Child Health Guide: Holistic Pediatrics for Parents
Environmental Toxins and Kids
excerpt from Child Health Guide
Randall Neustaedter OMD
You can take many simple steps to limit your child’s exposure to household environmental toxins. Never use drain cleaners made from lye or oven cleaners that release toxic gases. Use only non-chlorine scouring powders (Bon Ami brand). Baking soda also works well to clean sinks and tubs. Avoid spray cleaners, conventional detergents, disinfectants, and bleach cleaners. Use cleaning products made by environmentally friendly companies that use nontoxic ingredients (Seventh Generation, Ecover, and Aubrey Organics). Use mineral oil instead of furniture polish that contains solvents. Use a vinegar and water solution on windows, TV screens, and computer monitors instead of glass cleaners that contain ammonia. You may need to wipe the glass with alcohol first to remove the wax from previous glass cleaners. Both aerosol and solid air fresheners typically contain carcinogenic compounds that are dispersed into the home. Common ingredients include formaldehyde, benzene, and synthetic fragrances produced from petroleum distillates capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and allergic reactions (National Academy of Sciences, 1986). Use nontoxic latex and enamel paint when painting your home. Use nontoxic products for construction and decorating (floors, carpets, furniture) from sources like www.healthyhomedesigns.com and www.greenbuildingsupply.com.
Never use pesticide chemicals in your home. If you have a continuing problem with pests, then use only Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies. You can find these resources on the Internet IPM strategies will provide nontoxic solutions to most pest infestations of insects, mites, or rodents. Some of these strategies may include the use of boric acid or diatomaceous earth to kill fleas and heat treatments to eliminate termites. Check the website www.beyondpesticides.org for more information about keeping your home environment pesticide-free.
Never use herbicides or weed killers around your house. They are not safe for children. For example, Roundup weed killer has been linked to attention problems in children, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer. At least two studies have demonstrated an association between Roundup (glyphostate) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a deadly form of lymph system cancer (Hardell and Eriksson, 1999). An article in the journal Soil and Health reported that two studies failed to confirm the U.S. EPA’s classification of glyphosate as non-carcinogenic (Watts, 1998). Similarly, the use of pesticides in and around the home has been associated with childhood leukemia, sarcoma, and brain tumors. Prenatal exposure is especially harmful. These poisons also drastically alter hormone development in children.
Environmental Toxins in the Home
Chlorine scouring powders
Commercial glass cleaners
Plastic Toys and Phthalates
Are your child’s toys safe? Do you ever wonder whether your baby should chew on a plastic toy? Most of the toys you have in the house are made of polyvinylchloride (PVC), which is a hard, brittle plastic. In order to make PVC softer, squishier, and squeezable, manufacturers add one or more of the various phthalates (pronounced thalates). These phthalates are not chemically bound to the PVC molecules. They sit alongside them and easily leach out of the toys when sucked, chewed, or heated (left in the sun). That new-car smell is phthalates leaching from your car’s dashboard into the air. Perfumes, deodorants, hair products, plastic wrap, and lotions also contain phthalates. If a product’s ingredient list includes the word “fragrance,” it most likely contains phthalates.
Phthalates are toxic. They cause cancer, kidney damage, and decreased sperm production in rats (Agency for Toxic Substances, 1993). Phthalates are estrogenic hormone disruptors. They have been identified as a possible cause of premature breast development in young girls (Colon et al., 2000). Men exposed to background environmental levels of phthalates have shown DNA damage to sperm (Duty et al., 2003) and abnormal sperm motility and sperm concentration (Duty et al., 2003a).
Here is what you can do. Buy toys made of wood, metal, or cloth. Buy plastic toys labeled #2 or #4 (polyethylene). Toys that are not labeled probably contain PVC and phthalates. Choose unscented personal care products and avoid the word “fragrance.” Use products labeled organic and scented only with essential oils. Some companies have chosen not to use phthalates (Aubrey Organics, Avalon, Jason, Kiss My Face, Logona, Nature’s Gate, Tom’s of Maine, Weleda, and others). Many of these products can be found at your local health food store or online.
Sources of Phthalate Exposure in the Home
Soft plastic toys
Perfumes and fragrances