I just finished the post on cribs, crib mattresses, and crib sheets and realized I referenced a lot of certifications. When I first started looking into nontoxic items, I was confused by all these standards. So, I did a bit of research and it turned into this post. Of course there are many other certifications and standards, and maybe one of these days, I’ll get to looking into a few more. For now, I’ll just cover the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification (used for textiles), the Oeko-Tex Standard (also used for textiles) and the GREENGUARD certification (used for indoor products/furniture).
GOTS Certified Organic
GOTS is a standard set by experts around the world to ensure that organic textiles are, in fact, made of organic materials and do not contain many heavy metals, allergens, and other harsh chemicals. Sounds basic, but unfortunately, many textiles labeled as “organic” may not be made entirely of organic materials. For example, perhaps only 10% of the cotton used to make a piece of clothing is organic and the other 90% of the cotton is conventionally grown. This article could be advertised as organic, but it would not carry the GOTS label. Additionally, even if an article of clothing is made with 100% organic cotton, it could have many harsh chemical additives applied to it – dyes, fragrances, bleach, phthalates, etc., or it could be made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
When an item carries the GOTS label grade “organic,” it must contain at least 95% certified organic fibers. A product with the label grade “made with organic” must contain at least 70% certified organic fibers. GOTS prohibits the following ingredients in textiles: toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, GMOs and their enzymes, and azo dyes that release carcinogenic amine compounds. It also regulates all accessories (zippers, buttons) to the article, e.g., no PVC, nickel, or chrome is permitted. It is so strict that it requires organic textiles to be separated from conventional ones at at all stages of the processing.
The Standard doesn’t just ensure that the final product meets these specifications. It covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading, and distribution of its textiles.
One of the coolest things about GOTS is that it also regulates “social criteria.” Manufacturers certified to GOTS must pay their workers a fair wage, ensure working conditions are safe and workers’ hours are not excessive, and use absolutely no child labor.
You can look up whether a company is GOTS certified by using the GOTS public database. If you cannot find the company you are looking for, it’s possible that only its manufacturer is listed in the GOTS database. (For example, I emailed Kate Quinn Organics, and they told me their manufacturer is in the database, but they are not.)
For loads more information, check out the GOTS website.
Oeko-Tex Standard 100
The Oeko-Tex Standard is an independent certification system testing textiles for “harmful substances.” (It doesn’t specifically regulate organic textiles.) When a textile is certified to the Oeko-Tex Standard, it means that it has met certain criteria: it contains no illegal substances (carcinogenic colorants), it only has a certain amount of other legally regulated substances (formaldehyde, heavy metals, phthalates, etc.), and it only contains a certain amount of substances that are known to be harmful but are not yet regulated at all (pesticides and allergenic dyes).
The Oeko Tex Standard is far more strict than legislation in the U.S., and the amounts of these chemicals allowed in certain products depends on the article’s use. There are four “product classes,” each of which has its own limits for various substances. For example, Product Class I regulates textiles that are made for babies and toddlers up to 3 years old, e.g., underwear, bed linen, soft toys, etc. As you can imagine, this class has the strictest requirements for testing. Product Class II regulates articles that are intended to have a large part of their surface in direct contact with the skin, e.g., again, underwear, bed linen, shirts, etc. Product Class III covers textiles that are intended to have no (or little) part of their surface in direct contact with the skin, e.g., jackets and coats. Product Class IV regulates materials for decorative purposes – table linen and curtains, textile wall and floor coverings, etc. All component pieces of the article must comply with the requirements – the outer textiles of course, but also any buttons, zippers, sewings, etc. For more info on this, you can check out Oeko’s website.
The GREENGUARD certification ensures that indoor products release lower levels of chemicals into the air in our homes. The certification applies to building materials, finishes, furniture, cleaning products, and electronic equipment, and it limits the emission of harmful chemicals like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and phthalates. GREENGUARD certified products include baby cribs, mattresses, countertops, paints and adhesives, insulation, and wood flooring. The GREENGUARD website has an awesome Nursery Checklist that points out some of the best ways you can avoid toxins in your baby’s room. A few points covered by the checklist:
- Low-VOC paint. Get this (I just learned this from that checklist), there are two things “low VOC” can refer to: (1) the amount of VOC’s in the chemical content of the paint or (2) the amount of VOCs that are emitted by the paint. Who knew?! So, GREENGUARD recommends using low-VOC emitting paint because these paints release fewer VOCs into the air. Paints with low VOC chemical content can still release harmful VOCs. Cool, right?
- Furniture. Wood finishes and upholstery can release harmful chemicals, particularly formaldehyde. So opt for solid wood whenever possible, rather than pressed wood furniture. (I know, I know, the crib and bassinet I chose both have MDF pieces…) If it’s not possible to have solid wood, GREENGUARD recommends letting the furniture off-gas for two weeks in an outside space (or just somewhere you won’t be breathing the air that much).
- Mattresses. New mattresses – especially crib mattresses – are often made with a lot of harmful chemicals which will continually be released into the air. (Naturepedic (the mattress we have) is certified to the Greenguard Gold standard, which is a specific standard offering stricter certification criteria for “sensitive individuals” like children and the elderly.)
- Cleaning. Clean with low-emitting products. GREENGUARD has a database to help find such products. They also recommend cleaning with baking soda and vinegar. I’ve actually started a draft post on nontoxic cleaning products, which definitely includes these staples.
This blog post has forced me to wrap my head around many complexities in the industry. I hope it helps you make better decisions when it comes to choosing products for your family.