How can I reduce the number and amount of toxins my new baby is exposed to?
—Beth Stevenson, Leesburg, VA
Since babies are so much smaller and their metabolism rates are so much higher than those of adults, proportionately they are exposed to higher doses of toxins from everyday foods and consumer products. And because babies’ organs and immune systems aren’t fully developed, those toxins can have a profound impact on them, effecting their growth and future health, according to the Princeton, New Jersey-based Children”s Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC). “Since World War II,” warns CHEC, “we have developed more than 80,000 chemicals for use in cleaners, pesticides, plastics, personal care products, industrial products and other conveniences. We know very little about the effect of these chemicals on a child”s development.” Fortunately for new parents, there is an expanding universe of organic and all-natural products, so you can minimize baby”s exposure to potentially damaging chemicals.
Feeding your baby organic food means they will avoid the heavy-duty pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that are sprayed onto or absorbed into conventionally grown foods. Companies like Earth”s Best Baby Food provide parents with a variety of pre-packaged organic baby foods. Parents interested in an even more back-to-basics approach can get assistance in the form of books, supplies and tips from Fresh Baby. The company”s Fresh Start Kit ($34.95) includes everything a parent needs—instructions, recipes and materials—to produce fresh, healthy, homemade baby food. Another eco-benefit: “By feeding children with all-natural alternatives, families don’t use and toss scores of baby food jars,” says company spokesperson Christina Kerley.
Since babies spend so much time sleeping, toxins in their cribs, mattresses and bedding are also a concern. Lifekind makes crib mattresses ($279.99 to $379.99) that combine organic cotton with wool (which acts as a natural flame retardant) to prevent tender lungs from inhaling plastic and chemical fumes. For even sweeter dreams, bedding made from 100 percent cotton—without permanent press and flame retardant substances—is the least-toxic alternative.
Last, parents should shun soft plastic and vinyl baby toys. Manufacturers often add chemicals, called phthalates, to plastic toys as a softener. This chemical can leach from the plastic and—since toddlers tend to put objects in their mouths—expose young children to a substance that has been linked to cancer and reproductive harm. For this reason, the use of phthalates in baby and children”s toys is outlawed in 15 European countries and Japan. Hard plastic toys or, better yet, wooden playthings coated with water-based lacquer are smarter purchases, and can be found at Natural Play and your local toy store.
CONTACTS: Earth”s Best Baby Food, (800) 434-4246, www.earthsbest.com; Fresh Baby, (866) 403-7374, www.myfreshbaby.com; Children”s Health Environmental Coalition, (609) 252-1915, www.checnet.org; Lifekind, (800) 284.4983, www.lifekind.com; Natural Play, (608) 637-3989, www.naturalplay.com.