Childhood toxins

Plastic in my lotion? Naah…impossible. Well, that’s just it – we’ve learned to trust our favorite brands, but it seems that we’ve given them far too much leeway because they continue cramming a whole bunch of funky business into products that, on the surface, seem totally beneficial. Profits have taken precedence over consumer safety and lax product guidelines have made it even easier for manufacturers to pull the wool over our eyes. While this is the current climate, we don’t have to accept it.

There’s a simple way to safeguard the health of your little ones, not to mention yourself and any other people that you care about. Okay, to be quite honest, it’ll take a bit of effort on your part, but this article will help to jumpstart the process. First, make a point of investigating what’s REALLY in the products that you commonly bring into your household. Then, take notes on what the worst offenders are. Locate human and planet-friendly alternatives courtesy of your favorite online search engine. Finally, write them all down in a notebook that you tote along on all future shopping excursions. Bada-bing. 

The following list, while hopefully eye-opening, should really inspire you to conduct further research on the topic of chemical toxins because they’ve become such an omnipresent part of our lives whether we like it or not. The good news is that once you obtain a better understanding of the pervading substances to avoid, shopping for toxin-free items won’t seem nearly as daunting as it probably seems right at this moment.

LEAD

What Is it? A heavy metal that occurs in nature (the soil in your backyard) as well as in a vast range of manmade products (such as pre-1978 house paint, water pipes and solder).

How Does It Impact The Body? Detrimental to both adults and children, even in minor amounts, this neurotoxin can compromise the blood, brain and nervous system, harm the kidneys, trigger miscarriages, inhibit cognitive ability and trigger weakness in the extremities.

What Is It Used For? Lead can be found in everything from pharmaceuticals, lead-acid battery electrodes and radiation shields at the doctor’s office to countless construction and architectural materials, ammunition, imported children’s products, longer-burning candle wicks, polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC), fishing tackle, decorative glass, artist’s supplies and Christmas lights.

How Can I Avoid It?

  • Contact the health department in your city or call 800-424-LEAD for a household lead test.
  • Make a habit of removing your shoes as soon as you enter your home in order to avoid tracking soil everywhere (which could potentially be contaminated with lead).
  • Household dust can also be a source of lead, so regularly clean the interior of your home with chemical-free supplies, and also consistently wash your children’s toys and other possessions.
  • Steer clear of imported food ware, tableware, cosmetics, furniture, craft/art supplies and even clothing that contains lead – check this link for regularly posted product recalls.

MERCURY

What Is it? You know that old-fashioned thermometer that your grandmother whips out when you’re feeling under the weather – the one with the liquid silver material within? That aqueous metallic substance is mined from the earth’s crust, but mercury is also commonly found in atmospheric emissions resulting from coal power plants, cement production, smelting operations, gold mining and various other sources.

How Does It Impact The Body? This extremely toxic compound can harm peripheral vision, inhibit coordination, weaken muscles, trigger skin rashes and limit one’s ability to talk, hear or walk properly. Children are particularly vulnerable, as development can be seriously compromised and permanent heart, lung, kidney and immune system problems can result.

What Is It Used For? It preserves cosmetics like mascara, extends the shelf life of vaccines, helps assorted fluorescent lighting devices to illuminate properly (including CFLs) and is used in a number of thermometer-thermostat type devices and car switches.

How Can I Avoid It?

  • Get your old dental amalgam fillings replaced since they more than likely contain mercury.
  • For children, go easy on the canned tuna (or nix it all together!) – three ounces every week for a 36 pound child should be the absolute limit – and make sure it’s the ‘light’ variety rather than albacore or white.
  • Don’t eat high food chain fish species such as albacore tuna, tilefish, swordfish, shark and king mackerel which typically have the highest levels of mercury.
  • Limit your consumption of other seafood species that have reduced yet still dangerous mercury levels such as marlin, ahi, orange roughy and bigeye.

BISPHENOL A

What Is it? Yup, that now-notorious, plastic-derived compound that’s been in the headlines for the last several years is still at it. Any which way you slice it, BPA is up to no good when it floats around in our bodies.

How Does It Impact The Body? 90% of Americans carry detectable levels of this estrogen-mimicking menace in their blood, and in addition to the chemical messing with the reproductive system, it is believed to trigger cancer of the breast and prostate, plus hyperactivity in children

What Is It Used For? Thermal paper grocery store receipts, dental sealants, polycarbonate plastic food packaging, disposable plastic cutlery, water bottles, the linings in metal beverage/food cans, a whole host of children’s products (baby bottles, especially) and sunglasses!

How Can I Avoid It?

  • Try to purge your household and life of plastic, beginning with all food storage and reusable water bottles — shift over to glass and/or stainless steel options instead.
  • If you must use plastic, avoid containers with a #7 or PC indicator since they commonly contain BPA.
  • Don’t microwave food in plastic containers, which typically leach chemicals when exposed to high temperatures.
  • Seek out BPA-free food packaging (such as aseptic Tetra Pak cartons) and canned brands like Vital Choice Seafood, Native Forest, Trader Joe’s, Eden Organic, Wild Planet and Oregon’s Choice, all of which use alternative liners.
  • Better yet, go for convenience foods such as vegetables, fruit and baby food in glass jars since they’re totally non-reactive and absent of chemicals.

PHTHALATES

What Are They? Think of these chemicals as the key softening agents that make plastics pliable, durable and long-lasting. Oddly enough, they make a whole lot of other things flexible… things that we apply to our bodies and even consume. Yikes.

How Do They Impact The Body? Like BPA, phthalates cause all sorts of funny business in the reproductive system, from birth defects and hormone changes to obesity and liver damage.

What Are They Used For? Vinyl, insect repellents, food wrappers, jelly rubber sex toys, intravenous tubing, the coating of herbal supplements and pharmaceutical drugs, household caulk and paint, children’s toys, shower curtains, textiles, garden hoses, personal care products (including nail polish, moisturizer, hair spray, eye shadow and perfume), etc.

How Can I Avoid Them?

  • Um, do you really need another good reason to get rid of the plastic in your life?
  • Use 100% phthalate-free personal care products since your skin absorbs whatever you slather on it, and be wary of the term ‘fragrance’ since it is often used as a catch-all phrase that can include phthalates.
  • Avoid any product containing DMP (dimethyl phthalate), BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate), DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, DEP (diethyl phthalate) or DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate).
  • Look for phthalate-free nutritional supplements!!

Image: Nanny Snowflake 

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