacteria from the urine remains in contact with babies delicate skin longer. This also contributes to increased cases of diaper rash.
Because disposable diapers don’t breathe and provide proper circulation of air, ammonia from the bacterial breakdown of urine is unable to escape causing further irritation to your baby’s delicate skin. In addition, disposable diapers that have been bleached are known to have dioxins, which studies show can cause cancer, birth defects, liver damage, and immune system suppression. Moreover, once dioxins enter the body they are stored in the fatty tissue and they are there to stay because they aren’t able to breakdown and dissolve in fats and they are a “rock solid” stable chemical. Quote from World Health Organization at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs225/en/index.html.
On the other hand diapers made from natural materials breathe and give proper circulation to baby’s skin and parents change them more often so they contribute to your baby’s health and comfort. Furthermore, the natural fabric is soft and comfortable against baby’s fragile skin. There are many companies that sell natural diapers and have diaper services, see resource list below.
Avoid toxic nail polish, perfumes, hair spray and deodorant while pregnant. I would avoid them altogether even after your pregnant, but particularly while you are pregnant. Conventional nail polishs and perfumes contain phthalates that can be absorbed by inhaling, through the skin, and ingested when they contaminate food. Phthalates are banned from nail polish in Europe. Phthalates have been linked to liver and kidney damage, damage of the lungs and the reproductive system, especially the developing testes.
Stay away from conventional hair sprays, hair gels and deodorants they contain toxic chemicals that can harm your baby. I full discussion of personal care products and make-up are subjects in themselves and are another installment, stay tuned. In the mean time for information on safe cosmetics go to http://www.ewg.org/. There are safe alternatives see resource list below. Again if it smells toxic it is so avoid it.
Avoid conventional cleaning and laundry products all have toxic chemicals. There are so many toxins in cleaning and laundry products that I will have to save that for another installment too. The most toxic products are air fresheners, stain removers for clothes, anything that says anti bacterial as it contains a pesticide which is intended to be toxic and kill, chlorine bleach, ammonia and anything that smells toxic and strong. Again “follow your nose” and if it smells toxic, it is.
You know many people say to me, ya, ya but families have been doing it this way for generations and they are fine. I say to them that it might seem like it but that doesn’t explain why asthma in children has increased 40% since the 80’s and it is being linked to environmental toxins and dioxins in disposable diapers. There has been a rise in non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (a type of cancer that is unpredictable), and it can be linked to toxins in the environment among other causes. Moreover, there has been a measured increase in the presence of pesticides in human blood. Remember this is dangerous because pesticides are created to kill. Every 2 to 5 years levels of PBDE’s, fire retardants have been doubling. In North America the levels are 40 times higher than on other continents. As mentioned above PBDE’s are linked to brain and thyroid problems in lab rats and are stored in fatty tissue.
Let me ask you something, do you know someone who has asthma or cancer? Maybe you know someone with a thyroid condition. If you don’t know someone go to a hospital you will meet plenty of people there that can talk to you about their illness, disease and what it is like to be a prisoner of the health care system. Believe me you do not want get sucked into the health care system.
Your health is all you have and protecting yourself and your new born from toxic chemicals in your home is an added layer of health insurance and added peace of mind. As a new mom you have enough to worry about, it is your job to protect and keep your child safe. If your home is toxic free that is one less thing to worry about.
As I said when I opened, never before in history has the environment been polluted with more toxic chemicals then it is now. According to wikipedia.com toxic = poison. The good news it that you can do something about it and protect your family with the easy steps outlined above.
I hope that this helps you to ease your mind and make safe non-toxic decisions while creating a wonderful space for your newborn.
Thank you for reading and see below for some helpful resources. Please feel free to comment or ask questions, I would love to help in anyway that I can. I will answer your questions promptly.
I always love to know what your thinking, what your most burning questions or frustrations are when it comes to health, green living, organic, and eco-living. When I know what you are thinking I can answer your questions or concerns. Also if you use the resources below let me know what you think.
Until next time
“Think and go green”
For new born organic Moses basket
Beds, sheets, blankets –
Non-toxic furniture for baby:
For the expectant mother:
http://www.organicauthority.com/guide/guide.html – a buying guide for non-toxic living.
http://www.ecochoices.com/ – here there are many eco choices for clothes, household items, kitchen, candles etc. Although it isn’t focused on baby there are many great choices for mom.
Non-toxic paints and stains:
This is a link to amazon.com. If you don’t find the diapers there just type in natural diapers. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=blended&field-keywords=natural%20diapers&results-process=default&dispatch=search/ref=pd_sl_aw_tops-1_blended_11429821_2&results-process=default?tag2=amd-google-20
Eco Mall is a great place to find eco friendly non-toxic items. They have everything from furniture to diapers.
For safe cleaning and laundry products:
Toys etc for baby and young children