More Dangerous Chemicals to Avoid
A type of flame retardant called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) is particularly worrisome. Exposure to even small doses at critical points in development can damage reproductive systems and affect motor skills, learning, memory, and hearing. Flame retardants are nearly ubiquitous in upholstered furniture, including couches, pillows, mattresses, and carpet padding. Because the chemicals are not bonded to the foam, they can be released easily in dust as the furniture ages. PBDEs are most likely to be found in polyurethane foam products manufactured before 2005. They are also present in some electronics, though they will no longer be used starting 2014.
How to Avoid
- Do not let babies and toddlers put electronics like remotes or mobile phones in their mouths.
- Replace furniture and pillows if the foam is old and breaking down or if the fabric is torn beyond repair.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and/or run HEPA air filters in rooms.
- Throw out older items such as car seats and mattress pads whose foam is not completely encased in a protective fabric.
Despite its positive effect in reducing cavities, too much fluoride can cause health problems, including discolored teeth, pits in tooth enamel, brittle bones, and, some studies suggest, neurotoxicity. The trick with fluoride is getting enough to reap the benefits without ingesting too much. Experts believe that drinking water should be fluoridated to 0.7 parts per million, but even at this level, as many as one in five kids are occasionally getting too much fluoride. Fluoride is naturally occurring chemical, found in soil and groundwater, but it is commonly added to municipal water supplies as a public health measure. Fluoride is found in many toothpastes and mouthwashes.
How to Avoid
- Avoid using fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash until your child is old enough to spit them out.
- Call your state department of environmental protection or municipal water supplier to determine if your water is fluoridated and at what level. If your water supply has high fluoride levels, find an alternative drinking source -- particularly for formula-fed babies -- or invest in a reverse osmosis water filtration system for your water. These filtration systems are costly but effective for reducing the amount of fluoride. Before installing one, use the EWG water filter buying guide (http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/getawaterfilter) to find the right option for you, and be sure to get it tested by certified organizations from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Potentially carcinogenic pesticides have been linked to Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia in children, and they have been shown to have negative effects on neurobehavioral development. Primarily sprayed on treated produce and on outdoor lawns and gardens to kill insects and weeds but they can leak into the groundwater supply. Given their body weight and the food and water they drink, infants and small children can have increased exposure to pesticides. A recent review by the USDA found unacceptable levels of pesticide residue even in some baby food.
How to Avoid
Lead poisoning can cause nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development. Lead was a common additive to paint prior to 1978, when federal law banned its use in household paint. At the same time, the use of lead was banned in products marketed to children. It can still be found in older houses and in some imported toys, jewelry and even candy.
How to Avoid
- If you live in a home that was built before 1978, be sure all paint is in good repair, and frequently mop floors and wipe surfaces with a damp cloth.
- If you have an older home, use a lead-safe certified contractor if renovating and stay away while renovations take place.
- Avoid painted or metal toys made before 1978, and avoid imported toys and children's jewelry, as many countries have not banned the use of lead in toys. Do not buy candy made in Mexico.
High doses can interfere with iodine absorption into the thyroid gland; this interferes with thyroid hormone production needed for growth and development. Naturally occurring perchlorate is found in arid states in the southwestern U.S., but it is also an industrial chemical contaminant used in rocket fuel, fireworks, explosives, bleach, some fertilizers, and flares. It is present in groundwater, surface water, drinking water, and irrigation water around the country, and it can also be found in food.
How to Avoid
- Contact your state department of environmental protection or management to learn about the levels of perchlorate in your public drinking water supply. If your water is contaminated, consider a reverse-osmosis filter.
- Pregnant women should speak with their doctors about the possibility of taking iodine-containing multivitamins during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Use iodized salt -- not sea salt, unless it has added iodine -- for seasoning. Iodine buffers the thyroid and helps offset damages from thyroid-disrupting contaminant.
Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.