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When most parents, or parents-to-be, think of the words “baby proofing,” they no doubt think of buying outlet covers, installing baby gates and placing child-proof locks on cabinet doors containing cleaning products. However, what you may have missed are three potentially dangerous substances to babies and children that can be found in many different areas in your home.

Toxins in Your Home

Green Living calls them the “Dangerous Trio,” and they include Phthalates, PBDEs and formaldehyde. Read more to find out what these pollutants are, why they’re harmful and what you can do to eliminate these toxins in your home to create a safe and healthy atmosphere for your little ones.

  • Phthalates are chemicals used to help make plastic more flexible and durable. The EPA recently put phthalates on a list of chemicals that “may present a risk,” according to CBS News. It’s most common in PVC, but can even be found in products such as baby toys and bottles, or home products like shower curtains. When shopping for these items, look for products that are phthalate-free.
  • PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are a type of flame retardant substance that were commonly used in textiles, carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture and even in electronic devices up until 2005, when they were removed from U.S. markets. This chemical becomes dangerous to children when particles of this substance settle into household dust as the products slowly degrade. And as most parents know, even objects with dust unavoidably become chew toys to babies on the go. If you’re concerned about PBDE levels in your home, consider replacing some of the above items if they were manufactured prior to 2005.
  • Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that can often be found in the air and can cause anything from rashes and irritated eyes to more serious respiratory problems. Formaldehyde can be found in many parts of your home, especially if your home was built before the 1980’s, when much of the insulation contained formaldehyde. Other materials in your home that may contain this harmful substance are carpets and many man-made wood products like particleboard, plywood and fiberboard that are often found in furniture, cabinets and sub-flooring. The best way to check if your home is free from harmful levels of formaldehyde is to bypass the home test kits, which often are inaccurate. Instead call your city’s building inspector to get a more accurate read of your formaldehyde levels.

While you’d be hard pressed to completely remove all forms of these three chemicals in your home, it’s safe to assume that getting rid of their presence as best you can will likely increase the safety of your family, especially your children. Similar to checking for formaldehyde, call your city’s building inspector and make an appointment for him to come and check your entire house for these three chemicals, as well as others like asbestos and lead.

If detected, home repairs and renovations could be expensive but worth the money to help ensure your family’s safety. One option to pay for costly but important home repairs is to use the home equity that you’ve built. After all, these projects will likely increase the value of your home while keeping your entire family safe and healthy.

Thoughts on Baby Proofing

I'd love to hear from you. How many of you are parents? How many of you have baby proofed your home? What are some of your biggest worries?

Photo Credit: Cindy Funk

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1 comment add your comment

  1. PBDEs were not banned nationwide in the US. The US manufacturers agreed to a voluntary ban on production, but PBDEs are still present in imported products. A handful of states have bans on PBDEs in certain products, but not all. It is inaccurate to say they were removed from the market because that implies that consumer products containing PBDEs were removed from the market, but that is not the case at all.

    Phthalates are present in PVC because they are plasticizers. They are present in some children’s and baby products because those products contain or are made out of PVC. The sentence that states phthalates “can even be found” misleads the reader to suggest that the phthalates are present in a substance other than PVC. While phthalates are used in products with synthetic scent and also beauty products, they are typically found in children’s products because of the PVC, not in spite of it. Also, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) bans 6 phthalates in toys and child care articles, so those items purchased today should not have any of the 6 regulated phthalates present.

    And, my pet peeve, the misuse of the term “toxins.” The term toxins refers to poisonous substances produced within living cells or organisms, such as snake venom. The term toxicant refers to poisonous substances not produced within living cells or organisms, such as manmade substances, including PBDEs and phthalates.