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hrough good times and bad, people often worry about what sort of world they are bringing a child into and yet in spite of everything, we do still keep having babies. In the last couple of years, most “thinking” people have come to realize that perhaps they can do their bit to help the environment and that includes trying to lessen the impact that your baby, as well as the rest of your family, has on that environment.
There are many ways in which we can turn to a more natural way of family life and reduce our carbon foot print without being seen as “hippies”.
The most obvious by product of a new baby is the disposable diaper. Disposable diapers have without a doubt put a huge strain on landfill sites. Every baby who wears disposables will send about 5000 of these to landfill sites. This means about 50 million diapers everyday in the US where they will take up to 500 years to biodegrade. This is quite a thought to stomach.
In addition, a baby using disposable diapers for the first 2 years of his life, consumes 4.5 trees and puts two tones of solid waste into our environment.
Toxic chemicals in disposable diapers
Sodium polyacrylate is the chemical that makes disposables super-absorbent, absorbing up to 100 times their weight in water. However, this same chemical can stick to your baby’s genitals, cause allergic reactions and when injected into laboratory rats caused hemorrhage, cardiovascular failure and death. In the US, this very chemical was removed from tampons in 1985 when it was linked to toxic shock syndrome. Dioxin is a by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in manufacturing disposable diapers and is the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. It causes effects such as birth defects and liver disease in laboratory animals.
The disposing of disposable diapers
Public health Associations have advised that faecal material and urine should not be allowed to be disposed of as regular trash because of the risk of contaminating ground water and spreading disease. As many as 100 viruses can survive in solid diapers for up to 2 weeks including live polio virus excreted by recently vaccinated babies, posing a potential hazard to sanitation workers and garbage handlers.
By the same token rodents and vectors pose a health hazard if human waste is mixed with garbage. In spite of these risks, most soiled diapers are tossed into household, hospital or roadside garbage.
If you flush disposable diapers down the toilet you risk contributing to the 95% of all clogged sewer lines in the US as well as creating 43 000 tonnes of extra sludge.
The alternatives for disposable diapers
You do of course have the choice to use cloth nappies with a biodegradable liner. These days, cloth nappies are well designed so they are less bulky and easy to put on and take off and they come with a range of waterproof outers. They can be easily laundered at home in your washing machine.
A fairly new innovation and one well worth investigating is the biodegradable diaper that can be flushed down the toilet. This diaper breaks down in 50 to 150 days and is growing in popularity amongst parents who are concerned about the environment.
Other areas of concern
Parents are becoming aware of the frightening studies about the toxicity of their babies’ environment resulting in a tremendous growth in the use of organic baby food, the breast feeding of babies instead of using formula, the switch to toys made from wood and other natural products rather than plastic and even concerns about the paint used on the walls, the carpets and other floor coverings and the products used in the cot mattress or the bed linen and clothing. Parents are increasingly concerned about the amount of toxicity given off by the chemicals in manufactured goods.
80% of the world’s toys are made in China – there are 10 000 toy factories in that vast country and over 21 million toys were recalled during 2007 by US toy company Mattel because of healthy and safety concerns.
The good news
Many companies today cater for babies and young children by offering products carefully selected for quality, purity, safety and produced in such a way that cares both for the earth and its workers.
Clothes and linen using organic cotton which is grown and processed without the use of harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides (and which have no finishing -chemicals such as bleaches and fire-retardants which contain dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde) are becoming more widely available and growing in popularity. The wearing of organic cotton next to the skin allows ventilation, absorbing body moisture and helping maintain an even body temperature. Merino wool is the perfect fabric for new born baby being soft and non irritating.
Remember that all natural fibers are naturally fire resistant eliminating the need for dangerous fire-retardant chemicals to be used.
Very young babies do not need soaps, shampoos and creams and potions – they are far more sensitive to chemicals than adults are. So when you do have to start using cleansing products, ensure they are made from natural ingredients.
As more and more people are educated as to the advantages of a more natural way of life, these changes will benefit our environment but they will also undoubtedly show an improvement in the health of both the babies and their parents.