Your baby’s bib can protect more than the cute little child underneath. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free and organic cotton bibs protect your baby from exposure to lead and other toxic chemicals and the environment from toxic pollution.
Find it! Organic cotton and PVC-free bibs
No matter where you're shopping, when buying a waterproof bib, the most important thing to look for is a label stating that the product is vinyl- or PVC-free. If you are unsure, ask the manufacturer before purchasing. If waterproofing isn't a concern, go for a simple organic cotton model.
Choosing organic cotton and PVC-free bibs helps you go green because…
- PVC-free bibs do not contribute to air, ground, and water pollution associated with the manufacture and disposal of PVC plastic.
- Organic cotton farming keeps thousands of pounds of pesticides and insecticides out of the environment each year, and combats global warming through carbon sequestration.
Although fraught with more than a few environmental problems, the main eco-downsides of these little baby accessories are the vinyl and conventional cotton used to make them.
Vinyl Bibs and eco-alternatives
Due to pressure from concerned parents and children's health advocacy organizations, many major manufacturers have committed to reduce or discontinue the use of PVC in baby bibs and other products. Target, the fifth largest retailer in the US, pledged that all of their store-brand baby bibs would be PVC-free by January 2008. Toys R Us pulled all of the vinyl baby bibs from its store shelves across the country in 2007, after the Center for Environmental Health found high levels of lead in PVC baby bibs. The Illinois Attorney General secured a voluntary recall of three bib styles from Wal-Mart in May 2007, and the mega-store pledged to provide only PVC-free baby bibs in the future.
Bibs made of PVC — a soft plastic used commonly in consumer products — pose severe environmental risks throughout their life cycle. The manufacture of PVC creates toxic pollution, threatening the health of both factory workers and the communities surrounding factory sites. When disposed of, lead, phthalates (compounds used to make plastics soft), and other toxic additives can leach into the ground and drinking water supplies from landfills. Ninety percent of the phthalates used today are used to make PVC, and lead levels in the environment have increased by 1,000 times in the past few hundred years.
Incineration of PVC products produces dioxins and furans, which are among the most toxic environmental contaminants and are known carcinogens. Recycling is not an option with PVC plastic: one PVC item can contaminate a batch of 100,000 recyclable bottles.
The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CEHJ) recommends Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) as a safer PVC-free plastic alternative. EVA is a durable, flexible, transparent copolymer plastic that does not require a plasticizer. Because it does not require a plasticizer to be flexible, it is bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate-free, and is therefore considered to be nontoxic. Some waterproof baby bibs are now being made from EVA.
Conventional and organic cotton
Conventional cotton is considered to be the world's most pesticide-intensive crop. The production of conventional cotton results in about $2 billion worth of harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers being sprayed on the global cotton supply each year. In the US, an estimated one-third pound of agricultural chemicals are used to produce a single cotton T-shirt.
The various chemicals used to treat conventional cotton can harm beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms, pollute ground and surface water, and adversely affect the health of humans and wildlife — including fish, birds, and livestock. Additionally, up to 70 percent of genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds are used in conventional cotton farming in the United States.
Along with eschewing the use of chemicals and GMOs, organic cotton production nurtures soil health and fosters biologically diverse agriculture. To gain official organic certification in the US by a government-approved certifier, cotton must adhere to the same criteria established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for edible crops since cotton seeds and oil are commonly used in food products: 95 percent of the ingredients must be grown in soil that has been free of toxic pesticides and fertilizers for a minimum of three years and cannot contain GMOs.
Not only do Certified Organic crops avoid the use of synthetic chems, organic farming may also be key in fighting global climate change. A study of conventional versus organic farming methods by the Rodale Institute discovered that organic farming combats global warming through carbon sequestration. In agricultural applications, the more organic matter that is retained in the soil, the more carbon is sequestered. While conventional farming depletes organic matter through the use of chemical fertilizers, organic farming uses animal manure and cover crops, which actually build soil organic matter.
Organic farming further reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) by using 37 percent fewer fossil fuels than conventional farming. The Rodale Institute estimates that if all 160 million acres of corn and soybean farmland in the US were switched to organic farming methods, it would be equivalent to removing 58.7 million cars from the road, and would satisfy 73 percent of the proposed US Kyoto targets for CO2 reduction.
- bisphenol A (BPA): A chemical building block used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Studies have linked BPA to hormone disruption, increased breast and prostate cancer cell growth, and early onset puberty, and obesity.
- carbon sequestration: The process by which carbon is captured (in the form of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and incorporated into soil, ocean, and plant matter.
- genetically modified organism: A GMO is created by merging the genetic make-up of two organisms, resulting in a desired byproduct that could otherwise not be found in nature. Engineering GMOs is a common practice in conventional farming, and studies have shown that GMOs pose significant environmental risks such as killing off living, natural organisms and becoming immune to pesticides.
- phthalates: A group of chemicals used as plasticisers in PVC plastics that are known to be testicular toxins and can disrupt hormones.
- polyvinyl chloride (PVC): A strong plastic polymer that can be made flexible through the use of plasticizers. These plasticizers, not the PVC itself, can be toxic and carcinogenic. However, the monomer used to make PVC, vinyl chloride, is carcinogenic, posing a serious health threat to the people who work at factories where PVC is created.
- Center For Health, Environment and Justice - PVC: The Poison Plastic
- Environmental News Network - PVC-free Baby Products: Some Companies Are Far Ahead
- The New York Times - Some Baby Bibs Said to Contain Levels of Lead
- Non-Toxic Kids - Bad, Bad Baby Bibs
- Organic Consumers Association - Clothes for a Change: Background Info
- Our Stolen Future - About phthalates
- Pesticide Action Network North America - The problems with conventional cotton
- Washington Toxics Coalition - Choosing Safer Products: Clothing and Apparel
- Center for Environmental Health - Target Agrees To Reduce Use of PVC, a "Poison Plastic"
- Hub Pages - What is EVA and Why is it in My Baby's Teether?
- Earth Justice Foundation - The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton
- Organic Consumers Association - Clothes for a Change: Background Info
- Organic Exchange - About Organic Cotton brochure
- Food and Society Policy Fellows - Organic Farming Fights Global Warming
- Straus Communications - Organic Farming Sequesters Atmospheric Carbon and Nutrients in Soils: The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trialåš Findings
- The New Farm - Organic farming combats global warming … big time