Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chemicals and Kids

My daughter called me yesterday to tell me that she has the cleanest windows in town. With three little boys, that's no small accomplishment. The best part of the story is that the boys can do the cleaning themselves, because she just puts a solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle, hands it to them with a clean rag and says, "Go to it, boys." She's a good mom, and her boys are learning several valuable lessons, not the least of which is that a clean house and a chemically safe house are not mutually exclusive.

In an article from the online magazine deliciousliving, some staggering statistics are given about kids' exposure to toxic chemicals. A study done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and released in 2007 reveals that children, on average, are exposed to 60 chemicals daily by way of personal care products alone. Of those 60, just over half of them have been assessed by the government for safety.

It makes sense that children are more susceptible to chemical exposures due to their smaller body weight and thinner skin (our skin doesn't reach full thickness until the age of 20). Also, children have immature immune systems, which make them less able to process the chemicals that get into their bodies.

My youngest daughter is expecting her first baby this month, so I have been shopping for baby things, and I am amazed at all the different care products on the market. When my babies were little, my arsenal of products consisted mainly of an unscented bar of soap (for washing), a box of cornstarch (for everyday diapering) and a tube of zinc oxide ointment (for the occasional really bad diaper burn). Most of what I'm seeing on the retail shelf now is highly scented and contains ingredients I can't pronounce.

The good news is that there are some safer products available. The above mentioned article makes several good suggestions, which really are just common sense.

1. Read labels with a sceptic eye. Natural doesn't necessarily mean safe. Look for the USDA Organic seal and don't buy anything that contains compounds with "eth" suffix (like sodium laureth sulfate).
2. Look for "fragrance free" or "no added fragrance." We all know that added fragrances contain toxic substances (which the manufacturer doesn't have to reveal).
3. Use less--smaller amounts of fewer products. Keep it simple.
4. Consult the experts: has lists of safe products for children and adults.

And just for good measure, here are some recommendations:

Aubry Organics Natural Baby and Kids (this is my favorite brand of care products for adults too)
Dr. Bronner's pure castile liquid soaps
California Baby products
Earth Tribe Kids botanicals
Burt's Bees products

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