Practice Prevention: Invisible Daily Dangers

Invisible Daily Dangers May Be Threatening Your Child’s Development … And You Can Prevent Them!

[The following article is reprinted from LDA Newsbriefs, vol. 38 no. 2, March/April 2003, p. 15.  LDA Newsbriefs is an official publication of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, 4156 Library Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15234-1349.]

Our Children Are Growing Up in a Toxic Soup

Today’s children are exposed regularly to a wide variety of household and environmental chemicals in the food they eat, the water they drink, and the air they breathe.  These chemicals can also be found in products used every day that are under your kitchen sink, in the basement, or in the garage.

Many of these chemicals, such as lead, mercury, PCBs, dioxin, pesticides, and solvents, are known to be harmful to a child’s developing brain.  Exposures early in life can create life-long health problems, and can contribute to learning, behavioral, and developmental disabilities.

Children Are at Greater Risk from Toxic Chemicals.

Children are not just little adults.  Pound for pound, children have higher exposures to toxic chemicals because they eat, drink, and breathe more for their size than adults.

Children also live closer to the ground.  When they play on the floor, they can breathe in toxic chemicals trapped in carpets.  These chemicals may come from inside the house, or can be tracked in from outdoors (for example, pesticides used on lawns).  Children frequently put things in their mouths, and that also increases the chance of contact with toxic chemicals.

Children are also at increased risk because their bodies are growing rapidly.  Developing systems are fragile, and their healthy growth depends upon an environment without toxins that can impair healthy development.  And, when they are exposed to chemicals at an earlier age (even as early as in the womb!), children have more time to develop diseases that sometimes take years to appear, from learning disabilities to Parkinsonism.

These Harmful Exposures Can Be Prevented!

Parents and parents-to-be can help protect their current and future children by taking simple steps in their homes and gardens to reduce everday exposures to harmful chemicals.  As a preview to what you can expect in future issues of Practice Prevention, here are a few simple steps you can take today to reduce your child’s exposure to harmful toxins:

  • Shoes Off!  Have family and guests remove their shoes at the door. Harmful contaminants, like lead, solvents and pesticides, are easily picked up on shoe bottoms and can be tracked across the floors where your children play.
  • Problem Plastics!  Avoid purchasing food contained in #3, #6, and #7 plastics, or encased in cling wrap.  These plastics contain harmful contaminants that can leach into foods and beverages during storage, and especially during heating.  Never heat or microwave food in plastic wrap or containers.  Use glass instead.
  • Pure food, healthy kids.  When possible, buy your kids locally grown or certified organic foods (grown without pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones).  Though some of these foods may be more expensive, your children’s health is worth it.  Residues of pesticides can build up in their growing systems and disrupt healthy development.

Continue to check Practice Prevention in upcoming issues of Newsbriefs for more tips on how to ensure your kids have the healthiest possible home and community.

[This information was taken, in part, from materials prepared by the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility in “In Harm ‘s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development.”  For more information, visit the Institute for Children’s Environmental Health online at or call: 360-331-7904.]