Chemicals in Baby Products - What's a Parent to Do?

Reprinted from a January 2015 UCare Minnesota blog post

Every parent wants to protect their baby from harm. So parents and parents-to- be learn about safety gates, outlet protectors, choking hazards, car seat safety and safe sleep positions. But parents might not be as aware of potential risks from small amounts of chemicals in baby products they use everyday in their homes. Phthalates, flame retardants, bisphenol A (BPA) and other chemicals are routinely used in baby products.

Early life exposure to these chemicals even at low levels is associated with increased risk for cancer and adverse effects on development, reproduction, learning and behavior. The Centers for Disease Control has detected BPA, phthalates, flame retardants and other chemicals in nearly everyone tested. Children have up to five times the level of flame retardants in their bodies compared with their parents, putting them at higher risk.

Don’t panic - take precautions

Parents can contribute to their baby’s good health by taking a few simple actions to
avoid exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. For example, follow a few simple tips
to reduce exposure to phthalates in vinyl products and older toys, flame retardants in
crib mattresses and other baby products containing polyurethane foam, and BPA in
polycarbonate plastic toys and older baby bottles.

  • Look for a flame retardant-free crib or toddler mattress made from wool, natural latex or organic cotton. Purchase flame retardant free breastfeeding pillows, furniture, and changing table pads. If the label says: “This article meets the flammability requirements of California technical bulletin 117,” it likely contains added flame retardants.
  • Avoid products made with polyurethane foam, which usually contain added flame retardants.
  • Limit plastic products and avoid vinyl (PVC #3) plastic, which can contain phthalates or lead. Buy cloth and wood toys.
  • Avoid used toys and baby products, which might contain lead or phthalates banned in new products.
  • Buy BPA-free plastic or glass baby bottles.
  • Purchase baby clothing free of added flame retardants. Look for sleepwear labeled, “For child’s safety, garment should fit snugly. This garment is not flame resistant” or “… is not intended for use as sleepwear.”

It’s important to understand that just because your baby is exposed to these chemicals doesn’t mean that his or her health will necessarily be affected. Avoiding unnecessary exposures to toxic chemicals is taking precautionary action to prevent potential harm to your baby’s health.

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