How Your Home Environment Affects Your Baby

by Teresa J. Mitchell

How Home Environment Affects BabyBabies explore their worlds by rolling around, crawling over, touching, poking, sleeping on, and practicing hand-to-mouth coordination by tasting it. The world is their conquest even if the "world" is your living room carpet.

Could that inquisitive spirit expose your curious conqueror to more than just knowledge?

Scientific evidence says the rise of chronic diseases, cancer, autism, asthma, birth defects, and learning disabilities could be coming from the chemicals found around your home.

You have the power to turn your potentially toxic home into a safe one for you and your family. This won't take a lot of time or money. Take these three baby steps today to green up your home environment.

Whether you replace a common cleanser with a safer alternative, toss a couple organic vegetables in your shopping cart, or opt to open the window for a few minutes, you've marched forward on your quest for a safe home.

You can create a healthy environment where you and your baby can flourish in as little as 10 minutes.

Tour Your Home for Hidden Toxins

Walk through each room. These are the common hiding places for harmful chemicals. Even a small change can have a huge impact in greening up your home.

The Kitchen

Plastic food containers: It's cheap, convenient and usually doesn't break, even when a helpful child sends it bouncing to the floor. Plastic containers have a down side. The chemicals can leach into your food, especially if you re-heat food in them. Instead of popping the plastic in the microwave, dump the food into a microwave-safe bowl or container that isn't made out of plastic.

✓ Read the numbers on your plastic storage containers. Those labeled #1, #2, #4 or #5 are safer.

✓ Opt for glass or stainless steel containers.

Pots and pans: Non-stick coating on pots and pans can release toxic fumes at high temperatures. If any of your cookware is scratched, little bits and pieces of that coating can mix into your food, yuck!

✓ Stick to cooking with low or medium heat. Never preheat the pots or pans on high.

✓ Cook with Ceramic ovenware and cast iron or stainless steel cookware. Cast iron pans have the added bonus of iron from the pan positively entering your food for added nutrients!

Cleaning products: Conventional cleaning products can contain harmful chemicals. These ingredients might not be listed clearly on the label. Buyer beware!

✓ Look for natural or non-toxic cleaning products that don't contain harsh solvents, fragrances, chlorine or ammonia. Their labels will be clearly marked. Most common grocery stores carry these types of products.

✓ Use baking soda for scouring, lemon juice or vinegar as an antibacterial agent, and other safe pantry items for cleaning.

The Family Room

TV dust: Electronics can contain flame retardants. When your TV heats up, its plastic casing releases toxins that settle into the pool of household dust. Your inquisitive explorer can potentially breathe in the contaminated dust or chew on a toy coated with it. We're not saying you'd purposely let your baby eat dust -- dust happens and babies find it.

✓ Dust your older TV regularly with a damp (not wet) cloth.

✓ Look for a PBDE-free model when you purchase a new TV.

Walls and painted surfaces: Homes built as recently as 1978 can have lead paint on the walls and other surfaces (like windows). Even low-level exposure to lead can affect brain development, before and after your baby's born. Volatile organic compound (VOC) fumes have been known to cause headaches, respiratory irritation and other problems.

✓ Test your home for lead. If the paint in your home contains lead, work with a professional to have it safely removed.