Babies and children at crucial stages of development are most at risk from exposure to harmful synthetic chemicals as they have very porous, sensitive skin and they breathe in more air in relation to their body weight, making the toxic load more severe.

During the most crucial stages of a baby’s development, when they are at their most sensitive to environmental toxins, is from conception up until around 2 years old. During this time, their brains and bodies are developing at such a fast rate and any interference in this process can be hugely damaging.

Unfortunately, tests on umbilical cords have found very high levels of harmful chemicals present, showing that toxins from the mother are passed to the baby during pregnancy via the placenta. 

In addition to this, babies’ skin is very absorbent. We all know that baby’s skin is super delicate, but did you know that harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and phthalates, often found in clothing and in soft plastic household items and toys, can be absorbed through your baby’s skin? 

And, as well as the absorbency of the skin, babies love to put everything in their mouths. Babies love to suck on anything they can get their hands on! When fabrics are sucked on, thousands of tiny micro-particles are dislodged and swallowed along with any chemicals used in those products. 

It’s therefore so important that we create more awareness around harmful everyday products which pregnant women and babies are coming into contact with on a regular basis. 

Below we talk about some of the top chemicals to avoid while pregnant or for young babies:



Formaldehyde is a colourless, strong smelling poisonous gas which is often added to clothing at the end of the manufacturing process. It’s a known carcinogen which has been found in the fabrics of mainstream baby clothing brands in concentrations of up to 18,000 ppm (parts per million). That’s 900 times over what is considered ‘safe’ for baby clothing. 

Formaldehyde is linked to cancer and other health complications. It’s harmful when in contact with the skin and it also releases easily into the air, adding to indoor air pollution in homes. 

It’s considered safe in baby items up to around 20 ppm, but any exposure to the substance, no matter how small, can cause health complications. We would always advise to avoid it altogether. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde and experience adverse reactions even at low levels. 


Phthalates are used to make plastics soft and flexible, and are added to pharmaceuticals, makeup and skincare products to add synthetic fragrance. Mainstream perfumes, shampoo, soaps, deodorants and even baby’s toys contain very high levels of phthalates, as well as household items such as vinyl flooring, shower curtains and blackout blinds. These chemicals are released into the air in our homes, contributing to indoor air quality being up to 6x worse than outdoor air pollution, even in major cities. This group of chemicals are really harmful not only for human health, but for the environment too. 

When phthalates are released into the air, they cling to dust and are easily inhaled by humans. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors (meaning they can cause a severe hormone imbalance in our bodies) and known health effects include damage to the liver, kidney, testicals and brain development. They’re such a terrifying group of chemicals that the UK government announced an overnight ban on them in children’s toys back in 1999, after research was published by the European Union of their dangers. Unfortunately, these chemicals can still be found in so many household and baby products which pregnant women and young children are exposed to on a daily basis. Where possible, choose organic and natural skincare, fragrances and soap, avoid soft plastics such as PVC and open windows to let in fresh air regularly. 



BPA is a chemical found in many plastic kitchen items, the lining of tinned food (such as tinned tomatoes and beans) and also as a coating on mainstream paper receipts. It has been found to cause a number of serious illnesses, as well as disrupting the natural hormonal balance in our bodies. It was banned in certain baby items in the UK in 2010, but unfortunately the chemicals which have been used to replace it are now thought to be even more toxic. Rebecca Fett’s book, Brain Health from Birth, highlights all the most recent research on these toxins and I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone planning or just starting a family. 


As a general rule, it’s best to avoid all synthetic chemicals where possible during pregnancy and for young babies. Be cautious of all plastics, particularly soft plastics such as PVC, EVA, polyurethane – the softer the plastic is, the more harmful for human and environmental health it usually is too. Use stainless steel and glass cookware to minimise your family’s exposure to Teflon, a harmful chemical added to non-stick pans. Avoid pesticides where you can and wash all fresh produce carefully before eating. Wash hands before eating and, if you live in a built up area, always take off your shoes before coming inside to minimise exposure to city pollutants. 

Build a list of your trusted brands which share your ethos and create safe and natural household and baby products. This was one of the key drivers behind me creating my eco kids brand, Pure Earth Collection, as I was passionate about spreading awareness about these important issues and I also wanted to create a larger choice of natural options for parents and babies. It was really hard to find products such as non-toxic baby mats, which were free from harmful plastics, and organic baby sleeping bags which didn’t contain polyester and harsh chemicals, which is why I started designing and creating my own. Pure Earth Collection is passionate about protecting the health of babies and the planet, right down to the last label and stitch.


Pure Earth Collection is offering 15% off to Wen supporters.  Offer ends 30/4/21.  Use discount code: wen15 


Emma has spent the last four years researching the materials used to make conventional baby products. She regularly shares her findings in her natural parent forum, and also does guest posting for other websites and blogs. Here, she talks about why she’s so passionate about natural and organic products for babies and pregnant women – not just for their food and clothing but for everything they will be in contact with.



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