When your newborn comes into the world wet and wrinkly, and we marvel at her tiny toes, little rosebud mouth and grasping fingers, we cannot help but be amazed at the miracle of life. Your little one’s fragility touches you and you understand at that moment the heroism of parenthood as a fierce sense of protectiveness overwhelms you.
Heroic parental love comes in many forms. Here at The Asianparent, we think the best form of love and protection in our consumer-driven modern society is very simple – to always read the label and understand its components before using any product on your little one. The most inane of everyday baby products often carry toxic ingredients. We list some of these everyday baby products that you never knew were toxic and suggest possible alternatives.
1. Baby wipes
You know that sweet smelling piece of cloth you keep handy for everything from wiping her face to her nether region? This is what toxic baby wipes can do to her. Whatever chemical your little one has on her skin eventually gets absorbed into her newly minted blood circulatory system and she probably comes into contact with these baby wipes 5 – 6 times a day on average.
Baby wipes can be especially hazardous because methylisothiazolinone, an ingredient that is banned in many western countries, is not regulated in products sold locally. Another harmful ingredient is bronopol which is often used in place of alcohol as an antimicrobial agent in baby wipes. It releases low levels of formaldehyde as it breaks down. Phthalates is another group of ingredients you need to look out for. They are known endocrine disruptors, especially harmful for infants whose endocrine system are far from developed.
Simple is safe
When choosing baby wipes, a golden rule to follow is: simple is safe. Choose wet wipes which have as few ingredients as possible and avoid those with complicated-sounding ingredients. Water wipes, for example, are a great alternative. They contain only 1) water and 2) grape fruit extract.
2. Crib Covers
Babies need a lot of sleep to hit their developmental milestones, about 12 – 16 hours depending on your child’s age. As you watch their chubby little cheeks lying innocently on their plush fabrics, have you considered the material that their skin is coming into contact with for such a large part of the day?
Fact is, vinyl coverings or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are the most common types of coverings for cribs and mattresses, due to their waterproofing properties. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most toxic plastics around and a known human carcinogen.
Moreover, in order to convert PVC (essentially a hard plastic) into a flexible material, chemical plasticizers must be added. These plasticizers (mostly phthalates) make up 30%-40% of the composition of the vinyl surface of a crib mattress. Horrifyingly, these are not bound to the vinyl and can leach out into the surrounding air. Children who come into close contact with these materials then absorb it into their fragile bodies through respiration or skin contact. Health side effects associated with chemical plasticizers include reproductive harm, asthma, early onset of puberty, cancer, and kidney and liver damage
Who would have thought trying to clean your child’s pearlies could be so toxic?
Most toothpastes contain fluoride. We all know what fluoride does for our teeth, but did you also know that the everyday use of fluoride during early childhood presents significant health risks?
Risks from ingesting fluoride toothpaste include permanent tooth discoloration (dental fluorosis), acute fluoride poisoning, stomach ailments, acute toxicity, skin rashes (perioral dermatitis), and impairment in glucose metabolism. Many scientific studies have even linked exposure to fluoride to a reduced IQ in children.
While you might exclaim that toothpaste is not supposed to be ingested anyway, the fact is that children and infants have underdeveloped swallow reflexes, causing them to ingest a much higher amount of fluoride than the recommended dosage.
Recently, there has been a recall on squishies—toys made of foam—which contain toxic substances. Even when these toys are labelled with recognizable brand names which have been around for generations, we often see that there is the dreaded Made in China stamped somewhere on the packaging.
Curious babies love exploring by biting and sucking everything that comes within grasp
These toys are known to contain highly toxic ingredients like lead, phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) which can cause extensive health damage and even mental retardation in extreme cases to growing young children.
As our curious tots explore their toys by sometimes sucking or chewing on them, these toxins leach out and find their way into their bodies.
It is especially important to buy 100% safe teethers and plushies which are meant to be chewed and sucked on—toys that are phthalate, BPA, PVC and latex free.
5. Water bottles (plastic)
Plastic bottles are another cause of concern when they contain bisphenol A (BPA). This component has been linked with cancer, impaired immune function, and hyperactivity amongst a whole myriad of problems. The risk of poisoning get higher progressively as the plastics degenerate over time. Heated milk that is poured into the bottle and scratches will break down the plastics causing this toxin to get unintentionally ingested by the child.
Glass bottles are a far safer alternative.
At the end of it all, every parent wants the best for our children. In order to safely navigate the confusing marketplace of choices, we need to educate ourselves and read the labels.