12 Things in Your Household That Could Be Killing Your Kid

Stephanie Booth | Jan 28, 2015 Big Kid

boy with mask holding teddy

When it comes to poisons, you know the usual suspects to look out for. You wouldn't let your child play with, say, a box of rat bait. But scarily enough, we have more toxins lurking in our homes than you might believe.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, a newborn's umbilical cord already contains 232 toxic chemicals. So before a baby is even born, they're exposed to toxins that we breathe in, eat, or absorb from our environment. And where do we spend the majority of our time? Home, which is suddenly not sounding so safe or sound.

True, it's not really practical to wrap your kiddo in bubble wrap for the rest of her life -- heck, that's probably dripping with dangerous chemicals, too! Here, we show you the 12 dangerous toxins that are crucial to be aware of and try to keep away from your child.

Does reading about #4 make you rethink hand washing?


Image © iStock.com/wibs24

  • BPA


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: Bisphenol A, a synthetic compound found in hard plastics (like water bottles, food containers, and some sippy cups) as well as the liners of canned goods and even dental sealants.

    Why it's dangerous: BPA leeches into our food and, once there, it imitates our hormones. Even low levels can cause early puberty, obesity, depression, and even an increased risk of cancer. More than 130 studies have ID'd BPA as a serious health issue.

    You can avoid it by: Cutting back on canned goods and beverages. Use glass, porcelain, or stainless steel to store food and drinks. And beware of plastics that promise they're BPA-free. Some actually release a toxin that's even more potent than BPA.

  • Flame Retardants


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What they are: Before 2005, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were used in furniture foam, carpet padding, car seats, mattresses, and even your TV to help reduce the spread of fire. You can also find them in kids' flame-retardant pajamas, where they can leech out directly onto your child's skin.

    Why they're dangerous: PBDEs affect brain function. Even a pregnant woman who's exposed could have a child with learning and concentration issues. They can also cause early onset of puberty and disrupt thyroid function.

    You can avoid it by: Buying close-fitting natural fiber PJs for your kiddos. Get rid of foam furniture that's ripped or has become misshapen. If that's not possible, make sure to keep the covers intact. Use caution when removing old carpet. Vacuum afterward (with a HEPA-filter that catches more microscopic particles) and mop.

  • Lead


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: Before 1978, lead was common in gasoline, house paint, painted furniture, and even kids' toys. Even after being identified as a serious health risk, it's still around today in plumping, art supplies, and even some baby foods and juices!

    Why it's dangerous: Children are at serious risk of lead poisoning when they put lead objects -- or even lead dust -- into their mouths. They can also breathe in the toxin. Lead builds up in the body over time, causing a host of issues from aggressive behavior and reduced IQ to kidney damage and hearing problems.

    You can avoid it by: Keeping your home as dust-free as possible. Have kids wash their hands frequently, especially before eating, and let tap water run for a minute before drinking or using it to cooking.

    More From The Stir: 5 Awesome Things That Are Killing Us as We Speak

  • Triclosan


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: An anti-bacterial ingredient found in some soaps, deodorants, first-aid lotions, gels, and even toothpaste.

    Why it's dangerous: Although the FDA admits that triclosan alters hormone regulation and makes bacteria more resistant to antibiotics, they still insist they don't have "sufficient safety evidence" to ban triclosan. Um, okay.

    You can avoid it by: Reading the labels of personal care products, especially if they're described as "anti-bacterial." If it contains triclosan, skip it.

  • Mercury


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: A metal that occurs naturally in the environment. (It also used to be the ingredient in dental fillings and old-school oral thermometers.) Because mercury occurs up the food chain, some fish and shellfish contain it, too.

    Why it's dangerous: Mercury is toxic when it gets inside your body and attacks your nervous system. It can be passed on through breast milk or even in utero.

    You can avoid it by: Not eating high-mercury fish like orange roughy, swordfish, mackerel, and pretty much any kind of tuna. And it goes without saying, don't use, but safely dispose of, any glass thermometer that contains mercury.

  • PFCS


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What they are: Perfluorinated chemicals resist grease, stain, water, and even heat. You can find them in non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, and stain-resistant clothing and carpets. Products that contain Gore-Tex, Teflon, ScotchGuard, and Stainmaster all have PFCs.

    Why they're dangerous: PFCs stay in our bodies for years. They've been linked to birth and developmental defects, reproductive problems, immune system suppression, and cancer.

    You can avoid them by: Throwing out your non-stick pots and pans and using stainless steel or iron cookware instead. Opt out of getting new furniture "stain-treated," and avoid clothing that's labeled stain-repellent or water-repellent.

  • Phthalates


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What they are: A hard-to-spell group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic. Phthalates are in hundreds of products, from hair spray and nail polish to vinyl toys, plastic wrap, shower curtains, plastic plumping pipes, and vinyl flooring. Until 1999, they were even used to make pacifiers.

    Why they're dangerous: While phthalates are still being studied, there's enough evidence to assume, yup, they're probably carcinogenic. And in high levels, they can affect the development of the male reproductive system.

    You can avoid by: Staying away from plastic food containers, plastic wrap, which has the recycling label #3, and personal care products that list "fragrance" as an ingredient.

  • Manganese


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: A naturally occurring metal, which, in very small doses, we need to stay healthy. Manganese can be found in groundwater, as well as in foods like grains, beans, nuts, tea, and soy. It's also used to stiffen aluminum, so can be found in soda cans.

    Why it's dangerous: High levels of manganese can affect brain development. It's also been linked to attention problems, like ADHD.

    You can avoid by: If you drink well water, have it checked to make sure manganese levels are low. Don't give soy baby formulas to infants; manganese levels in them are about 80 times more than in breast milk and could be toxic.

    More From The Stir: The Toxins in Your Body Say Whether You're Rich or Poor -- Which Are You?

  • DEET


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is found in most bug and tick repellents. It's recommended to kill mosquitoes that cause West Nile virus and malaria, so sure, it serves a purpose.

    Why it's dangerous: High levels of DEET won't just burn your skin and cause permanent scarring. It can cause mood changes, insomnia, seizures, and neurological damage. DEET's especially harmful to small children.

    You can avoid by: Never using a DEET product on a child less than 6 months old. If bug/tick risks are high, the Environmental Working Group recommends choosing a product that contains no more than 10 percent DEET and using only once a day for kids under 2, and no more than 3 times a day on kids between the ages of 2-12.

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  • Arsenic


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: Arsenic occurs either naturally or because of contamination, thanks to us humans. It's been found pretty much everywhere -- water, air, soil, and yes, even food, including your child's beloved apple juice, brown and white rice, and infant rice cereal.

    Why it's dangerous: High levels of arsenic have been linked to cancer.

    You can avoid by: Cleaning vegetables, especially potatoes, thoroughly since they can leech arsenic from the soil. Try not to eat more than 2-3 servings of rice each week, rinsing well before use. Children up to age 6 should have no more than 6 ounces of apple or grape juice a day. (And older kids no more than 12 ounces.)

  • Fluoride


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: A naturally occurring element that's been used since the 1940s to decrease cavities. Many public water supplies add fluoride and it's also the main ingredient in most toothpastes.

    Why it's dangerous: There's emerging evidence that, like lead and mercury, fluoride can negatively affect cognitive development in children. In fact, children who lived in high-fluoride areas have significantly lower IQs than kids who live in areas where fluoride intake is less.

    You can avoid by: Closely monitoring your kiddos at toothbrushing time. One strip of toothpaste on a child's toothbrush exceeds the fluoride in many prescription supplements. Make sure your child rinses out extra toothpaste and doesn't swallow it, or play it safe and switch to a fluoride-free brand.

  • Toulene


    Image via Caroline Olney

    What it is: Toulene can be found in paints, flooring and plumbing adhesives, adhesive removers, nail polish remover, and gasoline. It's even been found in kids' play tunnels and tents.

    Why it's dangerous: Breathing in toulene can affect your nervous system, and babies are more susceptible than adults. Pregnant women who breathe in very high levels of toulene may have children with birth defects or developmental delays.

    You can avoid by: Always using products containing toulene in well-ventilated areas and tightly cover products when not in use. Shop for safe, toulene-free nail polishes and never bring your baby to a nail salon where they can breathe in the fumes.


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