RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Just because you don't immediately fall ill when exposed to a chemical doesn't mean it's not harming you. More and more research is finding that breathing, absorbing, eating, or drinking even trace amounts of chemicals common in our homes and environments is linked to serious health problems—and babies in the womb and young children are particularly at risk because their bodies are still developing. In fact, researchers are investigating the notion that certain exposures in the womb can actually affect that unborn child's grandchildren down the line! Now, a group of leading pediatricians on the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health are demanding changes in legislation that would crack down on the chemical assault on children's health. In a policy statement released today that will also be published in the May issue of Pediatrics, these doctors are calling for Congress to update the ineffective 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which would force manufacturers to perform toxicity testing on chemicals (of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use now, only about 5,000 are tested for lasting effects on human health). The pediatricians also call for fellow doctors to recognize the risk these everday harmful chemicals—found in everything from pencils and soap to food laced with pesticides and shampoo chemicals.
Until stronger legislation protects us, here's how to help defend children's health:
• Eat organic. Pesticides in food have been linked to ADHD and other childhood health problems. And it's not just on the food, either. Scientists have found that systemic pesticides are taken up inside of the plants that we eat. Gross! The good news is studies have found that once a child moves from a conventional diet to an organic one, pesticide levels in the body plummet—fast.
• Practice nontoxic pest control. Many bug killers work because they screw with a bug's nerves. But those same chemical controls could be messing with children's health, too. Save money and your health by reaching for nontoxic roach-control methods that work.
More nontoxic pest control:
• Give plastic the cold shoulder. Sure, we've known for a few years now that Nos. 3 and 6 plastic and BPA are particularly bad for you. But a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that all plastic is bad for you. So learn to rule out trivial plastic use and opt for glass or food-grade stainless steel reusable containers for food storage.
• Sidestep junky toys. Many news reports over the years have highlighted imported toxic toys loaded with carcinogenic cadmium, mercury, or other contaminants. Instead, look for nontoxic toy makers that forgo lead-loaded paints and harmful heavy metals.
• Choose safer soaps. Don't suds yourself sick with toxic perfumed antibacterial soaps. Instead, search the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to rate the safety of your current personal-care products, and to find safer alternatives, if need be.
• Clean greenly. The last thing you want to do is create an unhealthy environment when cleaning. So ditch the harsh disinfectants for safer, much cheaper ones; build a green cleaning kit, and then tap our favorite green cleaning recipes. While you're at it, ditch scented candles and air fresheners; they are loaded with respiratory irritants and pollute your air with some of the same chemicals found in tailpipe exhaust!