At some point, one wonders if certain safety standards do more harm than good. A perfect example of this is the California flammability standard put in place in 1975 (Technical bulletin 117) . Since then, harmful flame retardants have been added to countless baby products, unnecessarily exposing them to dangerous chemicals. (Nice job, guys.)
WHY ARE THEY HARMFUL?
Flame retardants can cause a number of adverse health effects, including lowered IQ in children, reduced fertility and hormone disruption. Babies and toddlers are even more vulnerable to these chemicals. Studies have found that toddlers have three to four times the level of toxic flame retardants in their bodies compared to their parents. Oy vey!
WHAT ARE THEY IN?
A more appropriate question would be “what AREN’T they in?” Flame retardants can be found nursing pillows, changing table pads, baby carriers, car seats and the list goes on. The Green Science Policy Institute found flame retardants in 80% of the baby products tested in a recent study.
What does this mean? You guessed it. Parents must do their research to find products that don’t contain these chemicals. And it isn’t easy.
HOW TO REDUCE EXPOSURE
Before we get into specific brands, these are ways that you can reduce your overall exposure.
1. Purchase safe baby products and furniture
- Consider products that contain natural fibers like down, wool or cotton (organic cotton is best). Polyester is a better choice than anything containing polyurethane foam. Stay as far away from that stuff as possible!
- Products that have the label below are a cause of concern. This most likely means that it contains flame retardants.
2. Reduce exposure to house dust
- Vacuum often (at least once a week) and mop floors to help prevent dust build up
- Wash hands frequently
3. Advocate for safer products
Your voice can help solve this problem. The Green Science Policy offers materials to help you contact the Chief of the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair or your state representatives and/or governor. Admittedly, this is still on my list of “to-do’s.”
BRANDS TO BUY
Now the part that you’ve been waiting for – what to actually buy. According to the Green Science Policy Institute and other credible sources, Baby Luxe Organic , BabyBjorn, Orbit Baby, and Boppy are manufacturers with products that meet the TB117 requirements without added flame retardants.
I also did a little more research on my own, and these are the products that have solid reputations and met our standards:
Naturepedic – Naturepedic makes an organic mattresses free of harmful chemicals. While the cost for an organic mattress is high, it’s worth its price in gold when you think about how much time your baby will spend on it. Many conventional non-organic mattresses contain flame retardants, polyurethane foam (emits harmful VOCs) and formaldehyde. We’ve registered for this one.
Naturepedic (again) – Steer clear of changing pads that contain polyurethane foam and synthetic waterproof coatings. Instead, look for organic cotton or wool and a polyethylene food-grade waterproof coating. This Naturepedic changing pad has all of those qualities. A natural waterproof coating eliminates the need for a waterproof cover, which gives you more options (organic changing pad covers usually aren’t waterproof). It’s pricey, but worth it. Our babies spend a lot of time on these.
Naturepedic Organic Cotton Contoured Changing Pad ($99 on Amazon)
CHANGING PAD COVER
Burt’s Bees – Organic is the way to go when it comes to something that will be directly touching your baby’s skin. Burt’s Bees makes soft, stretchy organic changing pad covers in a few simple colors.
Burt’s Bees Honey Bee Changing Pad Cover ($17 on Amazon)
The Nuna Sena Travel Crib – A European brand that is Certifiably Green with 100% Oeko-Tex certified organic fabric. Oeko-Tex is an independent certification and testing system that provides manufactures in the textile and clothing industry with a benchmark for evaluating harmful chemicals in textiles. I don’t know about you, but I trust a European brand’s safety standards much more than US standards. (Think about the artificial flavors, synthetic growth hormones and arsenic they allow in our foods. Enough said.)
CAR SEAT & STROLLER
While it’s nearly impossible to find a car seat and stroller free of flame retardants (unless you want to spend $440 on an Orbit car seat), there is a solution.
A few words on car seats and strollers. I commend Orbit for taking the lead in manufacturing chemically safe products for children. Part of the reason they’ve done this is because their products are sold internationally, so they must meet the minimum safety requirements of other countries (which are much more stringent than US standards – no surprise there). Apparently Britax also vowed to phase out harmful flame retardants by the end of 2012. If you’re confused like me and want to see how all the car seats stack up against each other, Healthystuff.org is a great resource that reported on the best and worst car seats in 2011. However, much of its info is outdated.
We decided to go with the Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat. It had top safety ratings and a Medium to Low score from Healthystuff.org (which is good).
The bottom line is that you have to do your research to keep flame retardant exposure to a minimum. I’m hopeful that one day, these companies will realize that their consumers want chemically safe products.
I hope this was helpful. Please respond with any comments, suggestions or new information that may contradict what I’ve found. We can all learn from each other!