If Parents Don’t Protect Their Kids from Harmful Chemicals, Who Will?

Being a parent today seems to require a hyper-vigilance to make sure your child is protected from unhealthy — sometimes even toxic chemicals — in their toys, clothing, eating utensils, furniture, household items, and more. Between lead-based paint, PVC and phthalates in toys, bisphenol A (BPA) in water bottles, flame retardant in pajamas and recently cadmium — a carcinogen — in McDonald’s Shrek glasses, there’s a lot to keep moms and dads on their toes.

The question becomes: What is the best way to keep your child safe? How can a parent know that something they (or a friend or relative) buy for their little one isn’t going to cause them harm? Even if you make your own toys, buy them handmade by an artisan or buy supplies for your children to make their own simple toys, how can you know that the materials are all safe?

The fact is there is not enough being done in the United States to protect anyone, but especially children, from harmful chemicals.

According to the CNN article Toxic chemicals finding their way into the womb, “The EWG [Environmental Working Group] study found an average of 232 chemicals in the cord blood of 10 babies born late last year.”

They are chemicals found in a wide array of common household products — a list that is as long as it is familiar — shampoos and conditioners, cosmetics, plastics, shower curtains, mattresses, electronics like computers and cell phones, among others.

“For 80 percent of the common chemicals in everyday use in this country we know almost nothing about whether or not they can damage the brains of children, the immune system, the reproductive system, and the other developing organs,” said Dr. Phil Landrigan, a pediatrician and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “It’s really a terrible mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.”

Environmental attorney and mother Patti Goldman believes, “When it comes to protecting our kids from toxic chemicals, parents need a system that meets us halfway. We need to shift the burden from families to the companies who are manufacturing and distributing the chemicals used in these products.”

The potentially good news is that new legislation called the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 was recently introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) on April 15. This new act amends the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act and would “require manufacturers to prove the safety of chemicals before they are marketed. Of particular concern are carcinogens, to which the public remains dangerously exposed and uninformed.”

“America’s system for regulating industrial chemicals is broken,” said Senator Lautenberg. “Parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children’s bodies. EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe. My ‘Safe Chemicals Act’ will breathe new life into a long-dead statute by empowering EPA to get tough on toxic chemicals. Chemical safety reform is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it is a common-sense issue and I look forward to building bipartisan support for this measure.”

In the meantime, what is a parent to do?

  • You can start by checking out the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Toy Hazard Recalls list to see if any of your children’s toys have been recalled.
  • Vote with your dollars. Buy toys from manufacturers or artisans you feel you can trust.
  • Stay current on what’s going on in the movement to protect children from harmful chemicals by reading Healthy Child Healthy World
  • Check the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database to find out what personal care products – shampoo, soap, lotion, sunscreen, toothpaste, diaper cream, etc. – are safest for children
  • Watch the EWG’s video “10 Americans
  • Visit Safer Chemicals Healthier Families – A nationwide effort to pass smart federal policies that protect us from toxic chemicals.
  • Take Action! by reading about the Safe Chemicals Act and send emails to your representatives and senators, email Congress, and don’t forget to tell your friends about the act and ask them to take action as well!

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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15 thoughts on “If Parents Don’t Protect Their Kids from Harmful Chemicals, Who Will?”

  1. I completely agree. I have been doing some research into chemicals in cosmetics and sunscreens and it is absolutely ridiculous. I have started to switch over beauty products to organic ones in hopes of a decreased amount of chemicals in my body.

  2. I have read postings like this on several blogs including one that had a picture that showed the similarity in colors of Pinesol and Gatorade and I must say that it was quite disturbing. As a Green parent it is important to me that I know there is nothing in my house that can harm my children. A few years back I made the switch to making my own household cleaners from non toxic solutions. Then a few years later when the trend started to pick up, we can now purchase affordable, Green cleaning solutions online and in stores to save us time!

    We really need to make more of an effort to learn what’s going on in our environment and in our home and try to further our efforts to not only protect our kids from harmful chemicals, but to also lesson our family’s carbon footprint. Switching to Green cleaning supplies is a great way to do just that.

    Ps.. for those of you who were interested, they sell some effective and cheap Green cleaners at http://www.greeneutopia.com . The site also had some really great info on new green issues, tips and trends for those of you looking to further your efforts. I hope this resource helps out you and yours!

    Go green!

  3. One of the reasons I use and sell Shaklee is because of their strict testing they do on all the raw ingredients in their products. They then test the product after production to make sure that it is still safe and that nothing was added or changed during the making. I know that ALL of the products are completely safe for my family.

    Just a note to those that choose to make your own cleaners. Just becuase you are making them at home does not make them safe. Please do your research on each ingredient that you are using. Many people use things like bleach or fels naptha. These products are not healthy to be using. Don’t assume that because you are making your cleaners at home that they are safe!!!

  4. A lot of the government regulating bodies have tried to expand the list(s) of hazardous chemicals in the US. OSHA (the workplace safety organization) was ready to introduce a whole new system back in the 1970s. The FDA, USDA, EPA, and others have also tried. Usually, the industries/companies get wind of this, complain and lobby to “their” congressman (I mean come on, I contribute to campaigns sometimes, but not millions…), and then Congress says, “No, you are over-stepping your boundaries. We need less regulation for business to thrive in the US!” And ta da, the chemical regulations haven’t been updated in the US for decades.

    Canada has a pretty decent system (had an environmental chemistry professor who was from Canada and explained their system – I trust him). Check out their government regulations and banned chemicals/products for a reasonable place to start. The skin deep database of the ECW can very intimidating for people who want to get the worst out, but aren’t willing or able to eliminate everything.

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