Posts Tagged ‘allergies’

Are Bedroom Chemicals Causing Your Child’s Asthma, Allergies or Eczema?

Friday, October 29th, 2010


toxic chemicals and allergies, asthma and eczemaHaving a Naturepedic crib mattress will help handle many of the potentially toxic chemicals in your child’s bedroom. But the chemicals in crib mattresses are not the only ones you have to watch out for. In fact, some of the other common chemicals have now been linked to asthma, allergies and eczema in children. Check out this new study.

This recent study, conducted in Sweden focused on analyzing the air in children’s bedrooms. The researchers were looking for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – gases that are emitted from liquids or solids and which can damage the environment and human health. They tested the air for 8 different VOCs in the bedrooms of 400 children. Nearly half of the children suffered from allergies or asthma, and the other half were healthy.

What they found was a link between the presence of PGEs – propylene glycol and glycol ethers – and asthma, allergies and eczema. In fact, children with PGEs in their bedroom air were between 50 and 180 times more at risk of developing asthma, rhinitis (cold symptoms) and eczema than children whose bedroom air was free of these chemicals.

The study also linked bedroom air containing PGEs to a higher incidence of kids developing antibodies to cats, dogs and pollen. In other words, they are sensitive to pollen and cat or dog dander (usually), and may develop allergic symptoms in the future or already have them.

PGEs can be found in water-based paints and cleansers as well as some plastic toys and packaging. Propylene glycol is also a common ingredient in personal care products – everything from shampoos, soaps, creams, ointments, deodorants and toothpaste to laundry detergents, floor wax and processed foods. So, there is plenty of opportunity for it to get into household air.

Propylene glycol penetrates the skin very quickly and, in addition to the allergy symptoms, can cause damage to the brain, liver and kidneys. In fact, the Environment Protection Agency recommends that people working with propylene glycol avoid skin contact.

Amazing, isn’t it, that propylene glycol is so common despite these warnings?

The researchers involved in the study concluded that more testing had to be done. That’s pretty standard – one test after another. But they did also commit to the idea that PGE exposure causes or exacerbates multiple allergic symptoms.

How do you get rid of PGEs? Well, start by removing products containing them from your home. And don’t buy anymore.

How do you know which products contain propylene glycol and glycol ethers and which don’t? Some products list them on the label and many, probably most, don’t. In food, propylene glycol is listed as E 1520. For some types of products, like industrial applications and cosmetics, there is no legal requirement to list these ingredients at all. However, there is a household products database that can give you the information – just type the name of the product into the search box to see the contents. For personal care products and cosmetics, check Skin Deep. They also have a good search engine that lists tons of products.

To find alternatives, check the Internet for things like non-toxic cleansers, cosmetics, and so on. Also, Debra’s list has non-toxic alternatives for just about everything. For PGE-free food, simple buy organic and fresh, but continue to read labels of packaged products and investigate further if needed.

It seems there’s no end to harmful household toxins. But, in fact, there is. Once you get the hang of it and know what to look for, you’ll find that finding and using products that are not harmful is easy. And as a result, you and your children will be healthier!

Is Your Baby Bedding Toxic?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


shar peiDecades ago, clothing, linens and other textiles were anything but easy-care. The fabrics were heavy and cumbersome to clean, took forever to dry, and had more wrinkles than a Shar Pei. This kept housewives, which was just about every wife at the time, pretty busy.

When synthetic fibers came into the picture, American women sighed with relief. The clothes and linens were lighter, washed quickly, dried quickly, and wrinkles, if there were any, practically shook out. We’ve come to expect that – even with baby clothes, blankets and the bedding we use on crib mattresses.

However, over the years we’ve discovered more about the chemicals some of these synthetic fabrics actually have in and on them, and the blush is definitely fading from the easy-care chemical rose.

What chemicals can your baby be exposed to with crib bedding?

Labels like ‘crease-resistant,’ ‘crease-proof,’ ‘no iron,’ ‘wrinkle-resistant,’ ‘durable press,’ ‘easy-care’, ‘wrinkle-free’, ‘stain-resistant,’ ‘wash and wear,’ and ‘permanent press’ mean the fabrics are probably treated with formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde can cause a number of health conditions – burning and watery eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, and allergic contact dermatitis where formaldehyde-containing fabrics come in contact with the skin.

According to the National Cancer Institute, formaldehyde is also human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), and the Environmental Protection Agency agrees that’s probably the case.

Formaldehyde is just one of the chemicals of concern in baby bedding, but it’s enough.

What’s the solution? Although you can buy untreated 100% cotton products, it might be easier to get organic cotton. Organic cotton is becoming so popular you can even find linens and clothing in major department stores. Not all stores, and not many items, but you may be able to find them.

If not, you can shop at specialty stores or online. There are literally hundreds of online stores that sell organic cotton sheets – including for a toddler or crib mattress – as well as blankets, pillowcases, clothing, and so on. You can also find them at Naturepedic – we make organic cotton crib sheets and other bed linens as well as organic crib mattresses. Check them out.

So … what do you do about the wrinkles?

Some organic cotton items don’t wrinkle anywhere near as much as they did decades ago; it depends on the weave and a number of other factors. Our crib sheets, for example, look pretty good right out of the dryer. So, wrinkles might not be a problem.

Here are a few tips to keep wrinkles to a minimum, regardless of the fabric:

  • Add vinegar to the final rinse cycle of your wash. Simply fill the fabric softener reservoir with one cup of vinegar to help keep textiles soft.
  • Don’t let your laundry sit in the washing machine. Take it out as soon as it’s done, then shake things out and smooth them before putting them in the dryer.
  • Pack the dryer loosely; the tighter it’s packed, the more wrinkles you’ll get.
  • Take clothes out of the dryer as soon as the cycle is complete, immediately smooth them out, then fold or hang.
  • If you need to iron something, use a steam iron. A combination of heat and moisture is the best wrinkle-fighter.

True, this all takes a little longer that permanent press. But it’s worth it to protect the health of your baby, and yourself.

Beware Phthalates: They’re Not Just in Crib Mattresses

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
The Truth About Phthalates

The Truth About Phthalates

In case you’re not up to date on this, changes have been made in the EPA. Finally, it looks like the agency is going to have the resources and power necessary to do something about hazardous chemicals like phthalates. This is not the only chemical the agency will focus on in the near future, but it certainly is one of the most widely used, and dangerous. Why?

Our Stolen Future, a book about phthalates, outlines the animal and human studies that have been done – and the picture is bleak. But, there’s good news as well – it looks like some of the health concerns that have become more common over the last few decades may actually be caused by phthalates, which opens the door to a possible reversal of the prevalence of these conditions.

The effects on the male reproductive system are fairly well known at this point, and they are serious and have very serious implications, but did you know that phthalates may also have something to do with the greatly increased incidence of allergies? A study was done on DEHP’s (one type of phthalates) ability to exacerbate allergic reactions to an allergen. The author of the book said this might provide a “possible clue as to why allergy rates have gone up so much in the developed world.” But the list of potential effects goes on.

We don’t use phthalates in our crib mattresses so, on that front, your baby is safe. But phthalates are used in other flexible vinyl products – flooring and wall coverings, food contact applications, and medical devices. They are also used in personal care products (like perfumes, lotions and cosmetics), as solvents and plasticizers for cellulose acetate, and in making lacquers, varnishes, and coatings, including those used to provide timed release in some pharmaceuticals.

Phthalates are big news, and definitely something we should stay away from. Here’s a list of some of the most common names you’ll see on labels so you know what to look for:

  • DEHP, also known as di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate. Used as a softener in PVC products, such as IV bags, tubing, and other medical devices.
  • BzBP, or benzylbutyl phthalate. Used in vinyl flooring, car-care products, and personal care products.
  • DBP, or di-n-butyl phthalate. Used in nail polish and other personal care products.
  • DEP, or diethyl phthalate. Used in personal care products such as deodorants, perfume, cologne, aftershave lotion, shampoo, hair gel and hand lotion.
  • DMP, or dimethyl phthalate. Used in insect repellants, plastics, and solid rocket propellant.

However, those are not the only names to look for. You should also include DnOP, DnHP, and several others.

Do yourself a favor and start reading the labels to look for phthalates. And just don’t use them.