Raising a Healthy Baby With Natural, Organic Products
The smooth, soft skin and that sweet new baby smell are intoxicating. Unfortunately, unbeknown to many parents, common skin care products, textiles, regular household products, and foods have the potential to really harm our babies, both in the short term and the long term.
Separating myth from fiction can be a challenge in today’s media-driven society, so we’re here to help you sort through the information and acquire the knowledge you need to make safe, healthy choices for your child. Here we provide some basic information about the biggest concerns you should consider when raising your little one.
Baby skin care products
Our skin is the largest organ on our bodies, and anything applied to the skin can be absorbed and passed on to the bloodstream and internal systems. A baby’s blood is thinner than an adult’s and is therefore not as capable of blocking harmful substances. Their small bodies also have higher metabolisms, making toxins more harmful than to full-grown humans.
Unfortunately, personal care products-including those for your baby-have not generally been regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Believe it or not, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) controls many consumer products, but cosmetics are the least regulated within their jurisdiction.
As a result, they can contain several harmful chemicals, including:
- 1,4-dioxane: Added as a stabilizer for solvents, this chemical is classified as a probable carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
- Diethanolamine (DEA): A foaming agent, DEA is generally considered a carcinogen. Although it has been phased out of many products, its derivatives are still being used in many personal care products. These are known as cocamide DEA, lauramide DEA or MEA, or triethanolamine (TEA). They are easily absorbed and can build up to chronic, toxic levels over time.
- Formaldehyde: Found in soaps, shampoos, and body washes, as well as air fresheners and aerosol products, formaldehyde is carcinogenic, can cause DNA damage, is a nervous system depressant, and can contribute to emotional depression, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep.
- Fragrances: Chemicals added for their fragrant qualities can contribute to rashes, dizziness, coughing, vomiting, headaches, and allergic reactions (according to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrances are the leading cause of allergic reactions to cosmetics). Many are also known hormone disruptors that can cause reproductive disorders.
- Parabens: Used as synthetic preservative in many personal care products, this group of chemicals has estrogen-mimicking properties. Identified in ingredients lists as butyl-, ethyl, propyl-, and methyl-parabens, they disrupt endocrine system function and can cause skin irrigation and rashes. Parabens are also considered unclassified carcinogens.
- Phthalates: An additive for many personal care products, this chemical is a suspected endocrine disruptor, a developmental toxicant, and may contribute to liver cancer and kidney damage. It is often present in fragranced baby products.
Choosing natural skin care products for your baby-be it rash cream, lotion, or shampoo-is one way to avoid these products. Check labels carefully and purchase from reputable companies with a commitment to producing safe products without these chemicals.
Your baby may consume 600 jars of baby food within his first year of life, and with every spoonful, he may be taking in chemicals that are harmful to his health. Food grown on regular farms will contain relatively high doses of agricultural chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. On average, a 5 year old child will consume eight types of pesticides daily, but like chemicals in personal care products, their bodies aren’t as equipped to get rid of these toxins as ours are. As a result, children can experience reproductive, endocrine, neurological, and developmental disorders when regularly eating foods grown in this manner.
Organically-grown fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, must adhere to standards set forth by the US Department of Agriculture. Farmers cannot use conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineered seeds, or ionizing radiation. And organic meats and dairy products must come from animals that were raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. Choosing organic baby food for your child is one way to avoid the exposure to agricultural chemicals.
You may want to snuggle your baby girl in a freshly-laundered sleeper or clean cotton sheets, but these, too, can contribute to health problems for your bundle of joy. Like crops grown for food, cotton is grown with huge infusions of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. In fact, although cotton only makes up only 2.4 percent of the agricultural land in the world, it consumes 24 percent of all insecticides and 11 percent of all pesticides worldwide! Just as with the cosmetics used on your baby’s skin, a baby can also absorb toxins when wrapped in these chemical-laden textiles.
Cotton and polyesters can also be treated with dyes that are problematic. Conventional dyes can contain petrochemical-based and heavy metal ingredients, including lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and chromium VI.
So swaddle your child in healthy clothing and bedding that’s made from natural, and organically-grown textiles, like organic, color-grown cotton, natural wool, hemp, and bamboo. All of these options will ensure your child is free from chemical nightmares.
Everyday cleaning products
As if the above toxins weren’t enough to worry about, we also need to consider how we clean our homes when thinking about baby’s health. Whether they’re breathing in the “clean” air of the nursery or crawling on the freshly-washed floor, they can come in contact with chemical cleaners. In fact, the cleaning chemicals found in the average American home may be three times more carcinogenic than those outside our homes. Here’s a quick rundown of the potential hazards lurking in your cleaning closet:
- Chlorine bleach: This whitener is poisonous if swallowed, and can cause asthma, vomiting, as well as skin and eye irritation.
- Ethoxylated nonyl phenol and thymol: Found in floor coatings, laundry detergents, and air fresheners, this chemical is a hormone disruptor, can contribute to dizziness and fainting, can cause DNA damage, and may contain ethylene oxide (which is a known carcinogen).
- Hydrochloric acid (hydrogen chloride or muriatic acid): Common in many toilet bowl cleaners, tile cleaners, drain openers, calcium/rust/lime removers, stain removers, and deodorizers, this chemical can burn skin, cause diarrhea, and may cause blindness if it comes in direct contact with eyes.
- Naphthalene: Commonly known as moth balls, this substance is a suspected carcinogen and a reproductive toxin. It can also contribute to liver, kidney, and corneal damage.
- Nitrobenzene: In wood polishes, this ingredient can cause shallow breathing, skin discoloration, and even cancer.
- Sodium hydroxide: Known as lye or caustic soda, this is often found in concentrated cleaners, oven cleaners, drain openers, tile and grout cleaners, laundry detergents, water softeners, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, and grill cleaners. It causes skin and eye irritation, inhibits reflexes, and can cause severe tissue damage if swallowed.
If you’re looking to clean out your cleaning closet, you’ll want to re-stock with plant-based, biodegradable, nontoxic cleaning products that are free from these nasty ingredients.