From the time we start preparing a room for a new baby, we are making choices about the child's environment. Many people get ready for a new child by painting, papering, and carpeting a baby's room with conventional products. They don’t realize that by doing so they may be creating an environment high in toxic chemicals. Most of us take it for granted that babies should be soothed with petroleum jelly and mineral oil, washed and shampooed with chemical-based cleansers, fed from plastic bottles, swaddled in disposable diapers, surrounded by scented products and put to sleep in pajamas treated with fire-retardant chemicals. But although parents act out of love, they are often unaware that the choices they make may be harmful to their child. There are baby care products by the hundred. How can a parent identify healthy alternatives?
It is very important to try to limit a baby's exposure to harmful chemicals. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults. Their immune systems and central nervous system are immature and still developing, which means their bodies are generally less capable of eliminating toxins. As well, children have roughly double the skin surface of adults per unit of body weight, so a child can absorb proportionally more chemicals. Babies and children breathe more air per body weight than adults do, which increases their exposure by inhalation. Decreasing a child's exposure to chemicals from day one, and even in the womb, could mean a lower risk of allergies and chemical sensitivities, and lower risk of cancers and other illnesses
The baby shampoos, soaps and lotions you use on your child might be labeled “natural” or “gentle,” but could also be filled with toxic chemicals which are dangerous for your child’s health, experts say.
In fact, children are exposed to 27 of these dangerous chemicals each day through personal care products alone, according to a survey by the Environmental Working Group.
Most of the chemicals in use have never been tested for safety nor are they regulated in the U.S.
But when it comes to shopping for products, sifting through all of the information and searching for safer alternatives is time-consuming, confusing and can make you want to pull your hair out.
Here, experts weigh in on five of the biggest toxic offenders to avoid and offer tips on how to find safer alternatives.
You might love the smell of your baby’s lotion, but fragrance is linked to allergies, skin irritation and eczema and can be toxic to various organs in the body.
Plus, the term itself can be used to mask hundreds of other dangerous chemicals in the product, said Leah Segedie, founder of Mamavation.com.
When reading labels, avoid any product that lists fragrance, perfume or parfum.
2. Phthalates and parabens
Phthalates and parabens are a group of chemicals that are used as preservatives in personal care products like baby shampoos and lotions.
Phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption, which can cause reproductive problems, including a decrease in sperm motility and concentration, as well as allergies, asthma and cancer.
To make it even more confusing for moms, fragrance can also contain phthalates, said Nancy Peplinsky, founder and executive director of the Holistic Moms Network in Coldwell, N.J.
Avoid products that contain phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and ingredients ending in “–paraben.”
3. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
Formaldehyde is a preservative added to water-based products to prevent mold from forming. It can be directly added to products or released through another preservative.