In the last 50 years, more than 85,000 industrial chemicals have been registered and put into regular use in the United States. Many of these chemicals have found their way into our air, our water, our soil, and our household and personal products. These, in turn, deliver those chemicals into our bodies, and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects.
Kids’ bodies take in greater amounts of chemicals proportionally compared to adults, and their rapid growth and development makes them particularly vulnerable to certain toxins. Starting in the womb, children are exposed to chemicals that can affect the endocrine system, organs, reproductive system, brain, and lungs. After they are born and exposed to more and more chemicals, they can suffer effects such as diabetes, asthma, obesity, and cancer.
There are tens of thousands of toxins to which kids are exposed, but there are several that occur in larger amounts, and appear in everything from personal care products and common household cleaners to lunch bags and backpacks. Here are four of the most common toxins and ways to avoid them.
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Phthalates are synthetic chemicals used to add fragrances to personal care products like soap, shampoo, and lotions, and are also used to make plastics flexible, such as in shiny vinyl backpacks and clothing, faux leather clothing, and lunch bags. These plastics may be found in shower curtains, food packaging, clothing, vinyl floors, and other household or school applications. Phthalates don’t stay in those products, and are released into the foods they touch, the air, dust, and our bodies. Levels of phthalates are highest in children ages six through 11, and in women.
Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which means they block or mimic the body’s hormones. Animals exposed to phthalates are more likely to develop male reproductive organ damage, kidney cancer, liver cancer, smaller male genitals, undescended testicles, and affected semen quality as adults. Exposure to phthalates may also increase a child’s likelihood of developing bronchial obstruction, allergies, and asthma, as well as impact brain and motor development. Girls’ hormones may also be affected. There is also a potential link between the level of phthalates in the child’s body, obesity, and height.
Ways to Avoid Phthalates
Phthalates exposure starts in the womb. A pregnant woman should avoid contact with personal care products with fragrances, soft plastic products like bath toys, shower curtains, and vinyl products. Likewise, limit your child’s exposure to scented shower gel, body wash, soap, shampoo, and lotions. Don’t allow him or her to play with soft plastic toys or teething rings. Try not to use plastic wrap on foods; use glass containers with rigid plastic lids that don’t come into contact with the food, or use stainless steel. Use PVC-free backpacks and lunch bags.
2. Bisphenol A
Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is an organic compound used in some plastic products like #03 flexible PVC (Poly vinyl chloride) and #07 PC (polycarbonate). Unfortunately, the Bisphenol A in these products leaches into the food or beverages that are stored in the containers and then into children’s bodies, particularly when the food or beverage in the container becomes warm or hot. Canned goods are lined with a plasticized coating on the inside which is made of BPA. Other items with BPA include baby bottles and nipples, cans of infant formula, and water bottles.
BPA acts as an artificial estrogen in the body, which can effect changes to breast, prostate, mammary glands, testes, brain structure, body size, and behavior.There are also suspected links between BPA exposure and obesity, diabetes, neurological issues, thyroid function, sexual problems like erectile dysfunction and sterility, heart disease, and several types of cancers. Like phthalates, a child’s exposure to BPA starts as a fetus.
Ways to Avoid BPA
The easiest ways to avoid BPAs is to avoid canned foods unless they are labelled BPA-free, as well as #03 and #07 plastics. If the plastic is not labeled with a plastic description number, assume it has BPA and avoid it.
Triclosan is an organic compound; an anti-fungal and antibiotic chemical added to liquid hand soap, solid soaps, mouthwashes, cleaning supplies, deodorants, hand sanitizers, and toothpastes. It is also infused into the plastics of some household products like trash bags, kitchen utensils, bedding, toys, foam floor underlayments, and socks. Its safety is currently under review in both Canada and the United States. The largest problem with triclosan is that it can create triclosan-resistant strains of bacteria, much like antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Exposure to triclosan may cause a higher incidence of hay fever, allergic contact dermatitis, endocrine disruption, and may affect growth and development.
Ways to Avoid Triclosan
Always read labels, and avoid any products that contain triclosan, Microban, Cloxifenolum, Lexol 300, Irgasan DP-300, Ster-Zac, and BioFresh.
4. Perfluorinated Compounds
Perfluorinated compounds, called PFCs, are used to make items stain- and stick-resistant. Your child is exposed to PFCs on clothing, furniture, carpets, microwave popcorn bags and other grease-resistant food packaging, Gore-Tex clothing, shampoo, dental floss, and in non-stick (Teflon) pans.
PFCs are linked to human cancers, kidney and liver damage, and reproductive difficulties.
Ways to Avoid Perfluorinated Compounds
Don’t use non-stick or Teflon cookware, stain-resistant treatments on furniture or carpeting, avoid packaged foods, especially those that are greasy or oily, and read the labels of personal care products. PFCs are usually labeled as “perfluoro,” “fluoro,” or “Teflon.”
It’s impossible to prevent your child from coming into contact with every chemical, but there are some things you can do to reduce his or her exposure to toxins and toxic substances. Know what to look for on labels and what items to avoid; this will go a long way to help reduce your child’s exposure to four of the most common toxic chemicals.
[About the author: Tom White writes for the cleansingmatters.com blog. On the blog are a range of practical articles, an interactive ‘are you toxic’ quiz, advice from experts and information about the Isagenix Cleanse Program. Image: audi_insperation]