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Title: Green child-proofing for toxic tots
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/17/2009 07:38 AM)
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Green child-proofing for toxic tots

(Mar 5, 2008) By the time the average North American child enters kindergarten, they’ve already been exposed to a veritable cocktail of chemicals. How do we protect our children from common toxic chemicals? We can start by greening our homes.

Canaries in the coal mine
Toxic exposures in utero and during childhood can permanently alter or damage a child’s development and compromise their health as adults.

Over 23,000 chemicals and substances are in commercial use in North America and hundreds of new substances are generated every year. Yet, according to the
Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment (CPCHE), the majority of these chemicals have either not been tested or not tested thoroughly for their potential effects on infants and children.

"We are conducting a vast toxicological experiment in which our children, and our children’s children, are the experimental subjects," Dr. Harvey Needleman, CPCHE.

Not just "little adults"
Most chemical guidelines have been set based on studies in adult populations. But children are far more vulnerable to chemicals because of their differences in metabolism and physiology. Faster respiratory rates and immature lungs make crawling infants and toddlers more vulnerable to VOCs from carpets and floors. Pre-teens are much more vulnerable to various hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Green child-proofing
Every parent understands the importance of childproofing to protect our kids from immediate harm. But children’s health advocates suggest the less visible, potentially hazardous toxic chemicals in our homes be added to the list for child proofing.

Dangerous trio
Start off with getting rid of three dangerous chemicals: formaldehyde, PBDEs and Phthalates.

A volatile organic compound (VOC), formaldehyde is a major source of indoor air pollution in the North American home. It’s a common ingredient in adhesives and finishes, found in fiberboard, particleboard, plywood (used in furniture and cabinetry), carpets and carpet glues, paints, floor finishes, and certain textiles and clothing. It off gases steadily over time and is highly toxic. Immediate reactions include allergic skin reactions, eye, nose and throat irritation and nausea. Long-term negative health effects include respiratory problems, asthma-like symptoms.

PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers)
A class of flame retardants, PBDE is used extensively in home electronics, textiles, carpets, upholstered furniture, and polyurethane foam. As these products slowly degrade, they release polybrominated dephenyl ethers (PBDEs) particles into the air which settle into household dust.

Levels of PBDEs found in food, house dust, blood and breast milk have dramatically increased worldwide, particularly in North America. Recent studies indicate children have even higher concentrations than their parents.

Once considered safe, research over the past decade has many scientists and environmentalists concerned about the safety of PBDE. Exposure has been linked to impaired brain development, decreased I.Q., liver damage, negative effects on reproductive, hormonal, developmental and immune systems, and possibly cancer.

Highly toxic, bioaccumulative and persistent, PBDEs are now considered by many to be "the PCBs of the 21st century".

Used in many plastics, particularly in PVC, phthalate is a chemical added to make plastic flexible and durable. It’s prevalent in children’s toys, baby bottles and teething rings. A recent American study found that nearly half of the toys tested contained phthalates at high levels.

Phthalates are also used as fragrance stabilizers in personal care products, including products designed specifically for babies and toddlers, such as lotions, shampoos,
powders, baby wipes and diaper creams.

Phthalates can pose serious health risks to babies and pre- pubescent children including hormone disruption, negative effects on the liver, kidneys, blood, and reproductive and developmental systems. Tests conducted by the American government have found phthalates present in almost all of the population, with the highest concentrations found in women and in children ages 6 to 1.1.

Another study published in the journal Pediatrics found elevated levels of phthalates in the urine of babies shortly after they’d been treated with products that contain the chemical, with the highest levels found in babies younger than 8 months.

Of particular concern are
baby bottles.

Detox your home
Getting rid of these three chemicals will improve the health and safety of your home. Short of moving your child into a bubble (phthalate-free of course), you can also use chemical free cleaning products in your home and follow the
10 Easy tips to detox your home and your children.

Melanie Leavitt is an environmental writer based in Montreal. She would like to dedicate this article to the memory of her mother, Barbara Leavitt, who worked in the construction industry for almost two decades and dedicated the last 15 years of her life promoting "greener" and healthier construction".

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