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National Child Safety Expert, Alison Rhodes, “The Safety Mom,” is one of the country's leading child safety authorities, providing tips and advice to parents on a broad range of issues facing all children - newborns to teens.

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Environmental Toxins
by Alison Rhodes

There is a growing desire among parents to “go green.” Many of us are recognizing that chemicals and pesticides in and around our home are doing damage to our entire family, especially our young children. As a mother of a child with learning disabilities, I can’t help but wonder whether my son’s issues have been caused by environmental toxins he has been exposed to.

The evidence of the harmful effects environmental toxins have on our children is mounting. Doris Rapp, M.D., a leading environmental medical specialist and pediatric allergist, has written a fully documented, 600-page book describing the causes, health effects and treatments of environmental illness. Is This Your Child’s World? How You Can Fix the Schools and Homes That Are Making Your Children Sick provides help for children who are hyperactive, asthmatic, or suffering from chronic illness or learning problems. Environmental illness is a label for an assortment of medical problems caused by environmental factors, including chemicals. Common symptoms are some combination of nasal congestion, fatigue, headaches, hyperactivity, muscle or joint pain, twitches, blurred vision, burning skin, abdominal discomfort, and inability to think clearly, as well as a variety of learning or behavior difficulties. Many feel that the rise in autism is directly linked to environmental toxins. And, experts acknowledge that in many instances childhood leukemia and childhood cancers are not genetic but actually triggered by chemicals.

Regardless, common sense tells us that it’s far better to eliminate these toxins from our environment. It’s almost impossible to remove all of the environmental toxins from our home but the more we can do the better. Becoming aware of the problems and some healthier alternatives is the first step.

Clear the air

My mother always used to throw open the windows to “air out the house” as she said. Turns out she was on to something. Common household cleaners and home improvement items such as wet paint, new carpet and treated wood as well as all of those lovely air fresheners we use to make our homes smell lovely emit fumes that contain chemicals. Without ventilation they will attaché to dust particles on the floor and fibers in fabric such as carpets, curtains and upholstery. As children are playing on the floor or even sitting on the floor they can pick them up. The best solution is to open windows and use exhaust fans which will allow the chemicals to escape.

Toss the toxins

We’ve been brainwashed by companies into thinking that, when it comes to cleaning products, stronger is better. This is especially true with the advent of antibacterial soaps, toothpastes and other personal care products. The reality is that outside the hospital setting antibacterial products are not necessary and, in fact, can be potentially harmful. The active ingredient in antibacterial products is triclosan which, according to the EPA, “is suspected to be” contaminated with dioxins, highly carcinogenic chemicals. Household cleaners can also be highly toxic. The combination of bleach and ammonia, which also is found in antibacterial products, can create chlorine gas that, in small doses can cause eye and lung irritation, but in large doses can actually kill. Fortunately, there are many effective and safe alternatives on the market today. For protecting kids from germs, good hand washing is just as effective as antibacterial soaps. Teach kids proper hand washing techniques and make sure they wash often. Wash their toys regularly as well. All natural cleaning products such as vinegar, baking powder and lemon juice are highly effective in cleaning appliances and surfaces. There are also several great lines of green cleaning products in stores today.

You are what you eat

While the EPA is tasked with monitoring the level of pesticides used on food, the level is still too high. Some of the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticides are the ones kids love the most – apples, celery, peaches and pears. Exposure to these pesticides builds up over the years and can cause serious health issues including developmental delays, behavioral disorders and motor dysfunction. Try to select organic produce at your grocery store or shop at local farmer’s markets for organic produce. Beware of labels however! “Natural” does not mean it’s organic. In fact it’s an unregulated term that can be placed on any product which makes it quite misleading. Only the “USDA Organic” label indicates that a food is certified organic.

We don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict what effect chemicals in our environment will have on our children or ourselves. But something to consider is banking your baby’s cord blood which could be used, if needed, to help save your child’s life in the event they develop leukemia or cancer triggered by environmental toxins.

At times it seems overwhelming, but even small changes can make a big difference in your family’s health. Make a commitment to reduce or remove just one chemical from your home and congratulate yourself for cleaning up your house!

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Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen

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