All You Need to Know About Buying Greener Baby Equipment
So, you’ve got a new family member on the way. And mama (or dada), you need gear! Guess what? There are an awful lot of nasties in the big ticket items that you might consider buying for your little bundle. Here’s a nice primer for you as you begin your quest to find the cleanest, greenest baby equipment out there!
Choosing a better mattress
As the saying goes, “People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” Regardless of whether you have a good sleeper or one who frustrates all efforts to get eight hours in a row, your kids will spend a lot of hours in their beds. And it isn't only this kind of close contact that can make you feel concerned about what your baby is laying his little face against. Mattresses are well known to off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the bedroom air. Here are some great tips for choosing a healthy mattress (thanks to The Queen of Green at DavidSuzuki.org who inspired us with many healthy mattress tips!), so if you’re about to choose a new nest for your baby chick, consider these factors while you’re flying about the stores!
- Natural fibres are the best choice. Wool, silk, hemp, organic cotton and natural latex eliminate the worry about off-gassing.
- Synthetic fabrics derived from petrochemicals, e.g. polyurethane foam, should be avoided.
- Concerned about pests or fire resistance? Don’t be! Wool naturally repels mites and natural latex foam is already fire resistant! Many fire retardants are added in the first place to offset the flammability of other chemicals in the mattress.
- Mattresses made in Canada generally don’t contain PBDEs (synthetic chemicals added as fire retardants) but they can be in imported goods.
- Avoid substances used to resist stains and water. Use a good, non-toxic mattress cover instead!
- Antibacterial protection may contain nano-silver particles which, when they enter the water system through washing, can interfere with microbes essential to the ecosystem.
- Organic mattresses for adults are expensive, but kids’ mattresses aren’t as bad. If you are bed-sharing, consider investing in a mattress protector made from wool or organic cotton.
Considerations for car seats
Like strollers, car seats are rife with issues, especially when it comes to the covers. Couple this with the enclosed space and car interiors can be an extremely toxic environment. Materials have tended to be coated or imbued with chemicals whose ubiquitous risks outweigh the targeted risks, potential benefits or conveniences (stain resistance, for instance). Furthermore, car seats are often made more comfortable by the addition of foam padding, which is non-recyclable and infamous for its toxic content.
- Avoid fabrics that contain pesticides and phthalates and create VOC emissions. Look for certifications like GREENGUARD or Oeko-Tex® Standard 100.
- Investigate whether they are free of brominated and chlorinated (halogenated) fire retardants. Since car seats are still required to possess some sort of retardant, halogen-free, phosphate chemicals can be better choices. The Ecology Centre reports that three out of four car seats tested by healthystuff.org “contained hazardous halogenated flame retardants, and over half contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants, some of which are hazardous as well.” Check out the full (& very helpful!) HealthyStuff.org Children's Car Seat Study 2015.
- Wool and cotton are naturally flame retardant, so you may be able to consider making or acquiring a replacement cover. Note that this will probably void your warranty, and may have a negative impact on safety, so make absolutely sure you know what you’re doing before you go making any changes!
- Remember some of the biggest, most “trusted” names in car seats can be some of the worst offenders.
- Of course, for safety, make sure your car seat is Transport Canada compliant. Transport Canada does not endorse particular seats, but it does issue notices when defects occur or safety standards are not met.
- Recycling car seats is extremely difficult, but check your area to see if there are specialty recyclers like Red Propeller in Ontario or Pacific Mobile Depots in BC. You can also check to see if the manufacturer has its own recycling program.
Selecting a stroller
Phthalates, lead, bromine, hexavalent chromium, PVC, cadmium, BPA, mercury, antimony, arsenic, barium, selenium & formaldehyde...oh my! Sounds like a list of things to avoid, doesn’t it? Would you be happy about laying your baby in a fabric impregnated with these substances? We thought not. But many baby products, including strollers, are sporting just such toxins in their material. We contacted an expert in the industry who offered some things to consider when making such an important purchase!
- Does it contain flame retardants? Many manufacturers are not aware of, or have not adopted, the exclusion for baby products created in 2011. Inquire directly through the manufacturer if it’s not explicitly stated on the packaging. If you already have one that does contain flame retardants, you can reduce the content by leaving the stroller out in the sun for a few days and then washing it with soap (not detergent). Think about it: if a fire breaks out, it’s unlikely that the first thing you’ll do is throw your baby into his stroller.
- Lower-priced strollers often contain PVC, phthalates and/or BPA. The investment into better-made equipment is worth it. Period.
- Fabrics treated with coatings (for waterproofing, stain resistance, or antibacterial protection) should be regarded with caution.
- Strollers made in China tend to have more chemicals in them than those made in Taiwan or North America.
- Look for certification from third party companies like JPMA, BLUESIGN, GOTS, and Oeko-Tex® Standard 100. These companies test for harmful substances in textile products and certify that their high standards for low toxin content are met.
- Is the fabric made from recycled material, or organic fibres such as cotton or bamboo?
- Packaging — is it minimal, recyclable, or reusable?
*Originally published February 13, 2017