This Sunday, 60 Minutes will run a segment on phthalates, the plastic softeners that are, according to CBS, “ubiquitous.” Soft plastics may be in many places, but they are not in all places any more than disposable diapers are in every home. Parents can and do choose natural, chemical-free products for the health of their babies.
It’s been interesting to follow the story of Pampers Dry Max in the news and on blogs in the past couple of weeks—too many interesting aspects to name them all—but what has slapped me in the face is how little I know about how mainstream parents think. I have been shocked to see parents say things like “this giant company wouldn’t make a product that is anything but safe for my child because it would be bad for business.” So many parents said similar things that I realized this is actually a common assumption.
A massive company whose primary interest is maximizing profit is likely to make products JUST SAFE ENOUGH to find balance between safety (or litigation costs) and the production and materials that give the best profit margins. That’s good business, right? So I’m told.
It turns out that I’m one of the skeptical ones who doesn’t assume that corporations have my children’s health and safety as a priority. This seems to put me outside the mainstream.
So, even carrying the weight of my new-found discovery that I am too skeptical to be mainstream, I am going to suggest that there are whole areas of the children’s product market where soft plastics and chemicals of concern are not ubiquitous. I must have the risk gene because I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it is possible for parents to raise their babies plastic-free. No, it’s not really a flimsy limb. People all around me are raising plastic-free babies.
How, I wonder, does a plastic-free, reusable, natural material childhood seem so far outside the boundaries of possibility for so many parents? I’m a bit stumped how to create any change in that. I don’t think the argument of hormone disruption reaches everyone. Maybe 60 Minutes will begin to change that.
Then what? Will parents rush to buy wooden rattles and cloth books?
I suspect that the argument will be made not that all products have soft plastics as ingredients but that all PEOPLE have soft plastics as ingredients.
The shift in perception that is needed to result in less exposure to the offending ingredients of soft plastics is so massive that it is almost overwhelming along with all of the other choices we need to make in a hyper-industrial world. When I hear parents say, “I grew up fine and my kids will be fine, too” as an excuse not to limit exposures, I wonder what it will take to convince them that we aren’t living in the same chemical world. When even typical—not extreme but typical—levels of phthalates in the body of a pregnant woman can disrupt especially the male reproductive system and this doesn’t result in screaming, arm-waving alarm on the part of mothers, I don’t really know what will reach them.
The good news is, you can reach the people around you with the message of safe, natural toys. You can talk to the parents you meet about chemical exposures.
Frankly, you can talk to parents about how adorable you find a natural rubber giraffe or a wooden fish rattle, and that is likely to reach some for whom the toxic exposure argument will mean little.
Whatever it takes to reduce the chemical body burden on our pre-polluted babies.