Don't let your home make your kids sick
With all the internal and external pressures that children face today, we as parents are more aware than ever of the importance of downtime and brain breaks. We are always looking for creative ways to help them relax or slow down. We set limits on screen time and prioritize a good night sleep, all to ensure they develop healthy bodies and minds. For healthy bodies and minds, we need to keep our immune systems working top notch. And did you know one of the best ways to keep your children's immune systems strong is to minimize their exposure to environmental toxins? GOOD NEWS: You get to control their exposure to chemicals and toxins in the place they spend the most time: HOME. Toxins: Toxic chemicals are in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the products we slather on our skin. Detoxification: The body's way of metabolizing and removing toxins. It's a process the body does naturally, all on its own. However, our body's capacity to detox is not endless.
When toxins build up in our body, we get sick. For robust health, it is important to keep our toxic load to a minimum.
What kinds of things are toxic?
Newsflash: toxic chemicals are everywhere in our homes. They are added to products like soap, toys, mattresses, detergents, spray cleaners, shampoos and lotions. These chemicals do all kinds of things. Some chemicals make soap bubblier. Some give spray cleaners a particular fragrance. Our children absorb these chemicals by breathing them in, absorbing them through their skin, or swallowing them. Unfortunately, many of the chemicals used in everyday products are known neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors. The buildup of these chemicals in our bodies (known as bioaccumulation) can cause allergies, mood problems, hormone disruption and even cancer.
Children are especially vulnerable to chemicals in products. Their ingestion rates are higher, their organs are still developing, and their bodies are less able to detoxify. Children are also more sensitive to toxins because they lack a fully developed blood-brain barrier which prevents the passage of chemicals between the bloodstream and neural tissue. Plus, children today are exposed to an ever-increasing number of chemicals, many of which have never been tested for their possible toxicity. Thus, we must be especially careful to shield children from these environmental toxins.
Of the tens of thousands of chemicals that have been introduced into the environment in the last half-century, most have not been tested for their impact on human health - and only 15 have been thoroughly tested for neurotoxicity. How do environmental toxins affect children?
Many of the chemicals found in our everyday household products are known neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors. What does this mean? Here are some examples:
Bisphenols (BPA and BPS) can be found in plastic baby bottles, plastic sippy cups, plastic containers, and toys. They can harm hormone systems and lead to prostate or breast cancer, reproductive problems, diabetes and obesity.
Phthalates (pronounced "thal-ates") are commonly found in plastic food wrap, synthetic fragrance and highly processed foods. They can act like hormones, leading to a variety of reproductive problems, especially in baby boys.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in spray cleaners, detergents, room sprays, deodorants and fragrances. The invisible droplets in VOCs are inhaled by children and can trigger asthma, respiratory symptoms, headaches and fatigue, cancer and neurological problems.
Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, proply- and others): These are preservatives found in soaps, shampoos, body washes and lotions. Parabens are known endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen, which means they can lock into our cells' own estrogen receptors and mess with our reproductive system. Parabens pose risks at very low doses and are especially harmful prenatally. They can play a role in cancers such as breast cancer, testicular cancer and prostate cancer and may also harm the immune system, making us more susceptible to disease and viruses.
Did you know that in Europe, before a product can be sold, the manufacturer has to prove it is safe? In the U.S., you can sell any product and in order to get it off the shelves, the consumer has to prove it is dangerous.
How do I know if my products are toxic?
This is a tricky one. Products labeled as "natural" or "safe" are not necessarily so. There is no law regulating product branding and no government agency responsible for testing products like shampoo and lotion for safety. Until times change, consumers must look out for themselves.
Just because it is for sale does not make it safe!
We know it is overwhelming to learn all the possible harmful ingredients and to take the time to look for them on every single ingredient label (especially since manufacturers are not even required to list every ingredient on their labels for trade secret reasons!), so we recommend two things: 1) The Healthy Living App. Download this amazing app from the Environmental Working Group and scan the bar codes of your everyday items. This nonpartisan, nonprofit group has gathered ingredient data on over 130,000 personal care, cleaning and food products and rates them based on their safety/toxicity.
2) Find companies you trust that use only safe ingredients. Virtually every item we use has a nontoxic counterpart. As toxic awareness increases and consumers are demanding safer products, more and more companies are committing themselves to offering clean products. There are some wonderful brands out there making nontoxic toys, cookware, mattresses, clothing, food and more.
Which brands are the safest (and actually work)?
We have researched and tested dozens of brands in dozens of categories and here is a list of some of our favorites. Fortunately for us, companies like the Environmental Working Group, Beautycounter and Seventh Generation are on the front lines advocating for government change. Until then, shop safe products to protect your family's health.
Did you know in Europe, there are 1400 ingredients banned or restricted from personal care products (like soaps and lotions) and only 30 banned in the U.S.?