Last November, one of our readers asked me an excellent question: With so many “organic” choices and so many different words being thrown around, how do I know what is “truly organic” for my baby and what should I be looking for?
This question was so important that it inspired a blog post from me. It really struck a cord with many of you because it is something that so many parents want to know. So by popular request- here it is again. Enjoy and please be sure to leave me your comments and share these tips!
What to Look for When Buying Organic Products for Your Baby
So many parents would like a cleaner, kinder earth for their baby. They have decided to reduce their baby’s exposure to pesticides, bleaching chemicals or formaldehyde. Now what? How do you navigate what has become a maze of terms out there : organic, green, natural, eco friendly, fair trade, no voc, non toxic.
Some of these terms mean something and some don’t. Some pertain to food & fiber and some pertain to furniture.
So here goes …
There are many levels of answers to this simple question so I will try to give you some simple guideposts as they pertain to clothing, bedding, nursery furniture and paint.
First : Natural or Green is not Organic : Natural is often a marketing term and can have nothing to do with the way in which the product is manufactured. Likewise the term Green is a marketing term and while there may be nothing wrong in using it in advertising to draw attention to the green values something may have, when you are purchasing a product, you need to look deeper and not just assume if it is says it is green then it is organic.
Second : Certified Organic is Important. There are standards about what can be labeled as certified organic. Standards clarify and make labeling consistent, protecting the integrity of the organic guarantee. The standards cover a system of production, processing, distribution and sales that assures consumers that the products maintain the organic integrity that begins on the farm. The USDA (U.S. Dept of Agriculture) oversees and enforces certification.
Third : What Organic does and doesn’t mean. Organic agriculture prohibits the use of toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, irradiation, sewage sludge, and genetic engineering in anything labeled organic.
Organic refers to the way agricultural products (food and fiber) are grown and processed. It is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, so it is very kind to the Earth.
This term however, does not apply to the manufacture of furniture such as cribs. Organic does not mean Fair Trade or say anything about the conditions for workers.
Fourth : For Furniture such as cribs, Indoor Air quality and Forest Stewardship Council are important. So there are two aspects to consider in furniture, the first affects the indoor air quality and what your child will be directly exposed to. The terms Indoor Air Quality and NO VOC are important here both in terms of furniture and paints (VOC stands for volatile organic compound and it is NOT good). They are chemicals that become vapors at room temperature and are typically used in furniture in wood glues, wood stains and paints. The second aspect has to do with the care of the earth and not cutting down trees in an irresponsible way that will threaten local and world ecosystems. Certified Wood assures that you are supporting responsible, sustainable forestry practices.
And although particle board, which is used in most cribs, is often manufactured from timber waste, it has the worst Indoor Air Quality as it contains lots of formaldehyde, which will constantly leach into the air over time.