As a cautious parent, you devote constant attention to keeping your little ones safe from harm. You make sure nothing dangerous is lying around the house; you hold their hand as they cross the road; and you strap their helmet on tight when they jump on their bike.
You might think you’ve ticked all the boxes regarding the safety of your child; but what about the dangers lurking in their healthcare products and toys? News reports across the globe are continuing to build an alarming body of evidence suggesting “baby-safe” products and toys may not be as innocent as they would have us believe.
Because your babies and young children eat, drink and breathe far more per pound of body weight than adults, they are at greater risk from harmful chemicals and toxins. When you also consider the fact that they are moving through a highly vulnerable, developmental phase in their lives where their brains and organs are susceptible to even the smallest changes in their environment, you should really think twice before giving your offspring a product or toy without thoroughly researching it first.
Here are some of the toxins and harmful compounds you should look out for in the things you give to your little squirts.
Skin is a highly absorbent organ, particularly so for babies and young kids. Try to avoid products which have fragrances, keeping your eye peeled for the word “parfum” and all the negative connotations it brings with it. Throw away any skincare products which contain parabens, petroleum-based compounds (yes, even your beloved petroleum baby jelly), mineral oil, sodium laureth sulfate, polyethylene glycol (PEG), quarternium compounds, sodium borate (used especially in diaper creams), and aluminum. Any of these compounds can get absorbed through your baby’s skin into their bloodstream, and wreak havoc on their bodies.
Sun care products are also a hotbed of toxins and harmful substances. Ideally you should avoid the use of sunscreens altogether for your babies and young kids, employing age-old techniques like umbrellas, wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved clothing, and shade. This is particularly true for babies under 6 months of age, where it is highly recommended that you consult a doctor before using any sunscreen. An evaluation of over 1000 sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group concluded that physical blocking sunscreens, such as those containing zinc and titanium, are preferred over those which contain oxybenzone and homosalate as active ingredients. If you absolutely must use sunscreen on your child, always test a very small amount on a patch of skin to determine whether they show any signs of skin irritation, before lathering them in it.
When it comes to feeding time, the same rules that apply to adults work for babies and children, stick to organic, hormone-free, pesticide free food products. If you can’t afford to buy only organic produce for your children, at the very least steer clear of the infamous “dirty dozen” – apples, bell peppers, blueberries, celery, cherries, grapes, kale, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach and strawberries. These fruits and vegetables fall within this unenviable bracket due to their propensity to retain high quantities of pesticides and herbicides applied to their flesh while growing. No amount of washing will remove these harmful compounds, so they’ll pass into your baby or child when eaten.
When feeding your loved ones meat and animal products, once again stick to organic, hormone-free products. Also, try to focus on grass-fed or pastured sources. These are the cleanest and have the greatest nutritional profiles.
Plastic products and toys
Plastic products have received a lot of negative media attention in recent years for good reason. In particular, plastics containing BPA have received a lot of bad press due to their estrogen-mimicking compounds, which can mess with our hormones and cause all kinds of issues with our organs and development. BPA isn’t the only bad guy in the mix, however, with other compounds such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) shown to create hormonal imbalances and result in negative interactions in our bodies.
PVC products include plastic bibs, vinyl food containers, bottle coolers, shower curtains, certain baby mattresses, pliable toys, and a range of plastic food wraps. These products may also contain phthalates, lead, and other harmful metals acting as stabilizers. BPA-free products are now commonplace, however BPA is still commonly found in aluminum and tin can linings, and therefore often found in sizeable quantities in food contained in those cans. Stick to fresh or frozen foods if possible, or only buy food products for your baby in glass jars.
Finally, never microwave or heat any plastic products which are to come into contact with your child. Heating plastics encourages the harmful compounds contained within them to leach out into whatever they touch, be it food or skin. If you must microwave anything, place it in glass or unglazed ceramic containers first.
The bottom line
These are just some of the hazards you should look out for when feeding your child or giving them products or toys. Be vigilant. Always make sure you do your research before giving something the green light.