How Chemicals Lurking In Furniture Effect Our Children & What We Can Do About It
Babies & children are the most vulnerable to toxins. Pound per pound they breathe in more air, and drink more water making them more susceptible to chemicals. They are at a higher risk for developing diseases & cancer than adults.
Over the past 30 years, the US has allowed tens of thousands NEW chemicals to be used that never existed before and that do not exist in nature. These man-made, synthetic chemicals are used today in millions of consumer products & have not been tested for safety. They are lurking in almost everything. There are studies showing that babies are now being born with almost 300 chemicals in their umbilical cord, and even breastmilk. Chemicals are in our air, water, soil, & household products and furniture. “A new study by Harvard researchers provides disturbing evidence that children’s exposure to household insecticides is linked to higher risks of childhood leukemia and lymphoma, the most common cancers in children”.
“Most governments around the world, including the United States, have simply presumed that new chemicals are safe until they are conclusively proven to cause harm, and the countries have required little or no premarket testing of most chemicals. Only a few governments, notably the European Union, through its 2007 REACH legislation, have attempted to establish chemical safety legislation designed to PROTECT CHILDREN’S HEALTH & the environment. (Children & Environmental Toxins)”
10 TOXINS IN FURNITURE
The top 10 chemicals in furniture are flame retardants (Hexabromocyclododecane), formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, benzene, vinyl acetate, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), trichloroethylene, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, phthalates, & perchloroethylene. These chemicals are linked to a VAST amount of issues including cancer (specifically non hodgkins lymphoma, bladder & multiple myeloma), irritation of the eyes, skin, respiratory tract, blood disorders including reduced numbers of red blood cells and aplastic anemia, adverse reproductive effects on developing fetuses, increased leukemia incidence, reproductive, developmental, neurological effects,liver toxicity, changes in male hormone production, altered sexual differentiation, changes to reproductive organs, headaches, sleepiness, and unconsciousness. The EPA has classified Benzene and trichloroethylene as KNOWN human carcinogens for ALL routes of exposure! (This means it is known to cause cancer)
HOW TO GET RID OF TOXINS IN FURNITURE
Ventilation & “Off-Gassing”. After you buy furniture, it’s wise to let your furniture air out or “off-gas” in a ventilated area like your garage. While this won’t get rid of all the VOC’s, it can certainly help (some take 6 months to off-gas, others may take years).
House Plants. All plants are great air filters. I always say I like to stick to low maintenance plants like succulents, aloe, “snake” plants, & “money trees”. This way I only have to water them 1-2 times a week. Even with this, I have killed many plants in my adult life!
Air Purifier. You may consider a high quality air purifier as they can remove many dangerous chemicals in your home.
Baking Soda. Many VOC’s are acidic in nature. Baking soda is alkaline and along with being a deodorizer, it may help trap harmful gases. There are no studies to prove this. However, those sensitive can attest to this method. Sprinkle baking soda on your sofas, carpet, mattresses or any furntiure and allow to sit for a while. The longer the better! And then vacuum up the baking soda.
Charcoal Filter. These may help trap some VOC’s in your home. Charcoal has been used in the past to help remove dangerous gases during warfare due to its highly absorbent nature.
“Exposures during pregnancy and in early childhood to even very low levels of lead, methyl mercury, organophosphate pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs” have all been proven to cause damage to children’s developing brains that presents as IQ loss, shortened attention span, and disordered behavior. Early-life exposure to air pollution causes asthma, pneumonia, impaired lung growth, and SUDDEN INFANT DEATH (SIDS). Prenatal exposures to solvents and pesticides are linked to childhood cancer. Endocrine disruptors, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), are associated with birth defects, diminished reproductive function, and disordered behavior. Toxic chemical exposures cause disease in children at exposure levels far LOWER than in adults”
I am far from perfect over here you guys! For the past 12 years, I have been trying to improve our lifestyle and reduce our toxin exposure. One thing we have done for the past 12 years is buy organic food (grass-fed meats, wild fish, organic meat, etc), but I have been much slower at looking into our furniture. About 10 years ago, I was window shopping in Lakewood and saw this book in the window of a store. I ran into the store to purchase it as I was pregnant with our first baby. It talks about pregnancy, childbirth and baby care. One of the things I love is the chapter on a green nursery. We are working on less toxic furniture in our house, but one thing I was paranoid about was our nurseries! Babies are so vulnerable to toxins. I also wrote an easy guide to a chemical free pregnancy you can find here.
Here are some tips to have a green nursery for your precious baby:
ORGANIC SNUGGLE ME.
This baby lounger is designed to ‘hug’ your baby while he/she is laying in it, and you don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals. They use organic fabric! This is recommended by moms around the world! I also love that it’s portable, so I could move it all around the house and even travel with it if needed.
IMPORTANT!!!! Cotton is in the top 3 most genetically engineered crops. Cotton is sprayed with pesticides which are very harmful to your baby. Baby Thyme is a local store in North Olmsted that carries Naturpedic & Lullyby Earth mattresses for your baby. We have always used Naturpedic. Babies sleep about 12 hours at night on their mattress. Baby stuff (furniture, diapers, bottles, feeding supplies, clothes, etc) can be expensive, but their mattress is not something you want to skimp on. Other sites that carry green mattressess are ecobedroom.com, nontoxic.com, ecobaby.com. Conventional mattresses contain PVC's, phthalates, polyurethane foam, and fire retardants. These are all chemicals we want to avoid!
Yes, even paint! Paints manufactured after 1978 no longer contain lead; however, many contain other chemicals that pollute the air and disrupt our health. First on that list is VOCs. Low-VOC paints use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents, thus reducing the level of harmful emissions. They a also contain no to very little levels of heavy metals & formaldehyde. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean we are in the clear. They still may contain pigments, biocides, and fungicides. Ugh!!! So frustrating. If you want to go “super green” reach for natural paints or milk paints. Natural paints contain citrus, balsam, clay, chalk, and talcum. Milk paints are made with milk protein or casein and lime and are colored with earth pigments, such as lime or clay.
You can find zero-VOC paints at organic paints.com, safepaint.net, and safetyproducts.com.
You can find low-VOC paints at alerg.com, sherwin-williams.com, and afmsafecoat.com. (We got ours for Sherwin-Williams)
If you have hard-wood flooring under your carpet, rip your carpet up and refinish this wood! Hard wood floors are a very green choice. However, this can be a toxic process. It may even be necessary to stay somewhere else during this process. Nontoxic alternatives to solvemt-based polyurethanes to finish your floor: water-based polyurethane, drying oil or hardware oil.
New wood flooring can be green if it is manufactured and installed in environmentally sensitive ways. Make sure you look for FSC-certified wood. Purchasing this casts your vote for forest conservation and reduces indoor air pollution in your home. Check out ecotimber.com, floorshop.com, & naturalhomeproducts.com.
Engineered flooring is a product you may want to consider if you want to add new wood floor quickly without the dust and fumes that come with installing traditional solid wood floors. You can purchase FSC0 certified engineered wood flooring with low-VOC glues that eliminate off-gassing in your home, and some are completely formaldehyde free.
Bamboo floors is a green choice for your nursery. However, low quality bamboo has recently begun to flood the market in response to consumer demand and unfortunately, many contain high levels of formaldehyde in their binders.
Carpet is not ideal. Carpet is ideal for mold, dust, bacteria and other allergy- causing organisms. It also traps dirt, lawn fertilizers, garden pesticides, road oil, & snow salt. Two ways to find green carpeting is to look for a Green Seal label or the Carpet & Rug Insitutute’s Green Label. Green Seal products cause less harm to the environment than other products.
“If you’re thinking about buying a new rug imported from India, Pakistan, or Nepal, first check out Rugmark. This nonprofit organization was started in 1995 to combat the terrible practice of using children as laborers in rug-weaving factories. It is estimated 300,000 children ages 4-14, suffer greatly from respiratory diseases, vision problems, malnutrition, and deformities from long hours spent crouching before looms in wretched conditions.Check out rug mark.net to assure the rug was woven by adults in licensed factories.”
Check out Certified Wood or Co-op America for well made wood furniture. The less expensive kids’ furniture that we see almost everywhere is most likely made with urea-formaldehyde (UF). Even small amounts of this chemical can irritate child’s eyes, skin, throat, and it can cause nausea and lethargy.
Newborns usually spend about 16 hours or more sleeping. Make sure you buy organic mattress sheets. Organic cotton is made without the use of toxic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They are natural and hypoallergenic. “Each year conventional cotton producers use nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides, or more than 10% of total world pesticide use-including nearly 25% of the world’s insecticides, making cotton the most insecticide-intensive crop in the world” (Raising Baby Green). Make sure you look into laundry detergent as well. Surprisingly, Dreft (a brand marketed for babies) rates a 10 on the EWG for being highly toxic with chemicals linked to cancer & reproductive issues!!!!! Try a local brand like Dan Soap, or even the mainstream “ALL” Free & Clear only rates a 2 on the EWG. Whatever you choose, download the EWG app and check the brands rating.
I tried cloth diapering and quickly switched! Kudos to all the moms who do this. We used BumGenius as I read great things about that brand. Disposable diapers (to my knowledge) that are better than conventional brands are Honest, Seventh Generation, & Tushies.
I recently discovered Water Wipes! We were using Seventh Generation wipes, but I like water wipes as they are 99.9% water with just a small amount of grapefruit extract.
It is knowns that some of our children’s plastics toys contain toxic chemicals including lead, cadmium, and toxic softeners that can cause permanent damage to the brain, liver, and reproductive system.
You can find safe toys for your baby at Mama Earth, Waldorf Resources, & Under the Nile. Baby Cakes Children’s Boutique in Rocky River carries some eco-friendly toys. We purchased a wooden teether (LexyPexy) from this boutique for our baby.
Companies that have removed PVC from their products include Brio, Primtime Playthings, Sassy, Little Tikes, Lego, Early Start and Tiny Love.
We use glass baby bottles. Breast is best (of course!) But if you can’t breastfeed (for whatever reason), fed is best.
BPA has been lurking in baby bottles for years up until recently. BPA is a potent endocrine disruptor. A group of concerned parents had a campaign to get the BPA out of baby bottles & many manufactures responded and you now see baby bottles advertised as “BPA Free”. However, not all baby bottles are BPA free. Even worse, many manufactures use BPS (bisphenol S) in place of BPA which is a CLOSE COUSIN TO BPA AND MAY ALSO BE AN ENDOCRINE DISRUPTOR. To air on the side of caution, we buy glass.
Fragrance is the new second hand smoke! Nix your air fresheners inside your home. Instead, keep a clean home, and use essential oils for a nice scent. You can also boil cinnamon & apples for a great fall smell. We never used a diaper pail for this reason. The plastic bags are scented and contain chemicals. If you want to use a diaper pail, squeeze the juice of a lemon to deodorize & give off a better smell than a dirty diaper!
It is frustrating when I hear people say “my grandparents drank from a hose, drank pop, smoked cigarettes and they were healthy! They lived a long life”. I am not going to argue that. They are probably right! But SO many things have changed from our grandparents generation. For one, our food system has drastically changed. GMO’s went widespread in the 90’s. Think of GMO’s as manmade food. Our grandparents had a few vaccines while the recommended vaccine schedule now contains 72 vaccines by the age of 18 years old (and currently adding more!) And there are also tens of thousands chemicals that are lurking in our furniture and everyday products that have never been tested for safety.
Within the past year, my aunt and brother were negatively affected by toxins in their furniture. It is a real thing. We are moving within the next couple years, and I’m excited to try to make our house more green. First on the list is hard wood floors throughout & nontoxic mattresses for the rest of the family (and not just baby).
We live in a time where we just can’t ignore what has and is happening. I am committed to creating awareness to help parents make better choices for their families. We vote with our dollar. We can get manufactures to change once we demand the change. LET’S LINK ARMS AND CREATE CHANGE!
**Check out my interview with Cleveland 19 News on this topic! It airs tonight at 11 pm (11/29/2018). You don’t want to miss it!
LAUREN EGGER IS A BUSY MOM OF 5, RN, AND FOUNDER OF THE HEALTHY MOM PROJECT, STARTED TO CREATE AWARENESS AND OFFER SOLUTIONS TO HELP PARENTS MAKE HEALTHY DECISIONS FOR THEIR FAMILIES. AFTER BEING DIAGNOSED WITH CELIAC DISEASE 14 YEARS AGO, IT HAS BEEN HER MISSION TO EMPOWER OTHERS TO TAKE CHARGE OF THEir OWN HEALTH AND NAVIGATE PAST THE HYPE TO TRUTH BASED ON SCIENCE.