Household chemicals adversely affect human health, especially children. They disrupt human glands, including those that produce thyroid and testosterone hormones. A recent study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reports that a child exposed to elevated levels of two common household chemicals may suffer a significant drop in IQ.
Household Chemicals Containing Toxins
Common household products contain chemicals that are toxic and contribute to a variety of ailments people, especially young children, suffer from. Di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) is a synthetic chemical found in many familiar household products: nail polish, glue, hair spray, insect repellent, and carpet backing, to name a few. Most people are exposed to low levels of this chemical in the air. In addition, people become exposed to DnBP through foods packaged and stored in materials that contain this toxic chemical.
Di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP) is an additive used to help keep plastic flexible. DiBP is used in everyday products many of us use: cosmetics, printing inks, perfumes, shoe-soles, flooring, wall coverings, cables, tubing, and wiring.
According to the recent Columbia University study, children of mothers who were exposed to concentrated levels of DiBP and DnBP during pregnancy had IQs 6.6 to 7.6 points lower than children of mothers exposed to lower concentrations of these common household chemicals.
Pam Factor-Litvak, PhD, lead author and associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School said the following about the results of their recent study:
“Pregnant women across the United States are exposed to phthalates almost daily; many at levels similar to those that we found were associated with substantial reductions in the IQ of children.”
Senior author, professor of Environmental Health Sciences, and Deputy Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School, Dr. Robin Whyatt had this to say:
“The magnitude of these IQ differences is troubling. A six- or seven-point decline in IQ may have substantial consequences for academic achievement and occupational potential.”
Dr. Factor-Litvak added more on their findings:
“While there has been some regulation to ban phthalates from toys of young children, there is no legislation governing exposure during pregnancy, which is likely the most sensitive period for brain development. Indeed, phthalates are not required to be on product labeling.”
Reduce the Risk of Exposure to Harmful Chemicals
It is practically impossible to avoid exposure to dangerous and toxic household chemicals. However, concerned individuals, families, parents, caregivers, and pregnant women can take precautionary steps to reduce exposure to these toxins.
Toxic levels of phthalates are their highest in new products. Children chewing on some plastic toys may be exposed to toxic household chemicals, as well.
In addition, avoid microwaving food in plastics in order to avoid potential exposure.
Moreover, scented candles, dryer sheets, air fresheners, and recyclable products labeled 3, 6, or 7 should also be avoided.
This last September, researchers reported a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates and risk for asthma in children. These recent findings confirm earlier studies that suggest an association between prenatal exposure to DiBP and DnBP and a child’s motor and cognitive development and behavior at the age of three.
Phthalates have been an important ingredient used in the creation of plastics and other materials. They have many uses, which include consumer products, medicine, and other industries. However, national and international organizations are continuing their review of the environmental and health effects and risks of exposure to phthalates.
Recent reviews claim phthalates in toys pose a risk. Additionally, researchers suggest exposure to phthalates in workplaces should be reduced. In the United States, several phthalates have been banned from children’s toys and other childcare articles since 2009.
However, steps to protect the developing fetus by alerting pregnant women to possible exposures have not been enforced. For that matter, in the U.S., phthalates are hardly ever listed as ingredients on products in which they are used. Nevertheless, concerned individuals and families should be aware, exercise caution, and heed the scientific advice pertaining to household chemicals to avoid.
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