By Karen Spangler
If you're a new parent, it can be confusing to keep up with the latest recommendations about how to give your baby a healthy start. As scientists learn more about the dangers of toxic chemical exposure to babies' developing bodies and brains, some products haven't stood the test of time. Here are three of the biggest differences about what parents do now compared to just a generation ago.
1. Choosing Organic<p>Parents have been making their own baby food at home for generations, and it's a great way to know what's on your baby's plate. Who doesn't love some home-mashed sweet potatoes smeared across that cute face? But today we know more about the damaging health effects of pesticide exposure, and how long pesticide residue can linger in the fruits and vegetables we buy. Doctors <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/just-released-ewg-s-2019-shopper-s-guide-pesticides-produce" target="_blank">recommend</a> limiting babies' pesticide exposure as much as possible due to increased risks of tumors, leukemia and effects on brain development from these chemicals.</p><p>When you're making your baby's first foods, consider organic fruits and vegetables, or those with lower levels of pesticide residues. EWG's <a href="https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/full-list.php" target="_blank">2019 ranking</a> of pesticide contamination in produce found that avocados were No. 1 on the Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least contaminated with pesticide residue. Of all the produce tested, strawberries, spinach and kale top the Dirty Dozen™ list of fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue. To reduce your baby's exposure, buy versions of these items produced with organic farming methods.</p><p>If you're short of time, don't forget you have more options than ever for organic premade baby food, both at specialty retailers and major grocery stores.</p>
2. Tossing the Baby Powder<p><br>Baby powder is another classic you'd think would be great for, well, babies. But <a href="https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-5TipsSaferCosmeticsKids.pdf?_gl=1*85c97l*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1NjcwMDk0MDkuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JMEtIcDlfeWw1QUlWbUlqSUNoM3YyUXhGRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0x0VV9EX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.117949578.2042356046.1567109717-2011668135.1528827282" target="_blank">airborne particles</a> can make their way into a baby's lungs, which is especially concerning since talcum powder can contain <a href="https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-5TipsSaferCosmeticsKids.pdf?_gl=1*85c97l*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1NjcwMDk0MDkuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JMEtIcDlfeWw1QUlWbUlqSUNoM3YyUXhGRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0x0VV9EX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.117949578.2042356046.1567109717-2011668135.1528827282" target="_blank">unknown amounts</a> of asbestos. Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen, and inhaling even a tiny amount can cause cancer later in life. Make sure to check <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG's Skin Deep®</a> so you avoid using other products on your baby that could contain talc.</p><p>There's another reason to ditch the baby powder: It often contains fragrance, a common <a href="https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-5TipsSaferCosmeticsKids.pdf?_gl=1*85c97l*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1NjcwMDk0MDkuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JMEtIcDlfeWw1QUlWbUlqSUNoM3YyUXhGRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0x0VV9EX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.117949578.2042356046.1567109717-2011668135.1528827282" target="_blank">cause</a> of skin irritation. Manufacturers are allowed to keep the exact <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wAToqkcAow" target="_blank">fragrance ingredients</a> under wraps, but they can include chemicals such as phthalates, which have been linked to harmful health effects.</p><p>Good alternatives: Zinc-based diaper creams create a strong protective barrier, and there are a number of <a href="https://www.ewg.org/ewgverified/" target="_blank">EWG VERIFIED™</a> options. You can also find safer alternatives for your baby's personal care products in <a href="https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-5TipsSaferCosmeticsKids.pdf?_gl=1*1em6xc9*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE1NjcwMDk0MDkuRUFJYUlRb2JDaE1JMEtIcDlfeWw1QUlWbUlqSUNoM3YyUXhGRUFBWUFTQUFFZ0x0VV9EX0J3RQ..&_ga=2.44390755.613739430.1568812661-2011668135.1528827282&" target="_blank">EWG's guide</a> to choosing safer personal care products for kids.</p>
3. Avoiding Flame Retardants<p>Decades ago, concerns about the fire danger of foam furniture, like sofas and mattresses, led manufacturers to add flame-retardant chemicals to many kids' products. Today scientists know these toxic <a href="https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2017/02/flame-retardant-roulette-swapping-one-toxic-compound-another" target="_blank">chemicals</a> carry their own serious health effects, including cancer and disruption of the endocrine system.</p><p>Penta-BDE, for years the main flame retardant added to foam products, is now banned, due to reproductive toxicity. But its replacement, triphenyl phosphate, has also been<a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/nailed/nail-polish-chemical-doubles-furniture-fire-retardant" target="_blank"> shown</a> to accumulate in the bloodstream and cause reproductive and developmental abnormalities in animals. Considering that the average infant sleeps 12 to 16 hours a day, it's worth scrutinizing that mattress label.</p><p>To keep your baby safe, choose a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/healthyhomeguide/mattresses/" target="_blank">crib mattress</a> made with wool or polylactic acid for flame resistance, rather than chemical flame retardants. You should also make sure to check with the manufacturer on any hand-me-downs for flame retardants.</p><p>Additionally, avoid PVC or vinyl waterproof mattress covers; choose natural cotton with a PUL layer, or polyethylene instead.</p><p>To steer clear of flame retardants in your baby's clothing, choose snug-fitting cotton or wool pajamas, as "loose-fitting" kids' sleepwear is <a href="https://www.cpsc.gov/Business--Manufacturing/Testing-Certification/Testing/Childrens-Sleepwear-Lab-Bulletin/%3Futm_source%3Drss%26utm_medium%3Drss%26utm_campaign%3DLab%2BBulletins" target="_blank">required by law</a> to be flame resistant, often using toxic chemicals.</p><p>To learn more about protecting your child's health as they grow, see EWG's <a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/" target="_blank">Children's Health Initiative</a> for the latest research and tip sheets.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Nicole Ferox
It's that time of year: Mosquitoes and ticks are out in full force, and so are all the latest bug repellent products claiming to keep them at bay. So what bug repellent ingredients do Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists recommend for kids? Our top picks are DEET, Picaridin and IR3535. These ingredients have low safety concerns and offer a high level of protection from a variety of biting insects and ticks.
Can I really use DEET? I thought it was dangerous.<p>Yes, DEET is a reasonable choice when used as directed, even for children. Still, after reviewing the evidence, EWG researchers concluded that it is best to use the lowest effective concentration of DEET, even though it's effective and generally safer than is commonly assumed.</p><p>Picaridin is a great alternative to DEET. It effectively repels both mosquitoes and ticks and, compared to other repellents, is less likely to irritate eyes and skin.</p><p>EWG research indicates that, in general, "natural" bug repellent ingredients like castor, cedar, citronella, clove, geraniol, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and/or soybean oils are often not the best choice.</p>
How do I know if there’s a risk of insect-borne disease in my area?<p>Ask your pediatrician or check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maps listed below. If you're traveling internationally, check the CDC website for information about the <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/world-map-areas-with-zika" target="_blank">Zika virus</a>.</p><ul><li><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/statsmaps/index.html" target="_blank">U.S. Map of Reported Cases of West Nile Virus</a></li><li><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/maps.html" target="_blank">U.S. Map of Reported Cases of Lyme Disease</a></li><li><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html" target="_blank">U.S. Maps of Ticks Carrying Lyme Disease</a></li></ul>
More Information<p><a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-guide-bug-repellents" target="_blank">EWG's Guide to Bug Repellents</a></p><p><a href="https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22197/ask-ewg-what-s-best-bug-spray-buy-my-kids" target="_blank">Ask EWG: What's the Best Bug Spray to Buy for my Kids?</a></p><p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/prevent-mosquito-bites.html" target="_blank">CDC: Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites</a></p>
- How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Your Kids - EcoWatch ›
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Seasonal spikes of atrazine–a weed killer that can disrupt hormones and harm developing fetuses–contaminate drinking water in corn-growing areas of the Midwest and beyond, according to an analysis of federal records by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
By Sydney Swanson
As we head into the holiday season, the marathon task of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner or even just one dish to contribute as a guest—may be stressful.
To help you combat the inevitable stress surrounding this meal, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has put together this guide suggesting what to make yourself and what to buy, and when to go organic.
By Dawn Undurraga, Nutritionist and Nicole Ferox, Manager Foundations Relations and Sydney Swanson, Associate Database Analyst
Parents are trapped in the Halloween guilt vortex: going full-scale green mom, handing out whole walnuts or pennies or dental floss to avoid loading kids with sugar and additives but thereby making their kids cringe and giving them stories to stockpile about their ridiculous hippie childhood.
Eating organic foods free from pesticides is strongly correlated with a dramatic reduction in the risk of cancer, according to a groundbreaking study published today in an American Medical Association journal.
The White House's just-released list of planned environmental and public health rollbacks includes letting high-school-age kids spray brain-damaging pesticides on commercial farms.
Under pressure from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and other environmental and public health groups, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned seven substances used in artificial flavors that have been linked to cancer in animals.
House and Senate leaders included a provision in legislation to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and strengthen disaster programs that will give commercial airports the option to switch to firefighting foams that do not include the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.
Duke University Study: N.C. Residents Living Near Large Hog Farms Have Elevated Disease, Death Risks
By Olga Naidenko and Sydney Evans
Residents of communities near industrial-scale hog farms in North Carolina face an increased risk of potentially deadly diseases, Duke University scientists reported in a study released this week.
By Sarah Graddy and Robert Coleman
This summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Florida Gov. Scott Issues Emergency Order for Toxic Red Tide ›
- What Is Causing Florida's Algae Crisis? 5 Questions Answered ›