Family

Are Foam Play Mats Safe For Babies?

Don't let tummy time be toxic time

Squishy foam mats or those large colorful floor puzzles can seem like a great way to keep your baby comfortable during tummy time or cushion your clumsy toddler's falls. As useful as these play mats are, it is important to choose the right material before buying! Some mats are made of substances that can harm your baby's health, and manufacturers are often not transparent about what is in their "foam" products. The safety of products manufactured for use by children is particularly important, since children are especially vulnerable to toxic exposures. Here is what you need to know to make an informed, healthy choice for your child.

What's in Foam Baby Mats?

Foam mats popular in homes, schools, and even childcare centers. But what is in the foam? Many foam materials like those used for baby mats, yoga mats and in gyms are usually made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane, or EVA. But it's almost impossible to find a more detailed description than that. Even extensive research doesn't turn up many results.

Polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane foam in baby products are less popular than they once were, and EVA is often looked at as a less toxic alternative. However, there are problems with all three materials. PVC, aside from being a plastic polymer that can bind and spread other toxics, is often also treated with phthalates. This additive, used for increased flexibility, is a known endocrine disruptor with harmful effects on many body systems (1). Polyurethane, although itself is non-toxic, is flammable and typically contains added flame-retardants like PBDEs that can be detrimental to child development (2,3).

EVA, typically advertised as the non-toxic choice often tests positive for formamide, another toxic chemical. Although some EVA mats are advertised as formamide free, this doesn't necessarily mean what it says. "Formamide free" means that there may be trace levels of formamide, but the levels are low enough that companies are allowed to market their products as free of the chemical (4). EVA is definitely a better option than PVC or polyurethane, but with any of these foam materials, it is very difficult to know what chemicals you could be bringing into your home.

Safer Alternatives

If you want to ensure your child will not be exposed to any toxics from their play mats, an organic cotton mat is the best choice. There have been a number of studies showing that foam mats use at home, in childcare centers, and in gyms are associated with significantly increased exposure to a wide range of toxic chemicals, like the ones mentioned previously. These chemicals are associated with many adverse health and developmental problems including neurological issues, and reproductive and liver toxicity (5).

As research becomes more robust, we are finding that more and more household items contain toxic chemicals or materials. Currently, there are no strong laws that ban the use of chemicals in foam mats and manufacturers are not required to disclose their composition. So, it is up to you to be proactive and keep your little ones safe from harmful exposures.

References

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29684738

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29703676

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29630944

4)https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/201...!

5) https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/chemical_factshe...

6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31108294

7)https://s3.amazonaws.com/hbnweb.prod/uploads/files...

Family

Protect Your Crawling Baby From Chemicals With These 3 Tips

Have your baby safely explore their surroundings!

Once a baby starts to crawl, they're always on the move! After you've baby-proofed your outlets and stairs, it's worth considering how to keep your little one safe from harmful chemicals as well. Since babies are low to the ground when moving about and are constantly putting their hands in their mouth, they're especially at risk of exposure. Check out our top three tips on how to keep your baby safe while they're crawling and exploring!


1. Leave Shoes at the Door

Wearing shoes around the house can bring in a lot of nasty chemicals and other contaminants from the outdoors. Picture where you walk in a typical day: busy city streets, public restrooms, the back of a ride share car. Do you really want whatever is on the bottom of your shoes ending up on your carpets? As soon as you get home, take your shoes off at the door! You can even have a cute shoe storage container in your foyer so you don't forget to take them off. Leaving your shoes at the door is also a great excuse to invest in a pair of cute new slippers.


2. Vacuum More Frequently

Household dust can contain all sorts of things. Along with the usual suspects of pet hair and crumbs from breakfast, dust can contain harmful chemicals like flame retardants. Flame retardants are serious chemicals that can cause cancer and mess with our immune system. These toxic chemicals migrate out of electronics and furniture and end up around your house. Vacuuming more frequently will keep your baby safe from dust accumulating on the floor. If you're in the market for a new vacuum, we have some recommendations!


3. More Hand Washing

Washing your hands and your baby's hands is super important, even if neither of you have left the house! Babies put their hands in their mouth a LOT, especially when they're eating. And as we mentioned above, there could be a lot of gross stuff on your floor you weren't aware of. Before each meal and snack, make sure to make a pitstop at the sink to wash hands! We recommend washing hands for at least 20 seconds. Or, if you're on the go and the nearest bathroom is miles away, we have some awesome hand sanitizer recs.

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Roundups

8 Non-Toxic Bath Toys

Rub-a-dub-dub, safe toys in the tub

Make bath time extra fun with our non-toxic bath toy roundup! Lots of traditional toys (including that famous yellow rubber ducky) contain BPA, phthalates, or PVC. We knew there were better toy options out there, so we searched high and low to bring you the safest options! We tried to go for toys made from materials like natural rubber or silicone, but a few are made from safer plastic. We also looked for materials that wouldn't mold so these toys can be used again and again! These products also do not contain BPA, phthalates or PVC.



a) Oli and Carol Origami boat b) Marcus and Marcus Squirting Bath Toy c) Ubbi Squeeze and Switch Silicone Bath Toys d) Hevea Kawan Duck e) Green Toys ferry boat f) Plan Toys sailing boat g) Caaoocho whale h) Fat Brains Squigz


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

Family

Keep Your Baby Safe From Chemicals While Teething

What to look for and easy DIY alternatives!

A teething baby can simultaneously be exciting and stressful. Your baby is growing up! But there's lots of drool and crying. Teethers are an essential tool for dealing with new teeth, but not all teethers are created equally.

Problems with Teethers

No matter where you shop, it's hard to avoid seeing plastic teethers. Plastic seems like a good material for teethers because it's flexible and can withstand being chilled in the freezer, but many teethers are made from petroleum-based plastic, vinyl, or latex. We know plastics and vinyl can contain harmful phthalates, parabens, bisphenols, and other endocrine-disrupting compounds. A few studies have found that these chemicals can actually leach out of teethers (1)(2). We definitely don't want our babies chewing on something like that! Even a teether labeled "BPA-free" shouldn't be considered to be safe.

Buying a Safe Alternative

Luckily, there are a lot of safer alternatives on the market. Food-grade silicone is pretty widely available already, and it continues to grow in popularity. Silicone is a super durable material and can withstand lots of chewing and drool! Plus, it's easy to clean and can often be thrown into the dishwasher.

Teethers made from wood are another great option. It's hard to get more natural than wood! It's also naturally antibacterial, so you don't have to worry as much if the teether gets dropped on the floor. Wood teethers can come in all shapes and sizes, from fun animal cut outs to wooden beads you can string together. We prefer wood that hasn't been painted or treated with any weird stains, but make sure the surface is smooth! You can condition the wood with natural ingredients like beeswax, coconut oil, or olive olive.

DIY Teething Hacks



If you're feeling crafty or just want to give your credit card a break, there are awesome DIY teethers you can create without having to leave your home.

  1. Take a damp washcloth, twist it into a rope, and let freeze in the freezer
  2. Freeze or cool a bagel. Make sure your baby can sit upright for this teether
  3. Take a spoon and store in the fridge until cool (don't put this one in the freezer!)
  4. Create your own homemade popsicles! Check out our popsicle ideas for inspiration

References

  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.6b04128
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jat.3159
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