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...

Fashion Week is right around the corner, and one trend we don't want to see on the runway is PVC. In recent years, PVC has made its way into the fashion world through trendy see-through bags or rain coats.

What is PVC

Polyvinyl chloride (AKA PVC or vinyl) is a solid plastic made from vinyl chloride gas. PVC can be hard and rigid, or it can be extremely flexible. It's flexibility depends whether or not phthalates are added during production. Because it's water resistant and durable, PVC is used in a lot of different products, including flooring, wall decals, pipes, medical equipment, and of course clothing.

The Problem

Although PVC is used in a lot of things, it's actually pretty bad for health. You can be exposed by touching a PVC product, inhaling fumes from a PVC manufacturing plant or landfill, or accidentally swallowing PVC from food packaging or contaminated water (1). Vinyl chloride, the main component of PVC, is a known carcinogen. Exposure to vinyl chloride gas is associated with an increased risk of liver, brain, lung, and blood cancers, as well as lymphoma. (2)

If you're exposed to PVC, you're also being exposed to phthalates and chlorine as well. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which change the way hormones are made and disturbed throughout the body. Plus, PVC isn't good for the environment because it's extremely difficult to recycle.

How to Avoid PVC in Fashion

Steer clear of anything see-through! A clear bag is almost always made from PVC, so it's better to just avoid this trend all together. Plus, everyone can see what you carry around in your bag. Does the entire world need to see half dozen chapsticks and a phone charger floating around our purses?! Probably not. Instead of buying a plastic bag, look for one made from natural materials like cotton or leather. Natural materials are also extremely durable and will hold up well over time. The great thing about fashion is that trends come and go and in a year people will probably be onto the next big thing.


References

  1. https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/polyvinyl-chloride-pvc
  2. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/vinyl-chloride
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Roundups

9 Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Backpacks

Just in time for back to school

As soon as August rolls around, all we can think of back-to-school shopping. It seems like the list of new supplies to buy gets longer every year, but a new backpack might be the most exciting thing on the list if the one from last year is torn to shreds or not big enough anymore. Most kids backpacks are made from synthetic materials or even harmful plastics like PVC, which contains phthalates. This is why we searched for backpacks that are not only cute and functional, but good for the environment. Our backpack recommendations are all phthalate free, lead free, and some are even made from recycled water bottles! Talk about a triple threat. There are lots of colors and styles so that your kid can express themselves. Plus, most of the brands listed below have different sizing options so everyone from elementary to high school will be covered.


a) Apple Park b) Fjallraven Re-Kanken c) Fluf d) Garnet Hill Eco Backpack e) Milkdot f) Parkland Design & Manufacturing g) Petit Collage h) So Young i) Terra Thread


*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.

Home

10 Places to Buy PVC-free Wall Decals

Why it's worth considering before your next redecorating project

Wall decals are the perfect decorating solution for nurseries, kids rooms, renters, dorm dwellers, or basically anyone who is a commitment-phobe. There are endless designs that can add just the pop you need, and they are easy to remove for when you want to change it up. But most wall decals are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), otherwise known as vinyl. These vinyl stickers have added phthalates which make the plastic stickers super thin and flexible, yet durable enough so they don't rip easily. Phthalates have endocrine disrupting properties that can wreak havoc on your hormones and have been linked to a variety of health issues like cancers, infertility, preterm birth, impaired brain development, and asthma and allergies. Basically, not good stuff. Plus, the manufacturing process of PVC is really bad for the environment and communities where it's manufactured (1) and there's no way to recycle it. Eek. Not good all around.

So next time you're shopping for a wall decal, check the 'details' section on the product page. A decal that says vinyl or doesn't specify anything is probably one you want to avoid. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites that make PVC-free options that still get high marks from designers. We pulled together our top 10 favorites sites down below.

  1. Chocovenyl
  2. Eco Wall Decals
  3. Koko Kids
  4. Love Mae
  5. Oopsy Daisy
  6. Petit Collage
  7. Pop and Lolli
  8. Sunny Decals
  9. Tiny Me
  10. Wall Dressed Up


References:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/vinyl-chloride.pdf
Science

Do Those Recycling Codes Mean Anything?

Actually yes, and they can tell you quite a lot

You know how you can flip over a yogurt container (or really any container) and see that little recycle triangle? Well, if you look even closer, there is an even tinier number inside that triangle. You might think those numbers are just for the people at the recycling plant, but if you know what to look for, they can actually tell you quite a lot.

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Setting up your nursery is one of the most fun (and adorable!) parts of nesting. It means you have the opportunity to design a whole room of tiny baby items that will be full of baby's firsts. While that's exciting, we also know filling a nursery with everything a baby needs can be tough on the budget. And on top of that, if you're trying to go non-toxic and eco-friendly, it isn't always easy on your wallet. So, if you are going to prioritize one thing to spend a little extra on that will dramatically reduce the amount of chemicals around your newborn, make it the crib mattress. We looked at the research and found that getting a non-toxic, crib mattress is definitely worth it.

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Home

Simple Swap: Shower Curtains

an easy change that can make a big difference to your health

Remember when you last purchased a shower curtain and it smelled "plastic-y" after you removed the curtain from its packaging? Maybe it still smells plastic-y now in your bathroom every time it's hot and steamy. Well, those curtains are actually releasing toxic chemicals and you are smelling them! With a simple swap, you can avoid all these yucky-chemicals and ensure that your shower is a safe and relaxing place to be in!

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