The Hidden Toxins In Products Our Children Use Every Day

Most parents are vigilant about the health and safety of their children, keeping harmful chemicals like cleaners and prescription medications locked away and out of little hands.

But what many parents are not aware of are the dangerous levels of chemicals in everyday household products and materials.

And even more disturbing, toxic chemicals are prevalent in our children’s clothes, toys, and games.

Environmental Health News reports:

In most cases, no one knows what, if anything, exposure to small doses of these chemicals may do to people, especially babies and toddlers who tend to chew on items or rub them on their skin. For many of these compounds, there has been little or no research to investigate children’s exposure to them.

But some health experts worry about unknown risks because it is now clear that dozens of chemicals untested for potential health effects are found in everyday items, such as clothing, footwear, furniture and toys.

“Children are uniquely vulnerable to exposures given their hand-to-mouth behaviors, floor play and developing nervous and reproductive systems,” said Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a pediatric researcher at the University of Washington and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute who advised state officials when they wrote the disclosure rules.

In the first such move in the U.S., Washington State has passed legislation requiring a database to track the chemical compounds manufacturers use in children’s products.

The database has opened up a Pandora’s Box of information which can be accessed by parents and other state legislatures to seek information on the risks posed to our children.

The most prevalent chemical compound found was cobalt, present in Legos, most plastic toys, and dolls.

The second most common chemical was an industrial solvent named ethylene glycol, which was reported in more than 1,000 products, mostly plastics.

Companies like Gap and Gymboree were required to disclose their use of ethylene glycol in infant clothing, dolls, and stuffed toys.

H&M reported these chemicals in toys and dress-up clothes, and Little Tikes found it in a majority of their toys and games, which are all targeted towards very young children.

Among the most toxic chemicals are flame-resistant compounds, found in children’s sleepwear, blankets, car seats, changing pads, mattress pads, and other clothing items.

Health Essentials reports that these compounds can cause thyroid and cognitive problems, early onset of puberty, and developmental and physical delays in children:

“The chemicals used to make pajamas and other consumer products flame-retardant show up in water, wildlife, and human breast milk,” says pediatrician Michael Macknin, MD.

According to Dr. Macknin, the chemicals in fire retardants do diminish the flammability of products treated with them and have been associated with decreased burn injuries in children. However, the chemicals aren’t well-bound to the fabric fibers at times and can leech out. This allows the fire-retardant chemicals to float free in the environment.”

So what does the release of all this information mean for parents, and what will be done to regulate the use of these chemicals in the future?

Because Washington State runs the only database of this kind, it will potentially take years for physicians and scientists from other states to work together to find a solution.

And because the health effects of these chemicals can take years, if not decades, to develop, there is no standard for studying adults with health issues and tracing it back to the use of these products in children.

Many of these chemical compounds have not been in use for long enough to make a conclusion on long-term health risks, and thus, the companies that use them are not under any particular regulation to stop.

Environmental Health News continues:

 “It’s hard to do a study because you cannot dose kids with chemicals and then see what happens to them. So when we’re doing these kinds of studies, we look at what they’re exposed to and try to parse health outcomes,” Sathyanarayana said.

With so little understanding of the risks, particularly when it comes to altered hormones, “we should be trying to reduce the exposure to young children. They have developing organ systems, and these chemicals can affect the developing organ systems,” Sathyanarayana said.

Megan Schwarzman, a University of California, Berkeley research scientist who specializes in policy issues related to green chemistry, called Washington’s effort “a profound departure from the status quo.”

“A lot of people have been asking for this information for a long time, to find out what chemicals are in our daily lives. In terms of everyday products, the information just isn’t in the public domain. No one has ever required manufacturers to report that,” Schwarzman said.

“Ultimately, public disclosure can motivate companies to start asking about the safety of the chemicals in their products, and speed up the shift from hazardous chemicals to safer ones.”

Toxic Free Future reports on the need for other states to work towards the same level of disclosure as Washington.

Legislatures must take these risks seriously, and begin to regulate the use of chemical toxins, particularly in products targeting infants and toddlers, when development is at its most important stages.

“Far too many children’s products contain chemicals we know are harmful to children’s health,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of the Washington Toxics Coalition. “These chemicals have no business being in kids products. The data continues to show the need to pass laws that require the phase out of these chemicals.“

“I wish I could say I am surprised at the number of reports of chemicals in products, but I’m not. It’s beginning to feel like Groundhog Day. Harmful chemicals are reported in products yet manufacturers, as well as the Legislature, do nothing. It’s time for lawmakers to address the problem in a comprehensive way.”

For now, parents can be vigilant of what products come in contact with their children, taking a common-sense approach.

Reading labels, purchasing organic cotton pajamas, blankets, towels, and other clothing can help eliminate toxins leeching into our children’s skin are a good first step.

Use of natural bath products and household cleaners, researching any chemicals listed on children’s or household products, and using natural alternatives whenever possible can help reduce the risk — parental research is key.

Mommy Underground will keep you updated on how you can keep your child safe, and we have previously reported on other chemical dangers found on playgrounds, outdoor equipment, and in schools and daycares.

You can read more here, The Left Is Burying Vital Information About Child Safety, and share this article with other parents.

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