The Guide to Eco Baby Gear

Common Chemicals in Baby Gear and Steps to Purchasing Eco

The cost of raising a child can be as high as £9,000 a year (about $13,000), and if you think about that spending in terms of new products and the waste it will become once it’s been “used up” you can picture the incredible environmental problem associated with the baby gear we consume for our children.[1] And unfortunately, the environment is not the only thing suffering from our love of the latest and greatest baby gadgets and tools - many of the products we bring home are filled with questionable ingredients that pose health problems. This article touches upon the hazardous chemicals found in baby gear and how to go about finding natural baby products from organic baby slings and carriers to organic baby clothes. 

 

Common toxins found in conventional baby gear

From flame retardants to PVC plastic, baby gear can come full of questionable materials with a bevy of health concerns, none of which you’ll want in your baby sling, eco stroller, or used car seat:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA): This chemical is used to make #7 polycarbonate plastics and has been linked to neural, reproductive, and developmental health problems in babies. Though steps have been taken to remove this chemical from baby bottles, it may still be found in many baby gear items.[2] Sometimes polycarbonate is identified as “PC” on the bottom of the product.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are another class of chemicals used to make soft plastics like that used in baby gear. They have been linked to numerous health problems, including cancer, endocrine disruption, development delays, and reproductive system damage.[3]
  • Polyurethane foam: This is used to make baby carriers, baby slings, and baby car seats, but it’s full of chemicals including formaldehyde, toluene, formaldehyde, benzene, and surfactants, all of which can pose serious health hazards for your baby.[4]
  • Polyvinylchloride (PVC): PVC can be used to make many baby gear items, but it should be avoided if possible. Manufacturing and disposing of PVC creates dioxins which cause neurological, reproductive, developmental, and hormonal health problems.[5] PVC plastic is highly flexible and can be identified by the #3 in the chasing recycling arrows.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): This is a class of flame retardants used widely for consumer products, including baby gear. They can dissolve out of consumer products and be absorbed by the human body where they accumulate in our fat and resist degradation. Over time as they build up they can create health problems like decreased thyroid hormone levels, low birth weights in babies, hyperactivity, and even cancer.[6]

 

Features you’ll find in natural baby products

Depending on what you’re looking for, these are the features you may be able to find in eco baby gear, from organic baby clothes to natural wooden baby high chairs to eco baby strollers.

  • FSC-certified wood: The Forest Stewardship Council is the only internationally-recognized third-party forest management organization recognized by major environmental nonprofits and is your key to finding a natural wooden baby gear that is made from sustainable wood. Look for their stamp of approval on the packaging or right on the item. (Note: The organization called SFI that is also a certification body of wooden products is not considered reputable in that they are industry-sponsored. Find out more at Don’t Buy SFI.)
  • Longevity: Look for something that will grow and adjust as your child develops. That way you’ll only have to purchase one item, like an eco car seat, an organic baby carrier, or a natural baby swing for your child that will last many years.
  • Natural fabrics: Look for baby gear made with eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton and wool, bamboo, or recycled polyester (check out our fabric recommendations for organic baby carriers). Just as with any textile you buy for your baby, choosing natural options for your organic baby clothes, natural baby sleepwear or eco strollers will protect their health and the planet. And be sure to stay away from finishes that make fabrics stain-resistant or flame retardants as these can be highly toxic.
  • Recyclability: If possible, look for options that are either made from natural materials that will break down in the environment when composted or from recyclable materials. Composite baby gear made from a long list of mixed materials (metal, plastic, wood, etc) should be made to be disassembled once they’ve outlived their usefulness so that each individual component can be recycled. Of course, if you can find baby gear made with recycled materials, even better.
  • Secondhand: Always an eco-friendly choice as it is both economical and very green. It means you’re reusing something rather than letting it be sent to a landfill, and you’re preventing new resources from being used to make a new item.
  • Natural finishes and paints: Look for untreated wood, natural wood finishes (like tung oil or linseed oil), or water-based paints and stains.
  • Natural latex foam: Polyurethane is commonly used to make baby carriers and baby car seats, but it’s full of chemicals including formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and surfactants, all of which can pose serious health hazards for your baby. Choose natural latex rubber or organic cotton batting for more natural baby products.[7]
  • Unpowered: In the case of high-tech baby gear like eco-friendly baby swings, choosing unpowered options are best. Sure it may be convenient to choose a baby swing or rocker that comes equipped with its own motor, but these types require the use of fossil fuel energy either for powering the swing or recharging batteries. Worse still are disposable batteries.

In Ecolife's Baby Gear section you will learn how you can go about finding and purchasing natural baby products. Read on and see why and how to avoid hazardous chemicals for you and your baby, today.






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References

1 How to cut the cost of having a baby. (2010, May 15). Retrieved May 20, 2010, from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/may/15/cut-cost-having-baby 

2 Environmental Health Reports. (2007, February 27). Retrieved May 18, 2010, from Environment California: http://www.environmentcalifornia.org/reports/environmental-health/environmental-health-reports/toxic-baby-bottles

3 Chemical Encyclopedia - phthalates. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Healthy Child Healthy World: http://healthychild.org/issues/chemical-pop/phthalates/

4 Five Problems with Baby Mattresses (Toxic Chemicals) . (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2010, from Healthy Child: http://www.healthychild.com/toxic-sleep/five-problems-with-baby-mattresses-toxic-chemicals/

5 PVC - THE POISON PLASTIC. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Greenpeace: http://archive.greenpeace.org/toxics/html/content/pvc1.html#dioxin

Healthy Milk, Healthy Baby - Chemicals: PBDEs. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2010, from Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk/pbde.asp

7 Five Problems with Baby Mattresses (Toxic Chemicals) . (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2010, from Healthy Child: http://www.healthychild.com/toxic-sleep/five-problems-with-baby-mattresses-toxic-chemicals/

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