When it comes to toxic chemicals, kids are not just little adults
You’d think a newborn baby would have a fresh start when it comes to toxic chemicals. But chemicals move across the placenta, so a baby emerges with some of the same pollution in its system as its mother. Tests of umbilical blood have detected chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects as well as those that are toxic to the brain and nervous system.
Once born, infants take in even more pollution, through breathing, eating, and passage through the skin, just as adults do. But they are at greater risk from these exposures because of their physical differences. They have a faster metabolism. Their bodies are still developing rapidly, and exposures to toxic chemicals may disrupt a critical developmental step. They may not be able to protect themselves from chemicals as well as adults, because their immune systems are immature. And, per pound of body weight, they receive a greater dose of any chemical they’re exposed to. Some of the differences are stark.
Watch a video from Go Green Tube and learn more about purchasing safe baby products.
Per pound of body weight, a young child
- breathes two times as much air as an adult.
- eats more than three times as much food and tends to have less variety. For example, kids consume 10 times as much apple products, such as juice.
- drinks two to seven times more liquid. An infant living on breast milk or formula, for instance, consumes about one-seventh of its body weight each day. In a 155-pound adult, that would be the equivalent of 10 quarts!
- has 2.5 times more skin surface area, as well as skin that is as much as 30% thinner than adults’.
What You Can Do
With the information in our Home Health Center at your fingertips, you can take positive steps to help your child stay healthy. Here’s a guide to the articles every mom, dad, and grandparent should read:
- Baby bottles. Kids may not be able to metabolize certain chemicals that adults can, such as bisphenol-a (BPA). So make sure they aren’t exposed to this potentially hormone-disrupting chemical in a hard-plastic “polycarbonate” sippy cup or baby bottle or in the plastic linings of some canned food or beverages. Animal studies have linked low levels of BPA to problems such as hyperactivity, learning disabilities, early onset of puberty, and increased risk of diabetes.
- Bedding. Make sure your bundle of joy isn’t wrapped in fabrics with toxic finishes or surrounded by dust mites. Our article on beds and bedding will tell you all you need to know about mattresses, sheets, pillows, beds, and blankets.
- Cleaning products. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then parents who use buy anti-bacterial soaps should be a couple of steps closer to heaven, right? Wrong. Our survey of cleaning products explains why these soaps are doing more harm than good.
- Diapers. Which is better: disposable or cloth diapers? As you’ll learn in our article, it depends . . .
- Floor Coverings. Kids spend a lot of time close to the ground. So before you buy a cushy new carpet for your favorite rug rat, make sure the fibers are not going to emit a known carcinogen, formaldehyde, or other chemicals that could be harmful to your child’s developing body.
- Food. Sure, most kids like candy, sodas, and processed snacks, but reserve them for the occasional treat. Make sure that most of what your children eat is fresh, wholesome, and pesticide free. Our food article tells you how to put together delicious, simple-to-make meals that are good for your family and the rest of the planet. Remember-you’re establishing healthy eating habits that could last a lifetime.
- Personal care products. People who crawl on the ground and make mud pies need plenty of soap and shampoo. They also likely need sunscreen and maybe even bug repellant. Before you buy, learn the do’s and don’ts of personal care products, for adults and kids alike.
- Pesticides. Go organic in the garden for the good of your kid. A dose of pesticide that might not bother an adult could hurt a child, as it did in a case of diazinon poisoning in an infant following application by an unlicensed pesticide company. The only family member to get sick was the infant.
- Toys. From a young child’s perspective, toys are for chewing. So make sure the playthings you buy don’t contain lead or phthalates. Our toys article has the scoop on both.
- And More . . . People who care about kids can get good advice about building a healthy home in “9 Home Health Risks,” an article that summarizes the most important home-based threats, including some not mentioned above, such as lead, mold, and radon.