At Long Last: My Greener, Healthier Baby and Toddler Supply Guide

Many of my friends have asked for the “list” of baby items that we bought based on my research. I’ve finally scraped it together, as a reward for their kindness in pretending to pay any attention at all to my enviro-babble.

There are some healthier baby things now being sold – and there are gazillions of on-line retailers happy to bring these items to you. Below is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it is the things I liked among what we personally have used.

In buying things for our family, I managed to tease out, mostly through trial and error, some overall principles for environmental health in children’s stuff. Some thoughts on what to look for, and what to avoid, are also below.

Before I get to the good stuff, as nerdy as I am, I feel compelled to put some caveats before you:

  1. There are a ton of Web sites for product reviews, including “green” products, with widely varying levels of green-washing and blogger integrity. In contrast, the product list below is stuff I bought and used when Maya was a baby or use now. The links here don’t trigger any commissions or the like – I’m just not that organized. If that ever changes, I will note it here. In the meantime, click away, knowing that I am only rewarded by the pleasure of knowing what I pulled together was of use to you.
  2. Products can change over time – particularly things with ingredients, like wipes and lotions. What I bought and liked may not be what’s being sold today. So for those kinds of things, I would encourage you to double-check for any negative product reviews on the Web sites selling the stuff, as well as with the consumer guides linked to below. (If you see something alarming about any of the items below, please do comment and let me know!)
  3. Generally speaking, I’m not making an environmental sustainability claim for these items, though, as noted, some of them are made by companies with a greener outlook, and ones I’m happier to support. (And I do think it’s important to specify whether we are talking about environmental health or sustainability.) I haven’t investigated what went into their manufacture, or the sources for wood, for example. I’ll also note that being this picky about the stuff we use often means a lot of packaging and shipping, which is not really that great for the planet.
  4. I tend to order stuff from Amazon, due to the free shipping: I’m cheap like that. But I don’t feel good about it, especially given how terrible it is a place to work (I don’t think it’s crazy to assume that this recent Mother Jones article describing a hellish nether-region of robotic inhumanity is about one of their warehouses, though the article doesn’t clearly say so). If you want to be better than me, and it’s not that hard to do, order directly from the companies that make this stuff where you can, or from a “greenie” retailer that doesn’t treat its workers like bots.
  5. Normal concerns about product safety – stuff like choking hazard levels and recalls – are also an ongoing issue. Obviously, if I hear of problems with something, I’ll change the post. But the idea of “endorsing” something still makes me nervous. So of course apply your own judgment and monitor your child’s use of whatever it is carefully.

Lastly, some explanation is needed regarding the consumer guides. There are others out there, but I use three:

  1. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database: They closely examine the safety and health impacts of ingredients in personal care products, including subscreen, lotions, etc. Their scores run 0-10, with higher being worse for you. I try to ensure that everything in our home is a 0 or 1, but this is not easy. The scores are very cautious – for example, even essential oils like lavender are given scores. If allergens are not a concern, you may want to check to see the basis for the score, as some things are upgraded for merely being irritants. If you have chemical sensitivities, obviously, this information is a goldmine.
  2. Good Guide provides an overall score and several detailed subscores for a much more comprehensive set of data points on a wide range of consumer products. Their scoring system includes scores for environmental health, but also corporate sustainability practices and labor conditions. Confusingly, their scores run the opposite way as EWG’s, with 10 as the best score, and 1 the worst. As I care most about environmental health, I tend to look at that particular score first, and then be pleased, as a bonus, if the company overall is doing well. Their overall score may be quite different from the environmental health indicator in many cases. Unfortunately, Good Guide used to, but no longer, rates toys. (We owned several of these very popular toys they found to be toxic, including the Rainforest Jumperoo, which was upsetting. I’ve used the Wayback machine at times to dredge up their old ratings.)
  3. HealthyStuff.org tests toys, clothing and other items for environmental health concerns using an XRF gun (like the one used in your home for lead, if you had it tested, which shows what is in a product several layers down). They test mainly for four dangerous substances, including lead and chlorine, and assign a high, medium or low rating. They maintain a searchable database which may or may not have the toys in your home in it, but even flipping through the listings shows how many times these substances are found in highly common toys.

Now that my throat-clearing is over, here’s some of the fun stuff.

The Quick Version: General Things to Look For

These are good:

  1. Simple, wooden toys (made from solid wood, and not particleboard, plywood, fiberboard or other pressed “wood” products);
  2. Organic textiles (particularly ones that go in the mouth, like loveys, and for bedding and clothing for brand-new babies, whose skin is very thin);
  3. Products that qualify for Oeko-Tex, a fairly protective European textile standard;
  4. Books and musical instruments, including photo albums of family and baby pictures that tell your child’s life story — identity development is a major issue for babies and toddlers. Our “Life with Maya” board book is a huge hit (for a clumsy but functional place to order a board book version of a photo album, see here);
  5. Stuffed animals and dolls that can be thrown in the wash (“surface clean only” usually means plastic pellets inside);
  6. Stainless steel dishes and containers, and glass bottles and containers, for food storage and serving;
  7. Fragrance-free (many fragrances contain untested substances, and include harmful pthalates);
  8. Ingredient lists for products like toiletries that are written in comprehensible English with terms all explained on the packaging;
  9. Buying less stuff, and nicer toys, for the reasons I suggest here — after all, you have to look at them and pick them up a million times a day;
  10. Finding used stuff that fits the above guidelines from yard sales, book sales and thrift stores (a few tips for greener thrift store shopping are here).

These are good to avoid:

  1. Polyurethane foam (to minimize flame retardants);
  2. Electronic gizmos, because they often contain heavy metals (though we have some, certainly, and just try to keep them to a minimum);
  3. Soft, molded plastics (as in bath toys, bibs, teethers and teethable items on toys), because they are usually made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and older ones likely contain pthalates (see more on why to avoid PVC in toys here);
  4. Plastic plates, utensils and cups (including those cute melamine designs), as they go in the dishwasher, and heat makes plastic degrade and get into the food;
  5. In toiletries like lotions and such: parabens (like methylparaben or butylparaben), sulfates (like sodium lauryl sulfate), PEG (which is usually followed by a number), and either a) long, incomprehensible lists of gunk in products; or b) products that fail to list all of the ingredients on the bottle and refer you to some stupid Web site you’ll never get around to checking (like Method does). Talcum powder is also out, because natural talc can contain asbestos, and is an inhalation risk;
  6. Unneeded big hunks of plastic indoors (we do have some of those enormous, ugly plastic vehicles out in the back yard, purchased well used);
  7. Traditional pack-and-plays are a bundle o’ suspect plastics and foams and a pain to pack up; we used a Baby Bjorn travel crib, which is certified compliant with Oeko Tex. It was expensive, but it still works well for traveling;
  8. Stroller covers – they are awful. Most are made of PVC. Babies and children would be far better getting a little wet and breathing outdoor air. Also made of PVC are those cool decorative wall stickers for nurseries, which likely off-gas above the baby for quite some time;
  9. Foam play mats, which, by one manufacturer’s (SkipHop) own admission to me, all contain formamide, a carcinogen created in the foam-making process that was the basis for a ban of the mats in France and Belgium last year. For Maya’s rough-and-tumble period, I used a couple of jute yoga mats (there is a plastic backing on these, but regular yoga mats are all PVC, which is awful when you think about it. Hot yoga, anyone?);
  10. Crocs are made of the same material as foam play mats (called EVA), and the company will not say whether formamide is in them, so I wouldn’t put them on children, certainly;
  11. Art supplies, which can be problematic, particularly paints, markers and white-board pens, and face paint at fairs and used at Halloween is typically loaded with lead and other harmful heavy metals (if you really need some for a costume, try these instead);
  12. I do not use infant or children’s Tylenol. It’s subject to all-too frequent recalls due to manufacturing problems, and the children’s form contains butylparaben. In addition, a meta-review of 20 studies on the issue strongly links aceteminophan to asthma in children. (Yet my own pediatrician still passes out dosage information!)
  13. Heating food in plastic (and I would include the steamer-blender type baby food machines, as being labeled BPA-free doesn’t mean an item is free of plastics or other chemicals that act like hormones). On baby food, actually, you can’t win: some commercial baby food in jars has BPA under the lid, yet most mini-choppers and food processor bowls are polycarbonate, and can contain BPA or similar chemicals. We use either a glass blender or a high-velocity stainless steel mixer from India which will pulverize anything (works like a VitaMix, but for less than half the price);
  14. Cheap children’s furniture, including play kitchens, bookshelves, tables, etc., is often made of pressed wood products that contain formaldehyde, which is linked to leukemia. Solid wood, when you can find and afford it, is far better as it won’t off-gas (ask for a natural oils or beeswax finish in lieu of varnish);
  15. Noxious odors: keep in mind that your sense of smell is a decent indicator of when there are solvents and other harmful chemicals around. If it stinks or is making you woozy, get rid of it.

I’ll also just note that I’m (perhaps unjustifiedly) suspicious of silicone teethers, dishes, food storage, baking items, etc. While the silicone may be inert, I’m not convinced that anyone’s looked closely enough at the plastic additives that give the silicone its color and shape. (If you know more about this, please let me know.)

One overall tip is to look for “Waldorf” items. Whether or not you’re on board with the educational approach, these items are all natural and are often handcrafted and beautiful.

It’s no accident that many of the companies I prefer are European. Under both an agreement on chemicals called the REACH treaty and various country-level rules, they impose more protective environmental standards on textiles and chemicals, among other things.

If you have too much stuff, as we do, you can create novelty (which is a trigger for the brain) by cycling toys. I use cute animal fabric bins (though these are not organic) to take things in and out of circulation, which helps to declutter, keep the sets together, and to maintain Maya’s interest in what we have.

Below, I emphasize the stuff that you can buy for a baby, but that also works for a younger toddler or beyond, so that it’s a better investment.

Companies I like for toys, gear, toiletries and stuffed animals:

Toys and stuffed animals, etc.

Gear

  • iPlay (raincoats that are PVC-free, for example; they still are fairly plastic-y, so there may be better ones)
  • Baby Bjorn (items are Oeko Tex certified)
  • Naturepedic (crib mattress and changing pad)
  • Lunchbots (stainless steel snack containers; plain is best as some complain of chipped enamel on the colored ones)
  • 3 Sprouts Organic (storage bins and hooded towels are organic; other storage may not be)

Toiletries and Cleaners

Favorite Retailers

Here’s the Exact Stuff I Used and Liked:

Nursery

Decorating

  • Mythic Paint (Zero VOC-emissions paint) (goes on smoothly; we painted right before a vacation and still let it air out for more than a week; I still wouldn’t get near it if I was preggo)

 

Infant Toys Only

Infant to Toddler Toys and Stuffed Animals

Toddler Toys Only

Big items

Gear

Newborn Baby Clothes, Swaddlers and Wipes

Toddler Clothing Items

Food-related or Kitchen Gear

Toiletries

Greenish Stuff I Didn’t Love

Pending Attractions

  • I’ll do a future post on formula and its various issues, including the packaging and presence of Bisphenol-A (BPA) and the use of a toxin, hexane, to get DHA/AHA out of seaweed to add it to formula and enhanced milk, a basically unregulated process.
  • I’ll also do a post as well on child safety in cars, including some thoughts on car seats. We use a Britax Advocate 70 CS Convertible Car Seat for its long rear-facing ability and side-impact protection, but it’s not perfect by any means, as I explain in this post. If you want a car seat without any flame retardants in it, Orbit’s is the only one currently on the market, though Britax has committed to a phase-out this year. [Update: see comments on this other post.] To minimize exposures, I used baby slings for shopping, etc., when Maya was little, rather than a removable car seat-type stroller. It did mean I had to wake her up sometimes, which was a drag.

Do you have green products you use and like? Please do tell in the comments, so that everyone can benefit from your experience.

And if you’re looking for something, please let me know, as this is not an exhaustive list…

Sources for more Information on products’ environmental health and safety:

Other sources may be found in the blog links to Eco-Stores Online, in the side-bar. Hope this is useful to you!

Weekend Morning at Woodend Nature Sanctuary

Saturday morning was spent very pleasantly at the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Woodend Nature Sanctuary, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The preschool on the grounds was holding a fundraiser, the “Earth-friendly Re-use It” sale, with items from preschool families for reasonable prices.

There was a nature walk, on which we saw many birds, a deer crossing the meadow (which I was too slow to capture on camera), and bullfrogs sunning themselves. Throughout the year, the preschool constructed an enormous nest of twigs, which will be dismantled over the summer to begin again next year. Maya was excited by the walk, and only asked to be carried for half of it (the uphill part, of course!), which I thought was pretty good, considering.

I have a habit of picking up stuff for Maya second-hand (see my guide to thrift-store shopping here), and this sale was no exception. We found some nice books and clothes, as well as a few toys. The real find was a beautiful handmade wooden dump truck with moving parts, complete with the maker’s initials in a burn mark on the bottom.

It’s a lovely place, with a nature and science-based preschool curriculum. Maybe the right fit for us? We’ll likely apply anyway. I’ve learned the hard way already how competitive preschool admissions can be. Seems worse than college, really…

We’ve Been Slimed — and It’s Not Necessarily Pink

slimed 1.jpg

                                      

Cross-posted from the Environmental Working Group‘s blog, Enviro-blog.

Last month, the New York Times published a story about my efforts when I was pregnant to rid my home of toxic chemicals. The story featured a photo of my 18-month-old daughter and recounted how I threw out a large pile of cosmetics, cleaners and other products that my research, using the Environmental Working Group’s online Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, found to contain dangerous substances. While at the time I thought I was doing the right thing for my family, when I read readers’ comments, I felt as if I were on Nickelodeon, in one of those scenes when an unsuspecting person has an entire bucket of green slime dumped on her head.

Readers sneered at my decision to purge my home of toxics when I was pregnant, calling me a control freak with mental health issues. More than one actually suggested that I had obsessive compulsive disorder. There was a certain amount of denial in the comments — an attitude that if something hasn’t killed us by now, it’s probably fine.

Given this response, I’ve been fascinated to watch the public outcry following disclosures that sellers of ground beef have been adding so-called “pink slime” to ground meat to save money. This stuff, officially called “lean finely textured beef.” is made by gassing and repackaging “lean trimmings” from the slaughterhouse floor. After a strong show of public outrage, grocery stores and restaurants have been dropping the stuff like a rotten egg.

Meanwhile, the meat industry has gone on the defensive. Even food-safety heroes like Marion Nestle concede that “pink slime” – despite being a low-quality version of “food” that should really only be suitable for pets and is disgusting to contemplate – is, as the Obama administration has said, safe to eat.

But what if I told you that a far more dangerous type of “pink slime” was actually all over your house and is still all over mine? I’m exaggerating, of course (likely due to my OCD). But hear me out.

Petrochemicals, as we all know, are the basis for plastics. The polyurethane foam in furniture and baby products? Courtesy of the oil industry. As Theo Colborn, a pioneer on chemical health issues, writes in the introduction to “Slow Death by Rubber Duck,” “[w]hen one considers that almost all of the common hormone-disrupting chemicals are derived from oil and natural gas, one can begin to understand why the public does not know the nature of these toxic chemicals, their source, and how and where they have entered our lives.”

Preservatives in cosmetics, flame retardants in furniture, even common ingredients in food are derived from – or are – petrochemicals. Just like pink slime, the by-products of oil production are given a home among the multisyllabic lists of chemicals in ordinary household products, both as a way to find a disposal location for them and to sell them for profit.

In my opinion, this is to be expected: companies will sell what they have any way they can. It is even, you might say, “natural” for corporations to try turn a penny off their garbage. If the impacts on human health weren’t so devastating, and if they told us what they were doing and gave us a choice, well, it might be fine. It would at least be better.

Obviously, though, that’s not what happens. Instead, the things we buy are riddled through with oil-knows-what. Attempts to ban harmful chemicals have to move forward one by one with repeated scientific trials, each regulatory judgment fought tooth-and-nail by the industry. And the chemical/oil industry too often prevails, as happened with the federal Food and Drug Administration’s recent absurd failure to ban bisphenol-A, a dangerous chemical in plastic that’s been linked to obesity, endocrine disorders, diabetes, behavioral problems and reproductive health impacts.

We used to think pollution was out there, like the burning Cuyahoga River. It’s profoundly uncomfortable, instead, to acknowledge that it has intruded where we need to feel safe: in our homes and even our bodies.

No one really knows the compounding effects of, for example, the chemicals that act like hormones in our plastics when combined with the traces of birth control pills in our drinking water. As just one example, I am concerned about my daughter’s health in light of the possibility that hormones in products could be factors in the early onset of puberty among American girls, a widespread phenomenon.

Those who criticized me on The New York Times website were right about one thing: knowing about all this stuff does sometimes feel like enough to drive you crazy. That’s why I think that there should be rules that prevent products from entering the stream of commerce until they are proven to be safe, to replace the current standard of, basically, “whatever.”

So, in the face of all the uncertainty about health impacts from toxics, maybe I am a control freak. That is, if being a control freak means that I try to control my family’s exposure to harmful chemicals – or even those that just could be harmful. I don’t want to hand over the responsibility to some oil exec who would like to use our homes and lives as a place to store his leftover gunk.

But the sad truth is that it’s practically impossible to control altogether our exposures to the many chemicals in our cars, in the air and dust and in furniture and household items. I know too much to think I can control it all. And even when I’m making judgment calls, it’s far more difficult than it should be to know whom (and what) to trust.

Like every family, we are doing the best we can, given our limited information, time and budget. I believe this is normally called “parenting.” After all, someone is making all the decisions about what we’re exposed to and what the ingredients in everything are. For my daughter’s sake, I only wish it were me.

Refinery factory small.jpg

Persnickety Letters on Products

Perhaps because of my history as a consumer advocate, I derive a rather sick enjoyment from writing emails in which I ask persnickety questions of companies. Below is a sampling, with more to come.

Given the extent of “green-washing,” I also try to ask hard questions of friendlier companies, sometimes with gratifying results.

Coming next: The anatomy of a consumer brush-off: how companies do (and don’t really) answer our questions.

Exhibit 1: Plastic Bath Toys and Vinyl Wall Stickers from Giggle

Several months ago, I wrote these two letters to Giggle to ask what was in the soft plastic bath toys and wall stickers I bought (or requested as gifts) for Maya. The answer? PVC, or polyvinyl chloride.

PVC is problematic for a number of reasons. First, the process to make it produces a potent carcinogen, dioxin, which gets everywhere — in breast-milk, in the air, and in our food. Second, if it’s in your house, and there is a fire, PVC becomes hydrochloric acid and is highly toxic to breathe. Third, PVC is often softened with pthalates, and tests show it contains lead. So calling it “non-toxic” is a stretch. (Though at least the promise below is that both of these items are pthalate-free.)

In addition, plastics tend to break down over time. I was not particularly reassured by the notion that it’s fine if children put these toys, after playing with them in hot water repeatedly, in their mouths, or, in the case of the stickers, that kids move them around on the wall and play with them. We tossed the bath toys (great, more toxics in the landfill!), but the wall stickers are still up. When Maya figures out they can be moved, then out they’ll go.

###

PVC in Bath Squirters sold by Giggle, Inc.

Q: Hi there,

We purchased these, but I am still concerned about the safety of the plastic. What number and kind of plastic are they? Is there any vinyl? Heightening this concern is that they come in a vinyl bag, which is PVC, and are used in warm water.

Thanks!

A:  Elegant Baby’s responsible commitment to children’s safety means that their Sea Creatures Bath Squirters meet and/or exceed several safety regulations, including the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA); the Federal Hazardous Substance Act; the American Standards for Testing and Materials (ASTM-F963), testing for toxic elements; and the European Standard EN- 71 that specifies safety requirements for all toys sold in European nations. In addition, these extensive third party acts test for hazards such as lead, phthalates, and toxins, as well as potential choking hazards.

The Bath Squirters are made of non-toxic, BPA-free, and phthalate-free PVC. They contain no VOC’s, and are safe enough for a little bather to put in their mouth.

Parents can be confident that giggle’s commitment to children’s health and safety includes eliminating exposures to any potentially harmful chemicals and substances contained in our product assortment so we can help build healthier environments for children.

###

PVC in Dottilicious Wall Stickers sold by Giggle, Inc.

Q: Hi there,

I have had these up in my nursery for over a year. I was upset in retrospect to consider that these are vinyl, which means PVC, which is toxic and off-gasses, similar to the news about shower curtains and liners.

In addition, other heavy metals are used in PVC manufacturing. Please tell me:

1) How long the off-gassing lasts from these stickers?
2) Whether the stickers contain other substances, including lead, chromium or other heavy metals?

Thanks!
Laura

A: WallCandy’s responsible commitment to children’s safety means that their Dottilicious Wall Stickers meets and/or exceeds several safety regulations, including the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), and the Federal Hazardous Substance Act. These extensive third party acts test for hazards such as lead, phthalates, and toxins, as well as potential choking hazards.

WallCandy decals are made of non-toxic PVC Vinyl with a low tack adhesive that allows for the reuse of the decals. They contain no VOC’s or pthalates, which means no off-gassing in your home!

Parents can be confident that giggle’s commitment to children’s health and safety includes eliminating exposures to any potentially harmful chemicals and substances contained in our product assortment so we can help build healthier environments for children.

Exhibit 2: Haba Rolling Turtles and Fantasy Blocks with Arsenic and Bromine?

Date: Mon, 5 Sep 2011 05:11:09 +0200
Subject: HABA Contact form

After paying such a premium for non-toxic toys, I was shocked to learn that the rolling turtles and fantasy blocks have been identified as having arsenic and bromine in them. Please tell me what you have done specifically to address these serious problems.

Laura

From: Lea Culliton HABA
Subject: FW: HABA Contact – Laura MacCleery
Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 10:47 AM

Dear Ms. MacCleery:

Thank you for taking the time to write to us to learn more about your concern.  Would you mind sharing with me where you learned this information so that I may properly address your concerns?  It is at this time of year that many public interest groups post information about products without using the appropriate testing procedures approved by the CPSIA.

Please let me assure you that HABA is a family owned company and our wooden products are still produced in Germany at our wholly owned facilities.  The stains that we use are tested by 3rd party laboratories to not only meet the USA testing standards but to almost meet and exceed the European standards and all other standards from throughout the world.  We maintain the highest level of integrity of our raw materials and of our suppliers.  Feel free to learn more about us by visiting our website at http://www.HABAusa.com and clicking on the About tab.  We have all of our Certificates of Compliance to the CPSIA on our website for consumers to see/download.  We have films about our production and about our testing.  We try to be as transparent as possible.

The owner of our company Mr. Habermaass has children and grandchildren himself and so do over the 1,300 employees working for HABA.  We care about our children and what products we are giving them to play with (and chew on) each and everyday.

We appreciate your concerns and would like to be able to address them; again thank you for taking the time to write to us.

Sincerely,

Lea Culliton

HABA USA, President

From: Laura MacCleery [mailto:]
Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2011 8:28 PM
To: Lea Culliton HABA
Subject: Re: FW: HABA Contact – Laura MacCleery

Thanks for your reply. The information on arsenic and bromine is here: http://www.healthystuff.org/departments/toys/product.details.php?getrecno=7258

Related to your fantasy blocks — in particular, the one with the bell. We have a bell block from our “First Blocks” set and I would very much like to know whether it also could contain arsenic and bromine. I look forward to your reply —

Laura

From: Lea Culliton HABA
Subject: RE: FW: HABA Contact – Laura MacCleery
Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011, 9:58 PM

Laura:

A couple of years ago this website had to recall a report on another one of our items that they reported.  It is important to know that this organization uses a XRF “analyzer” to perform approximate heavy metals in the materials.  This is NOT a laboratory certified test where the material is actually scraped off and tested.

Another important fact to note is that the solubility and possibility of transference from product to person is not examined and/or discussed on this website.

HABA did pay an independent, CPSC authorized, testing laboratory to test this item.  The item passed all ASTM F963 specifications and it passed the European EN 71 requirements; this item is absolutely, positively safe for young children.

Warm regards,

Lea Culliton

Hi Lea,

I’m not sure I follow — are you saying that the XRF method produces incorrect results? We just had lead measured in our home and that is what the technician used and my understanding is that it is very accurate.

In terms of the standards that the toy has passed, do those standards allow for or prohibit lead and/or bromine? If they allow it, at what level? Is transferrability to the child an aspect of those standards?

Thanks,
Laura

Friday, September 30, 2011 11:36 AM

From: “Lea Culliton HABA”

Laura:

The XRF guns are reliable for quick passes.  They are not however allowed to be used as the final tests for 3rd party laboratories.  The labs physically scrape the surface and test the materials.

If you would like to learn more about the standards please visit the CPSC.gov website.  The CPSIA that President Bush signed into law just before he left office made the mechanical ASTM F963 test mandatory instead of voluntary.  The CPSIA also set the gradual lowering of the allowable lead levels to less than 90 ppm.  Links to these laws and specifications can be found at the CPSC site.  You may want to click on the Business tab at the top to learn even more.

I can reassure you that all of the HABA products being sold into the USA marketplace are 3rd party lab tested and approved to meet and/or exceed all of the required American and European standards.  HABA toys are safe.

Warm regards,

Lea Culliton

HABA USA

Exhibit 3: Skiphop Play Mats with Formamide?

From: Laura MacCleery [mailto:]
Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 9:16 PM
To: Info
Subject: formamide in mat tiles?

Please let me know asap whether your EVA foam tiles contain formamide, a substance of concern since foam mats have been banned in Belgium and France since Dec 2010.Thanks–Laura

Laura,

Thank you for contacting us – we understand your concern. All Skip Hop products, including the Playspot, meet or exceed regulatory safety standards in the USA and Europe, without exception.

We do not add Formamide to Playspot, although it can be a byproduct of the EVA foam manufacturing process (which includes such items as flip flops and many bath toys). That said, due to these concerns, we have tested Playspot using ISO 16000 methods.

We are pleased that our Playspots received the lowest possible score, <2ug/m3 (less than 2 millionths of a gram per cubic meter) for Formamide emissions, the lowest measurable result with this testing method.  These tests show that – within the limits of the test – its presence is essentially not detectable.

Therefore, the Playspot is a safe EVA floor mat option for children and you should feel confident that we have specifically tested for this issue.

Feel free to contact us with further questions.

Lilia Rodriguez

Customer Service

Skip Hop, Inc.

Exhibit 4: Preservatives in Method brand cleaning products

On 7/28/2010 5:39 PM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Please let me know, as a prospective customer, what is the “preservative” on your label?

Thanks,

Laura

Thursday, July 29, 2010 9:13 AM

From: “Tim Barklage”

Hi Laura —

Thanks much for your interest in our products.  Below is some information about how preservatives are used in cleaning products and information on our specific system:

  • Cleaning products are mostly water and have long shelf-lives and therefore must have some agent which prohibits the growth of bacteria
  • Anyone who claims there is no such agent is either:
    • Not disclosing information
    • Has a natural agent, such as lactic acid, at such high levels (low pH) that it will damage the surfaces you are cleaning and is certainly not safe to have around children.
  • BETTER LIFE has chosen a preservative system which is approved in skin care products
  • Our preservative is put in at 7 parts per million.  This is incredibly low and is would probably not be traceable under general analysis
    • Additionally these are at comparable levels of foreign substances contained in many municipalities tap water systems.

For further clarification, here a detailed statement from our chief scientist:

General Answer:

Preservatives are often a “hot topic” especially within the skincare products industry. All consumer products must have some system in place for preservation of the product in order to give it a shelf life.  However, there are a lot of options when it comes to which system/materials you use.  I have employed systems adapted from both the food and skincare industry to preserve the BETTER LIFE products instead of using the harsh, industrial type preservatives found in most cleaning products.  Depending on the specific product, we use things like fruit acids and essential oils/extracts.  In certain cases when these will not offer enough protection to ensure quality we use a completely biodegradable synthetic ingredient at less than 0.01% to supplement the system.  These systems that we have developed are safe, environmentally responsible and ensure quality in our products.

Detailed answer:

Preservative systems are always tricky since it is necessary for product shelf life, but needs to be closely evaluated to make sure the safest most responsible ingredient is used in the formula.  We use MIT and  I have chosen this preservative for the following reasons;

a.       Able to use at incredibly low amount (7 ppm)

b.      More than 30 years of safety data on this material.  It has achieved worldwide registrations (including Japan ) and complies with all safety regulations for use in skin care and cosmetic applications.

c.       Tested “readily biodegradable”, not bioaccumulative, and not persistent in the environment according to US and European standards.

d.      Not a formaldehyde donor!

Most competitive products utilize preservative systems that must be used at MUCH higher levels (in many cases 10x’s higher levels), pose serious health risks (formaldehyde donors, lack of safety testing, etc.) and are persistent in the environment. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.  We appreciate your interest and support!

Tim Barklage
Better Life
www.cleanhappens.com

Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:44 PM

From: “Laura MacCleery”

To: “Tim Barklage”

Thanks for this information, Tim. Please give me the full name of MIT. I assume it’s not the Massachusetts Institute of Technology!

Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:55 PM

From: “Laura MacCleery”

To: “Tim Barklage”

Never mind — I found it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methylisothiazolinone

Shame on you for playing hide the ball on your packaging and your Web site! At least list all of the real ingredients by name so that consumers can fully evaluate their exposure to toxics. Basic transparency — which you tout in the ad copy on your Website — demands no less.

Laura MacCleery

Friday, July 30, 2010 2:07 AM

From: “Kevin Tibbs”

Laura,

While it is often difficult to personally answer many of the emails that we receive I saw your email and felt the need to respond.  I am surprised and sorry that you feel as though BETTER LIFE is not transparent.  As a company we have went to great lengths to empower the consumer – providing them with more information than they have ever been exposed to in the past (when it comes to household cleaners).   Not only are we one of the few companies that provide a complete listing of ingredients, we also have developed the “ingredient summary” panel which provides in depth information about the product and its ingredients.  Please know that we are not “hiding the ball” at all!  It appears that you inquired about the preservative and we provided you not only the INCI name but a lengthy description as to why products are preserved and why BETTER LIFE chose MIT.

I have been a formulation chemist for 14 years specializing in skin care and hair care products.  When my first daughter began crawling around and exploring, I took notice of the types of household cleaning products that were around the house.  The more I looked into these products the more frustrated I became!

–          All traditional cleaning products contain absolutely no information on specific ingredients in their products and customer service will not reveal this information.

–          Cleaning products are covered with warning statements.

–          The so called “green” cleaning products I evaluated contained only partial ingredient disclosures (I found that many of the ingredients were left off the labels).

–          Both traditional and “green” products are filled with heavy fumes, petroleum based ingredients, strong acids or bases, synthetic dyes and fragrances, etc. etc.

As a chemist, I know firsthand what types of ingredients are used in both tradition cleaners and other green cleaning products.  I do not want these chemicals around my home, or my family.  So, I did something about it.  Two years ago, I resigned from my job and co-founded BETTER LIFE.  At BETTER LIFE, I take great pride in developing the safest, most eco-friendly products on the market.  And the performance of our products is amazing!

If you would ever like to chat about what makes our products so much different than the others out there please feel free to contact me (all of my information is below).  I really would not want anyone to think that we are not completely transparent!

Thanks for your email,

Kevin Tibbs

##

From: Laura MacCleery

Sent: Friday, July 30, 2010 8:31 AM

To: Kevin Tibbs

Subject: RE: Re: What’s the preservative you use?

Kevin,

Thanks so much for your reply.

I would say that using the generic term “preservative” instead of MIT or, even better, the full name of the chemical on your labeling and Website, falls squarely into the category you criticize, here:

“The so called “green” cleaning products I evaluated contained only partial ingredient disclosures (I found that many of the ingredients were left off the labels).”

Its similar to Ecover’s use of the term “fragrance,” which most consumers will not know is an area in which there is scant research on health consequences.

It would be great if at least one company that sells widely available cleaning products to green consumers actually was 100 percent transparent. Your decision to use the generic term “preservative” is evasive and misleading and does in fact violate the spirit and letter of your claims to transparency and to more transparency than your competitors.

I note that Method also uses MIT, a harmful chemical, but openly notes and defends this decision on its Web site.

Laura

From: Kevin Tibbs

Subject: FW: Re: What’s the preservative you use?

Date: Friday, August 6, 2010, 2:58 PM

Laura,

I am not sure we are on the same page.  What I meant by partial ingredient statements is that many companies that manufacture “green” products list only some of the ingredients and COMPLETELY leave out others.  You mentioned Method Products below so I will use them as an example:

Here is what there All Purpose Cleaner ingredient statement is (pulled directly from their website): Corn and Coconut derived surfactants, biodegradable emulsifier, purified water, soda ash, fragrance oil blend, potassium hydrate, color

There is no mention or listing of preservative, despite the product having one.  This is what I was referring to when I say partial ingredient statements.

Further, I expect that you know cleaning products are not held to any government standards or regulations when it comes to ingredient labeling.  This is why the majority of products in this category do not have any ingredient disclosure at all.  It is also why some products are not penalized for only partially disclosing ingredients.  At BETTER LIFE, we list all ingredients.  Apparently you are not happy with the way in which we list them.  I do apologize for this but I realize that you cannot please everyone.   Skin care is an area which is regulated by government (FDA) and there are regulations for standardized ingredient labeling.   If we use skin care as a guide,  you should know that “fragrance” is the correct  INCI terminology for an ingredient listing.  In fact, by listing it differently a company making skin care products could be fined by the FDA for not using this correct terminology.

Again, I hope you appreciate the great pride and sense of responsibility I take in the BETTER LIFE products.  We have gone to great lengths to make the safest, most environmentally responsible products available.  You will find that our products do not contain “colors” (a nicer way of saying synthetic petroleum based dyes), “fragrance oil blends/ synthetic fragrances”, petroleum based surfactants and ethoxylates (which is referred to as “biodegradable emulsifier” in Methods ingredient statement above), alcohols and petroleum solvents just to name a few.  I have developed these products to provide a safe and effective alternative to the common cleaning product for my family and yours.  I know that there will always be critics, but I take comfort in knowing how many people we have helped with the BETTER LIFE line of green cleaners.

Regards,

Kevin

To: “Kevin Tibbs”

Kevin,

I’m not sure why most of your email points fingers at other products. I don’t think that any manufacturer of household cleaning products is doing a good job.

Still, you have not explained why your label and Website both merely says “preservative,” rather than MIT or (better) the full name of the chemical being used. You claim to be more transparent than other companies, but this choice to conceal the contents of this aspect of the ingredients in your product is not.

Moreover, the decision to use MIT is troubling. While your other ingredients may be green, this chemical is dangerous and clearly so.

If you want Better Life to be recognized as an industry leader, start by only using ingredients that you are comfortable clearly stating on both your label and Website.

Laura

Dear Laura,

Thank you for you advice.  You refered to Method as an example so I simply helped you understand their labeling approach compared to ours.   Have a great weekend,

Kevin

Exhibit 5: Nurture My Body: Clarifying whether essential oils are safe

New comment on your post “Fragrance Free Organic Beauty Products – Confused?”

Author : Laura MacCleery

Comment:

I appreciate the post, but was hoping to find out about any scientific research that has been done on the safety and health impacts of essential oils and fragrances. Even though they are natural substances, you are affecting the potency, as you note, and many natural things may not be good for a person. Do you know of research on this subject? I would be very interested.

A: Thanks ever so much for your question about scientific research that has been done on the safety and health impacts of essential oils and fragrances. The best places for you to dig into would be these authority sites:

·         http://www.naha.org/

·         http://users.erols.com/sisakson/pages/agoindex.htm

·         http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html

Quite sincerely,

Rich Arnold
Customer Care

Nurture My Body

your skin ~ our organics

P.S. Thank you ever so much for your patience for our response. We have been heavily engaged in creating our new website which launched yesterday.

Exhibit 6: Schylling Plastic Piano Horns

From: Laura MacCleery

Sent: Monday, September 12, 2011 9:53 PM

To: customerservice@schylling.com

Subject: Piano horn

Hi there,

Please tell me the kind of plastic that the piano horn is made of, including the mouthpiece. I’m very concerned about the types of plastic my daughter might have in her mouth.

Thanks!

Laura

RE: Piano horn

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 2:56 PM

From: “Jennifer Thissell”

To: “‘Laura MacCleery'”

Thank you for contacting us. We care about the health and safety of our consumers. Our products meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards and the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards for lead and toxicity.  Our Piano Horn does pass all federal and state testing for phthalates, but I don’t have information on the specific material used.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns, thank you.

Jennifer Thissell, Customer Service

Schylling Associates

Exhibit 7: Chicco Car Seat: Flame Retardants

From: Laura MacCleery [mailto:]

Sent: Sunday, June 27, 2010 10:37 AM

To: Info@chiccousa.com

Subject: Keyfit 30 car seat — safety of chemicals

Hello,

Please provide me with any independent testing or information you have about the presence of any chemicals in your car seats — including lead, chromium, copper, formaldyhyde and aluminum.

Thanks,

Laura

RE: Keyfit 30 car seat — safety of chemicals

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 12:51 PM

From: “Info@chiccousa.com” <Info@chiccousa.com>

To: “‘Laura MacCleery'”

Dear Chicco Customer,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. Chicco is very aware of and concerned about recent studies which discuss the toxicity of certain chemicals or elements in child car seats.  ALL Chicco products meet or exceed the stringent safety standards in the U.S. and Europe regarding chemical content. Additionally all Chicco products are Phthalate-free.

Sincerely,

Customer Service

Chicco USA, Inc

On Jun 27, 2010, at 7:21 PM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Hi there,

I am interested in a purchasing a Swedish car seat due to the lack of flame retardant chemicals in the products, which my research has shown to be banned in Sweden.

Would you confirm that the foam in these seats lacks bromides? If so, you should include this in your Web site, as its a major selling point!

Also, some of the Britax models sold in the U.S., including the Roundabout, have a rebound bar for rear facing seats? Which of the models that you sell include the rebound bar? This is an important safety feature in rear impact collisions.

Thanks so much!

Laura

On Jun 27, 2010, at 5:23 PM, “CarSeat.se (Info)” <info@carseat.se> wrote:

Hello Laura,

Thanks for your email.  I need to double check on the issue of flame retardant chemicals. Same with the bromide questions. I’m impressed by your detailed questions:-)

No seats in US have a rebound bar.  Most of the Swedish seats have a support leg which is beneficial for avoiding over rotation in a collision.  Britax seats Multi Tech and Hi-Way have support leg as well as DuoLogic, Maxi Cosi Mobi and BeSafe Izikid.

It’s not really an issue in rear facing collisions and make little difference.  Rear facing collision only account for about 5% of collisions are are rarely severed due to speed and other factors.  The only seat which doesn’t have a support leg is Britax Two-Way but it’s just as safe as the other s since it’s installed leaning on front seat or dashboard.  This means a rock solid installation.  You can check out this report from a happy user of Two-Way who was rear ended at high speed….  http://www.carseat.se/britax-two-way-saves-a-life/

Kind regards

Håkan

Håkan Svensson

On Jun 28, 2010, at 4:17 PM, Laura Maccleery wrote:

Thanks for the responses! I will install the seat in the middle back seat–

Looking forward to your answers re the chemicals. The rebound bar is now available FYI on some US models– Britax only, it seems.

It’s also helpful for frontal collisions– and I don’t discount “rare” events– while the vast majority of rear crashes are fender benders, on highways they can be quite severe.

Does the Swedish government or any consumer group do crash ratings for the models you sell, similar to Consumer Reports? If so, I’d love to see the links.

Thanks so much!

Laura MacCleery

— On Mon, 6/28/10, CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se> wrote:

From: CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se>
Subject: Re: A few questions
To: “Laura Maccleery” <>
Date: Monday, June 28, 2010, 5:57 PM

Hello Laura,

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you mean with “rebound bar”.  Can you show me a US seat which has this feature?

We have some consumer groups but testing of car seat in Sweden is actually rare.  We know from experience that long rear facing time is very important, type of car seat is of less importance.  We do have a new car seat standard in Sweden called “Plus Test”.  This test is by far the strictest in the world which means no forward facing seats pass.

Currently DuoLogic and two BeSafe X3 seats have passed testing.  More seats will be tested shortly.

In Sweden we look very little at testing since it’s so biased, subjective and each test is performed differently.  This makes it impossible to compare seats  between tests.   Most of European testing is done In Germany which is basically clueless about rear facing……

Kind regards

Håkan

On Jun 29, 2010, at 9:36 PM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Hi there,

Here is the link to the picture of the Britax rebound bar: http://www.britaxusa.com/car-seats/chaperone

Any information on the issue of chemicals?

Here are some links about these concerns:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-9948453-54.html

http://www.safbaby.com/us-children-polluted-with-toxic-fire-retardants-part-1

Thanks so much!

Laura

— On Tue, 6/29/10, CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se> wrote:

From: CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se>
Subject: Re: A few questions
To: “Laura MacCleery” <>
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 6:16 PM

Hi Laura,

I see what you mean now.  DuoLogic and BeSafe use the rebound bar.  Most European seats use a support leg instead of top tether since it’s a better solution technically.  We have seats with rebound bar and many without, lack of rebound bar doesn’t make RF our seats any less safe.  Sitting rear facing for a long time is what’s important.

I have no more info about the chemicals.  The sources you provided sound worrying but before making any judgment I would like to see peer reviewed independent research showing any downside to children in car seats.  Flame retardant items for kids do overall fill a very important function and save lives.

Here in Sweden we are probably a bit more “old fashioned” and like to use more natural products for our children.  Lots of wooden toys etc.  We are not so keen on the mass produced battery intensive toys out of China for example.

I will try to find out some more about the chemicals and get back to you.

Kind regards

Håkan

On Jun 30, 2010, at 12:49 AM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Thanks for your response. I’m not sure I understand it completely — are you saying that top tethers and support legs replace (functionally) the need for a rebound bar?

I’m an auto safety expert, as well as an expectant parent, and do find the Britax videos on the benefits of the rebound bar compelling. How do top tethers or support legs work? Do they play the same role?

Chemicals in the U.S. are not well regulated in comparison to Europe — we use a much wider range of dangerous chemicals and in large amounts, even in childrens’ products. Here’s an NGO study on flame retardants and their risks: http://www.ewg.org/reports/pbdesintoddlers

While traditional foam materials are made of petroleum-based materials, there is no need for them to be, and hence no reason for such intense use of flame retardants, which are well demonstrated to be risky to reproductive health.

Moreover, in a car seat, I’m not sure that flame retardants are that useful. Fire is involved in catastrophic crashes, and smoke inhalation in that context is likely to be more dangerous– and to affect an infant far more quickly.

At any rate, it looks like at least one form of these chemicals is banned in Europe generally and that PBDEs are banned in Sweden. Here’s a few scientific studies:

http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/PBDE-Polybrominated-Diphenyl-Ether.htm

http://www.ewg.org/node/8452

http://www.leas.ca/Ban-should-include-all-PBDEs.htm

Thanks,

Laura

— On Tue, 6/29/10, CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se> wrote:

From: CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se>
To: “Laura MacCleery”
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 7:22 PM

Hi Laura,

Sounds like you know a lot about this subject:-)  Out of curiosity what kind of auto safety stuff do you mainly work on?  Support legs are not used in US but they are used extensively in Europe.  Support legs can be found in infant seats with Isofix (your LATCH, except ours is rigid and easier to use) and also the Swedish rear facing seats.

Top tether and support leg fill similar functions but a support leg is considered a better technical solution.  The support leg is there mainly to avoid over rotation.  Our seats have a RF limit of 55 lbs so forces are quite a bit different compared to 35 lbs seats which are still most common in US.

As mentioned before, DuoLogic and BeSafe Izikid seats do have the rebound bar but we don’t consider these seats any safer than the ones without the rebound bar.  What works best is long rear facing time, rebound bar is not a big deal.  Beauty of rear facing is the simple solution and the way the whole back of car seats ( and baby) absorb the enormous impact forces.

Fire dangers are of course a very small percentage of car accidents, we refer to them as “catastrophic”.  We have been rear facing children in Sweden since 1965 and know from experience that children here don’t die while sitting rear facing unless an accident is catastrophic.  That means fire, hit by a bus at 60 mph or driving into a river and drowning. No seats will ever protect against these types of accidents.

I’ll speak to some manufacturers tomorrow and see what I can find out.

Kind regards

Håkan

On Jun 30, 2010, at 1:35 AM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

Hi there,

I worked for Public Citizen, an NGO here, for 5 years, on backover, power windows, rollover safety, side impact air bags and other issues.

Ok — I think I’m comfortable with ordering a seat — which work with our LATCH system, if any?

Thanks!

Laura

— On Wed, 6/30/10, CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se> wrote:

From: CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se>

Date: Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 4:47 PM

Hi Laura,

Interesting work.  Our Isofix seats are compatible with LATCH (DuoLogic and Izikid X3 Isofix).  Isofix is a great solution since it’s so easy to install.  Downside is higher price and also a RF weight limit of only 40 lbs.  This is the maximum for any Isofix seat.

Kind regards

Håkan

On Jul 5, 2010, at 3:57 PM, Laura MacCleery wrote:

You’ve been so incredibly helpful! Thank you!

Were you able to get any confirmation on the chemicals issue? Just curious.

Also, I drive a Nissan Altima, which is a mid-sized car. Would the Izkid fit or would the Duologic, with its smaller base, be better? I do like the support leg on the Izkid.

With shipping etc, we want to get this right!

Thanks so much!

Laura

— On Mon, 7/5/10, CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se> wrote:

From: CarSeat.se (Info) <info@carseat.se>
Date: Monday, July 5, 2010, 2:07 PM

Hi Laura,

The only seat which detaches from the base is DuoLogic. It’s basically an infant seat which slides into an Isofix base. Izikid needs just a bit more space than DuoLogic when installed upright.  Izikid does install quite upright so most parents use the sleep position most of the time.  This adds another 3 inches of space required.  DuoLogic works well in small and large cars.  Both seats use a support leg and also a rebound bar.

I spoke to Britax and we do use less chemicals in the seats here.  Flame retardant is a good add-on to car sats but there are of course limits on how much will benefit safety. Britax Could not give me exact details on the Bromide.  In the beginning of the year they were audited/surveyed by a large organization specializing in issues with chemicals/allergies and the results were really great.

Flame retardant is important but there is something such as diminishing returns.  Flame retardant will save lives but adding three times as much will not really make a big difference. We feel like flame retardant is  a good safety add-on but there are limits on what’s practical, useful and rational.  Children dying in burning cars is extremely rare so it’s not a big issue and keeping retardants on a reasonable level seems reasonable.

Kind regards

Håkan

Exhibit 8: Brita Water Filters and BPA

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 4:59 PM

From: “Brita Consumer Services” <brita@consumerreply.com>

Dear Ms. MacCleery,

Thank you for contacting us about the composition of the Brita Water Filtration System.

Our products do not contain bisphenol A and are all tested by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) for safety. The pitcher lids and filter housings are made of polypropylene plastic and the reservoirs and pitchers are made from either NAS (a styrene based plastic) or SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile). The soft-touch handles are made from an elastomer called Santoprene. Unfortunately, the pitcher materials are not recyclable and therefore do not have a plastic recycling number.

Please to not hesitate to contact us at http://www.brita.com or at 1-800-24-BRITA if you have additional questions or concerns.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Sincerely,

Shelley Preston, Consumer Response Representative, Consumer Services

Exhibit 9: Kid Basix Safe Sippy 2 re: PVC

From: Laura MacCleery
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 6:43 PM
To: Susan Soja
Subject: Safe Sippy 2

Hi there, I just purchased two of these cups for my daughter. Please let me know asap the answer to the following 2 questions: 1) Is there any PVC in any of the parts of the cup, including interior parts and straw? 2) What are the numbers of the plastics used for each part? Number denote types of plastics. Thanks so much!Laura

From: Susan Soja
Subject: RE: Safe Sippy 2
To: “Laura MacCleery”
Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 7:47 PM

Hi Laura-

Thanks so much for your note.  There is no PVC in the cup or any of its parts.  The Cap, Lid, Spout and Handles are made of #5 Polypropylene.  The Straw is made of LDPE #4.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

All the best,

Susan

Susan Soja

Kid Basix, LLC

From: Laura MacCleery
Subject: RE: Safe Sippy 2
To: “Susan Soja”

Thanks very much!

Exhibit 10: Estrogenic properties of soy in Baby’s Only baby formula

Product Question email submitted on: June 6, 2011From: Laura MacCleeryI feed my baby your Baby’s Only Diary formula, which works well. But  I am concerned about the soy content — see http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/estrogenic-effects-of-soy — does the soy lecithin include genistein?

Thanks!

Laura

From: info@naturesone.com <info@naturesone.com>
Subject: RE: Product Question email from Contact page
To: Laura
Date: Monday, June 6, 2011, 3:49 PM

Dear Laura,

Thank you for contacting us with your concern. The issue about use of soy appears to be related to the protein portion of soybeans. As you are aware, Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy formula contains organic soybean oil and organic soy lecithin derived from soy oil. Soy lecithin is used as an emulsifier that keeps the fats in a product from separating out. It has been determined that soy lecithin is a safe ingredient for food products and, in fact, has been used for many years in many foods for this purpose. This ingredient, because it is not derived from soy protein, does not contain the phytoestrogen, genistein, that you have inquired about.

We do not know of another standard dairy-based formula that is completely soy free, including free of soybean oil and/or soy lethicin. Soybean oil is included in almost all infant formulas because of its specific fatty acids. When combined with other oils, the soy oil helps to meet the required essential fatty acids in the appropriate amounts needed by an infant.

As you may know, organic vegetable oils, in this case, organic soybean oil, are expeller-expressed. This is a process that basically presses the oil from the soybean. Suppliers of organic soybean oil and organic soy lecithin cannot guarantee that miniscule amounts of protein measured in parts per thousand or parts per million are not passed through the filters and into the oil during this process. Therefore, even though there may be miniscule amounts of soy protein in the soybean oil, Nature’s One® has added the soy allergen statement to our Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy Formula and Baby’s Only Organic® Lactose Free labels.

Conventionally processed soybean oils use hexane solvents to extract the oils so the oil is free of protein. This harsh process then requires the oil to be flashed with fire to burn off the hexane solvents. Hexane residues can remain in the finished oils. We believe that hexane has no place in a baby’s diet – even if only a residue. Also, USDA organic rules prohibit the use of solvent-extracted vegetable oils. So Baby’s Only Organic® Formulas would not be labeled organic if we selected conventionally processed vegetable oils.

We do believe that we are using the best organic ingredients currently available. We continue to monitor the availability of better organic ingredients that can be used in our products and can assure you that we will use them if they are, in fact, a better alternative than currently available ingredients.

Regarding the controversy about soy protein use, the following information may be of interest. There is a great deal of information and misinformation on the Internet regarding soy use in infancy. As I noted previously, The anti-soy literature mainly is concerned with the phytoestrogens in soy protein, specifically the isoflavones in soy. Phytoestrogens are proteins and not fats. The following reputable sources of information on use of soy in children may be of interest.

In 2006, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, US National Institute of Health, and the Center for the Evaluation of Risk to Human Reproduction (CERHR) of the National Toxicology Program convened a meeting of key pediatric nutrition and medical experts to review the use of soy formulas in infancy and addressed many of the concerns about soy and phytoestrogens. This prestigious group was unable to conclude, after exhaustive research and reviews of the medical and scientific literature, that soy products, including soy infant formulas, were unsafe or presented risk to reproductive and developmental health. The panel called for continued research on the role of soy in human health.* http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/media/questions/docs/soy-infant-formula-expert-panel-summary-conclusion-12-18-09.pdf

Since that time, CERHR has determined that there are new publications related to human exposure or reproductive and/or developmental toxicity that were published since the 2006 evaluation. CERHR held a meeting in December of 2009 to review these new data and is expected to post the final report on its website and solicit public comment through a Federal Register notice. Nature’s One, Inc. will continue to monitor all reports on use of soy in infancy and will update our information as appropriate.

Furthermore, a clinical report co-authored by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and titled, “Use of soy protein-based formulas in infant feeding,” states the following: “In summary, although studied by numerous investigators in various species, there is no conclusive evidence from animal, adult human, or infant populations that dietary soy isoflavones may adversely affect human development, reproduction, or endocrine function.” (1)

Also, a recent study from the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center compared growth, development and health of breast-fed children with children fed soy formula or milk-based formula. Preliminary results indicate the feeding of soy formula to infants supports normal growth and development. The authors further state “early exposure to soy foods, including SF (soy formula), actually may provide health benefits rather than adverse effects, eg, improved body and bone composition and prevention of breast cancer.” (2)

References: 1. Jatinder Bhatia, Frank Greer, and the Committee on Nutrition. “Use of soy protein-based formulas in infant feeding,” Pediatrics 2008; 121; 1062-1068. 2. Badger, TM, et al, “The health implications of soy infant formula,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009; 89(suppl):1668S-1672S

Laura, I hope this information regarding the use of specific soy ingredients in our products has been helpful. Thank you for your interest in Baby’s Only Organic® and please let me know if you have additional questions.

Sincerely,

Lori

Nature’s One, Inc.

In Defense of Beautiful Toys

When that recent New York Times article mentioned, in passing, an expensive Amish-made bassinet I bought for Maya before she was born, many of the comments pounced on it as evidence that I was a spoiled, status-seeking housewife – an amusing idea for my husband, who often has to remind me to shower. Pass the bon-bons, I say!

Of course, my whole point was that attempts to shop our way to an answer on the problem of toxics often lead to an impractical and expensive result, because, frankly, safer materials for items like furniture come with a hefty pricetag. Obviously, this is unfair to families with a more limited budget (including us, as I’ll post soon on my effort to find a truly green sofa for less than $5,000! Ouch, couch.).

As I’ve explained in this blog, for my family, we save money by prioritizing greener options on what we eat, clean with and use on our skin, because these are the entry points for chemicals. We also save moola on clothes and books, and sometimes buy used toys in good condition.

But I’ve also developed a fondness for gorgeous toys, many of which are on the more spendy side of things.

Truth be told, I’ve always paid attention to aesthetics (to the extent I have a “style,” I like mid-century modern plus eclectic patterned pillows, whatever THAT is). Champagne tastes on a beer budget, as they say. And one of my concerns in having a baby was the “crap invasion:” all that extra junk that accumulates through the mere act, it seems, of having a child.

And, wow, the plastic! (Oh, the horror!) It’s ugly, as well as full of suspect chemicals.

So since she was born, I’ve slowly tried to build a small collection of mostly European and some made-in-America nicer toys – focusing on those that are constructed according to more stringent health and safety standards, and are really wonderful to play with. I’ll be posting a list of the companies we like.

Here are what I see are the many advantages of choosing fewer – and better – toys for Maya:

1)   We buy less. With the higher pricetag, we tend to pick and choose one or two nicer items for birthdays or holidays that will be more likely to grow with her (blocks to knock down today, and build with tomorrow). That means less stuff to pick up, fewer parts and pieces to worry about, and fewer distractions. I can keep the sets together, so that they actually work as intended, or use baskets and crates to put them away until they are “new” again.

2)   I like to play with them too. My husband always says the toys are for me, and it’s totally true. Rather than a gizmo with limited buttons that do one or two things, when I buy toys that I like, I’m far more tempted to get down on the floor and build things with Maya, interact about colors and shapes, or talk with her about the animals. The blocks are inviting and fun, and the hand puppets do insist on singing a silly song. Besides, the clean-up after a toddler is constant, and I’d rather handle stuff that I like to touch and put away, over and over and over again.

3)   The natural materials are a teacher. Like every child, Maya is learning a visual and tactile vocabulary of shapes, colors and sizes. There are just more possibilities with simpler, more open-ended toys for imaginative play, or with things that imitate colors and shapes found in the outside world. The toys have more context and, often, more flexibility, and sometimes even seem like the start of something like art. (Both the Montessori and Waldorf educational traditions foster respect for natural materials as part of the learning process, so I think this must make some kind of sense.)

4)   They have fewer moving parts. Simpler and more natural toys have no batteries, fewer safety recalls, fewer moving parts, and often (though not always) fewer choking hazards. Unlike electronic toys, they have fewer heavy metals, and no annoying little tunes that threat my limited sanity. They don’t fall apart as easily. They’re quiet instead, and ask for Maya to assign them a role, to call them to a purpose herself. This is a skill she will need. It’s one thing to push buttons, but it’s an entirely different thing to know why.

5)   They retain their value. Nicer items don’t show much wear and tear. They can be re-gifted, and no one will complain. They can be kept around as brainteasers (some of Maya’s puzzles are a challenge!), or, failing that, resold on listservs and the like for half their value. If you think of yourself as renting them for a longish time, even with the mark-up, it’s actually not such a bad deal.

6)   We’re (mostly) avoiding the crap trap. Any friend or family who comes by tends to notice that the toys are nicer, and we generally avoid the unwanted, if well-intended, plastic gifts. And I’ve unwittingly harnessed the power of “no:” when we go shopping, Maya has no expectation that she gets a toy from the big box retail store. I do collect dress-ups and nice instruments for the music basket, but party favors and other cheapy stuff get tossed to keep the clutter to a barely-human minimum. (And we’re still plenty cluttered!)

7)   We’re voting with our dollars. I love the idea that our money goes towards hand-crafted, well-made toys from companies that respect our family’s safety and the environment. We do consider what we buy more carefully, and try to jump ahead of Maya’s developmental stage to ensure it gets maximum use, so I usually covet an expensive item for awhile with furtive on-line visits, and then one day take the plunge.

And about that Amish bassinet – while it’s true that Maya outgrew it all too quickly, I loved putting her in it when she was born, and having her next to me in the bedroom. Like a Moses basket time machine, it’s hand-lathed, with hand-stitched organic linens from a women’s seamstress collective in North Carolina.

Given the ridiculous money that is spent on diaper bags and nursery items just for the cute factor, I don’t really feel guilty for picking this up. It’s still in her room as a toy bin, and its still formaldehyde-free.

It was beautiful then, and it’s beautiful today, and some day, it will doubtless pretty up another little baby’s room. So I’m just saying: we could all do with a little more hand-crafted prettiness, whenever we can make it work.

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Green Tips for Thrifty Parents

A pretty spring dress I found for Maya for $5.00

Recycling is the ultimate green thing to do, and for parents it’s a great way to save money for other things you’ll need.

To be honest, I’ve always loved thrift stores and second-hand clothing.  As a brand new “public interest” lawyer saddled under by student loans, I would organize my seasonal “wardrobe” (read: collection of old clothes) in time to try to trade it in for new duds at one of those snobby consignment shops in DC. It was one good way to get new clothes on a lean budget.

For kids’ clothes, of course, it makes even more sense. They wear everything for a nanosecond, and, based on what I see in the thrift stores and at yard sales, there’s a lot of aspirational cuteness involved in parents’ purchases.

We also pick up books – including library-quality hardcovers – from thrift stores, and church, school and library sales. I look for nicer books, and tend to also store away copies of kiddie lit classics like Little House on the Prairie when I come across them for a quarter, both because they’re a good deal and because I’m already sentimentally imagining sharing them with my girl.

Toys, obviously, are trickier. If some gizmo has been part of a safety recall, you would never find out about it. So I look for brands I know, and stay away from electronics (with metals that can degrade) and plastic stuff. If tempted, I check it over carefully for loose parts, choking hazards and overall quality. If a nicer item is being sold over the listserv, I’ll often check the reviews online to make sure it’s as good as it seems.

Cardboard puzzles are great choices, generally, if all the pieces are there, and there are excellent deals on popular games like Chutes & Ladders. (I would skip the “wooden” puzzles, as these are often made of fiberboard, which off-gasses formaldehyde.) I also pick up nice baskets for sorting all Maya’s stuff for pennies.

And of course, there’s furniture. If you can find solid wood items, that’s really a score. Craigslist is another good source for these, as are flea markets.

Here are some more tips for going green while thrifting:

The Don’ts

1)   Steer clear of bling. Cheap children’s and adult jewelry have been found to have lead and other toxic metals in them, as have those metal decorations on sweatshirts and jeans, as well as metal belt buckles on belts that are often sewn into pants for children.

2)   Avoid large decals. Most children’s and adult’s shirts with decorative decals use vinyl, or PVC (polyvinyl chloride). (This goes for new clothes too.) The older the shirt, the more likely it’s cracking and stuff is flaking off. Embroidered designs or clothes with the images woven into the fabric itself are better ways to go.

3)   Don’t buy pajamas unless they are clearly labeled “not flame resistant.” (Even I am not going to bother asking a company if a $2 pajama has chemical flame retardants in it.) Better to find a retailer with plain cotton pjs and layer those.

4)   Shoes are tricky – most cheap children’s shoes (including the ones we buy new) are “man-made materials,” i.e., plastic. They break down over time. On the other hand, I’ve seen some great like-new shoes that are leather at yard sales and picked those up.

5)   Raincoats and rainboots are also generally made of PVC (and there is PVC-free raingear available now), so I avoid those as well.

6)   I also tend to skip stuffed animals, plastic figures and old dolls. They all seem to multiply like rabbits whenever I’m not looking in the corners of Maya’s room, and there’s only a few she cares about. Dolls are mainly made of vinyl (PVC) and other plastics. Many stuffed animals are filled with plastic pellets, which could degrade, or foam or other petrochemical-based materials, and are dust and dirt magnets.

What to Look For

1)   Fancy dresses and coats tend to get very little wear and be in great shape (but check for stains!) – and are very expensive to buy new.

2)   For girls, jumpers are a great option. If they are big enough in the shoulders and arms, they may fit for several seasons, first as a dress and then as a shirt.

3)   Look several sizes ahead and buy the good labels across several seasons. The labels’ sizes can be completely off, so when I really have my act together, I bring a current dress of Maya’s and measure it against the other items, so that I can better identify what might fit both this year and next.

4)   Allow some time. Some stores are highly organized, but more often you find a jumble of sizes and seasons, and will need to go through it to see what’s really there. On occasion, Maya sleeps through this process. More often, I have to come back a few times. But when you do find things, you can buy a bunch at a time for not a lot of dough, which means fewer trips to the store.

5)   Some stores (like our local Value Village) have savings days or sticker programs where you can save even more. These may not be posted, so inquire.

6)   Costumes for the dress-up box are always great – funny hats and boas, as well as doll clothes from the baby items. The last time, I picked up a felt “Davy Crockett” raccoon cap Maya loves to prance around in for a quarter.

Of course, wash everything in environmentally friendly laundry soap.

It’s really great to watch Maya spill finger paint all over the shirt I bought for a buck. Do you have other tips for parents on recycling, thrifting, or finding things affordably?

10 free (or nearly free) ways to reduce your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals

Credit: Darren Higgins

Some simple principles can help you take action to reduce toxic chemicals in your home:

1)   Use less stuff.  Do you really need those dryer sheets? Or the umpteenth “miracle” cream just taking up space in the medicine cabinet? Go back to basics by figuring out what you use need on a daily basis, and chuck the rest. Save your fancy makeup for the evening out. And whenever you can, pick fragrance free or go without the smelly stuff. (Most fragrances are loaded with pthalates. Mmmm.) Also, treat the plastic you own more carefully — never heat plastic in the dishwasher or microwave (pop food out of the container and handwash the sippy cups). I find that having to hand-wash stuff becomes its own reason not to buy more plastic!

2)   Repurpose items.  Rather than buying new furniture for the nursery. convert that dingy old dresser into a changing table. (Ask relatives what’s in their attic or look on Craigslist or at yard sales for what you need.) The off-gassing from materials, if any, will long be over, and you can often even find deals on solid wood. Spend your dollars on what will really matter, like wooden teethers and a decent and safe new crib. And some of the cutest baby clothes, once out-grown, can be packed away to be used as doll clothes one day.

3)   Replace as you go. Instead of tossing everything out at once, replace items as they run out or wear out with safer ones. When that non-stick pan begins to show wear, replace it with an enameled or a cast-iron pan instead.  When the coffee maker starts to sputter, think about replacing it with a French press to avoid heating plastics every time you brew a cup. And when all those plastic food containers show stains, substitute glass containers with BPA-free lids. Lastly, when you need a new vacuum, buy one with a HEPA filter to reduce both allergens and toxins in the dust.

4)   Enlist help. Tell friends and family that for the baby shower, holidays and birthdays you would like “green” gifts that help your family to detox your home. Help them pick suitable toys through a registry or just a note with a list of things you’d prefer they get for your child or home. They may even want your research so they can make their own positive changes! (Or they may grumble and say you’re nuts, but really, do you want all those loud, annoying plastic gizmos?) And make your friends and family leave their shoes near the door (or better yet, the garage), which really reduces tracked-in toxins and pesticides.

5)   Scrounge a bit. Keep tabs on your local parents’ list serv or check out yard sales, book sales, and thrift stores for nicer items and used books. A little quick action in response to a post from a parent selling a premium toy can save a lot of money! (Our oh-so-fancy wooden Svan highchair came used off our neighborhood listserv for less than half the price of a new one.) Check ebay and craigslist as well for deals on a particular item you covet.

6)   Prioritize. Can’t afford to go all-organic? Just pick the dirty dozen (a list of the most pesticide-heavy fruits and vegetables), plus milk and peanut butter, and buy those organically. (Dairy, berries, apples, peanuts and potatoes are the worst.) Or start with cleaning supplies, which can be made simply with baking soda and vinegar or other homespun recipes.  Skip convenience foods and more processed foods, which contain less nutrition, are far more likely to have harmful preservatives and additives, and are less likely to be organic. Buying food from the edges of the supermarket (vegetables, fruit, dairy, and breads) will save you money and keep you safer and healthier as well. Besides, cooking with children is great fun, and teaches measurements, flavors, and how to help mom.

7)   Air it out.  It’s free and easy to roll down the window in your car for a minute or two whenever you start driving, to air out the VOCs (or volatile organic compounds, as in paints) emitted by all the plastics in cars, as well as the flame retardants in your kiddo’s car seats. It’s also a good idea to open your windows at home when you can to let the house breathe a little, and to run cold water from your kitchen tap for 10 seconds before using it for cooking. (Don’t use hot tap water directly from the tap for cooking, as it can contain heavy metals from the pipes.) And skip the vinyl cover for strollers — it’s better to get a little wet than to have the baby breathing flame retardants, PVC and nasty pthalates.

8)   Think ahead. When you go bargain hunting, think about what your child will need over the next few years, not just today. In thrift stores, I look for clothes that are like-new and good labels that are two, or even three, sizes ahead of where Maya is today. She’ll get there all too soon! And for toys, I invest in really nice toys if they will facilitate open-ended play that will enable them to grow with her – wooden blocks, imagination starters like animals, and cardboarc puzzles that are images now and a puzzle later. Hand puppets and finger puppets are wonderful ways to learn about animals, and lead to fun. Dress-up clothes can come from thrift stores around Halloween, when the costumes are plentiful. And even baby rattles can be kept for the box of musical instruments, or you can buy shakers that double as gorgeous rattles for baby.

9)   Buy in bulk. Many areas now offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) opportunities to buy directly from a local farm, usually for a season and often pay-ahead. This is terrific way to know much more about where your food comes from (and some have visiting days for kids). The food can be certified organic, or can be from a farm that uses farming practices that are very close to organic (or better) without certification, but do ask. Although you pay ahead of time, over the season,  costs may be lower than paying at the supermarket for premium meat, fruits and vegetables. The offerings are always seasonally appropriate, and will be very fresh. (To find CSAs near you, look here.)

10) Let it go. Small changes really do go a long way in reducing chemicals. But stress and anxiety are also not good for parents or kids. So if your efforts to reduce toxins are causing you late nights rather than peace of mind, pick your battles, make your choices, and let the rest go by.(Fifteen minutes of exercise or meditation also helps the body cope with hazards to our health.)We all just do what we can do to protect our children. That has to be enough.

And number 11 is: Stand with groups like Healthy Child, Healthy World in telling your member of Congress and the Senate leadership that you, as a parent, voter and citizen, support more reasonable standards for chemical safety. The best way to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals for every family, and every child, is to enact stronger rules in Congress.

So, blogging…

Credit: Darren Higgins

When the New York Times ran a picture of my daughter Maya last week under a snarky headline, it changed something for me. I’ve been a public interest advocate for 12 years for a range of important causes, but this was about my family, and felt, well, personal.

Ok, so it took me a while to get the “personal is political” thing. The comments picked up on the river of condescension flowing through the article (which used words like “paranoid” and was led by a large image of a toddler smiling through a glass bubblehead in a “hazmat onesie,” whatever that is).

Some folks suggested I was mentally ill for trying to protect Maya from the sea of toxic chemicals now commonly found in all of our bodies. Many confused germs (not so bad, really) with toxics (bad, really). And others just wanted to sneer at the overprotective helicopter moms in the article, you know, the ones who stay up late making their own deodorant out of spit and eco-sealing wax.

I replied to some of their startling insights on Fark and other places where the piece was picked up, trying to take back some of my dignity. After all, I gave the reporter a lot of the references and other material for the story, but I was the one with the ridiculous (but gorgeous, btw) Amish bassinet and the only dad in the article had “done the research” and was skeptical about the risks. (Thanks, Mary Brune, for correcting his ignorance on the science, pointing out the other signs of sexism in the piece and being ticked off right along with me.)

Frankly, I’m used to being called far worse names. But this was different. It cut right to my sense of fairness.

Like all parents, I’m just trying to use what I know to protect my family from harm. Like some parents, I have time to do the research on what might be safe, and what is not. And like not too many parents, I’ve had a front row seat for the past 12 years on the spectacle of bought-and-paid-for federal agencies, and weak and backwards looking laws (most of which haven’t been updated since the 1970s). I’ve also had some run-ins with the phalanxes of corporate lobbyists that swarm Washington, always with your health and safety in mind. Sometimes we win, but mostly, they do.

Even with all that, I still make mistakes, and find out that something in my home is truly awful for us. Mostly after the fact.

In short, the system’s rigged. And parents who try to do something to change things are not neurotic: they are trying to make the world better. Safer. Healthier. For their children and all the ones who come after them.

I hope to take my sense of outrage, and instead of making deodorant, make this. Lists of items I found that I like. Little bits and bobs of decent ideas about how to make it work. Shout-outs to good companies and developments. A lifeline to the parents and other people who know I’m not crazy to dream about, and when I can to try to make, a better world.

Hope you’ll join me.

Laura