Oct 24, 2011

Toxins, Chemicals and Your Children's Health

We spend a great deal of time talking about toxins and chemicals and how they relate to children's health. Although there are hundreds of thousands of them being produced today, the fifteen listed below have been recognized by Children's Environmental Health experts. These "every day" chemicals directly affect our children...they are present in our homes, schools, consumer products and foods. Addressing the items on this list is a great way to create a healthier environment for our children:

Arsenic: A poisonous contaminant found in older outdoor play structures and wooden surfaces.
  • Tip for prevention: Replace older wooden decks and play sets with safer alternatives like cedar. Apply a sealant every six months to create a barrier between your children and the chemical.
Asbestos: A mineral fiber used in construction materials of older homes. Thanks to legislation, this toxin is less of a problem than it was in the past.
  • Tip for prevention: Have a certified contractor check your home, especially the basement.
Bisphenol-A (BPA): A chemical that may be used in plastic containers, like baby bottles, baby formula canisters and the inner linings of metal cans.
  • Tip for prevention: Buy glass bottles or BPA-free products. Avoid plastic #7.
Phthalates: Often used in pacifiers, bath toys, and other soft toys - items that children may put in their mouths.
  • Tip for prevention: Look for items labeled phthalate-free.
Carbon Monoxide: Odorless and colorless, it is produced when fuels like wood, charcoal, gas, or kerosene are burned.
  • Tip for prevention: Have fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, and ovens) inspected every year. Buy a carbon monoxide detector for your home.
Flame Retardants: Found in household dust from flame-resistant mattresses, foam-padded furniture, computer screens, TVs, and curtains.
  • Tip for prevention: Replace old furniture with exposed foam. Buy products that are made from natural fibers like cotton and wool, which are less flammable.
Formaldehyde: Foam insulation and cabinets made from pressed wood can release formaldehyde into the air.
  • Tip for prevention: Hire an industrial hygienist to test your home's insulation for formaldehyde. If levels are high, replace the insulation.
Lead: Still found in homes built before 1978 - when lead was banned from paints and gasoline.
  • Tip for prevention: Have a certified lead inspector examine your house.
Mercury: Fish like tuna, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish contain high levels of this toxic metal.
  • Tip for prevention: Make sure your children eat fish that are lower in mercury content - like shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
Perchlorate: This toxin has been found in drinking water, baby formula, and some foods.
  • Tip for prevention: Contact your local water company to see if your water contains perchlorate. If your drinking water comes from a private well, have it tested privately.
Pesticides: Pesticides are designed to be toxic to the nervous system, killing insects in the lawn. Children can be exposed by playing outside or can track pesticides in the house.
  • Tip for prevention: Use substitutes for chemical treatments. If your children play on pesticide-treated lawns, make sure they take their shoes off before entering the house.
Radon: This colorless and odorless gas can seep up from the ground of buildings built on rock formations.
  • Tip for prevention: Test for radon when purchasing a new home or test your current home with a radon detector.
Solvents: As chemicals that evaporate into the air, children can be exposed in high traffic areas, through contaminated water, and by using some aerosol products.
  • Tip for prevention: Avoid high traffic areas and avoid the use of aerosols.
Tobacco Smoke: Secondhand smoke has many long term health effects, like asthma, hyperactivity, and respiratory illness.
  • Tip for prevention: If you smoke, smoke outside to prevent secondhand smoke.
Triclosan: A broad-spectrum antibacterial, found in antibacterial soaps, sanitizers, plastics, and cleaning products.
  • Tip for prevention: Use old-fashioned soap and water, not antibacterial cleaning products.

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