Bringing Home a “Green” Baby
Eco-Friendly Tips That Will Help Protect Your Infant and the Planet
When it comes to decorating the nursery and stocking up on baby essentials, a lot of new moms are thinking about the well-being of their babies and the impact on the environment.
First, the bad news: necessities like crib mattresses, bottles, swaddling blankets and wipes can contain chemicals that are harmful to the planet and your little one’s health. But there is an upside: growing concerns over toxic baby products have led to some great green innovations, making it easier than ever to raise a “green” baby.
Go Green in the Nursery
Picking out furniture and accessories for the nursery is a rite of passage for parents-to-be. In the process of decorating, it’s important to know how the choices you make could affect the health of your baby.
Skip cribs, changing tables, and other furniture made from plywood, laminated wood, chipboard or particleboard, which can contain high levels of formaldehyde, a chemical that causes headaches, respiratory irritation, and skin rashes. Instead, look for products made of hardwood and finished with non-toxic paints or stains.
To add a splash of color to the walls, choose paint with “low VOCs” or “zero VOCs” on the label. VOC stands for “volatile organic compound” – chemicals found in regular paint that release harmful chemicals into the air. One study found that children whose rooms were painted with conventional paint before their birth had higher rates of asthma and allergies. Low- and no-VOC paints are sold in most big box retailers and specialty stores. The simple swap will protect your little one from breathing harmful chemicals found in regular paint.
Think Twice About Secondhand Gear
Your sister, BFF, and coworkers are likely offering their used cribs, strollers, car seats, and high chairs along with a host of other previously-loved baby gear.
Seeking out secondhand essentials keeps items out of the landfill and are a boon for the budget. But when it comes to big-ticket items, the offer of secondhand gear, while generous, can be problematic.
Older cribs might not meet federal safety standards (check with the Consumer Products Safety Commission to make sure the product hasn’t been recalled). Inspect secondhand cribs carefully for loose or missing slats and skip the offer of a used crib mattress. Fluids from leaky diapers and spit-up can cause bacteria to grow on mattresses.
Go ahead and accept necessities like diaper bags, clothes, bathtubs, books, and bottles. Strollers and high chairs are also safe bets (as long as they aren’t damaged or missing pieces). Bonus: By the time parents are ready to pass along secondhand gear, it’s had time to off-gas most of the harmful chemicals from its original manufacturing.
Check the label on the back of a secondhand car seat for the expiration date (every car seat must have one) to make sure it still meets federal safety standards and can offer adequate protection in case of an accident. It’s best to get a secondhand car seat from a trusted source (not a stranger selling it online) who can attest that it’s never been in a crash.
Opt for Organics
Organic cotton clothes are probably on your radar – and your registry – but there are other products that should be organic, too: your baby carrier, burp cloths, swaddling blankets, and crib bedding are all available in organic cotton. You can even find organic cotton plush toys and diapers.
The National Resources Defense Council reported that up to 2,000 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of conventional (non-organic) cotton, or about the amount used in one t-shirt. To grow the cotton for one t-shirt, it takes one-third of a pound of chemicals, and to make matters worse, many of the chemicals used to grow cotton are known carcinogens.
It’s especially important to go organic because the fabric is right next to your baby’s skin (or, in the case of blankets and toys, in their mouths).
Read the Labels on Bath Products
From diapers and wipes to shampoo and soaps, it takes a lot of different products to keep a tiny human clean – and many of those products contain chemicals with known health effects.
The Environmental Working Group found that 57 percent of baby soaps contain 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen. It’s often hidden in products like sodium laureth sulfate or polyethylene. To be safe, read the labels and avoid products containing ingredients with “eth” in their names.
Propylene glycol, a chemical used to de-ice airplanes, is an ingredient in some baby wipes. Look for polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polypropylene glycol (PPG) on labels.
In fact, it’s important to read the labels on all of the products you purchase for your baby (all personal care products, including soap, shampoo, and lotion are required to list their ingredients on the label). Your best bets are products with few ingredients, all of which you can pronounce.
It’s scary to think about toxins lurking in baby products and gear. But with awareness of what to avoid, it’s possible to make healthy choices for your baby and the planet she’ll grow up to love.