Savvy Baby, Safer Baby

Cute baby resting

Tiny babies sleep for 14-18 hours per day and their brain development is so rapid that 70% of adult brain growth is achieved by age two. Not only are babies busy developing in extraordinary ways, but during their earliest years they are also exceptionally vulnerable to toxins in their environment.

What does this have to do with your baby’s crib mattress? Evidence is gathering that environmental chemical exposure may be behind many developmental brain disorders. For many years, worrying reports on many industrial chemicals have come from researchers who study their presence in human tissue, blood, and breast milk. And there are strong indications from major institutions, including the Harvard School of Public Health, that brain disorders such as autism, ADHD, and retardation may be related to the “silent pandemic” of chemicals in our indoor and outdoor environments.

Flame Retardants

One category of common household chemicals that has raised unambiguous red flags is chemical flame retardants, required by law in synthetic foam mattresses. One type, PBDEs, has recently been banned in eight states, with four more considering a ban. Yet most families use mattresses for many years. Crib mattresses, especially, are often handed down. New flame retardant chemicals have been formulated to allow synthetic mattresses to meet federal flame retardancy requirements. But they have not been in use long, and growing numbers of scientists believe they have not been studied adequately for safety.

A recent study examined how a significant source of cumulative exposure to chemicals, including flame retardants, is house dust. Startlingly, children consume FIVE TIMES the amount of house dust as adults do. So right from birth, living in an average home, the youngest family members are dealing with the heaviest chemical exposure.

Many parents would love to tuck their baby into a protective bubble that prevents anything toxic from getting anywhere near, ever. We feel just the same. Yet we all live in the real world and as safe as we may yearn to be, perfect protection is not possible. You may housekeep like a green June Cleaver, but there will be dust in your child’s world.