Photo: How to

Learn how to avoid toxic chemicals that are persistent and bioaccumulative, which means they build up in the environment and our bodies. (Credit: Brendon Purdy Photography)

As a parent, you're probably losing sleep.

It might not be because you're thinking about the eco-friendliest pyjamas, pillows or straws... but reducing your child's exposure to toxic chemicals can help you rest easier.

By the end of this article you will:

  1. Want snug-fit PJs for your kids
  2. Have an urge to dust
  3. Know another way to help protect oceans and wildlife from plastic

Choose snug-fit, certified organic pyjamas not treated with flame retardants.

Avoid synthetics like polyester. Polyester is plastic (which melts) and has flame retardants built into the fibres. Avoid loose-fitting pyjamas, which are more likely to catch fire.

Shop local thrift and consignment stores — that's right, you can score organic clothing there! —or try My Little Green Shop, New Jammies, Parade Baby, Simply Merino and Underables, to name a few.

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Studies show that consumer products — not industrial emissions — are the likely source of the buildup of flame retardants, or PBDEs, in people and animals.

These toxic chemicals — found in furniture, carpets and electronics — have been linked to cancer, adverse effects on the developing brain, and immune and reproductive problems. They are also persistent and bioaccumulative, which means they build up in the environment and our bodies.

The solution? Dust!

Household dust is now recognized as one of the most significant sources of childhood exposure to toxic substances because it's really a chemical soup with low levels of flame retardants, pesticides, phthalates and metals like lead, mercury and arsenic.

Choose pillows made from the eco-friendliest materials: wool, natural rubber, kapok or organic cotton.

If you're lucky, your toddler's head rests 11 to 13 hours each day on a pillow. But what's that pillow made of?

Avoid pillows made from synthetics like petroleum-based polyester. Natural fabrics and fibres are better because they won't off-gas. Some down and feathers used in pillows (comforters and jackets, too) are harvested from live or force-fed birds. And some down pillows contain feathers sterilized with formaldehyde — a known carcinogen.

Pillows are not recommended for babies under 12 months. Choose a low-loft pillow for toddlers.

  • Wool is naturally resistant to dust mites and mildew. It needs to be spot-cleaned.
  • Natural rubber is resistant to mold, fungus, mildew and dust mites. It's also renewable and biodegradable.
  • Silky threads from the flower seeds of kapok trees are harvested without chopping down the trees.
  • Organic cotton breathes and, free my chemicals and dyes, is better for the environment. It's popular among people with allergies or sensitive skin.

Retailers of eco-friendly bedding and beds include Organic Lifestyle, inBed Organics, and Obasan

Choose reusable, recyclable stainless steel plates, cutlery, lunch kits, straws, etc.

Plastics are widely used because they're cheap and often durable. But most contain toxic chemicals, as softeners or to make them resistant to ultraviolet light.

Health Canada says that 95 per cent of Canadians have measurable levels of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in their blood or urine, with the highest levels found in children. Potential health effects from BPA exposure include breast and prostate cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a wide range of developmental problems. And phthalates (pronounced "thal-ates") are increasingly linked to endocrine disruption (interfering with hormone function), and reproductive and developmental problems, among other health effects.

Shop for dishware that's free of BPA, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), phthalates, and lead and cadmium (or other heavy metals). Places to source non-toxic, air-tight, leak-proof and dishwasher-safe options include ECO lunchbox and Onyx Containers.

What other "green" toddler items do you recommend? Comment on this blog to win toddler pajamas made by Skylar Luna and donated by Underables, a toddler pillow donated by Organic Lifestyle and stainless steel straws and children's cutlery donated by Onyx. (Draw date: April 11, 2016)

Sincerely,

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

March 6, 2016
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2016/03/how-to-green-your-toddler/

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39 Comments

Apr 11, 2016
2:22 PM

Great article and so helpful! As soon as my kids have been old enough to hold a glass I’ve tried to give them only glass cups and I try to have them eat off of real adult (porcelain) plates. I have to keep an eye on them but I know that they’re not drinking and eating with plastic products. I also only give them stainless steel cutlery — I just use the tiny teaspoons that come in most full cutlery sets. If I need to give them something non-breakable I give them stainless steel or Becothings plates, bowls and cups!

Also, my son recently smashed the lid on his Zoli stainless steel water bottle. When I contacted Zoli, they simply asked for a picture of the broken lid then sent a new one in the mail at no cost!

Apr 11, 2016
11:08 AM

Thanks for the great information. We use many of these products. In saying that, I use organic as much as possible and prepare all my sons meals so I know exactly what he is eating and its nutritional value.

Apr 09, 2016
8:20 PM

Thanks for all the wonderful links. I’ve been searching for exactly this information!

Apr 05, 2016
7:07 AM

Great article! A few green items I love and use daily with my toddlers are homemade eco friendly hand and diaper wipes and homemade wooden blocks!

Apr 04, 2016
11:04 PM

Thanks for this info it helps clear up some things! Very grateful:)

Apr 04, 2016
7:44 PM

I love using Kleen Kanteen water bottles, they’re a great option! I’m also a huge fan of Druide products http://www.druide.ca/en/.

I was wondering though, what about plastic cups and cutlery that are BPA-free?

Apr 04, 2016
6:44 AM

When it’s warm enough I let me daughter sleep naked on a mattress made of cotton towels (many many cotton towels). :)

Apr 02, 2016
3:38 PM

Green your kids by using cloth hankies. You can buy them (I find the hankie-books particularly useful) but you can also cut up all those cotton jersey t-shirts, pjs, etc. that are too ratty or stained to give away. Cut them to a size big enough for one or two wipes, no hemming required. Simple. We keep them in a basket on our counter and them toss a washable bag or directly in the wash after use. They are also gentler on noses so are kind to the environment and to your kids.

Apr 02, 2016
12:46 PM

For us it’s not just about using green products, it’s also about limiting material possessions in general. We told all relatives not to bring gifts for our little ones first birthday. He truly didn’t need anything.

Apr 02, 2016
11:55 AM

Great article! Two other Canadian retailers that sell some of these products are www.grassrootsstore.ca and www.well.ca. Another way of limiting toxins is by using natural cleaning products like baking soda, vinegar, and liquid castile soap, etc. as well as natural personal care products like Green Beaver, Dr. Bronner’s, Earth Mama Angel Baby, etc.

Apr 02, 2016
11:15 AM

Great suggestions, although “green” options are often more expensive upfront than cheap, plastic alternatives. It helps to plan out your purchases and save up for fewer healthier, longer-lasting materials — but unfortunately, this is easier said than done for many families. Being “green” does require a lot of sacrifice and self-restraint — but it’s worth it for our kids!

Apr 02, 2016
10:42 AM

The use of flame retardant in clothes is appalling :( At home , we have replaced plastic lunch containers in favour of glass for the older children. At the primary school glass is not permitted, so stainless steel boxes for cold lunches and thermos for hot meals was the solution.

Apr 02, 2016
9:49 AM

I have a toddler and I am always looking for ways to avoid chemicals. Thanks for the informative article!

Apr 02, 2016
9:07 AM

Phthalates aren’t usually listed on labels, so I’m just reminding us all that any product that lists “fragrance” or “parfum” as an ingredient, will contain phthalates.

I’ve heard that this tiniest of ingredients is usually the most toxic, that it can cause asthma, and is a known carcinogen.

Natural fragrances usually list a botanical name or essential oil. But ‘green-washers’ often add both types to disguise the toxic bits.

Apr 02, 2016
8:09 AM

Great article and comments. My kids are past the toddler stage but I’d never thought about their little heads absorbing toxins from their pillows before. We primarily wash our bodies with hot water and try to limit our use of soaps, body washes etc. I primarily used cloth diapers to avoid exposure in that area.

One question I have is has anyone looked into Tupperware brand dishes? They claim to be BPA free but I know it is just 1 of many possible toxins in plastic.

Mar 24, 2016
5:16 AM

I think when you have kids it is saying “no” to so many of the excess that really counts. Honestly, we really don’t need so much stuff to survive. When we do get toys, we try to buy timeless things, like wooden blocks, that the kids won’t outgrow in a couple of months.

Mar 23, 2016
7:05 PM

The info on the pillows and other items is great. Glad to have some places to shop for safe items. We use chemical free household cleaners to reduce our chemical exposure and love Earth Mama Angel Baby for washing up.

Mar 15, 2016
3:33 AM

Great article — I’m going to look for these products in Montreal for my niece who’s almost two yrs old.

Mar 12, 2016
3:03 PM

I’m getting rid of my son’s plastic Dishware and cutlery today! I don’t know why I didn’t trust him to use our glassware before — children and very capable of using delicate materials, we just have to trust them. :)

Mar 12, 2016
11:00 AM

I’m new to all of this green stuff but this was an awesome informative article!

Mar 10, 2016
6:17 AM

Children are also exposed to a lot of plastics and chemicals through toys. It is recommended to switch to natural materials like wood and natural rubber toys.

Also switching to safer more natural soap products eliminates a lot of exposure to harmful chemicals.

Eliminating use of synthetic fragrances, found in toiletries and cosmetics.

Mar 10, 2016
4:06 AM

My two year old son loves drinking out of glass straws, so we use strawesome. Lifetime warranty against breakage. Plus we try to buy all used clothing and toys.

Mar 09, 2016
7:06 PM

-second hand and natural made toys. not only are they healthier for our children, but they are usually better made and more educational. -cloth diapers. better for your baby and the environment and so so so much more stylish! -homemade baby food!

Mar 09, 2016
1:21 PM

I’m a new fan of organic cotton! We just purchased organic cotton bedding and toddler pillow for our girl. I’m really impressed with the feel of the cotton! Definitely recommend the toddler pillows by Naturepedic! Would love to get a hold of some stainless steel straws :)

Mar 09, 2016
1:09 PM

Use phthalate/fragrance-free personal care products. Or better yet, avoid them altogether. My son is almost three, and his head has never been washed with shampoo or anything else other than occasionally baking soda. Neither do we use any soap / body wash on him. (Except for handwashing and to wash specific areas, and only if they are actually dirty.) Needless to say — no bubble baths, unless you know what the ingredients are and they are safe.

Do not use fluoride toothpaste. It is a very bad idea to swallow it, and toddlers inevitably will. Whatever you use for brushing teeth should be perfectly safe to eat (e.g. coconut oil).

No sunscreen. Skin needs sunshine to produce Vitamin D. (Obviously, burning is not healthy either, so cover up / take breaks / avoid staying out long when the sun is hot.) If sunscreen is unavoidable, do the research to find one that is safe (e.g. no nanoparticles, dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, etc.)

Teach your toddler to like healthy, natural food, made from scratch.

And teach him/her to love nature — walking barefoot on grass, being in the forest, swimming in a river, etc. Or rather, — don’t “unteach” the natural love for nature that children are born to have.

Mar 09, 2016
10:52 AM

I love my stainless steel planetboxes for my kids green waste free lunch

Mar 09, 2016
9:15 AM

Informative article—thanks!

Mar 09, 2016
7:29 AM

Great blog! The world needs more people that think on your level.

I would also add: organic cotton (or hemp) car seat covers. My daughter had chemical burns on the back of her legs when she was a baby. Cause? Fire retardant on the car seat! It was awful!

Mar 09, 2016
4:26 AM

Thank you for the tips and especially for including the links!!! We keep our 3 year old ‘green’ buy choosing natural bath products! Often we put a little bit of Epsom salts in the tub. Thanks for the chance to win these healthy prizes!

Mar 09, 2016
3:40 AM

Move out of the city. Live in the country. Embrace nature.

Mar 08, 2016
7:16 PM

This is great information to have. Thank you for this article. I will have to try to dust more frequently! I was curious if containers made from cornstarch are also a good idea, or if they too might contain harmful chemicals like plasticizers?

Mar 08, 2016
6:57 PM

Fenigo in Kitchener (fenigo.com) and Ava’s Appletree (avasappletree.ca) are two of my favourite places to buy green baby/toddler goods- they are also small, local businesses with great customer service. Cloth wipes (and diapers) with diy wipe solution from Sweet Madeleine (http://www.sweetmadeleine.ca/) are my number one icky chemical and waste avoiding solution. (Not affiliated with any of the above businesses, just happy to support small, local, and green!)

Mar 08, 2016
6:16 PM

We chose an organic mattress from Naturepedic for our new baby and will continue to use it when she is a toddler as it was very important to us to avoid the off-gassing from conventional crib mattresses.

Mar 08, 2016
6:08 PM

Use more reuseable cloths and less deposible wipes / paper towels by having a small basket of baby wash cloths by your kitchen sink. It is amazing how effective this is and how many wipes / paper towels you will avoid using.

Mar 08, 2016
5:46 PM

Interesting article!

Mar 08, 2016
5:46 PM

Very interesting article. Would like to try these techniques but kids pjs for 44$ is crazy.

Mar 08, 2016
10:49 AM

GREEN is in @a cleaning tool as well!

Mar 06, 2016
6:03 PM

I use a folded cotton towel for my daughter’s pillow. It’s inexpensive and easy to clean :)

Mar 06, 2016
1:22 PM

It’s hard to think of it at this time of year, but don’t forget about kid-friendly sunscreen made without toxic chemicals. There are a surprising number of brands available at most healthy living shops.

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