Common household toxins you should avoid
Most parents know that their children should be kept away from things like fire, bleach and other recognizably hazardous things. But what about less obvious hazards? With the way the world works today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern what may or may not be a potential threat. Parents are rightfully concerned about not only what they are putting into their children, but also about what surrounds their children.
Chemical regulations are lacking, labels can be misleading, and greenwashing is all the rage; it is a tricky, tricky world out there. Because children are still developing their brains and bodies, they are more susceptible to toxins in their environment. Even small exposures can lead to lifelong disabilities or future health problems, such as learning disabilities, infertility and even cancer. This is why it is so, so important to be aware of the hidden toxins in many everyday items. By maintaining awareness you can help minimize your child's exposure. Here are a few things to look out for.
Phthalates are frequently found in the fragrances used to make personal care products and cleaning items smell good, as well as in plastics. Phthalates are also known to cause disruption of the endocrine system, and have been linked to reproductive system abnormalities in baby boys, reduced fertility, developmental disorders, asthma and allergies. Mind Body Green reports: "They've also been identified by Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks) as 'a prime example of chemicals of emerging concern to brain development.'"
Choosing fragrance-free or phthalate-free cleaning and personal care products is the best way to avoid these toxins. Avoiding plastic food containers when possible, and purchasing only hospital-grade silicone nipples for baby bottles are also good choices.
Flame retardant chemicals often appear in bedding, car seats and foam baby products such as nap mats and pillows. Flame retardants would be great if they weren't associated with so many issues. Studies show that flame retardant chemicals are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and urine. Their presence can contribute to severe long-term health effects such as endocrine disruption, fertility issues, ADHD, low IQ and cancer. Worse still, studies have shown that flame retardant chemicals don't actually help prevent anything. An investigation launched by CBC in 2012 revealed that while flame retardants do actually work, there is not enough of them pumped into products to yield any kind of benefit. There is enough, however, to be toxic to the environment and people. Fire scientist Vyto Babrauskas commented: "It's a really sad situation, because [consumers] get enough fire-retardant put in there to do toxic harm to the environment, to the people, and yet it's not enough to do any good in terms of quenching the fire. Flame retardants in the home do not help. That is regrettable, but true."
The best way to avoid flame retardants is by not purchasing flame-retardant products. You can also use wool or cotton blankets to minimize your child's contact with flame retardant materials.
This chemical often hides in baby care products, such as baby soaps and shampoos. Formaldehyde is a known toxin and considered a known human carcinogen by both the IARC and the National Toxicology Program. Formaldehyde can either be an actual ingredient in personal care products, or certain preservatives can release small amounts of it over time.
You can avoid formaldehyde by avoiding products that contain it as a listed ingredient. Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal are all preservatives that are known to release formaldehyde, and these should also be avoided.
These are predominantly found in bug repellents and as a residue on non-organic foods, but they do also make an appearance in a variety of other items. The use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides has been linked to the growing incidence of childhood cancers. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, the most critical route of pesticide exposure in children is through food. Fortunately, this is something that can be easily controlled through parental vigilance.
Choosing foods grown with fewer pesticides and buying organic whenever possible is the most efficient way to minimize your child's exposure. Abstaining from using chemical pesticides and herbicides in and around your home is also a good idea. All-natural bug repellents are also a great alternative to chemical-laden sprays.
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