Archive for September, 2009

An Organic Crib Mattress is Great – But What About the Nursery Walls and Floors

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009


Although there’s no question that it’s better for everyone if our homes and the environment are completely free of toxic chemicals, it’s just not always possible. To resolve the issues across the globe, it’s going to take a big team – industry, government and our concerned friends everywhere on the planet. But we don’t need anyone’s help to take care of our child’s nursery or, for that matter, our own home.

How do we do that? In addition to using non-toxic products whenever possible – starting with an organic crib mattress and going straight through to cleaning products – you might also consider ridding the walls, floors, carpeting and so on of any residual off-gasing potential.

A step by step process for doing this is in a book called Home Safe Home, written by Debra Lynn Dadd, green maven extraordinaire. I recently had the good fortune to get Ms. Dadd’s permission to re-print the process in its entirety. The section is called Curing a Sick House. See below. And, by the way, I’d love to hear anyone’s feedback after they’ve tried this out.

Curing a Sick House

There are many building materials that have some toxicity when being applied, but cure to a nontoxic finish. This is because the toxic part is the solvent used to keep the material pliable (as in the case of caulks, paints, and other finishes) or that residual chemicals used in manufacturing have not completely dissipated (such as adhesives used to hold together wood floor tiles). Once these chemicals outgas, however, the resulting product is nontoxic.

If you don’t have to install or apply these products yourself, once cured they can be safe for you and your family to live with (though in the larger scheme of things, we should also be considering toxic exposures to the people we hire and the pollutants released into the environment.)

To speed up the curing process, you can do what is commonly called a “bake-out.” In my experience, it has been a cure-all for many toxic homes, as it bakes off the volatile gasses that are present in materials and finishes and cures the materials into an inert form.

The procedure I recommend is this:

1. Close all doors and windows.
2. Remove people, pets, and plants.
3. Turn up the central heat as far as it will go (or use space heaters).
4. At the end of each twenty-four-hour period, open the doors and windows and air your home out completely. Use a fan if necessary.
5. Sniff around to check for odors. Determine if they are gone, or if you need another day of baking.

Baking can take from one to five days. I’ve never needed to do it longer than five days.”

Gloria
The Naturepedic Blog Maven

Cleaning Products for the Non-Toxic Nursery

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009


Bacteria, or cleaning products with toxic chemicals? Hmmmm. Tough choice. But, really, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many non-toxic cleaning products available in health food stores and even in supermarkets – although you do have to watch the labels carefully in the supermarket products – some say ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ but have simply had something organic or natural added to them, without eliminating the toxic ingredients.

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products from Your Kitchen

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products from Your Kitchen

We don’t recommend specific products, there are far too many to keep track of, and we’re kind of busy making our wonderful organic crib mattresses, but here is an outline of what to look for to ensure you’re getting something safe. Courtesy of Debra Lynn Dadd, Queen of Green.

“If a cleaning product contains a chemical that is hazardous, it must by law specify the hazard. Look at your cleaning product labels and see if you find any of these words:

Toxic/Highly Toxic: poisonous if you happen to drink it, if you breathe the fumes, or if it is absorbed through your skin.

Extremely flammable/Flammable/Combustible
: can catch fire if exposed to a flame or an electric spark.

Corrosive: will eat away your skin or cause inflammation of mucous membranes.

Strong Sensitizer: may provoke an allergic reaction.

Hazardous cleaning products also must prominently display the degree of toxicity with one of the following signal words:

Danger (or Poison, with skull and crossbones): could kill an adult if only a tiny pinch is ingested.

Warning: could kill an adult if about a teaspoon is ingested

Caution: will not kill until an amount from 2 tablespoons to 2 cups is ingested.”

Additionally, your kitchen is actually loaded with the ingredients for just about every cleaning need. The short list includes vinegar, water, lemon, cornstarch, table salt, baking soda and cream of tartar. If you’re interested in making your own cleaning products – it’s very easy and fast – check Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Dadd’s indispensable guide to non-toxic living.

Gloria
The Naturepedic Blog Maven

Organic Cotton Industry Takes Off Despite Economy

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009


In an economy that’s only recently showing signs of coming out of a tailspin, you would think every industry would be suffering. However, that’s far from the case. The organic cotton industry, for example, is thriving. During the fall/winter holiday season of 2008, retail outlet suppliers were actually running out of stock – despite the fact that they’d ordered about 150% more than they had in the previous year.

Organic cotton more in demand than ever

Organic cotton more in demand than ever

Organic Exchange reported a 152% increase in the amount of organic cotton grown in 2007 – 2008, and it still wasn’t enough to keep up with the demand.

Why is this happening at a time when everyone’s tightening their belt? Because if there’s one issue weighing just as heavily as the economy on the minds of many Americans, and people around the world, it’s the environment. Actually, there are two issues – concerns about the health of the planet and concerns about our personal health.

Many studies have proven that pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, dyes, petroleum-based products, and so on (the list goes on and on), just aren’t good for us. After years of protecting our health and the environment being somewhat of a fringe activity, despite volumes of rhetoric, it’s finally starting to show up in a mainstream bottom line – when people start putting their money where their mouth is, you know you’ve created an impact.

The fact that this is happening at a time when people are being careful to spend their money on essentials rather than luxuries further demonstrates that this is something consumers are really serious about.

We’re proud to be ahead of the curve in this issue. When it comes to organic cotton crib mattresses, we were the first, and we’re still the best.

Q & A: Bamboo Crib Mattress Sheets

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009


Q: I’ve been thinking of getting bamboo sheets rather than organic cotton. Are bamboo sheets okay for a baby?

Is Bamboo Safer Than Cotton Crib Mattress Bedding?

Is Bamboo Safer Than Cotton Crib Mattress Bedding?

A: Bamboo is a great natural resource in a number of ways. However, as with many of our natural resources, bamboo becomes a mere shadow of itself while undergoing the processes used to bring it to market. In fact, according to a recent ruling from the FTC which determined that four manufacturers of “bamboo” textile products (including crib sheets and baby clothing) are guilty of making false claims, “bamboo-based textiles, actually made of rayon, are not antimicrobial, made in an environmentally friendly manner, or biodegradable.

What exactly does the FTC mean? Well, the ‘actually made of rayon’ statement does not mean the textiles don’t contain bamboo pulp; rather, it refers to the process – man-made fiber which uses cellulose (usually wood pulp) as a base, is rayon. The resultant textile when bamboo pulp is used would more correctly be called ‘bamboo rayon.

The FTC statement that the bamboo products are not made in an environmentally friendly manner refers to the “harsh chemical that releases hazardous air pollutants” used in the manufacturing process. This chemical also destroys any inherent antimicrobial properties in the bamboo – hence the FTC statement that the textile is not antimicrobial.

The above is simple enough, but the FTC statement that bamboo-based fabric isn’t biodegradable really needs clarification: If you put a ‘bamboo’ sheet in a compost heap or lay it in the soil in your garden, it will decompose. So, why does the FTC say it’s not biodegradable? The basic problem is the definition of the word ‘biodegradable’: biodegradable is generally defined as ‘capable of being decomposed by biological agents’ such as bacteria or enzymes. But to advertise something as biodegradable, the FTC requires that the materials breakdown quickly in their normal disposal methods. As the normal disposal methods for textiles are recycling or landfill, neither of which environments contain the biological agents needed to break them down, the textiles cannot be called ‘biodegradable.

Three of the four companies charged with making false claims have settled the issue with the FTC by agreeing to no longer make those claims. The fourth, Bamboosa, was still in litigation as of  a few weeks ago.

So, why is bamboo-based fabric still a better option than completely man-made textiles?

  • Its natural antimicrobial properties enable it to be grown without pesticides. The processing does eliminate the natural antimicrobial properties, but at least we are not subject to the possible dangers of pesticides.
  • It is a hardy and renewable resource. Because bamboo plants survive drought and flooding and come to maturity relatively quickly, bamboo may be among the most sustainable plants to use for textiles. And you’re not killing any rain forests in the process.
  • It can apparently be bleached without the use of chlorine.
  • It is easy to dye and therefore doesn’t require harsh chemicals to hold a color.
  • I have also been told that there are ways to create bamboo fabric without using harsh chemicals. My understanding is that the result is a rough, somewhat abrasive fabric – not something you’d want to put on a crib mattress and have right next to your baby’s delicate skin – but I would be on the lookout for other manufacturing methods that may give us the silky products we now know.


The organic cotton story is as simple as the bamboo story is confusing – our crib mattresses are made with cotton that was grown without harmful chemicals, and no harmful chemicals were used in processing. Although bamboo is better than some fabric alternatives, organic cotton is probably the best option.

Gloria

The Naturepedic Blog Maven