Babies and children
Who doesn't want to give their children the very best in life? But despite all our best intentions - we might surround them with more toxic substances than we are aware of or would knowlingly allow.
Amongst one of the toxic chemicals frequently found in our homes are flame retardants TDCIPP (cancer-causing) & TPHP (can affect the reproductive and nervous systems) which are "frequently found in furniture foam, baby products and carpet padding" according to the Guardian. It states further, that "Other toxic substances found in almost all of the dust samples include ... phthalates that are often found in vinyl flooring, food packaging, personal care products and have been linked to developmental problems in babies, hormone disruption, and are also thought to affect the reproductive system."
So much for the safe haven we provide for them - but all is not lost, there are ways to reduce the amount of chemicals in our homes.
Before your baby has even been born, you start preparing the room. I wrote about what to look out for in carpets, wooden furniture and bedding in section in Around the house, so head there first, if you are still at this stage. However, mattress requirements will be slightly different, so here is what to look out for:
- Mattresses and protectors - Many conventional mattress can give off toxic fumes (see "Around the house section") so best thing is to go organic. Abaca's organic cot mattresses are hand-made in Wales, with a "sturdy coir (coconut fibre) core covered with many layers of organic Welsh wool and finished with an organic cotton cover".
They also offer bedding and organic waterproof cot protectors. Another company to check out is Thelittlegreensheep, which offers a great selection of organic mattresses of various sizes and also 100% waterproof organic cotton mattress protector. For organic duvets and bedding for babies and children head to Greenfibres
- Nappies - washable vs disposable nappies. A few facts about disposable nappies:
* They are made of plastic and each one of them needs about a cup of crude oil for its production
* For the absorbent filler about 4 trees are needed to provide for a baby until it is toilet trained
* It takes much more energy to produce one disposible nappy than to wash and dry one
* In the UK, 8 million disposables nappies are thrown out every day, accounting for 4% of all household rubbish.
*It takes 200-500 years for a disposible nappy to decompose & while they do so, they emit noxious methane gas
* Disposable nappies can cost about £900 per child compared to £50 for cloth nappies, according to FOE
*Disposable nappies contribute to climate change. The Environment Agency’s 2008 Life Cycle Analysis Report concluded that you can reduce your carbon impact by up to 40% by switching to cloth nappies.
So it makes good sense to switch to washable nappies, of which you need about 20-30 nappies and 3-6 waterproof
wraps, according to the website "Go Real", especially since washable nappies have become so advanced, that a baby
is as likely to get nappy rash from a disposible as from a washable nappy. Here are some companies that offer washable
nappies and that ranked highest in the Ethicalconsumer: Bambinex, Bambinomio (also offer nappies for swimming),
Littlelambnappies, or Diddy-diapers by Naturebabies or find a large selection here at the Nappy Lady.
However, if you are not ready to switch to disposable, you can use eco nappies like Moltex.
You can find more information about washable nappies from Go Real, FOE and the Women's Environmental Network
- Pacifiers, teethers & feeding bottles:
Research shows that most common pacifiers contain potentially toxic chemicals, which can lead to a number of diseases, like autism, diabetes and cancer. The safest option I could find were pacifiers made from natural rubber, which is a renewable, biodegradable, and non-toxic material.
You can find natural rubber Natrursutten pacifers at "Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks", teethers and pacifers from Hevea at Bapipur. Non-toxic glass feeding bottles with natural rubber coves from Hevea can be found at Ulula. Have a look at Hevea's full range on their website "Heveaplanet".
- Baby clothes
Your baby's clothes shouldn't just be non-toxic and environmentally friendly but also sweatshop-free, meaning that it has been produced in an ethical fashion and not under horrendous labour conditions. Of course that means that ethical and organic products costs more (it's simply not feasible to make & sell a t-shirt for £3 and still make a profit - somebody has to pay for it and it is usually the workers and the environment that suffers but also us, as we absorb all the chemicals from the dyes and materials, so buy less but better quality clothes).
Here are a few companies, offering ethical and organic baby and children's wear: Green Nippers (accredited by the Soil Organisation), Little Green Radicals, Tootsa (ethically made unisex clothes), Frugi (based in Cornwall and also offering soft toys), Boys & Girls, Babipur (also offering raincoats), and Juicy Tots (a stockist of ethical clothes).
- Baby toiletries
Chemicals found in toiletries are absorbed by the skin and can do lasting damage so make sure that the products don't contain anything harmful. Check the labels for any ingredients in this list, that are better be avoided. Or opt for the
following organic range, which has also been endorsed by the Ethicalconsumer. The only problem is that these products
can cost you an arm and a leg, which may or may not be completely justified but there are also some cheaper
alternatives (also, if you opted for the washable nappies, you can save in the long-run and spend it on some toiletries).
Here are some companies offering organic, non-toxic and ethical toiletries for kids and babies:
Odylique, Neal's Yard (unfortunately very expensive), also great products but more affordable are for example:
Bentley Organic, Green People (who offer everything from organic baby toothpaste to sunscreen), and Pure Nuff Stuff.
Don't buy conventional baby wipes, as they are usually laden with chemicals but if you do, don't throw them into the
toilet, as the clog up the drains. You can find out how to make your own baby wipes from these websites: diynatural or
Especially with babies there is the risk that toys end up in the mouth and any chemicals with it.
The EU’s Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products (Rapex) reported in 2014, that "The most common
chemical risks notified in 2014 were related to products such as shoes and leather articles (e.g. Chromium VI, a skin
sensitising substance), toys and childcare articles (e.g. plastic softener, which can cause fertility problems)...".
Here are a few toys manufacturers and retailers other than Lego and Playmobil, which are safe and ethically made:
Orchardtoys, Babipur, Ethicalkidz, Traidcraft, and the Ethicalshop. Or look at your local craft markets for handmade
toys or even learn how to make some yourself.