How to Keep Your Family Safe from Toxic Chemicals

Making a Difference

With EDC exposure so ubiquitous, you may wonder if you can keep your family safe. "The good news is that it's completely doable to make small changes that have real benefits," says Dr. Woodruff. For example, many of these chemicals pile up in household dust, so dusting, wet mopping, and vacuuming frequently can reduce your family's exposure, especially if your child is crawling and at that stage where he's putting everything in his mouth. (See "Safer Swaps," below, for more simple substitutions.) "Since many of the EDCs have a short half-life, they can be quickly flushed out of your body once the exposure is removed," explains Smith. Which is exactly what we want to hear as we wait for chemical-policy reform and for scientists to understand the full scope of these daily yet preventable EDC exposures. As Amy Ellings says, "You shouldn't have to worry every time you shop for your family."

Safer Swaps
Whether you make one, some, or all, your family's health will benefit -- and fast.

Phthalates

Instead of: Personal-care products that list "fragrance" as an ingredient
Try: Fragrance-free shampoo, moisturizer, and other staples. Burt's Bees, California Baby, and Earth Mama Angel Baby are three phthalate-free brands. Find safer products by checking their ratings in the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database at cosmeticsdatabase.com.

Instead of: Heavily fragranced cleaning products
Try: A spray bottle filled with a solution of half vinegar, half water. Or use Clorox, Seventh Generation, or Method, cleaning-product brands that are free of phthalates and most other EDCs.

Instead of: Buying new toys without knowing what they may contain
Try: Seeing whether their test results are listed on healthystuff.org, an online database of more than 5,000 products run by the Ecology Center, a Michigan environmental nonprofit.

BPA

Instead of: A water bottle that's made of plastic or aluminum (which may be lined with BPA)
Try: Stainless steel

Instead of: Canned goods
Try: Soups or tomatoes that are packaged in glass jars; fresh or frozen produce; dried beans

Instead of: Liquid formula in metal cans
Try: Powdered formula in cardboard or plastic. If you must use liquid, choose concentrate in glass or plastic.

Instead of: Microwaving in plastic or pouring hot liquids into BPA-containing bottles or containers
Try: Transferring your leftovers to a glass or ceramic bowl before you heat them up, heating baby formula in BPA-free bottles or by putting the bottle in a bowl of warm water.

Instead of: Using any plastic, especially baby bottles and other children's products, labeled #7 (polycarbonate) or #3 (PVC)
Try: Remembering this mantra: "4, 5, 1, and 2 -- all the rest are bad for you." Look for a product labeled BPA-free and find out why it's safer. WeilBaby bottles, for instance, are made with Tritan (a copolyester that is also free of phthalates) and manufactured in the U.S. on equipment that makes only BPA-free products. BornFree Eco-Friendly Baby Bottles are made from polyphenylsulfone (PPSU), a plastic that does not contain BPA, PVC, or phthalates, and can be returned to the manufacturer for recycling. Lifewithoutplastic.com has more ideas for affordable, nonplastic food-storage containers, bottles, and children's goods. When you do use plastic of any kind, don't put it in the dishwasher.

PBDEs

Instead of: Carpets, curtains, and furniture that have been treated with flame retardants
Try: Naturally fire-resistant wool, hemp, and cotton. (With furniture, and other big purchases, before you buy always ask the manufacturer whether it uses a chemical coating.)

Take Action for Tougher Chemical Laws
Check out these Web resources to get involved.

Join the MomsRising "Safer Chemicals" campaign: momsrising.org/environmentalhealth.

Through the Environmental Defense Fund, send a letter to your Congressperson, letting him or her know that tougher chemical regulation is important to you: edf.org/chemicalsafety.

Stay up-to-date on pending legislation with the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition: saferchemicals.org.

Learn more about the research of the Washington Toxics Coalition, which conducted Amy Ellings's test: watoxics.org/publications/earliestexposures.

Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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