Life

The Hidden Risk in Store-Bought Slime

Avoid this hazardous ingredient with our own DIY slime recipe

Slime seems to be the hottest new toy for kids. They love that it's a tactile toy they can squeeze and smash. But before you rush out to buy a new tub of gooey slime on your next shopping trip, have you ever wondered what's actually in it? Turns out, there's a not-so-kid-friendly ingredient lurking in many slime products sold in stores, as well as in some DIY kits and recipes.

What's So Bad About Boron?

Boron is a chemical commonly used in many brands of slime, DIY kits, and some DIY recipes to give it that rubbery texture. While it may feel fun, it's actually not great for our health. Boron is an acute eye, respiratory tract, and nasal irritant and is harmful if swallowed (1). If ingested, it can also cause nausea and vomiting (2). Long-term exposure to boron can also cause negative reproductive health effects (3, 4). The problems with boron don't stop once you throw slime away either. It turns out that boron lasts a long time in the environment and has hazardous effects on aquatic life (5).

To make matters worse, there's a lot more boron in slime than there should be. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently tested different brands of slime and found concentrations as high as 4700 parts per million (ppm) of boron, (6) which is more than fifteen times the allowable level for toys sold in the European Union (300 ppm for sticky/liquid toys) (6). Canada, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates have even instituted policies limiting or banning boron in children's toys (6).

Safe Slime

Luckily, it's easy to make your own boron-free slime. We like this recipe for full-proof slime that substitutes boron/borax (a boron compound that's found in a lot of other slime recipes) with cornstarch and school glue. We guarantee your kids will still have hours of fun with this non-toxic slime!

Fluffy Volcano Slime

  1. Pour 1/4 cup white school glue and a 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a bowl
  2. Add 3 drops of food coloring (optional)
  3. Mix well
  4. Knead it with your hands for 10 minutes
  5. Heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds
  6. Let it cool, then knead it for another 10 minutes (7)

References

2. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

3. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+328

4. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

5. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boron

6. https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/WEB_USP_Toyland-Report_Nov18_2-1.pdf

7. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/make-slime-without-borax/

Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Fun, healthy, safe, and great for those budding imaginations

Updated for 2019!

You can pat yourself on the back for bringing these non-toxic toys into your home or gifting them to friends. These are the highest rated, healthiest toys for your growing little one. Not only did we make sure that the materials are safe, but we made sure parents like you love these toys. All the toys here are great for revving up their imagination and creativity and are made to last. If you're looking for something for a newborn or a baby under 1, here are our top picks for best non-toxic newborn toys.

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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...

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

What to Know Before Heading to the Playground With Your Kids

Hand washing and removing shoes at home protects you from more than just germs

As soon as spring hits, we find any excuse to go outside and spend time in the sun. If you have kids, outdoor time is often synonymous with heading to the playground. We LOVE the playground and always encourage kids to get outside and play! Washing hands and taking shoes off is a must after the park- so many germs! These habits could also help prevent exposure to two questionable materials that may be a part of your playground.

The first is wood pressure-treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA). This insecticide was sprayed on wood play structures because it made the wood resistant to degradation and insects. However, 22% of CCA is pure arsenic (1). Arsenic is a super nasty chemical that is classified as a known carcinogen by the World Health Organization. It can also cause "immune system suppression, increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disruption and diabetes" (2). This chemical is not to be messed with!

Over time, the CCA can be released from the treated wood and can end up on the hands and clothes of your little one. It can also end up in the soil around the playground, so your child may still be exposed even if they don't play on the wooden structure (3).

The good news is that CCA treated wood was banned from residential construction in 2003. So if your neighborhood park has been recently built or renovated, chances are you don't have to worry about this. You can always check with your city or neighborhood association to see if CCA wood is in your local park. It also wouldn't hurt to double check with your kid's school to see what their playground was built with. Usually, CCA treated wood has a green tint, which can make it easy to spot.

Even if your playground does have CCA, tt's pretty easy to limit exposure. If you're planning to have a picnic or snack at the park, make sure to use hand wipes or wash hands (if a bathroom is nearby) before eating. After returning home, thoroughly wash your and your child's hands. It also doesn't hurt to wipe everyone down with a wet wipe too! This will help get rid of any chemicals and other undesirables like pollen as well. Leaving shoes at the door can stop CCA-contaminated soil from tracking all over your house.

Crumb rubber is another questionable material that could be found in your playground. Crumb rubber are those small black particles you find in artificial turf that seem to always end up stuck in your shoe/sock/bag/shirt/life/etc. It's actually made from old, used tires that have been chopped up into really tiny pieces. While this may seem like a good idea from a recycling standpoint, it's not great for health. Tire rubber contain a ton of bad chemicals like PAHs, phthalates, phenols and benzothiazoles (4), and the tires are not treated before they end up as crumb rubber. These chemicals are linked to serious health issues like endocrine disruption. The crumbs are so small that they have a habit of getting in your clothes and hair, accidentally getting eaten by curious babies, or sticking to your skin. Crumb rubber can also give off more chemicals as they're heated up in the hot sun. There's even speculation that crumb rubber might have played a role in the cancer of adolescent soccer players (5).

When returning from the playground, you can leave shoes outside so soil and rubber doesn't get tracked around the house. Also make sure to wash your hands or shower! Avoiding play time when it's really hot outside can also limit the amount of exposure. If you've been around crumb rubber, make sure to dust yourself and your play equipment off before you leave the playground to get rid of any hitchhiking rubber pieces. Changing your clothes after returning doesn't hurt either!




References:

  1. https://www.ewg.org/research/poisoned-playgrounds

2. https://www.ceh.org/campaigns/legal-action/previous-work/childrens-products/arsenic-in-play-structures

3. https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/toxic-playgrounds

4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653512009848

5. https://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/health/artificial-turf-cancer-study-profile/index.html

Family

3 Fun and Easy Ideas to Get Your Kids Playing Outside That You Need To Try This Summer

And Why It's A Good Idea to Spend As Much Time Outside As Possible

Let's face it, the allure of screen time is hard to pass up for kids... and parents too (who can deny that those 30 minute of silence when Paw Patrol is on are pure bliss). As tempting as it is to have shows on repeat all day, getting your kids to play outside is so important. Not only will it knock them out for bedtime, but outdoor playtime is good for your kid's body, mind, and happiness!

There are so many health benefits of outdoor time for kids that it's hard to keep track of them all. Researchers have shown that it can reduce the risk for obesity and diabetes, and decrease ADHD symptoms. On top of that, it can increase Vitamin D levels, improve critical thinking skills and can help boost test scores. (1). You might be saying, "this is great and all, but how do I actually get my kids excited about going outside?!" We hear you! In order to encourage more outdoor play, we came up with three outdoor activities that are super fun for kids but easy for parents to set up. Try them out this weekend!

1. Outdoor Art Time

Doing arts and crafts outdoors is a great way to get kids outside even if they aren't the run-around-in-circles type. Plus, all the mess is outside and you can just hose everything off after. One of our favorite outdoor arts and crafts is rock painting. We have the kids hunt for rocks in a variety of shapes and sizes and then bring them back to a station where they can paint some funny faces on them. It's so fun to see their creativity at work!

Another activity is creating hammered artwork from nature (we'll explain). This one requires a bit more parental supervision, but it's totally worth it. The kids go and collect a variety of leaves, grasses, and flowers and then pound them between sheets of paper with a wooden mallet or hammer. The colors and shapes transfer to the paper to create some seriously cool art. We find that a thicker textured paper like watercolor paper produces the best results. Kids enjoy this so much they'll ask to do it over and over again!

2. Adjective Scavenger Hunt

What if we told you that with just a few minutes of prep you could keep your kids outdoors and occupied for what can seem like countless hours? Sound too good to be true? An outdoor scavenger hunt will do just that! We like to make lists of adjectives (like soft, hard, green, round, pointy, long...etc.) and give the kids a basket to go find things in the backyard or neighborhood park that fit the description. Sometimes we even have the kids come back and do a show and tell and compare the objects they found.

3. Water Gun Freeze Tag

This one is a great activity as it starts warming up outside! Get a couple of water guns or squirt bottles and use them to play a version of freeze tag. Our version: someone is designated "it" and if they spray another player with water, they are frozen. If another player tags them, then they are unfrozen and can start running around again. Sometimes the game just devolves into everyone running around spraying everyone else, and that's fine by us! Feel free to kick back and enjoy a glass of wine and watch, but we find it pretty tempting to play too.

So there you have it- three easy outdoor activities that will help your kids get off their screens and back outside. We hope that they are a hit with your kids and will be on repeat all summer.


References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/...
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