I read this report a few days ago about a family that underwent “body burden” testing which looks at the presence and levels of industrial chemicals in people. This is the first time that a nuclear family has undergone testing together. The results were pretty shocking.
…tests revealed that their children — Rowan, then 18 months, and Mikaela, then 5 — had chemical exposure levels up to seven times those of their parents.
Truly I am at a loss for words over the idea that a little person who has only been alive for 18 months could have levels that surpass that of his parents by several times. What does that say about the toxic substances that our children are exposed to on a daily basis? And what are those toxic chemicals and how can we get rid of them?
Most Americans haven’t heard of body burden testing, but it’s a hot topic among environmentalists and public health experts who warn that the industrial chemicals we come into contact with every day are accumulating in our bodies and endangering our health in ways we have yet to understand.
The list of chemicals that are hidden in products we use every day is daunting. It is easy to avoid some of the obvious things, but the phthalates (which are used to make plastic soft) hiding in shampoo, nail polish, and soft plastic toys have been shown to cause reproductive defects, obesity and early puberty in lab animals. It makes you want to throw your hands up in the air and swear off bathing, grooming and give your child a stick and rock to play with.
PBDEs, the chemical that makes things flame retardant, has been shown in lab animals to cause liver, thyroid and neurological damage and yet go to any store and you will find flame retardant pajamas on sale for children. Isn’t that just what you want to have touching your child’s skin for 12 hours out of each day? Why in the off chance that your toddler takes up smoking and falls asleep in his crib with a butt hanging out of his mouth?
Bisphenol A, makes plastic hard, and is commonly found in water bottles and baby bottles. It has been shown to cause an increase in female reproductive disorders. PFOAs, found in non stick pans, has been shown to cause liver problems and developmental disorders. Most troubling is that it is not easily eliminated from the human body. PCBs were banned in the US in 1970 but still are ever present in older appliances, are a known carcinogen.
So what do you do? Aside from living in a bubble, which probably would be made of soft plastic and therefore be laden with phthalates as well. Some offer easy solutions like replacing your baby’s bottle with a glass one or not putting him in flame retardant pajamas. And throwing away those non-stick coated pans.
But soon the choices become less obvious. Tear up your wall to wall carpeting and install hardwood flooring, but make sure that it is from a sustainable forest, because you know the environment is hanging in the balance too. After awhile you can make yourself a bit crazy, or crazier, as the case may be.
If you are like me you are probably sipping your fair trade coffee and thinking, ‘I already buy hormone free milk, organically raised beef, eggs from free range hormone free hens, chickens that were raised with love, hand fed, and coddled like pets until the fateful day they had their heads chopped off. I clean with vinegar and water, and wash my sweatshop free, organic cotton clothing in all natural soap that leaves my clothes just as dirty as they went in the low energy-low water usage washing machine. And now I have to worry about this too?’
Well, yes you do. But it is important as in all things to keep it in perspective. Even taking small steps can limit your exposure. Take baby steps eliminating one thing from your life at a time. Then it doesn’t seem like an insurmountable burden.
I will go on record here as saying I love bleach. I love it and it’s bacteria killing abilities. I love how it cleans the mold and mildew off of my bathroom grout and makes my toilet bowl sparkle. And honestly, I can not imagine giving it up. I joke that the tree huggers will have to pry it out of my cold, dead, yet thoroughly sanitized hands.
I tell you this bit of information to let everyone know that I do not hold myself out as some sort of example to follow. I am also struggling with information overload just like the rest of you. And where we go from here is a question for all of us to answer.
(cross posted at handipoints)