7 Unexpected Children's Health Threats Hidden in Your Home

October marks Children's Health Month. Use the opportunity to pinpoint and eliminate environmental hazards.

October 12, 2017
children's health
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The entire month of October is Children's Health Month, and this year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is urging parents to focus on environmental hazards that could spell trouble for children's health.

More: The Top 12 Worst Chemicals in Your Home

Some are obvious and well-known hazards, such as radon, secondhand smoke, and serious sunburns. But there are other children's health hazards lurking in and around your house, and this month marks a good time to start evicting them. 

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1. Pesticides

You may already know that chemical pesticides have been linked to childhood cancers, brain damage, ADHD, autism, and other serious kid problems. But here's a little-known fact: Pesticides aren't just on the outside of many conventional fruits and vegetables, but actually in them. Systemic pesticides are often taken up inside the produce they're used on. Eat organic whenever possible (and here's where you should start). And in the home, beat back bugs using natural pest-control measures

More: 10 Crazy Things Pesticides Are Doing to Your Body

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2. Lead and other contaminants

Lead isn't just a problem in old house paint and dust. It's also been detected in or on many kid items, including Halloween face paint, children's jewelry, and even Christmas light strings.

Experts recommend having your pediatrician perform a blood test for your child between 12 and 24 months to look for lead levels, but to help keep the harmful metal out of his or her body in the first place, choose simple, unpainted wooden toys, or ones proven safe by HealthyStuff.org's toys report. And save jewelry for when the kids are older—imported children's jewelry has been found to be tainted with harmful contaminants, including the carcinogen cadmium

More: 6 Sneaky Sources of Lead

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3. Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a tricky ailment because it can affect different parts of your body, and the symptoms often mimic other diseases. Making matter worse, the Lyme test is terribly inaccurate, and many doctors refuse to treat patients with Lyme symptoms whose tests come back negative. You can use natural tick-bite prevention tactics, such as placing a gravel barrier between your yard and any areas of high grass or woods to reduce the tick population on your property. And one study found that if you've been in an area where ticks lurk, the odds of a Lyme infection are reduced if you shower a couple of hours later and perform an all-over tick check within 36 hours. 

More: 5 Ways to Keep Lyme Disease out of Your Yard

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4. Nature deficiency

Nature and stress relief go hand in hand. But unfortunately, it's a cellphone or remote control many kids have their hands on most often. As a first step to encouraging more family outdoor time, try transferring things you often do in the home outside. For instance, pick a nice evening and eat dinner outdoors. Build outdoor time up to something substantial, such as starting an organic kid-friendly vegetable garden or planting a native-plant butterfly garden.

More: Top 6 Tips for All-Natural Stress Relief

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5. Energy vampires

Phantom energy suckers—a.k.a. electronic devices plugged in and sucking energy, but for no reason, such as a cellphone charger with no phone attached—don't just haunt you when you open the electricity bill. All the energy we're wasting is demanding more and more fossil fuels, which threatens our children's future. The Worldwatch Institute and United Nations Foundation in 2009 dubbed catastrophic climate destabilization (global warming sounds too warm and fuzzy) as the number one health threat we face. (Think drought, food-security emergencies, flooding, stronger storms, more vector- and water-borne diseases.) To start, sit down with your child and calculate your energy use through the EPA's Carbon Footprint Calculator.

More: 50 Effective Ways You Can Cut Your Carbon Footprint

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6. Plastic

The plastics chemical BPA, found in the liner of most metal food cans and in some plastic bottles, has been shown to disrupt hormonal systems and even cause aggression in children. Phtalates, chemicals used to soften plastic into vinyl, are also hormone disruptors and have been linked to breathing problems, too. To reduce exposure, use food-grade stainless steel or glass water bottles, never heat plastic food containers in the microwave or dishwasher, and cut down on canned food and beverages (especially canned food that's acidic, like tomatoes). Avoid vinyl products.

More: 8 Hidden Sources of Plastic Chemicals

 
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7. Indoor air pollution

The EPA has found that indoor air pollution can be many times worse than outdoor air because of all the harmful chemicals we invite into our homes, via scented candles (synthetic scents contain hormone-disrupting chemicals…especially bad for children who are still developing), harsh cleaners and paints, synthetic hairspray, shampoo, and perfume and cologne chemicals that tamper with our hormones. Try using more unscented, plant-based shampoos, soaps, and detergents. (By all means, avoid soaps containing the harmful antimicrobial chemical triclosan. Studies suggest we're sudsing ourselves sick. And note: Many studies have confirmed that regular soap and water is just as effective as antibacterial soaps, without the harmful side effects.)

To combat toxic dust bunnies without introducing toxic cleaners into your home, try our green cleaning recipes.

Check out the EPA Children's Health Month Daily Calendar for 31 days' worth of ideas to help improve children's health.

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Tags: Family