Could These Chemicals be Putting Your Family at Risk?

Written by on August 8, 2012 in Family - No comments | Print this page

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My second child was born during the peak of the BPA (Bisphenol A) revolution, and before we all knew it, every kid around us was toting around juice in stainless sippy cups and glass baby bottles were no longer a souvenir from our parent’s childhood.

Around that time I read a book by Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie and Sarah Dopp called, “Slow Death by Rubber Duck,” and it changed my world (mostly freaked me right out and had me running around wanting to replace everything in our home to something less terrifying and poison riddled).

After the initial reader shock wore off, I came to a more at peace state but it was an eye opener about some of the dangers that lurk in products we use everyday.

Here are some of the big ones to watch for:

1) Non-stick Coatings: We love that non-stick pans mean less mess and easier cooking but are they safe? Apparently non-stick coatings (like the one that begins with the letter T) can emit dangerous gasses if heated to extremely high temperatures that can be very harmful to humans and deadly to birds. Don’t think you heat your pans up that hot? If you burn anything on your pans, have a self cleaning oven, or have non-stick cookware that is starting to chip, you could be exposing yourself more than you think.

What you can do: Discard chipped pans immediately or look into alternatives like stainless steel and cast iron.

2) Phthalates: These are plasticizers and gelling agents that show up in everything from kid’s toys to beauty products. High doses of these chemicals have been proven to change hormone levels and cause birth defects. While the US, Canada and many other nations have strict limits on the levels of phthalates that can be included in children’s products, tests have shown that manufacturers do not always abide by these regulations.


What you can do: There are lots of natural options out there for kids’ shampoos, soaps etc that do not contain these agents. Also, if possible avoid gummy plastic toys, especially from discount and dollar stores as these tend to be the areas where the over-the-limit levels of phthalates have been discovered.

3) Bisphenol A (BPA): This is the one that really got everybody’s attention back in 2008/2009 and while you will be hard pressed to find children’s toys or dishes that contain BPA, it’s still out there. The primary concern with BPA is how it affects hormone levels but it has also been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, obesity, thyroid disorders and neurological issues.

What you can do: If possible, avoid plastics altogether. There is an endless array of stainless and glass cups, dishes and bottles available now as well as wooden and cloth toys or wooden kid dish sets. If you do opt for plastics, most will clearly state that they are BPA free.

4) Brominated Fire Retardants: These are used to decrease flammability in a variety of products including furniture, mattresses, and plastics in stereos etc. While no one wants their house to be full of highly flammable materials there has been some concern that the chemicals in these retardants can be extremely dangerous to children.

What you can do: As always read the labels on everything and be aware. While this one freaked me out the most because there seemed to be no way to avoid it (other than throwing out everything in my house) you can make sure that if you have furniture where the foam is starting to come through, that you replace it, or at the very least invest in a slip cover to keep it under wraps.

There is a great deal of debate over whether or not certain substances and ingredients in products are dangerous, but I figure that when it comes to our children, and our health, do you really want to take a chance?

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About the Author

Jenessa Blanchet

I am a working mother of two, with a passion for writing and lending a literary helping hand to fellow parents and family enthusiasts. Born and raised on the west coast, I have a love of the outdoors; sailing, beaching and all things wonderful including constantly trying to keep a handle on family life. View all posts on Family Life.