Children are especially sensitive to environmental toxins. According to Robert Rountree, MD, in a two-part article published in Alternative and Complementary Therapies, “the effects of environmental toxins on our children’s health could turn out to be one of the largest public health crises that we will ever have to face.”
Why the increased risk for kids?
Environmental toxins are bad for everyone, adults or children, even pets. But children lack the detoxification mechanisms that adults have developed. When children are exposed to chemicals, their smaller body size means they’re exposed to chemicals at a much higher rate than adults.
Babies, toddlers, and young children play on the floor indoors and on grass outdoors. They put toys that may contain toxic chemicals into their mouths frequently. Toys and objects that are placed on the floor are exposed to toxic chemicals found in everyday household dust and dirt.
Outdoors they may be exposed to toxic chemicals through pesticides and herbicides sprayed or applied to lawns. Young children ingest chemicals when they put their hands in their mouths.
Long-term health consequences
Rountree warns that it may take 10 to 20 years before we will see the health consequences of toxic exposure in young children. He refers to cigarette smoke, asbestos, and lead in gasoline as examples of negative health consequences that became obvious over time.
How can we reduce our children’s chemical exposure?
We can take simple steps to reduce toxic chemical exposure in our homes, including:
dust and vacuum often
clean your home with natural products (e.g. baking soda, lemon, vinegar)
avoid antibacterial products that contain triclosan (choose ones containing alcohol instead)
avoid phthalates, labelled as “fragrance” and “parfum” on personal care products (choose unscented products)
purchase toys that are phthalate- and BPA-free
avoid the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides on lawns and gardens
The Environmental Defence has a handy printable personal care product pocket shopping guide that can help you determine which chemicals to avoid when buying personal care products. You can also take their pledge to go Toxin Ten Free in 2013.