Raise Chemical Free Kids

Astonishingly, in spite of decades of research, there is no agreed theory of cancer, no explanation for why, inside almost all healthy cells, there lurks a highly efficient cancer subroutine that can be activated by a variety of agents – radiation, chemicals, inflammation and infection – Paul Davies

From the time we start preparing a room for a new baby, we are making choices about the child’s environment. Many people get ready for a new child by painting, papering, and carpeting a baby’s room with conventional products. They don’t realize that by doing so they may be creating an environment high in toxic chemicals. Most of us take it for granted that babies should be soothed with petroleum jelly and mineral oil, washed and shampooed with chemical-based cleansers, fed from plastic bottles, swaddled in disposable diapers, surrounded by scented products and put to sleep in pajamas treated with fire-retardant chemicals. But although parents act out of love, they are often unaware that the choices they make may be harmful to their child. There are baby care products by the hundred. How can a parent identify healthy alternatives?

Tests conducted in Britain by Greenpeace have found residues of hazardous chemicals in children’s clothing and shoes sold by major brands. Eighty-two items were studied, and traces of toxins were found in all but six.

The chemicals detected included hormone disrupting nonylphenol ethoxylates and phthalates, reproductive and immune toxins in the perfluorochemicals family, antimony, a material similar to arsenic, and organotins, which can damage immune and nervous systems.

Greenpeace said that while amounts were small and there’s no evidence that children wearing the items would be harmed, precaution nevertheless called for an end to their use in textile production.

It is very important to try to limit a baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults. Their immune systems and central nervous system are immature and still developing, which means their bodies are generally less capable of eliminating toxins. As well, children have roughly double the skin surface of adults per unit of body weight, so a child can absorb proportionally more chemicals. Babies and children breathe more air per body weight than adults do, which increases their exposure by inhalation. Decreasing a child’s exposure to chemicals from day one, and even in the womb, could mean a lower risk of allergies and chemical sensitivities, and lower risk of cancers and other illnesses.

Harmful ingredients: fire retardant chemicals, dyes, formaldehyde finishes, plastic (polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex), cotton pesticides. Washing baby clothing with scented detergents and fabric softeners surrounds a child with additional harmful chemicals.

Untreated cotton or other natural fiber clothing is the least toxic choice. There are lots of sources for natural fiber clothing. It is not always easy to find out if a product has received a chemical finish in the production process. Organic fabrics and products marketed for the chemically sensitive are less likely to have chemical finishes, or to have chemical fabric softeners used during processing. Yard goods are less likely to have chemical treatments than manufactured clothing. Companies are not required to disclose what chemical is being used.

Of the synthetic fabrics, polyester and nylon off-gas the least. Most fleeces are made of polyester. Avoid those with chemical weather-resistant treatments.

 Home-made Alternatives
To remove some finishes, excess dyes or conventional detergents and fabric softeners, wash several times, or soak overnight a tub of water with ONE of the following:

  • 1/2 to 1 cup vinegar.
  • 1/2 – 1 cup pickling salt. Do not soak in an enameled tub, as salt will cause tub to rust over time.
  • 1/4 – l cup baking soda. If using baking soda, rewash several times to remove residue

Many chemical treatments are designed not to wash out. Scented detergents and fabric softeners never completely wash out, but the above washing methods will decrease chemical residues and smells. The chemicals in mothballs are almost impossible to remove and are highly toxic.

Safer clothing materials are made of natural fibers, such as wool and cotton.   Organic fabrics are great if you can afford them, to minimize your child’s exposure to pesticides.  Conventionally grown cotton is cultivated using a significant amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and is then processed with a wide range of toxic chemicals.  Unfortunately, organic clothing is expensive. And be sure to wash any conventionally growth cotton clothing thoroughly before putting it on baby.

Second hand baby clothing is often the healthier choice. Second hand clothes have had time to naturally lose the dangerous chemicals which are most easily emitted or leached from the articles to which babies are exposed. Baby clothing has been through enough wash cycles to ensure the chemicals added during textile manufacturing and distribution are gone.

Buying used is a way to recycle.  It keeps good items out of landfills and decreases the demand for new manufacturing.  By making “buying used” your standard, you are being more environmentally friendly.

Buying used kids clothes also allows to buy a season and size ahead without over-spending.  Even when seasons and sizes don’t match up, it’s nice that not to pay full price for those items they’ll never wear.


Just say no to sandals, shoes, boots or raingear made entirely or predominantly from rubber- or plastic-like materials. Keep an eye out when shopping for shoes treated with anti-microbial chemicals.

Rid wardrobes of garments screen printed with plastisol, the thick, rubbery material used to create slightly raised designs and logos.

Don’t purchase clothing promising stain-resistant, waterproof, or odor-fighting performance, technologies which utilize toxic chemicals.

Steer clear of polyester, which frequently contains traces of antimony.

Stick to natural fiber clothing, preferably organic.

Select clothing manufactured in the U.S. and Europe where regulations are generally stricter.

Don’t add insult to injury. Wash clothing in plant-based detergent without synthetic fragrance, which can contain hormone disrupting chemicals. And skip the fragrant dryer sheets.

Featured image courtesy Pixabay.com


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