Finding an Eco Friendly High Chair

How and Why You Should Purchase a Wooden High Chair

So you’ve gone to all of the trouble to ensure that your baby’s bottles are safe and that you’re expressing your breast milk with a healthy breast pump, but as your little one grows you should start thinking about purchasing an eco friendly high chair. Here we highlight how to shop for an eco high chair, preferably for a wooden high chair.

 

Common chemicals in high chairs

All kinds of materials are used to make conventional baby chairs, most of which contain some measure of plastic. But the plastics used to make both the eating and sitting surfaces may be laced with un-safe chemicals such as:

  • 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 other plastic baby items like high chairs.[1] Sometimes polycarbonate is identified as “PC” on the bottom of the product.
  • Polyvinylchloride (PVC): PVC can be used to make high chairs, but it should be avoided if possible. Manufacturing and disposing of PVC creates dioxins which cause neurological, reproductive, developmental, and hormonal health problems.[2] PVC plastic is highly flexible and can be identified by the #3 in the chasing recycling arrows.
  • Phthalates:Phthalates are another class of chemicals used to make soft plastics like that used in some high chairs. They have been linked to numerous health problems, including cancer, endocrine disruption, development delays, and reproductive system damage.[3]
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): This is a class of flame retardants used widely for consumer products, including high chairs. 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.[4]
  • Polyurethane foam: This is used to make baby mattresses, high chairs, baby carriers, 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. Choose natural latex rubber or organic cotton batting for a healthier car seat.[5]

If you prefer the functionality and convenience of plastic for your baby’s high chair, then consider going with these eco-friendly options:

 

Features of an Eco High Chair 

So what do you look for when seeking out natural high chairs? Here are some general rules you’ll want to follow:

  • Longevity: Look for something that will grow and adjust as your child develops. That way you’ll only have to purchase one chair for your child that will last them until they’re ready to sit in a big-person chair.
  • 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. Likely with something as complex as a high chair there will be a mix of materials (metal, plastic, wood, etc), in which case you should be able to disassemble the chair once it’s outlived its usefulness so that each individual component can be recycled.
  • Recycled: It’s always great to be able to purchase something made from recycled materials, be they plastic, metal, fabric, or wood as this saves energy, water, resources, and landfill space.
  • Secondhand: Always an eco-friendly choice, buying used high chairs 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. You can often find high quality items at secondhand stores such as TheBabyChain.com, Gently-Used.com, or try out Craigslist or Ebay. Or look into buying from a local secondhand baby store, like Once Upon a Child.

 

Purchasing a natural wooden high chair

As a renewable resource and a natural, biodegradable material, wood is an excellent environmental choice under the right circumstances. When shopping for a wooden high chair, check for the following characteristics:

  • 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 high chair that is made from sustainable wood. Look for their stamp of approval on the packaging or right on the high chair. (Note: The organization called SFI, which also provides certifications on wooden products is not considered reputable in that they are industry-sponsored. Find out more at Don’t Buy SFI.)
  • Choose unpainted and untreated: Many paints and stains can contain toxins like heavy metals that can enter your baby’s body when he/she chews and plays with them. To avoid this problem, look for wooden high chairs that aren’t painted or treated in any way.
  • Natural wood finishes: Safe alternatives to buying unfinished wooden high chairs include things like beeswax, tung oil, and linseed oil.
  • Water-based paints and stains: If you really want a high chair with some color, choose water-based paints and stains. If you’re making your own high chair, a safe bet is AFM Safecoat paints which are SCS Certified. Contact an organization like Environmental Products and Design for additional advice.
  • Choose solid wood: Pressed woods are made by gluing wood sawdust and particles together, but the glues can contain formaldehyde and other off-gassing ingredients that are neither safe for your indoor air or your baby’s body.

Today there are some highly functional, innovative, and fun natural wooden high chairs on the market that will grow with your baby, including:






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References

1 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

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

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

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

5 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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