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Choose natural baby blankets

By Jennifer Spero |
Blankies are a baby's best friend. Make your baby's a friend of the earth as well by giving your little one an organic fiber blanket that does not contain irritating dyes or off-gassing chemical treatments.

Letting your baby go au natural doesn't have to mean joining the diaper-free movement. Natural baby blankets wrap your little one in the warmth of organic fibers that haven't been treated with harsh dyes or chemical finishes. Like chem-free baby clothes and organic baby food, natural baby blankets keep chemicals out of the nursery and out of our air and water.

Choosing natural baby blankets helps you go green because…

  • Organic farming methods protect the air, water, and wildlife from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and help combat global warming.
  • Bamboo is an environmentally friendly fiber that grows abundantly — and quickly — with few pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.
  • Undyed or naturally dyed textiles avoid conventional petroleum-based dyes, opting instead for eco-friendly colorings that use less water and energy in the finishing process and do not create toxic runoff for waterways.
  • Blankets that have not been treated with chemical finishes do not create toxic runoff, and the end product does not contain harmful chemicals that can irritate the skin and off-gas into the air we breathe.

The eco-impacts of baby blankets are associated with the procurement of materials to make the blanket, the manufacturing of the blanket itself, and chemical treatments applied to the finished product.

Baby blankets can be made from natural fibers (like cotton, wool, and bamboo) and synthetic materials (like polyester, acrylic, and nylon). Synthetic fibers are made from petrochemicals, which are non-renewable resources [1]and contribute to the environmental hazards associated with petroleum procurement and processing, including disruption of land and ocean habitats and pollution of air and water supplies.[2]

Conventionally grown natural fibers have their own environmental impacts, most notably chemical pollution from pesticides and fertilizers, and other treatments. Untreated and organic fibers minimize some of these environmental costs because they are grown with sustainable agricultural processes.

Organic cotton and wool are grown chemical free, avoiding the contamination associated with conventional agriculture. However, its production still requires significant amounts of irrigated water.[3] Bamboo is a sustainable crop: bamboo grass is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, with some species growing 30 inches every day.[4] Bamboo traditionally does not require pesticide and fertilizers.

Bedding textiles, including baby blankets, endure multiple processing steps, including spinning, dyeing, weaving, scouring and sizing. If they are made conventionally, harmful chemicals are used to remove all color before the fabric is dyed with traditional dyes.[5] Throughout the manufacturing process, the fabric is flushed with water, which creates a potential for wastewater contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and bleach, which produces dioxin — a human carcinogen.[6] Baby blankets that boast no dyes or bleaches, as well as plant- or water-derived dyes, are not subject to this chemical-intensive processing.

Related health issues

Contact with the chemicals used in textile dyeing can lead to dermatological and respiratory allergies.[7] Although fiber-reactive dyes are believed to be gentler on the environment they contain sodium carbonate, a source of asthma and other lung ailments.[7]

Formaldehyde, when present in the air, can trigger watery eyes, and other ailments.[8] The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) notes that formaldehyde can cause nasopharyngeal cancer (cancer of the nose and throat).[9] Formaldehyde does not completely wash out in the laundry but the emissions can be reduced by about 60 percent.[10]

Glossary

  • formaldehyde: A flammable reactive gas belonging to the VOC (volatile organic compound) family of chemicals. It is widely used in personal care products, building materials, insulation, and home furnishings. Ingestion of the chemical can cause severe physical reactions, including coma, internal bleeding, and death. The US Department of Health and Human Services considers it a probable human carcinogen.
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air. VOCs are emitted by thousands of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings and they may cause immediate and long-term health problems.

Footnotes

  1. Fibersource - Acrylic Fiber
  2. Energy Information Administration - Energy Kids Page: Petroleum (Oil) - A Fossil Fuel
  3. Green Living Tips - Organic cotton: Cotton and the environment
  4. Christian Science Monitor - Easy on the Eyes and the Environment
  5. Madehow.com - Bed Sheet
  6. Grist - Ask Umbra: The Environmentalists' New Clothes - Advice on natural fabrics vs. polyester
  7. The Green Guide - Color By Nature
  8. National Safety Council - Formaldehyde
  9. International Agency for Research on Cancer - Press Release: IARC Classifies Formaldehyde as Carcinogenic to Humans
  10. California Environmental Protection Agency - Air Resources Board Research Notes: Indoor Emissions of Formaldehyde and Toluene Diisocyanate
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