Bedding and Blankets

The same environmental standards that apply to adult mattresses also apply to crib mattresses. Most commercial mattresses today include fire-retardant chemicals that have been linked to health issues. While most studies indicate that the safety afforded by treating the fabric with fire retardants out-weighs the concerns of chemical exposure, there have been no long-term tests supporting this statement. For an environmentally friendly option, consider a natural and organic mattress. Not only are beds made from these materials better for the environment, they can be better for babies when it comes to what they breathe and how well they sleep.

Natural and organic bedding is made from natural rubber or latex and organic cotton or wool. Natural latex is harvested from rubber trees in a manner that allows the sap to regenerate and the trees to heal in between tappings. It's used as the core of the mattress and is antimicrobial, hypoal-lergenic, and resistant to dust mites.

Organic cotton and wool are used to cover the natural latex, making the mattress more comfortable. Organic wool is sheared from sheep that are raised without pesticides or hormones, and the sheep are allowed to forage for at least one-third of their food rather than spending their days in a feedlot. Wool is an excellent temperature regulator. As babies sweat, the perspiration is wicked away so they don't get damp; this allows the sweat to do its job and help cool babies. If it's cold, wool has air pockets that hold in warmed air and insulate babies. Wool has its own fire retardants as well. No additional chemicals are required to ensure that proper safety regulations are met.

U.S. law required stuffed items such as mattresses and pillows be labeled to describe the fabric and stuffing material. In an effort to protect consumers from used goods, the products were sold with tags declaring it illegal to remove the labels. This warning led many consumers to believe they could be arrested for removing the labels. The confusing labels have since been changed to state that consumers, as opposed to retailers, may remove the labels.

Beyond the mattress, organic cotton makes for great sheets and blankets. For some parents, going organic may be the best way to ensure that no chemicals were used in growing the cotton or manufacturing the sheets. If parents are concerned about babies breathing in fumes like formaldehyde while they're sleeping, they may want to avoid using permanent-press commercial sheets. Wool is naturally hypoallergenic, making breathing problems less likely.

Strollers and Slings

There are plenty of options when it comes to carrying babies. Some people prefer using strollers to roll about town, while others prefer carrying babies up close in a sling or carrier. It's really personal preference. Concerns with strollers are that are that they are made using plastic and soft polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coverings. Not only is this a concern with babies chewing on the materials, other issues arise from the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. Although no studies specifically addressing strollers have been done, studies on toys show that babies don't chew on the toys long enough to absorb chemicals. Parents who are bothered by the idea of buying a stroller and supporting the petrochemical industry can consider purchasing a secondhand stroller. Many strollers are made to last through multiple children; a used stroller will be less expensive than a new model.

Slings and baby carriers come in all shapes, sizes, and patterns and allow parents to keep babies close while keeping their hands free. Some slings snuggle the baby right up to Mom or Dad's chest while others, usually those for older infants, are worn on the hips. There are also styles that are worn on the parent's back. If you are interested in looking for different designs and more information on slings and carriers, check out these Web sites: www.theslingstation.com, www.peppermint.com, www.onehotmama.com, and www.ergobaby.com.

Friendly and Safe Toys

Kids nuzzle everything, rubbing it on their faces and putting it in their mouths. Parents want to make sure their toys are as safe as can be. Safety regulations for toys sold in the United States are governed by the Federal Hazardous Substance Act and respective amendments, along with the 1969 Child Protection and Toy Safety Act. Regulations are enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and include testing requirements for the following:

  • Paint and other surface coatings

  • Pacifiers and rattles

  • Noise levels

  • Electric or thermal toys

  • Chemistry sets

  • Sharp edges and points

  • Small parts or choking hazards

  • Flammability

  • Hazardous substances

  • There has been a lot of concern over the materials used to make children's toys, particularly PVC plastics. Chemicals added to plastic to soften it include phthalates, which are considered carcinogens by the EPA. Phthalates are also suspected as endocrine disrupters that can affect hormonal activities in laboratory animals. There is concern that children could absorb phthalates contained in the toys when chewing on them; however, as mentioned, studies have shown that the children do not chew the toys long enough for the chemicals to be absorbed. Other countries consider the levels of phthalates allowed in U.S. toys too high; the European Union has banned six specific phthalates.

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