If the toxic lead paint scare wasn’t enough of a reason for you to consider getting rid of all of your children’s plastic toys, you might change your tune after you read about a new study that revealed high levels of industrial chemicals in children’s bodies. Children as young as 18 months and 5 years old showed “chemical exposure levels up to seven times those of their parents.” How did these kids end up with industrial chemicals in their bodies? How about from their toys, their furniture, their bottles, their pajamas.
When I first read the title of the article, Tests reveal high chemical levels in kids’ bodies, I had a feeling I knew where it was going, but the results were pretty alarming nonetheless.
“In 2004, the Hollands became the first intact nuclear family in the United States to undergo body burden testing. Rowan, at just 1Â½ years old, became the youngest child in the U.S. to be tested for chemical exposure with this method.
“He had two to three times the level of flame retardants in his body that’s been known to cause thyroid dysfunction in lab rats.”
…children up to six years old are most at risk because their vital organs and immune system are still developing and because they depend more heavily on their environments than adults do.”
Some of the chemicals the Holland children were tested for include:
Phthalates are the chemicals that make plastics soft and pliable. Phthalates disrupt hormone levels, cause neurological dysfunction and reproductive defects in lab rats. In preliminary human testing, phthalate exposure may be linked to genital birth defects in males and infertility problems in men.
Think about all of the soft plastic toys your baby may have (or have had in the past) – teething rings, toys on exersaucers, stackable rings, Fisher Price “Little People,” rubber ducks. Now think about how many of those toys go/went into your baby’s mouth. What about plastic eating utensils?
Flame retardants such as PBDEs are found in foam products like mattresses, couches, and carpets and electronic plastic casings. Liver, thyroid and neurological damage in lab rats. Studies on human toxicity have just begun.
Flame retardants are also on children’s pajamas.
Bisphenol A is a chemical used to make plastics hard. Found in baby bottles, hard water bottles, food containers. Study shows a link between bisphenol A and female reproductive disorders such as cystic ovaries and cancer. More research on children and adults recommended.
PFOAs are chemicals used to make non-stick and stain-resistant products such as non-stick frying pans. Developmental problems and liver toxicity in lab rats. Some studies suggest PFOAs may be human carcinogens.
How many of us have stain-resistant sprays on our furniture or carpeting? Where do babies and kids spend most of their time? On the floor. On the stain-resistant carpet.
Fellow blogger and Coloradan Katja at Skimbaco wrote an excellent post about this very subject called Protect your child from the harmful chemicals in your home. She includes a list of things you can do to help keep your children safe. Rather than repeat all of her information over here, I highly suggest you pop over there and take a look. I was quite shocked to read that sex toys, of all things, have to have warning labels on them when they have high phthalate levels, yet children’s toys do not. How messed up is that?
So, what am I going to do about this in our home?
- For starters I’m going to try to avoid putting my children in flame retardant pajamas. Think about how much time your children spends in their PJs – at least half of their life, right? That’s a huge amount of exposure to PBDEs. (Read this article – “Inherently” Flame-Resistant Pajamas? - from The Green Guide for more information about pajama safety standards and what options you have other than pjs treated with flame retardants.)
- I’m also going to check into getting organic sheets for our beds. I’ve thought about it in the past, but haven’t pursued it yet.
- And I’m going to continue to purge the plastic toys from our house. We got a good start after the lead paint/made in China scare, but we need to keep at it. There are too many times that I look over at Julian to see him gnawing on a soft plastic something or other, and I remember it being that same way with Ava as well. I do know soft plastic toys can be made without phthalates, because Jody bought Ava one such squishy, squeaky toy when she was just a baby. On the bottom of “Vinnie the skinny hippo” (our name, not the actual name of the toy), it says “No Phthalates.” We used to joke about that odd word – phthalates – until we found out what it meant. Then we were glad to know that Vinnie was phthalate-free. I imagine that unless your soft plastic toy is marked with “no phthalates,” then it’s probably safe to assume it has them. (Just quickly, here’s one store that sells toys with safe (no phthalates) plastic – The Bunny Nest. I’m sure you can find more by doing a Google search. Updated to add: I came across the Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide with tons of discount codes listed at the bottom. Also I just got the latest issue (Nov./Dec.) of Mothering magazine in the mail today. There’s an article called “Out of the Mouths of Babes” – a guide to non-toxic plastics, as well their annual toy review containing the Best Natural Toys of 2007 – I can’t wait to read them!)
I know I can’t protect my children from all of the toxins in the world. It’s simply impossible. But I believe I can protect them from dangerous chemicals by the products we choose to have or not have in our home. Even if the government isn’t going to ban them for their toxicity (like many other countries already have), this mama still can.
Knowledge is power.