Children and toxins, the dangers to avoid
It’s true not all chemicals are bad. But toxic metals like lead and mercury are found in all of us. So are persistent toxins like PCB’s and endocrine disruptors such as Bisphenol A and flame retardants.
We’ve been studying the impact of toxins on children for the past 30 years and reach the inescapable conclusion: Toxins can have a lifelong impact on children.We’ve also discovered that extremely low levels of toxins can impact brain development.
Let’s take a look at the percent of children who are exposed to some of these toxins using a national study in the United States. To keep it simple we’ll use one hundred children to represent all children. Mercury is found in 89 percent of children, primarily from eating large fish contaminated by pollution. Lead is detected in the blood of all children regardless of race, income or where they live.
*Over 80 percent of children are exposed to organophosphate pesticides mostly from food. All children are exposed to PCB’s, a persistent pollutant that was banned in the 70s but will linger for generations.
* Bisphenol A or BPA is found in 96 percent of children.
*PBDEs, a type of flame retardant, are found in 100 percent of children.
But these toxins don’t occur in isolation, children are exposed to many toxins and dozens of untested chemicals all the time.
Let’s take a look at the body burden of a typical child one toxin at a time.If each marble represents one part per billion of a toxin,this figure represents the body burden up a typical child.One part per billion is deceptively small, it is only about 2 tablespoons of sugar in an olympic-size swimming pool. but chemicals can be biologically active even at very low levels.
The chemical industry has tried to assure us that concentrations of these toxins are too small to cause harm. But chemicals designed by drug companies to alter behavior like the prescribed dose of ritalin, a drug commonly used to treat children with ADHD is active at levels about the same or even lower than toxins found in the blood.
Besides a lot of studies have shown that some chemicals can be toxic even at very low levels. As the body burden of PBDEs in pregnant women increases the intellectual ability of their children decreases : As the level of PBDEs in mother’s blood increases from 10 to 100 parts per billion, the IQ scores of their children dropped by about five points.
We see a similar pattern with organophosphate pesticides. As a level of organophosphate pesticides in pregnant women increases from 10 to 75 parts per billion the IQ scores of their children drop by about five points.
In the 1960s hundreds of children died from severe lead poisoning every summer. Since then, much lower levels of exposure have been shown to result in learning deficits and brain disorders like ADHD. In fact the World Health Organization and other agencies agree: there is no safe level of lead exposure. As the level of lead in children’s blood increases from 0 to 100 parts per billion IQ scores dropped by about six points. In contrast an increase from 100 to 200 parts per billion results in an IQ drop of two more points.
An increase from 200 to 300 parts per billion results in an IQ drop of another point. The impact of toxins on the developing brain is permanent. Children who are more heavily exposed to toxins won’t reach the same peak cognitive ability as those who have lower exposures.
The studies show that there is no safe level of exposure. They also indicate that the way we regulate toxins, which assumes there is a safe level, fails to protect children. The chemical industry argues that the effect of toxins on children is subtle and of little consequence. But that’s misleading. Little shifts in children’s IQ scores have a big impact on the number of children who are challenged or gifted.
Let’s go back to our original sample of 100 children and look at a typical distribution of IQ scores. Most of us have IQ scores that fall between 85 and 115 points. Only two and a half percent of children have an IQ above 130, which is considered gifted. There are about six million children in this group.
On the other end of the distribution another two and a half percent of children have an IQ below 70 which is considered challenged. The impact of exposure to a toxin like lead causes a five point drop in IQ. This shift results in a 57 percent increase in the number of children that are challenged, from 6 million to 9.4 million. There is a corresponding decrease in the number of children that are gifted from 6 million to 2.4 million…
The impact of exposure to another toxin like flame retardant results in a further increase in the number of children who are challenged from 9.4 million to over 11 million. There’s a further decrease in the number of gifted children. Although many or even most chemicals are harmless the cumulative impact of exposures to three or four toxins is overwhelming to imagine.
In Canada and United States chemicals are used in consumer products and released into the environment before they are tested for toxic affects.
By allowing children to be exposed to toxins or chemicals of unknown toxicity we are unwittingly using our children as part of a massive experiment
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Like the European Union, we could require industry to prove that the chemicals they use aren’t toxic before they enter the market.
How can we avoid exposure to toxins or chemicals upon known toxicity?
The ultimate solution is to revise how we regulate chemicals!
1) Consider writing a letter to your government representative and urge them to require industry to test their products before they are put on the market.
2) Eat fresh or frozen foods.
3) If possible, choose organic, try to avoid canned foods and steer clear of heavily processed foods.
4) If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, eat fish low in mercury. Don’t use pesticides in and around your home.
5) Check your home for lead hazards especially if it was built before 1960.
6) Frequent cleaning of floors and surfaces can help reduce children’s exposures to lead, flame retardants and other toxins and house dust.
Credits to : Canadian Environmental Health Atlas