Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 and is meant to bring awareness to environmental protection. Ironically, since then, the amount of chemicals (i.e., insecticides, pesticides, manufacturing) used in the environment has increased. US industries make and import around 80,000 chemicals with an average of seven new chemicals approved each day. Of the top 20 chemicals discharged into the environment, nearly 75% are known or suspected to be toxic to the developing human brain.
This increase in exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment, including the home, can have drastic effects on children. Kids are more vulnerable to the effects of toxins than adults. Their ability to detoxify is not as well-developed as an adult’s. Kids also have more risk of toxic exposure from water, food, and air. This is because, pound-for-pound, kids drink, eat, and breathe more than adults. Kids also touch the ground more often and engage in more hand-to-mouth behaviors, making the risk even greater.
Exposure to toxic chemicals begins in the womb. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) ordered a study in 2004 to identify industrial chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides in human umbilical cord blood. The study, printed in 2005, found 287 different chemicals in the cord blood. Of these, 180 are known to cause cancer in humans and animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.
Research has also found that acute leukemia is significantly linked with home and garden insecticide and fungicide use during pregnancy and childhood. Phthalates, substances added to plastics to increase flexibility, have been associated with increased allergies in children. Prenatal exposure to phthalates has also been linked to autistic behaviors. There have been reports that DDT exposure is associated with early menarche and shortened menstrual cycles. The National Academy of Sciences has also determined that environmental factors contribute to 28% of developmental disorders in children.
Industrial pollutants and toxins have become abundant in our environment, and prenatal and childhood exposure to these toxins is increasing. The total body burden of toxins should be kept as low as possible to support optimal health. Removal of toxins is important, including staying hydrated to flush out toxins as well as regular bowel movements. Maximizing children’s antioxidant reserves can also be beneficial to support their ability to detoxify. Neurotransmitter testing can also be of benefit to identify imbalances in the nervous system that may be due to toxic chemicals. Above all, the most important aspect is to minimize toxin exposure.