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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Like Nature Intended: Going Natural with Baby

It's becoming a topic increasingly in the forefront of discussion: going natural and chemical free. More and more people are seeking to live cleaner lives by examining what they consume and use in their homes and making the necessary changes to do so. However, the transition can be a challenging, albeit worthy one. 

First, everyone defines 'natural', 'green', 'chemical free', etc differently, so you have to determine what these terms mean to you and what you seek to change. Second, you have to learn what chemicals, toxins, etc are present in what products you use (and even the food you consume), so you know what to look for and eliminate them. Finally, you have to find the natural alternative to the naughty ingredients you are eliminating and find products to replace the old baddies. There is usually trial and error at this point, since you have to find products that you like and/ or that fit your budget. This still seems to be the biggest stumbling block for those seeking a more natural lifestyle- it's costs green to go green.

For years my Mum has been encouraging us to be more critical of the products we use, and inevitably having a baby who depends on you to make choices for their greater good is a good kick up the bum to do so. Will and I have been transitioning the foods we eat and products we have in our home to more natural ones, but having Ari makes me want to speed up the process, especially where baby toiletries are concerned.

So, to take my own advice, I have defined what natural & clean living means in my home. We try to buy organic produce (and local when possible), eat food that we prepare ourselves and can pronounce the ingredients, and use as few chemicals as possible. I mixed a batch of home made laundry detergent a while back and have been happy with the results; I also do not use chemical solvents or materials for my furniture DIY projects.

While that's all well & good, the biggest stumbling block for our house still lies ahead: identifying, eliminating, & replacing common products that harbour toxic ingredients. This runs the gamut from the contents of my makeup bag, to Ari's baby wash, to Will's deodorant... it's ridiculous and scary to think what lurks in products we use everyday and use on our bodies.

It can be hard to decide where to start and overwhelming to navigate. I thought since I'm going to be doing the research anyway, others can benefit from my efforts and I can share my own journey with you. Please keep in mind my intention isn't to come across as preachy or make already nervous parents even more paranoid. It is to offer you information and resources that you can review and use at your discretion. Since there are so many areas you can address when adopting a cleaner, greener lifestyle, my advice is to do so in stages, and prioritize.

The following info may be a lot to take in at once; there are a lot of terms that I only discovered while researching this post. I have done my best to try and narrow down the info and jargon into a reader- friendly format and have provided the links to my sources so you can check out the original articles for a more in- depth look.

Personal Items (Adult & Baby)
According to US research, approximately 1 in 8 of the 82,000 ingredients in personal care products are industrial chemicals[1]. There is a ‘dirty dozen’ list of ingredients* you should look to avoid when buying products such as make up, shampoo, and other personal care products[2]. (The following info is from the David Suzuki Foundation website; I’ve listed the general info below, but check out the link at the bottom of this paragraph for a more in- depth description of the ingredients & info)

1. BHA & BHT- used as a preservative in make up & moisturizers
Bad because: suspected endocrine disruptors & may cause cancer (BHA)

2. Coal tar dyes (p- phenylenediamine & colours listed as ‘CI’ followed by a 5 digit number- found in hair dyes & other products
Bad because: may cause cancer & can be contaminated with heavy metals that are toxic to the brain

3. DEA- related ingredients- used in products such as moisturizers & shampoos (products that are creamy and foamy)
Bad because: may cause cancer if it reacts to form nitrosamines

4. Dibutyl phalate- “used as a plasticizer in some nail care products"
Bad because: “suspected endocrine disruptor and reproductive toxicant”

5. Formaldehyde- releasing preservatives- includes ingredients such as DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, among others (see the David Suzuki Organization website for more)
Bad because: these chemicals slowly release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen

6. Parabens- used as preservatives in a variety of cosmetic products
Bad because: “suspected endocrine disruptors and may interfere with male reproductive functions”

7. Parfum/ fragrance- any combination of fragrance ingredients used in countless products (including those marked ‘unscented’); this umbrella term can hide in excess of 3,000 ingredients[3]
Bad because: some ingredients linked to cancer

8. PEG Compounds- commonly used in cosmetics as a cream base
Bad because: can be contaminated with 1,4- dioxane, which may cause cancer

9. Petrolatum- found in hair products & products such as lip balms & moisturizers
Bad because: it is a petroleum product & can be contaminated with polcyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer

10. Siloxanes- found in cosmetics that “soften, smooth, and moisten”
 Bad because: “suspected endocrine disruptor and reproductive toxicant”

- If you’re trying to replace current products you use that contain some of the ingredients listed above, check out the Think Dirty App by the David Suzuki Foundation; simply scan the barcode of a product you use & receive info on the ingredients, toxicity concerns, and suggested alternative products
- Don’t just trust the label because it uses terms such as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’- read through the ingredients and learn what to avoid
- Seek alternative natural based replacements, such as olive oil & baking powder
- Check out some recipes & try making your own! (Check out Voyageur Soap and Candle Co Ltd for ingredients to make your own, ready- made products, & recipes)

* Further information can be found on the David Suzuki Foundation website here.

Baby Items
Bottles & Nipples
It's not just the quality of food you give your baby that you should think about, but what you use to feed them. For bottle feeding, avoid nipples made of latex rubber, (latex contains a carcinogen, nitrosamine, that is released when the baby sucks on the nipple; latex can also harbour bacteria as it breaks down[4]) and bottles, etc made of polycarbonate (the plastic containing bisphenol- A, aka BPA, a chemical known to disrupt hormones[5]). Also be aware of plastics containing phalates & avoid using them for the same reason.

- Seek out nipples made of silicone & look for brands that are BPA & latex free (don't recognize what it's made of? Do some research first)
- Use glass bottles whenever possible
Commonly found brands, such as Gerber, Playtex, & Evenflo, offer the above options
Like those listed above (see personal items), there are a myriad of ingredients present in baby products that you may want to avoid.
This includes products that may contain 1,4 dioxin and those that may contain formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, and other ingredients such as oxybenzone, boric acid, and sodium borate, among others[6] (see here for a comprehensive list of ingredients).

There are two things to address here: the clothing, etc and the products you use to clean them. First consider what material is used: is it natural or synthetic? Is it dyed? What other chemicals (such as pesticides and formaldehyde) have been used to treat the fibres and fabric? Second, what do you use to clean & refresh your sheets, towels, clothes, etc? Detergent and other chemical residues found in fabric softeners and other treatments build up over time in the material, causing repeated regular exposure to chemicals over time[7].

- Consider investing in organic cotton sheets & bedding
- Avoid fabrics that are 'wrinkle free' or have been treated against moths & other pests
- Soak items overnight to reduce/ remove residue[8] (some treatments & residues cannot be removed completely, but you can reduce the concentration of build up & subsequent exposure)
          - 1/2- 1 cup vinegar or
          - 1/2- 1 cup pickling salt or
          - 1/4- 1 cup baking soda (rinsing several times to remove baking soda residue)
- Purchase or make your own detergent that is chemical free

So with all of this in mind (and all of that new vocab!) I think the important thing to keep in mind is this: decide if this is a priority for you. If it isn't, that's totally fine. If it is, you will then have to figure out what you want to address and what your plan will be to change the products you use in your house. Maybe you only want to try chemical free cleaners or change up the products you use on your kids. Whatever your approach and however dedicated you want to be is something only you will know. I hope you will at least give it a try and see if it makes a difference.

One final note: for this post, I used sources that I felt were reputable and informative: The David Suzuki Foundation, The Less Toxic Guide, & Earth Mama Angel Baby. I hope you will check them out and see what other info you can dig up. 

Image Sources:

[1] http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/
[2] http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/
[3] http://davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/fragrance-and-parfum/
[4] http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca/?fetch=babycare
[5] http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca/?fetch=babycare
[6] http://www.earthmamaangelbaby.com/mama-resources/expert-panel/diba-tillery-rn-bsn/protecting-our-babies-from-toxic-chemicals
[7] http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca/?fetch=babycare
[8] http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca/?fetch=babycare