It seems like every product today has the word natural, sustainable, organic or green stamped across the front of it to lure buyers in. In fact there is so much “green washing” going on and companies making their “own” labels that aren’t recognized by a certifying body, that it can be really challenging for parents to decipher the good healthy products for their kids from just hyped up marketing.

1.  Reduced Off Gasses From Manufacturing

Choosing to by organic doesn’t just mean fruits and vegetables that have no additives or pesticides sprayed on them or chicken that is free of antibiotics. You see when you buy a traditional mattress, it often contains a slew of chemicals that aren’t fully off-gassed before packaging. An organic mattress will not contain any volatile organic compounds – often found from the off gassing of traditional mattresses during manufacturing.

These gases can be quite harmful to your health. Specifically, the VOCs are found in the foam and adhesive parts of the mattress {funny how memory foam mattresses are so good for you back, but can be bad for your health} and can include harmful chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), formaldehyde, benzene (carcinogenic chemical), methylene chloride, toluene, trichloroethane, naphthalene, perfluorocarbons.

Overall, Organic mattresses are made without the use of any harmful chemicals- no chemicals, no off gassing smell! As opposed to a conventional mattress, an organic mattress contains:

  • No synthetic materials; only organic and natural
  • No chemical fire retardants, eg., use untreated wool as a natural fire retardant

For a little bit more, you can rest assured that you and your family are safe from off gassing. And be warned- just because a mattress labels itself as ‘organic’ does not mean that it is ‘non-toxic’. For example, a mattress made with organic cotton as the filling can be covered in a vinyl plastic or have chemical fire retardants added to it. Ensure that you are doing the proper research with the retailer to ensure that you are buying the best possible product for your needs. We spend ⅓ of our lives sleeping- spend that time with the peace of mind knowing that you are not exposing yourself to harmful chemicals.

2. Organic Toys Leach Less Chemicals

Ever wonder what your child chews on in the bath or during playtime? Phthalates leach out of soft vinyl (i.e. rubber duckies) during periods of sustained mouthing action (sucking and chewing) that occurs on a daily basis, and migrate into the body through the saliva. The European Union classifies one phthalate called di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) as a suspected endocrine disruptor on the basis of evidence that it interferes with hormone function, and as toxic to reproduction on the basis that it may cause harm to the unborn child and impair fertility.

Organic toys contain safer dyes and less harmful chemicals. Luckily there are lots of alternative, healthy and organic options for children. If you have a baby who is teething, you may want to consider a product made from 100% organic cotton and contains no synthetic ingredients (there are many of these kinds of toys that looks like animals) that involves simply wetting and putting in the freezer. Also, Look for words on the label such as “BPA- free” (BPA stands for “bisphenol-A) or “Phthalate-Free”.

3. Contain Less Pesticides

Did you know that five of the top 9 pesticides used on conventional cotton in the U.S. are known cancer-causing chemicals? Also, did you know that to make just ONE cotton t-shirt, 1/3 of a pound of pesticides and other chemicals are used. You can avoid pesticides by choosing chemical and dye-free products, such as Organic Cotton crib/bed sheets. Furthermore, organic cotton crib sheets are much stronger than traditional cotton fiber (hence they last longer/better quality). More so, organic cotton is better for the environment when compared to conventional cotton as it uses 25 percent of worldwide insecticides.

Choosing organic cotton helps to support organic farmers,  gives motivation to conventional farmers who are trying to convert to organic practices, and has been known for enhanced quality. Hopefully, over time, this can reduce the amount of chemicals consumed by conventional cotton farming and help contribute to a healthier planet.

4. Organic Drinks Contain Less Artificial Coloring

Do you ever think twice before you give your child that Koolaid Jammer? You would probably be shocked to learn all the artificial colors in juices and the affect they can have on your child. For example, in the Journal of Paediatrics it was reported that the colouring Tartrazine (also known as yellow 5 and yellow 4) has been associated with hyperactivity, behavioral changes in irritability, restlessness and sleep disturbances in children. Tartrazine is also found in a lot of colored candy (i.e. gummy bears), instant noodle products (i.e. Kraft Dinner) …check your cupboards, it will surprise you! Luckily, there are lots of organic options available that do not contain tartrazine.

5. Reduced Exposure To Flame Retardant Chemicals

Did you know flame retardant chemicals have been found in food, not just clothing and furniture?! You may want to think again before giving your child a sports drink or cold beverage loaded with artificial dyes and additives. For example, brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is commonly found in drinks such as Fresca, Mountain Dew and Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange, Powerade Strawberry Lemonade, Sunkist Pineapple, Fanta Orange. Brominated Vegetable Oil is classified as a food additive, but little is found in scientific literature regarding its composition. Whats more, BVO it contains bromine which is found in flame retardants and has been found to build up body lipids. Why is this concerning? In the United States, 85 percent of kids drink a beverage containing sugar or artificial sweetener at least once per week, according to a study published in 2012 in the American Medical Associations Journal of Paediatrics. Sodas are the largest source of calories for teenagers between the ages of 14 to 18, according to a National Cancer Institute study.

Brominated Vegetable oil is added to soda/sports drinks to keep them from getting cloudy and allow the artificial flavor suspended in the drink.  In fact, BVO is found in 10 percent of soda in the United States of America! So it’s not surprising then that this controversial substance is linked to serious health consequences like skin rashes, severe acne and thyroid disease and is banned in Europe and Japan!

Recently, a young girl petitioned against these companies who put BVO in their products with hopes to get it removed. After hundreds of thousands of signatures on a change.org, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola decided to phase out BVO in Gatorade. On the contrary, it is still in many of the Canadian Gatorade drinks. Luckily their are several organic sports drinks that don’t contain flame retardant chemicals. How can you find these products? When at the grocery store or health food store, choose organic juice products that have natural dyes and additives derived from ingredients which you will actually be able to pronounce, such as beet extract, red radish extract or carrot extract.

6. Less Opportunities For Allergens

Let’s face it, sometimes children have random asthma attacks or get sick for a short period of time and no one can figure out what caused it. Perhaps your child has been sleeping on the same pillow for years and you had no ideas all these random allergy incidents were a result to their sensitives to wool, latex and even dust.

One natural alternative would be to buy them a “natural shredded rubber pillow”. Rubber acts like an inhospitable environment for dust mites to thrive. Also the shredded pieces in these types of pillows increases the surface area, which will repel dust mites. Another organic option is to use Buckwheat pillows which have been used in Asia for over 2,000 years and continue to be used throughout the world for the wonderful orthodic comfort they provide. An added bonus is that buckwheat hulls provide good insulation and will not absorb surrounding odors.

 

7. Less Artificial Preservatives

When your child or you scrubs that “tear-free” shampoo all over their hair and body, do you ever think twice about the ingredients in these products? Most parents are just concerned about what goes into their child’s mouth, but realistically this is just one variable in the big picture. What’s great about organic shampoos and body washes is they are often free of parabens and sodium laureth sulfate (SLS). Sodium Laureth/Lauryl Sulfate is a detergent used in cosmetics that also makes products bubble and foam.  Health Canada has even classified SLS as a “moderate human health priority”.

Depending on the manufacturing processes, SLS may be contaminated with measurable amounts of chemicals such as 1,4 –dioxane and ethylene oxide. What’s more is that The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen and 1, 4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen. One study, published in the Journal of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists found that levels of 1,4-dioxane in excess of 85 ppm in children’s shampoos indicate that continued monitoring of raw materials and finished products is warranted.

8. Contain Less Hormones

I’ll never forget meeting this assistant to my physiotherapist and she was telling me about her twin daughters and how despite being only 13, they both had massive breasts and were entering puberty way too soon. She also mentioned that once she had switched her family over to organic chicken (something I presume her family had consumed once or twice a week), her daughters kept mentioning how much better they felt and how they could focus more in school.  Now, it’s hard to say if this was a direct result of the organic meat, but when you look at the scientific literature it could make sense.

Not surprising, most cattle farmers in the United States use chemicals such as growth hormones to increase a cow’s size or milk production.  More milk means more money! What’s more, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows farmers to use recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH, to increase milk yield in dairy cattle. In addition, farmers are also allowed to use synthetic and natural growth hormones to promote rapid weight gain in cattle; increasing the total meat volume when the cows are slaughtered.  Over the FDA has approved of six different growth hormones for this purpose. These hormones enter the meat and milk, exposing children to potentially harmful chemicals.

9. Increase Your Child’s IQ

Surprisingly, conventional produce is more than five times more likely than organic to have pesticide residues (38 percent of samples versus 7 percent). Furthermore, when pediatrician and author Alan Greene, participated in a study with the Environmental Working Group, pesticides were found in EVERY baby tested. Specifically, they analyzed the umbilical cord blood for these pesticides and 21 different synthetic pesticides where present in the babies’ blood. One study, published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found organophosphates associated with enlargement of different parts of the brain, as well as frontal and paeital cortical thinning. In another study, suburban Seattle children had their urine tested multiple times for evidence of organophosphate pesticides. It was present in all samples, suggesting exposure above what the EPA set as a safe level.

One group of pesticides found in the babies’ umbilical cord blood is called, the organophosphates. Organophosphates were produced as nerve agents during World War II. We still have much to learn about their health effects, but higher levels of exposure have been linked to lower IQ, memory problems, developmental problems, and ADHD. It is then no wonder that today’s children, from infancy up to age 5, in the US have lost more than 16 million IQ points from exposure to organophosphate pesticides, according to another recent analysis. They’re exposed to these pesticides almost entirely through our food.

On the bright side of things, choosing organic food products can drop a child’s organophosphate pesticide exposure almost overnight.

Featured photo credit: Sara Bonham via eco-savy.com

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