Consumer Products Expose Children to Toxic Chemicals

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Consumer Products Expose Children to Toxic Chemicals
If you are worried about products exposing you or your children to toxic chemicals, don't look to the federal government for much help. The government, to a large extent, does not require companies to test chemicals for possible health effects before using them in consumer products, nor does it require that such products be fully labeled with chemical ingredients. In the absence of such government activity, public interest groups and the media have stepped into the role of testing and informing the public.

The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) cosmetic safety database Skin Deep provides a comprehensive guide to toxicity in personal care products, with ingredient information and safety assessments for almost 24,000 products. On Nov. 1, EWG released the survey results of children's product use, which found that every day, the average child is exposed to 27 chemicals that have not been found safe for children. Even "gentle" and "non-irritating" products were part of the problem, with approximately 80 percent containing ingredients linked to allergies.
Children are much more vulnerable to toxins than adults, as children eat, drink and breathe proportionally more than adults. With still developing organs and immune systems, their bodies experience more harm and are less able to detoxify themselves. "Body burden" testing, or biomonitoring, the burgeoning practice of testing people for the presence of industrial chemicals, confirms children's much greater burden. The first family body burden testing in 2004 discovered that some children had up to seven times the chemical exposure as their parents, and a concurrent investigation by EWG found an average of 200 toxic chemicals in umbilical cord blood.
Body burden testing was showcased in CNN's Oct. 23 and 24 special report "Planet in Peril," a four-hour exploration into global environmental degradation. The show reported on the Hammonds, a family of four in Oakland, CA, who, after participating in the first family body burden tests, found that their children, ages five and one and a half, tested much higher for chemical exposure than their parents. The youngest child had levels of a certain class of flame retardants - polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) - three times higher than the level that causes thyroid problems in rats. Correspondent Anderson Cooper also participated in a body burden assessment and tested positive for over 100 chemicals, including DDT, which was banned in the placecountry-regionUnited States in the 1970s.
Unfortunately, even knowing the levels of toxic chemicals in our blood often leaves us to guess about possible health risks, as the government has done little research into the effects of such exposures. Dr. Leo Trasande at the Center for Children's Health and the Environment at the PlaceNameMount Sinai PlaceNameMedical PlaceTypeCenter in placeCityNew York City, who conducted Cooper's body burden test, noted that the lack of information is cause for alarm. "Rates of asthma, childhood cancers, birth defects and developmental disorders have exponentially increased, and it can't be explained by changes in the human genome," noted Trasande. "So what has changed? All the chemicals we're being exposed to."
Despite having the authority to demand greater testing and labeling, as well as resources for more comprehensive studies about the impacts of chemical exposures on health, the federal government has been slow to take action. Companion bills in the Senate (S. 2082) and House (H.R. 3643) introduced by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), respectively, would increase funding for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biomonitoring projects. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is also reportedly considering a bill to increase FDA regulation of personal care products and cosmetics.

In today's world, the air we breathe, the water we drink, food we eat,
and homes we live in, and parks where we play are all susceptible to
a host of environmental toxins.

Of course, as a parent you want to do everything you can to keep your child safe.

But protecting children from environmental toxins may seem like a big challenge.

The resources listed below should make this task easier.

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