Tamara Peers was 8 months pregnant when she heard about toxic chemicals that should be avoided during pregnancy. She started to look for advice but didn’t know where to get the right information about the chemicals to avoid. Tamara Peers and Anna Schoemakers decided to change this and founded BabyBeGood in 2011, offering pregnant women access to information on how to protect themselves from exposure to toxic chemicals.
‘I heard about chemicals that pregnant women should avoid, such as Bisphenol A, during my last months of pregnancy,’ Tamara says.
Bisphenol A is a chemical used in the packaging of food, that is banned in Belgium but still allowed in the Netherlands. Tamara did not know whom to turn to for the right advice. Her midwife could not advise her on toxic chemicals found in packaging, plastics or cosmetics. The only advice the midwife gave was not to smoke. ‘I wish I had known about these chemicals so I could have made my own decisions about buying certain products,’ Tamara says. BabyBeGood started to raise awareness about toxic chemical and to promote organic baby products at the Nine Month Fair five years ago. The Nine Months Fair is an annual fair for (soon-to-be) parents, where companies display their latest baby products and workshops and lectures are organized. ‘On this fair with 55.000 visitors, we show parents what they can do as consumers to start a green and healthy lifestyle for their baby. When we started at the Nine Months fair, everybody told us that this fair was not the place to talk about sustainability and that visitors were only interested in buying cheap products. Yet, today our workshops and our lectures are really popular at the Nine Month Fair,’ Tamara says.
Green light for this Baby Box
Another tool BabyBeGood uses to raise awareness is their online platform. The platform shares tips for sustainable living and blogs for parents. The baby box containing organic baby products is just a click away. The idea of the baby box originates from the maternity box that the Finnish government offers to all mothers-to-be regardless their income. It contains vital products that a baby needs in its first year, such as clothing but also eco-friendly nappies. Even the box in which the products are packaged can be used as a baby crib. ‘The box symbolizes the fact that every child deserves an equal start in life,’ Tamara explains. ‘We thought that it would be fantastic if the Dutch government offered new parents a baby box with green and organic products.’ Tamara and Anna talked to the Deputy Mayor of The Hague and found out that local governments in The Netherlands have their own systems when it comes to offering gifts to new mums and dads. It would take many years to convince all the different local governments to offer a baby box, so Anna and Tamara created their own baby box with organic products. Over the years Tamara has seen progress on raising awareness about organic baby products and toxic chemicals to avoid during pregnancy, but she believes that changes could be made faster if companies and governments would cooperate more and if changes were made at a governmental level.
Impact:Change at the Governmental Level is Key
Health concerns should be set higher on the political agenda in The Netherlands, just like they are in Scandinavian countries, Tamara believes. ‘In the Netherlands we care more about economic profit than about health. Health should be given priority! We are working on a campaign promoting healthy baby food. Did you know that only one percent of the children in Rotterdam eat enough veggies and fruit? And we are not even talking about organic vegetables! We need more progressive thinking in all the areas that affect pregnant women. Midwives for example, can make a change. They should be able to give advice on problematic chemicals like midwives in Denmark do. However, Dutch midwives follow advice from the Dutch Health Department. The Health Department needs to be more progressive. Last year we talked to the Health Department about Bisphenol A (BPA). They said that if research shows that BPA is toxic and pregnant women should not be in contact with it, that they would take national steps to address the situation. Now the research has been concluded but they do not say that it is forbidden, only that pregnant women should not be in contact with it too often. But how do pregnant women know how to avoid BPA when there is no information about it? We are more than willing to help the Health Department with a campaign offering pregnant women full information on harmful chemicals.’
Is this a Chemical to Avoid?
Do you have questions about chemicals? BabyBeGood has a chemical advisor in their company. You can ask your questions online on their website.