Toxic Childhood: Things Are Killing Us and We're Doing Nothing About It


toxic baby mother earth
Flickr photo by gideon wright
Last night I was watching Toxic Childhood with Sanjay Gupta on CNN -- a two-part Toxic America special -- and wasn't as horrified as I should have been.

Yes, there was talk of cancer and how the environment and pollutants are seriously harming us, but I know this already. Look at what's happening with the BP oil spill. The cadmium on Shrek glasses. The toxins in beauty and baby products. Since I've become a mom I'm like the toxic vigilante. And instead of being horrified, I'm really pissed off.

But it's almost all so overwhelming that it can make some complacent. Almost so unbelievable that some don't take it seriously.

I'm not complacent. I'm taking it very seriously. And you should, too. Here's why:

Toxic Childhood talked about how the environment seriously impacts our health. Especially babies. Even when they are still in the womb. There were some very disturbing numbers.

Babies are born with over 200 chemicals in their bloodstream. The placenta isn't a perfect barrier and hundreds of toxic substances pass through to baby.

Some of those chemicals include PBDE (a flame retardant which can impair the development of the nervous system), BPA (a hazardous plastic that can affect the brain), PFC (a cancer causing carcinogen linked to infertility and found in shampoo and pesticides), and Phthalates (found in toys and cosmetics that can affect endocrine and reproductive systems).

I only listed some of the products these chemicals are in and only some of the dangers of exposure to babies.

And these products are shown to be harmful on a 150 pound male (standard for case studies). So for a small baby, it's even worse.

It's in the air we breathe and on the food we eat -- pollutants, vehicle emissions, pesticides. But it's also in the products we make. And the United States has no regulation of the chemicals companies are making. Basically, all chemicals are innocent until proven guilty. So a company can create a chemical, craft a baby toy, and until something bad happens to the babies that play with said toy, then and only then it is investigated.

I'm not the only one who sees a HUGE problem with this, right?

The European Union doesn't work this way. They are holding the manufacturers responsible for producing products that are safe for people, babies, to use. I don't think that's too much to ask, do you?

The EU has banned phthalates used in cosmetics and pacifiers, but the toxin that causes reproductive abnormalities is still everywhere in the US.

Why can't we regulate? Big business. The powers that be are worried that it will stifle innovation.

Okay, I have news for you. Without healthy people living long lives innovation means nothing.

Until these things are changed in this country of oil soaked birds, destroyed ecosystems, rising rates of autism, unexplained infertility, and environmental cancers, there are some things we can do to reduce our risk.

  1. Take off your shoes at the door. You're not just tracking in dirt if you leave your shoes on, but also toxins picked up from the outside. Babies crawl on the floor. So bare feet is best.
  2. Use a carbon filter pitcher to filter your drinking water. Go a step further and get an osmosis system.
  3. Make sure your meat and dairy is free of antibiotics and has no growth hormones.
  4. Buy organic produce. If you cannot, be sure to wash thoroughly and peel skin before eating.
  5. Go organic where it matters most -- fruits and vegetables like peaches, apples, celery, strawberries, lettuce, and potatoes have high levels of pesticides if you don't go organic.
  6. Cook with stainless steel instead of non-stick cookware. Non-stick contains PFOA, a carcinogen linked to thyroid disease.
  7. Store foods in glass containers instead of plastic. If you use plastic, make sure nothing has a number 7 on it. That would indicate it is BPA.
  8. Keep your home dust free and open windows often. Inside air can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside because of the formaldehyde in furniture. Ventilation is needed.
  9. Get a houseplant or two. Plants help remove toxins in the air.
  10. A midwife on the show said simply: Don't put anything on your baby you wouldn't eat.

I'm doing all 10 and looking into what else I can and should do. We need to do MORE. We need to eradicate toxic exposure. We need the governments help.

Did you see Toxic Childhood? Does this concern you?


Here are some links with more information:

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APeve... APeveteaux

Right on Michele!

One problem (only one, there are many) is that anytime regulation is proposed big business lobbyist cry foul and say it would hurt our economy, free markets, blah, blah, blah. It's so clear that many companies -- not all -- would rather make a buck than save a life.

Joelle99 Joelle99

Nice going Michele! Yet another reason to move to Europe! We've been trying to get to France for years....

ethan... ethans_momma06

I didn't see it but I am well aware of the concept. I have been trying to reduce what my family is exposed to on a daily basis for awhile... but really there is just SO much we use day to day without even realizing it that it is very astounding. Shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, toothpaste, deoderant, lotion, body spray/cologne/perfume... and all that within the first HOUR of waking up.

nonmember avatar Tim S.

Great article.  Being a dad myself, as well as a toy safety professional, I am in an interesting position.  I know what has been proven to be harmful and avoid products that are known to pose harm.  However, that is the tough part for any industry; determining what is unsafe.  It's not that industries don't care, but we simply don't know that a chemical could have adverse affects.  There are thousands of chemicals used in daily household goods that no one questions; simply because no one foresees them being toxic.  Consider how lead and asbestos were freely used up until 30 years ago; only to later discover that they will kill you.  There is speculation that phthalates may cause harm and even the EU had no irrefutable evidence that led to their ban.  But, how does that affect industries?  Small business?  Our economy?  The small business impact has been clear since CPSIA was enacted in the US.  I'm not talking about the Mattel's of the world, but the small mom and pop companies who no longer are in business, because they either don't have the resources or the money to prove their toys are not harmful.  I am not an advocate of using unproven chemicals, but I would expect that if legislation is proposed that it is done so o the basis of scientific fact and not the opinion of one doctor somewhere in Rochester, NY and certainly not based on the opinion of a legislator who unquestionably knows much less.

nonmember avatar KAM

I took our family to their first fast food lunch the other day...I was disgusted, the kids (4 and 2) acted as if they were in an amusement park...I mentioned to an acquaintance, "This as aspartame in basically burns holes in their brain,"...her response, "Oh, everything is going to kill you.  They like it."  I try to provide a healthy environment and healthy food for my family but in a world of typical, suburban family life I'm the weird one...How has it become so difficult to find simple wooden toys, ice cream made of milk and sugar, etc.  It's funny, I watch Wall-E and think,  "Yup, that is where we are headed."

nonmember avatar Carolee

I viewed the first part of the series on but I am unable to find Toxic Childhood so that I can watch that. All i can find is a promo link. Would anyone have a link to watch the whole part 2 on or when it will be replayed on tv? thanks

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