I live in Bernal Heights in San Francisco, a neighborhood known as ‘maternal heights’ for its stroller rush hours and toddler-filled sidewalks. There is a listserv of more than 500 families in Bernal, with posting ranging from ‘Anyone pick up a pink stuffed bunny at Holly Park on Saturday?’ to ‘Please send suggestions for empowering films for young girls.’ A frequent subject though is how to find safe baby bottles, flame-retardant-free crib mattresses, and eco-friendly gear.
Last week I sent a poll out to the Bernal parents listserv to find out how my neighbors felt about environmental health and our children. The findings are below:
More than 90% of those responding consider themselves environmentally minded – they buy organic food, though don’t have to ‘talk themselves off the ledge’ when feeding their children conventionally grown food. They buy bisphenol-free baby bottles, and 10% are upset that they didn’t have that choice when their child was using bottles.
71% have products in their houses that they have concerns about (in terms of environmental health.) Here’s what they’re concerned about:
- Cleaning supplies (10 people mentioned this)
- Plastic toys, gear, feeding supplies, pacifiers (7 people mentioned this)
- Flame retardants in furniture, carpets and mattresses -(4 people mentioned this)
- Sunscreen, lotions (3 people mentioned this)
- Paint, cups, sofa set, etc.
They had a lot to say about their feelings around all of the information we’re receiving about the potential contaminates we’re exposed to. Here are some of their responses;
- Important to know, have to ignore some…too much.
- I think about it a lot and try to avoid them as much as possible.
- It shuts me down and makes me hopeless.
- It is not communicated in a reasonable manner – it is either extreme or nothing.
- I feel like we’re under assault by the chemical industries. It feels like we’re in an unrestricted experiment that could have bad results for all of us. I also figure that not just my kids, but I myself am contaminated with trace amounts of dangerous chemicals.
- Mixed feelings–would love the CDC to measure the levels of all of these things in everyone’s system so we could know what we are dealing with instead of guessing and speculating.
- I am concerned, but not to the point of going crazy.
- I am definitely concerned about all these things, but also unfortunately have to balance out our financial situation with “solutions to these issues” in our lives.
- I try to stay in the middle. I feel that some people may be too paranoid, so I try to only believe in reliable sources and I don’t trust everything I read. The larger issues leave me feeling helpless.
- It’s frustrating because it seems in our effort to make things more efficient, safer we have in turn made life more dangerous and complicated. UGH!
- Freaked out and annoyed.
- I am somewhat anxious about it. I am less overwhelmed based on an article that points out that #5 plastics are considered safe. I still don’t microwave anything in them, but am relieved to find that there is a “safe” plastic.
A little less than half of them felt like they could make sense of it all, and far less than half said they were a part of an organization that helps them feel empowered to protect your kids (and themselves) from exposure to these things.
Organizations they mentioned include: Organic Consumers Association, Sierra Club, NRDC, Environmental Working Group, and Moms Rising.