Friday, June 22, 2012

Household chemicals: Protect your child with these 5 swaps

Children are more susceptible to chemical
exposure than adults, experts warn.
In the first few years of their lives, children grow like weeds, and their developing systems make them especially vulnerable to environmental pollutants.

Common chemicals and toxins in the home may affect them more because they tend to play closer to the floor, put more things into their mouths and inhale more air than adults in proportion to their body weight.

Parents can limit their children’s exposure to potentially harmful pollutants by making a few changes:

  1. Swap “antibacterial” products for soap and water. Antibacterial hand soaps, gels and body washes contain the chemical triclosan, which can interfere with thyroid function and contribute to the resistance to antibiotics. Soap and water are more than enough to get things clean, according to health authorities like the EPA and Health Canada.
  2. Choose organic cotton over flame-retardant materials. Flame retardant chemicals found in children’s clothing and mattresses have been linked to a wide range of health issues, including delayed brain development, reproductive problems and cancer. Organic cotton clothing is a much better choice and if you can afford it, so is a child’s mattress made from organic cotton or natural latex.  Or, let the mattress off-gas as much as possible and cover it with organic cotton protectors and sheets.
  3. Use natural products instead of pesticides. Pesticides generally use harsh chemicals to manage household pests, but these can be harmful to children – the EPA says most pesticides can block absorption of nutrients and cause biological changes. Studies have linked pesticide exposure with childhood leukemia and birth defects. Natural products that work against pests such as ants and roaches are vinegar sprayed around doors, windows and countertops, borax and sugar to kill roaches, and diatomaceous earth (careful, some of these natural products can also be hazardous if ingested).
  4. Ditch the air fresheners for actual clean air. Air freshening products contribute to indoor air pollution with hormone disrupting phthalates and VOCs, including formaldehyde (a known carcinogen). Open windows to increase ventilation and let some fresh air in. Use an air purifier with activated carbon (for chemicals and odors) and HEPA (for particles and dust) and opt for soy-based candles over petroleum-based ones.
  5. Swap chemical cleaning products with natural alternatives. Most commercially available cleaning products from the store contain harsh chemicals that can cause or aggravate respiratory problems. Natural cleaning agents include vinegar, baking soda and plain old soap and warm water. The vinegar has antibacterial properties and can be used on almost any surface in the home. The smell disappears after a few minutes. And baking soda makes a great natural scrubbing paste.
Source: The Kansas City Star

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