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Chemical Fears of A Mother

When I discovered I was expecting my first child I went about pregnancy much as I would have any other situation. Educate myself on what I should know, make decisions and move in their direction without prejudice or fear. Well, that is not entirely honest, fear has always been a part of my life, but never in control. I have always acted with courage. Whether right or wrong, once I made a decision I moved forward. I once walked in a Subway and loudly demanded to know who had left their dog tied outside in 10 degree weather for over an hour. When several large construction workers in line turned to look at me, it gave me only a moments pause. Turns out it was a woman in the store next door and those men were just as outraged and put the fear of God in her more than I ever could. I have always experienced fear, but if anything it was a motivator.

Until I had my children.

Now fear can cripple me in an instant and turn me into a self doubting mess. Nothing more so than discovering the toxic chemicals that are commonly found in every household, on every grocery store aisle, in car seats, clothes, pillows, mattresses, couches, fake Christmas trees….I could go on and on. They are everywhere and can not be avoided. Where do I shop, what do I buy, what is safe, what is it doing to my children?  My children are getting poisoned everyday, by the things I buy and bring to them.  It makes me shudder.

My Husband got me thinking about this when he offered our outgrown car seat to a expecting Mother at work. She was beside herself. She couldn’t find a  car seat  that wasn’t treated with flame retardant. She was beginning to experience the fear too. My heart went out to her. As my Husband began to relay all the various surprising facts about seemingly harmless products she began making notes. There were things she had never thought about. ” My wife has a whole list, are you sure you want to know these things?” he asked. “Yes” she demanded. So Megan, this post is for you.

There are a great many chemicals, but for today I’m going to cover just 2. In my opinion the 2 most prevalent and noxious chemicals and what to do about them.

Flame Retardants

 This chemical is linked to cancer, reproductive concerns, lower IQ’s and organ damage

Found In

Mattresses, pillows, children’s sleepwear, comforters, all upholstered furniture (including children’s furniture), children’s car seats, curtains, fabric blinds, carpet, car interiors, citrus drinks ( Gatorade, Fresca etc), as well as many electronics. Their are more products, but these are the ones that touch our lives on a daily basis. If it is filled with stuffing it will be treated. Keep that in mind.

What you can do

Buy Preowned! Flame retardants will off gas over time. Some research says around the year mark the majority of flame retardants are gone. The one exception is the label “inherently flame resistant”. This is a synthetic flame retardant bonded to the thread before the fabric is made. It will never off gas. Children’s products and furniture can all be easily purchased through Ebay, garage sales, Craig’s list and thrift stores. Ask for hand me downs and check classifieds. I know for some people this is bothersome. They want to run out and purchase all new things for their precious child because they believe this is the safest thing to do. When in fact it is the opposite.

Car seats… *sigh*… this is about the saddest new purchase you will make for your little one. There is no way to avoid your new car seat being full of toxic chemicals. There are some companies such as Orbit that are better, but not by much and they are pricey. Check for the health rating. Be aware they do not test for all types of flame retardants, but it is the best resource I have found. Also check Etsy for handmade car seat covers. This will help minimize skin contact. Take off the cover and wash it with a free and clear non toxic detergent and let the whole thing sit outside for as long as you possibly can before use. Once installed air out your car as often as possible. Purchasing a used car seat can be scary, I will grant you that.  You’ll have to depend on luck to find the one that has the safety rating you want. Hand me downs are nice, because you can be sure it hasn’t been banged about and abused. Check recall notices at  and give it a good look over for anything loose or missing.

Purchase 100% cotton snug fitting pajamas. These are not treated.

If you must buy new ask for the display model. Most places will gladly let you have the display model if you simply explain your child has a chemical sensitivity and the chemicals on the display model have had a chance to dissipate. Most people will jump at the chance to help you. It’s not a lie, it is a truth, but it does imply that your child has a special need. If this bothers you then tell them the whole truth. It might work too. I tried that and the sales rep looked at me like I was a loon and was even less helpful after that. Give all new items a good go over with a free & clear soap and put it outside to dry. Let it sit in the clean air and sunshine to off gas.

Check your labels. Do not give your child a fruity beverage without first looking for the ingredient brominated vegetable oil or BVO( flame retardant). Many companies are beginning to remove it such as Pepsi, but several have not. I know! This one was a shocker, flame retardant in beverages?! It’s used to make sure the citrus bits don’t make the beverage cloudy. Seriously.


This chemical is linked to cancer, allergies and a myriad of respiratory concerns

Found In

Pressed wood(most inexpensive furniture is made of pressed wood). It is abundant in new homes, as it is found in timber, cabinetry, insulation, caulk, paint, polyurethane, insulation, carpet glue etc.  Also found in household glue, baby shampoo, baby body wash, adult hair care products, most all antibacterial products, many bar soaps, sunblock, cosmetics, baby wipes, toothpaste, many household cleaning products, facial tissues, sanitary napkins and the list goes on. This  is my most hated chemical. It’s in everything.

What you can do

Make your own household cleaning products. Type in “natural homemade cleaning products” in your search bar and you will find a wealth of ways to clean your home better, cheaper and healthier. I clean my house using only vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice,  free & clear organic dish soap and tea tree oil. For just a few minutes and a few dollars you will feel like a homemaking super star.

Buy eco friendly or organic personal care items. Be careful, there is a lot of “greenwashing”. A simple plant derived ingredient or one organic ingredient allows manufacturers to label as such. You are going to have to do your research here. I wish there was a list somewhere, but there isn’t. My best research for baby items is Mommy sites. Mothers are always happy to share their research and experiences.

Buy preowned furniture and homes! Formaldehyde will also off gas.  If you must have new then once again opt for display or older models. Buy the RV, boat or car that has been sitting on the lot off gassing. Or look for model homes or new built homes where the deal fell through.

If you already bought that new home keep at least one window open in your home at all times and buy some plants. ( be careful if you have cats, they will eat them and a great many are toxic to kitties). Also you can “burn out” some of the formaldehyde by cranking up your heat for 24 hours, then open up all the windows and air it out for 24 hours and repeat for a week. This requires  a vacation and a helpful friend or neighbor. But even a full 48 hours is better than nothing.

Read your labels, sadly it won’t say formaldehyde. That would be too easy. Here is what you should look for.

There are a great many dangerous chemicals in our lives and it is impossible to keep them all out. I will be covering more of these lurking chemicals, unfortunately there are just too many for one post and too little time to get it done in one day. But there are ways to minimize them, it starts with education and then changing the way we shop and sadly the way we see the world. Nothing is as it seems.


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