With a whirlwind of consumerism sweeping around us, simplicity can be refreshing for your family. After the birth of our daughter Grace, people often expressed to me the burden of all the components necessary to raise a baby – pram, cot, toys, shampoo, talc, bubble bath and so on. I had a somewhat simpler approach, a sling to replace the first 3 on the list and some oatmeal to replace the last 3.

The first 3 are totally personal and children can grow up healthy and happy whatever your choices may be. The impact of your choices in the last 3 however may effect your children deeper than you may realise.

“Some of the most toxic chemicals we come into contact with are not blown in through the window from some anonymous factory or a passing car they are bought in good faith in stores and supermarkets and brought into our homes by us”

The US Environmental Protection Agencys recently found that the air quality in homes is more toxic than the outdoor air, often containing between two and five times the concentration of toxic chemicals. A survey by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in America found that of 2,983 chemicals found in personal care products, more than 30 per cent were toxic.

Here are few areas to be particularly aware of: –

Bubble Bath: Of all the toiletries that our children use, perhaps the most important from a toxicity perspective is the bubble bath as they are literally soaking in it. Salts, oils and herbal remedies have been used in the bathtub for thousands of years for their remedial and therapeutic effects. Cleopatra was famous for bathing in raw milk. Many hospitals are now recommending salt sitz baths to assist with healing stiches or tears resulting from birthing. We are increasingly aware that what we soak in does have an effect on the body, yet when it comes to the children’s bath time, some tend to overlook this important fact.

Most commercially available bubble bath contains artificial and synthetic ingredients, including flavours, colours and fragrance. To ensure the frothiness of the bubble bath, synthetic foam boosters are used. Cocamide dea (a known carcinogen) is one that is commonly used (2). There is a new market of pseudo healthy products that is blossoming on the supermarket shelves. They take the synthetic ingredient ie cocamide DEA and list it as ‘derived from coconut’. Hey presto, it suddenly becomes natural and healthy? They use the logic that if it starts as a natural ingredient that’s good enough to market it as natural (let’s quietly forget any of the effects the synthetic processing may have on the ingredient!) Hmmm…. simplistically, that’s like suggesting that if potatoes are safe for children to consume, then vodka is also. Well, perhaps processing does have an effect!
For further details on product ingredients and their potential side effects, look into the msds (material safety data sheets). One of the most complete reference sources for these is http://www.msds.com/ (you will need to register, though there is no charge for this.)

Let’s take an even closer look at processing. Ideally the ingredients contain ‘active’ levels of botanical ingredients and these are processed using only cold formulation. This ensures the ingredients are unaltered by heat or synthetic emulsifiers.

The easiest solution at bath time is a handful of oatmeal tied into a cloth, or chux. This can be used like soap on the skin. It calms and soothes any skin irritations – bites, excema etc and can be used as a perfect replacement to soap.

Talc Whilst not necessary, if you do use it be careful. Regular talcum powder is noted as a grade 3 or questionable carcinogen (3). The FDA reported that in their tests of 40 brands of talc, 39 contained asbestos (4). In Australia there are thousands of cases a year of infants accidentally inhaling talc and suffering from respiratory distress. Some of these are fatal. In adults there are four designated types of talc-induced lung disease. Greene & Pohanish P 292. Good alternatives to talc are: – cornstarch, arrowroot or potato flour. Miessence also produces a natural cornstarch based ‘body dusting powder’ containing an array of cold pressed essential oils.

Sunscreen The sun is full of nutrients. We live in a country where it is available in plentiful supply so it is rather unfortunate that so many people are phobic of it. Allow your children time to play in the sun and you will be giving them a natural vitamin pill. Like all vitamins though, respect the dosage. Rather than reach for the sunscreen, the best protection from overdose is a big hat and climate appropriate long sleeve shirts and pants.

So if a healthy home is what you desire, K.I.S.S. it – Keep It Somewhat Simple. Less is more.

If you do want products for your children, there is an increasing number of excellent Australian made products available from health foods stores or direct from via the net. Read the labels, phone the company for further details and ask questions. Personally I use the Miessence range of certified organic products, which I find to be excellent. They have a great body wash, shampoo/conditioners, insect repellent etc.