Protect your babies with a "green" nursery

October 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Does your newborn baby have environmentally friendly surroundings? It's an important question. Kathy Gerwig, vice president of environmental stewardship for Kaiser Permanente, has some tips on greening your nursery.

Kathy Gerwig's advice:

For many expectant parents, the imminent arrival of their baby puts greater emphasis ensuring the newborn has environmentally friendly surroundings. What parents of new babies should know:

a. From birth, children breathe more air, drink more water and eat more food per pound of body weight than adults. They're taking in more of everything, so there's a higher level of exposure.

b. A young child's higher surface area to body mass ratio increases exposure to toxicants absorbed through the skin.

c. Body systems that detoxify industrial chemicals are not yet fully developed in babies and children. For example, while an adult will absorb 10% of ingested lead, a toddler absorbs 50%.

d. Many toxicants have long latency periods before adverse effects may manifest, making early life exposure particularly concerning. Especially true with carcinogens like arsenic and asbestos and substances like radon; also true for some neurotoxicants where early exposure may lead to behavior and developmental problems not noticed until problems arise in school or later in life. And early exposure to carcinogens may increase the risk of adulthood cancer and may cause certain cancers to appear sooner in life.

Green options for:

a) Supporting the nursery and household, and b) baby care products

a. Greening the Nursery and the Household.

i. Choose lead-free and low VOC paint and PVC-free flooring

ii. Go with safe inexpensive homemade household cleaners and avoid numerous chemicals

iii. Babies mean more laundry: Avoid synthetic fragrance, dyes or chlorine bleach. Use plant-based products.

iv. Avoid pesticides

v. At the door, take off your shoes, which can track pesticides and toxic chemicals inside your home. If you choose to keep shoes on, wipe them first on a good doormat.

b. Use non-toxic, environmentally friendly baby care products.

i. Instead of baby powder or talcum powder, use corn starch.

ii. Exchange your mercury thermometer for a digital one (and don't throw the mercury into the trash - dispose at your community's hazardous waste collection site / event)

iii. Many baby body care products aren't necessary, but when selecting, choose those without synthetic fragrance, preservatives or triclosan.

iv. Baby bottles and sippy cups made of polycarbonate plastic are likely to contain bisphenol-A. Go instead for glass bottles or containers made of polypropylene or polyethelene.

v. Never heat milk or formula in plastic bottles. They can leach chemicals when exposed to heat.

vi. Choose pesticide-free or organically produced products, or make your own organic baby food.

vii. Avoid bibs, teethers and toys made from vinyl / pvc (with lead and phthalates); look for items marked as pvc-free, or go with cloth or wooden items.

Tips for parents:

a. First - have reasonable expectations. Expecting a baby is exciting but can also induce some anxiety; don't adopt more stress or guilt in trying to be perfect in terms of going green

b. If it's a friend or family member is having the baby, there are green baby shower gifts.

i. Organic baby clothes, receiving blankets, bedding - cotton, bamboo, vegetable dyes

ii. If the parents are open to it, consider green diaper options. For example, hybrid diapers (flushable, biodegradable insert and a washable covering)

iii. Or go totally green - have everyone give only "gently used" gifts, re-gifting clothes, gear and toys.


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