I’m a neurotic mother. I admit it. When I had my first son Maxwell nine years ago, I was so neurotic I’d make family members wash their hands (ie the germs away) before holding him. I sourced the only BPA-free baby bottles that were available in Australia at the time and I refused to buy or feed him anything that wasn’t organic.
Not only food, but Maxwell’s towels, face washers, bodysuits and bedsheets were organic. His toothpaste, room freshener, clothes and dish washing liquid … you name it! I believed every scaremongering chemical myth in the media, at mothers’ group and even those hangover old wives tales past down for generations. I became a chemical-phobe. But rather than doing myself and Maxwell any good, I just became anxious and neurotic about everything.
This time round with baby number two, seven-month-old Louis, I keep my neurotic moments for the things that really matter. As a consequence, my happy-mummy gauge is much higher, I’m less anxious and I’m fairly certain that little Louis’ permanent smile and giggles have a bit to do with that!
So if ‘chemical-worry’ is becoming a hazard in your life (and your anxiety levels), take it from me and relax. Parenting is hard enough without worrying about the perceived hazards of everyday chemical ingredients in products.
To help you cut through the confusion, I’ve teamed up with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to sort some common myths of everyday chemical safety and the realities based on scientifically-proven facts. So you can focus on enjoying those precious early years with your babies and kids angst-free!
Myth 1: BPA exposure is harmful and should be avoided.
Fact: BPA is one of the most thoroughly tested chemicals in use today and has a safety track record of more than 50 years. Seriously. According to food regulatory body Food Standards Australia New Zealand, “the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that there is no health or safety issue at the levels people are exposed to.”
So why was it removed from baby bottles and sippy cups? Despite the fact that BPA has been proven safe for use in food containers, consumers were confused, which led the ACC to request that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amend its regulation to no longer provide for the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging. The FDA agreed and removed BPA from baby products given that product manufacturers had stopped using it, but the FDA’s decision was not based on any determination that BPA is unsafe.
More recently, FDA scientists published the initial results of the largest, most significant study ever conducted on BPA, demonstrating that even very low-dose exposure to BPA would not likely result in the development of adverse health effects. The study will undergo a peer review process this week. Following the peer review, the FDA’s report results will be finalised and published in a scientific journal – an important step that will validate the science and the initial findings.
Myth 2: Sunscreen is toxic.
Fact: When it comes to sun protection, the science is clear. Health experts agree that slip, slop and slapping on sunscreen is a must during outdoor summer activities to protect the skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.
Too much sun exposure can cause sunburns, premature skin aging and skin cancer. According to Cancer Council Australia, approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, with more than 750,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year. That right there is some pretty toxic figures.
But is sunscreen toxic?
In the United States, before an ingredient can be used in sunscreen, it must be approved by the FDA. Currently, FDA has approved 17 ingredients for use in sunscreen, including oxybenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Mineral sunscreens, also called sunblock, contain the active ingredients titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and protect the skin by deflecting the sun’s rays. Titanium dioxide is often a primary ingredient in sunscreen because it works well as a UV filtering ingredient. You’ll know mineral-based sunscreens because they tend to leave a white residue on the skin, but it’s easily washed off.
Myth 3: Organic food is better for you because they are not treated with chemicals.
Fact: Surprise – organic farmers also use pesticides, just like conventional farmers! The difference is organic farmers use ‘natural’ instead of ‘synthetic’ pesticides, also referred to as biopesticides. In addition, synthetic pesticides are just as highly regulated by the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) as are organic pesticides to ensure reasonable certainty of no harm to humans, animals and the environment.
There are some other pros to pesticides, too. The use of pesticides helps protect the food supply, lower the costs of foods for consumers, and ensure that the food products consumed are of excellent quality.
Myth 4: There are tens of thousands of untested chemicals in everyday products.
Fact: For more than 35 years, no new chemical has been able to come to the market without undergoing an EPA review. Under a new law, the EPA is required to update the inventory list of chemicals and the agency has greater authority to review any chemical, at any time, to protect public health and the environment.
From cleaning products, sunscreen, crayons, backpacks and rain coats – chemicals are an essential part of products used every day. While a healthy dose of vigilance is good, it’s important to arm yourself with the facts so you don’t fall prey to unwarranted fears and falsehoods.