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DW and I are expecting our first child in a couple of months, and there are times when this whole "caring for a helpless new life" thing becomes a little worrisome. For example, I only learned within the past year or so that the "stuff" (sodium polyacrylate) in disposable diapers that makes them super-absorbant has been banned from feminine hygiene products due to a link with toxic shock, and that the list of ingredients also includes dioxins and other toxic goodies ( Also, I recently read there are some wonderful ingredients in most shampoos, soaps, lotions, etc. called phthalates that have recently been shown to be absorbed and processed by babies bodies ( - which may or may do something bad to them - but obviously aren't meant to be included in part of a balanced diet (and isn't required labeling on the part of the manufacturer).

We just stocked up on our first set of cloth diapers (Bum Genius, Swaddlebees, and some other very modern innovations in cloth diaper technology) and Burt's Bees baby care products, and I'm currently at ease about these issues, but what the hell else is out there? It's a war!

What baby-specific products are you all using?
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Most plastics today, and the invisible coating inside the cans containing canned vegetables, fruits, and soups, contain bisphenol-A, which is a synthetic estrogen and, if it accumulates in animals, humans, shellfish, whatever -- can have hormonally disruptive effects. These plastic items include baby bottles, baby toys, you name it. But there are alternatives emerging.

Here's a website giving information for new parents, with recommendations. I'm pasting in the initial part of the "Recommendations" section, then the link to the whole thing.


Teethers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has created a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel, which the agency hopes will report in about a year on the safety of PVC, phthalates, and alternative substances. Meanwhile, we recommend that parents of young children follow the commission's advice to dispose of all PVC teethers and soft toys used by infants "as a precaution," and to replace them with items that are phthalate-free.

To increase your chance of finding phthalate-free items, shop at one of the stores that have pledged to stop selling heavily mouthed baby products with phthalates, including Kmart, Sears, Target, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart.

If you shop elsewhere, avoid using the item until you call the manufacturer's toll-free number you'll find on the product packaging. Return the item to the store if it isn't phthalate-free.

Baby bottles. Just to be safe, to avoid any possible exposure to bisphenol-A we advise parents of young children to dispose of polycarbonate baby bottles and replace them with bottles made of glass or polyethylene, an opaque, less-shiny plastic that does not leach bisphenol-A.

Unfortunately, plastic baby bottles do not explicitly indicate that they're made of polycarbonate. But there are some ways you can tell; see "What to Do," below. Or you could call the manufacturer's toll-free number, listed on the package.

A young scientist/new mother discusses her conflicts, anxieties, choices....

Here's an article from the Environmental Working Group just written last month discussing the problem, focusing especially on baby bottles.

One thing they note is that "In the United States, Dr. Brown's brand baby bottles had the highest leaching of bisphenol-A whereas Avent had the lowest."

There's a variety of recommendations at the end of the article, plus some additional reading sources.

Another additive to look out for is anything in the paraben family--methylparaben, etc. They're preservatives commonly used in skin care products, and they're also estrogenic. Some companies have begun making products that are paraben-free. add a dose of reassurance....I raised my kids with Huggies and all. Plastic bottles--but we didn't have a dishwasher, so the temperatures weren't hot enough to damage the surface and facilitate leaching. Of course, if all of this information had been available then, my choices would have been different! But my kids (27 and 22) don't seem to have any health problems or abnormalities.

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Thanks Sheila. Yes, baby bottles have been a huge concern for us as well, especially my wife who has done a lot of research after learning about the phthalate problem. I believe we settled on Medela breastmilk bottles, which are polypropylene. So much to worry about, but I understand your comment about kids being raised on this stuff all of the time without problems. We try to remain cautious but not obsessive.
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baby bottles have been a huge concern for us as well, especially my wife who has done a lot of research after learning about the phthalate problem.

Bisphenol-A is, I think, as major a problem as the phthalates. It was the fairly recent work of one particular scientist--who discovered all of this by accident--who has brought the concern with both phthalates and bisphenol-A to awareness. (I heard her speak about this research just last March. She's an impressive person!)

It's not very heartening to know that today's nice and pretty and mercury-free bonded dental fillings are made possible by bisphenol-A! Yet another reason for meticulous dental hygiene! And also to avoid drinking really hot liquids, I'd think.

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Congrats on your impending arrival!

I admit to sticking my head in the sand because it just got to be too overwhelming. It's bad enough reading the articles that pertain to what's slowly killing adults* but finding out Yet Another Thing is harmful to our kiddos? Sigh.

I happen to be very lazy and, in cases like this, it's probably working in my favor. For example, Hobbes (almost three) gets about one bath a week. Sometimes not even that. Long story as to why but he's not suffering from the lack of it and has limited exposure to the shampoo i recently learned is harmful to his health.

When he was an infant, he got the occasional bottle. We used some Dr. Browns, which i now know to be on par with Three Mile Island's toxicity. Eye roll. On the advice of a friend, i didn't heat the bottle (see above, re: laziness) and he took it, no fuss. I usually washed them out by hand, occasionally sterilizing them in the dishwasher. So, looks like his exposure to that particular danger was minimal as well. Whew.

In addition to being lazy, i'm also cheap, plus i wanted my kid to develop a broad taste for food. With that reasoning, most of the food he ate was made from organic stuff in my freezer or refrigerator. (It really wasn't difficult - as i said, i am LAY-ZEE. If i can do it - cheerfully, even - anyone can.) I did buy a handful of jarred baby food to have on hand for travel but rarely used them. Another bullet dodged inadvertently.

I also used homemade wipes (water, baby oil, baby soap, white vinegar). At first, i made them with half rolls of paper towels but switched to soft rags (from DH's hole-y boxer briefs and a flannel shirt).

By making stuff yourself, you know exactly what your child is being exposed to, i.e. you have control.

We also use(d) cloth diapers mostly, for a variety of reasons, although for the first few months, i admit to keeping him in disposables more often than not. He did (and still does) wear a Huggies Overnight for bed. And when i opted for a daytime disposable, i used Seventh Generation. They aren't cheap which helped me with the whole using-them-sparingly deal. He's potty trained now - i can probably count the number of non-nighttime diapers i've used in the last six months on one hand.

Anyway, i try not to get too worked up about things because it seems like, no matter how careful we are, somewhere down the line, some study will come out "proving" whatever it was we did was horrifically wrong for our little darlings. You just can't win - not that you shouldn't try to do your best, but i think common sense goes a long way. If something doesn't feel right to you all, don't do it. Sounds like you all are on the right path already.

* Every day, a new death threat. Yet the population continues to grow. Curious.
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