3. Put yourself and your baby on a chemical-free diet
As a scientist, Andrea Jones knew the advantages of eating pesticide-free foods even before she got pregnant. During her pregnancy, she ate mostly organic foods, but she didn't give it serious thought until her son, Kyle, now 3, was a few months old. Jones started reading about the dangers of pesticides in food. "Because of their faster metabolism and smaller body size, babies can't process and eliminate pesticides as well as adults," she says.
As a result, Jones began buying only organic produce and felt that what she and her son were eating was safe. That is, until she came across an Environmental Working Group study that tested canned foods (including organic varieties) in the U.S. for bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is often used in can liners to prevent the metal from corroding and leaching into foods, but it's associated with breast and prostate cancer, infertility and permanent damage to developing male reproductive organs. The researchers found that the linings of more than half the cans tested contained BPA.
Jones was shocked to learn that the U.S. government sets no safety limits for the chemical's use in canned foods. [Editor's note: The Food and Drug Administration has not found reason to revise its guidelines concerning the use of BPA in food containers; for the latest statement on the agency's position, go to fitpregnancy.com/fdabpa.] She contacted nine companies and asked them if the cans of organic food her family ate contained BPA. Most of them did.
Some companies responded with explanations, falling back on the government guidelines and claiming there are no safe alternatives. Nevertheless, Jones told them she would stop buying their products. Today, she spreads the word to her family and friends, and she's learning how to make more meals from scratch.
What you can do
Make your own MEALS By cooking fresh and limiting canned and packaged foods, you'll curb your exposure to chemicals.
Use your purchasing power If you're not sure whether the canned foods you buy contain BPA, call the companies and ask. Then write to manufacturers and tell them you'll stop buying cans that contain it.
Learn more For information about reducing your and your baby's exposure to BPA, check out the Environmental Working Group's Survey of BPA in U.S. Canned Foods (www.ewg.org/reports/bisphenola).
4. Detoxify bathtime by learning which ingredients to avoid
Cozy Friedman opened her first of three children's hair salons, Cozy's Cuts For Kids (cozyscuts.com), in 1994 with the idea of taking something potentially unfriendly or scary for children and making it fun. She provides colorful car-shaped styling chairs, entertaining videos, toys, balloons and bubbles. She also developed her So Cozy line of hair care products with kid-friendly fruity fragrances.
It wasn't until her two boys, Shane and Riley (now 9 and 7), were old enough to need regular haircuts that she began wondering about the environmental movement and the advantages of using greener products for her children and herself. First, she noticed a lack of FDA control over terms like "natural." Then she noticed a lot of what seemed to be deceptive advertising.
"Any product can say 'natural' on the label. But as a consumer and a mother, I see methyl paraben [a preservative and fungicide that is an endocrine disruptor] on the list of ingredients and I know that's not natural," Friedman says. Also, phthalates (chemicals made from petroleum and commonly used in plastics and cosmetics) are a concern in baby shampoo, and they're not required to be listed on labels.
Clean up with green goods
To ensure the safety of her own line of products, Friedman revised her formulas to make them not only friendly to kids, but friendly to the environment. She replaced the parabens with a naturally occurring amino acid that inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold.
Friedman also added 11 herbal extracts (including comfrey, horsetail, aloe vera and tea tree oil), wrapped the products in 100 percent recyclable packaging and began using environmentally responsible manufacturing practices. They still have fruity fragrances, but the scents come from a gentler combination of ingredients that are less toxic than many chemicals that can be listed under the generic term "fragrance."
What you can do
Lean toward natural Go to cosmetics database.com for a searchable database of 25,000 products cross-referenced against 50 toxicity databases.
Read the ingredients list Before buying personal care products for you and your baby, read labels carefully. Avoid methyl paraben and phthalates. They may not be listed, so check on the Internet.