When you start to hear about the toxins in your home and what may be entering your body through dust, water consumption or airborne gasses, it can feel overwhelming. The amount of toxins within our world are at an all time high. Some toxins that we know are bad for us and our children are still around in our water and natural environment. These chemicals and toxins we use don’t just dissipate or go back to where they came from. They are here for the long haul.
This is why it is so important to create a home that is as free from toxins as possible. Our goal with a healthy house is to create a space that your body can relax in. A space where you can have a natural and chemical free retreat from what the rest of the world has to offer.
This is especially true of children. Their bodies while so much smaller than ours are still developing, changing and growing. They may sit in a school with vinyl flooring, play in a daycare that uses chemical cleaners on the surfaces and be affected by many of the other toxins that are constantly around them. When we bring them home, we want to create a safe, healthy environment for them to function at their highest.
When our homes, and in particular the places our children sleep have high amounts of toxins and chemicals, their little bodies never have a rest from the ever stimulating world.
You might be wondering why this is so important to children. It has come to the attention of health professionals, pediatric doctors and parents alike that the environment we are exposing our children to is affecting not only their physical health, but their behavioral health. Behavioral disorders, ADHD and Autism are being diagnosed every day, and there are strong ties between the products we have in our home and children’s behavior.
Plastics have become a way of life for many of us. It’s practically impossible to get away from them, in particular, with plastic toys and dinner-ware for children. While many companies and products boast they are “BPA Free”, in reality the replacement for BPA is just as toxic. Truly there has been no plastic product that health experts rave about. No, it’s quite the opposite. Health experts who have researched toxins and plastics advice against the use of plastic utensils, toys, plates and cups. Plastics are to be avoided when possible.
The Environment Research Journal found that children with higher levels of BPA were more likely to have AHDH, reduced attention and hyperactivity. Some plasticizers have also been linked to cancer.
Overall, there really is no safe plastic. Unfortunately there are so many plastic toys and products for kids and children it could be almost impossible to avoid completely.
I encourage you not to feel overwhelmed, but to know that minimizing your child’s exposure is key. There are now some wonderful options for cups that are actually made of glass, but kid friendly. The glass cups will have a safe rubber material around them that make them great for little hands.
Life Without Plastic is one of my favorite places to find plastic alternatives for children.
As for toys, do your best to provide your child with toys made of natural wood, VOC free paint and stains and 100% natural cotton. These are the best, safest materials for little hands and mouths (because we all know that’s where toys end up).
Mighty Nest is another place that sells healthy toys and products for kids.
First, it’s important to know why there is formaldehyde in your home and where it is found. Manufactured wood products are usually the biggest culprit when it comes to polluting your air with formaldehyde. This can include cabinets, furniture, plywood, particleboard, composite wood and laminate flooring. All of these products use adhesives and glues to hold the manufactured wood together. There have recently been glues that are made without formaldehyde, but it can be difficult to find products that use this toxin free alternative. While it may be difficult to remove things like laminate flooring, subfloor and cabinets from your home, it is something you can keep in mind if a renovation comes up in your future.
On the other hand, when it comes to purchasing furniture (and especially furniture for your children), why not look for Formaldehyde free options. That means finding solid wood furniture and toys, or manufactured wood products that state they are “Formaldehyde Free”.
The other common place to find formaldehyde in your home is in permanent press fabrics, like curtains and drapes as well as in upholstered furniture. Formaldehyde is added to these products in order to create a wrinkle free fabric. Unfortunately this convenient aesthetic is costing us clean air in our homes.
This can be a great place to switch out some of your home’s products for toxin-free alternatives. Drapes can be found in 100% organic cotton. You will want to be careful however to make sure there are no additives to the product. Upholstered furniture can be a little trickier to find, but looking for a 100% organic option will be your best bet.
One of the many pitfalls with Formaldehyde is that it emits even more toxins when it is in a warm, humid environment. This means the more moisture and humidity your home has, the more formaldehyde is being emitted. It also means when our bodies come in contact with Formaldehyde (by sitting on a couch, etc.), the Formaldehyde emissions greatly increase.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a report stating that there was a correlation between inhalation of formaldehyde and changes in behavior and impaired learning.
ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS RADIATION
Electromagnetic Field Radiation has become one of the more researched topics in the past years. With our ever growing electronic and wireless society, the health effects are become more and more discussed and studied.
Electromagnetic Fields are all around us. They are energy waves with frequencies below 300 hertz (cycles per second). Some of the electronics in our homes give off these frequencies CONSTANTLY. This would be things like a fridge, a television, laptops, tablets and cell phones. Other electronics such as hair dryer, blenders, vacuum cleaners and electric blankets must be in use in order to emit frequencies.
The health implications are not agreed upon by researchers and scientists. While some hold strong to the idea that these are tumor and cancer causing parts of our world, most agree that the effects of EMF and EMR in a home does in fact affect our brain and nervous systems.
If nothing else, our bodies detect these as stress and harm to our bodies. This then affects our cardiovascular system as our bodies respond to the stress.
A study by the BioInitiative linked Autism and other behavioral disorders in children to the exposure of Electormagnetic Fields. They stated that infants and babies in the womb are at the highest risk when exposed to electromagnetic fields.
Some ways to reduce your child's exposure is to remove electronics that are within 6 feet of their bed. The bedroom of a child should be a place where their body can rest and rejuvenate after a day in our toxic world. Keeping electronics away from their bed will help prevent their bodies from sensing the stress that electronic devices emit.
You’ll also want to remember that whatever is directly on the other side of your child’s bedroom wall could be causing problems as well. If their headboard backs up to a refrigerator, they are in close proximity to the EMF all night long.
The good thing is that Electromagnetic Fields drop off rather quickly as you get farther away from the source. This means that if there is an electronic device in your child’s room that MUST be in there (such as a baby monitor, CD player or sound machine), you may be okay just placing it on the other side of the room.
Baby monitors are typically run on the same type of frequency as cordless telephones, and can have a very high emission of electromagnetic pollution. I have listed out some of the best options for baby monitors that run on a lower frequency in my new book Healthy Nursery Happy Baby, but the Belly Armor brand is by far the best.
Lead is a heavy metal that over time has been added to things like paints. After 1977, the federal government put a legal limit on the amount of lead allowed in paints. This means while there still is lead out there, it must be below the legal limit. I don’t know about you, but I’d like a paint with no lead, please. Lead is a heavy metal that has no benefit to our bodies, and in fact has been shown to cause a plethora of problems, especially in children.
Lead is also found in our water, unfortunately. There are two main sources for lead in water, and one is the pipes in your home. The second are the distribution pipes from your city water supply to you. If these pipes are lead, or have lead within the solder that holds the pipes together, you could have a problem. Lead actually leaches out of the pipes and onto the water, carrying it directly to your tap.
The government does allow some lead to be in water, but again, there is no benefit of lead to our bodies.
Some homes can have lead in the soil as well. Lead that is in paint eventually begins to turn to dust. This dust eventually finds its way outside and into the soil. While most of us aren’t ingesting soil, if we grow our produce in this soil, it can become contaminated as well.
Lead has an accumulative property within our bodies. This means that the more we are exposed to over time builds up in our blood stream. It can be difficult to remove and can cause long term effects even after exposure has been reduced.
A research study performed by the Association for Psychological Science determined that ADHD and other behavioral issues in children can be caused by lead and lead exposure. Most pediatric offices will have a lead test done at some point in your child’s life. If you are concerned you can also request a lead test be done.
So how can you prevent lead from finding it’s way into your child? First, if your home was built prior to 1977, you should have the paint tested for lead. You can do this with your own lead kit, or you can contact a professional.
If you do have lead paint, you’ll need to contact a lead certified contractor to remove the paint properly from your home. Don’t disturb the paint yourself as the dust particles can easily become airborne when the paint is touched.
If you are concerned about your pipes, you can easily take a look and assess them yourself. The steps below will help you determine if your home pipes are lead or not.
You can also purchase a home water test kit that can determine what the risk level is in your water. This could also help tell you if the city water lines are lead or not.
Finally, if you are going to grow your food in soil around your home, it doesn’t hurt to take extra measures and test your soil for lead. This test kit is perfect for soil testing.
Flame retardants have been under attack from consumers in the recent years, and for good reason. The chemicals used in flame retardants have been linked to memory and learning impairments, behavioral problems and hyperactivity.
Unfortunately many of our children’s products are being coated in this toxic hazard. For example crib mattresses, and even bedding can have the chemical flame retardant in it. This means our children are sleeping on that toxin at the most vulnerable times when their body should be being restored.
Companies like Graco have started using fire retardants in their car seats and strollers.
To avoid exposing your child to just one more chemical, it’s important to know what you’re purchasing before you buy it. Do your research on mattresses, bedding and baby products like pack n’ plays, strollers and car seats.
My new book, Healthy Nursery Happy Baby gives you a list of places to look for flame retardant chemicals and what brands and companies have vowed not to add them. You can find out what is safe for your baby and your child before you purchase it and how to keep them safe in a home that already has the chemicals present.
I am a Certified Professional Home Inspector and Certified Building Biologist through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and International Institute for Building Biology. I have trained with Internachi as well as the Water Quality Standards Academy and the EPA.