Environmental Health Concerns for Kids

Every parent wants their child to be healthy. One of the biggest barriers to this today is the fact they are born on planet Earth. We humans have polluted this planet to such an extent that every baby born today almost certainly has more than one thousand (more likely many thousands) man-made chemicals in its body. We have no idea what most of these chemicals can do to the developing fetus, much less what sort of combined effects they may exert in combination.

These chemicals include pesticides, solvents, herbicides, formaldehyde, fragrances, styrofoam (styrene), phthalates, flame retardants, plasticizers, PCB’s, PBDE’s, PFC’s and the list goes on. Most parents and expectant parents are unaware of the problem and its potential for adverse health effects in themselves, much less in their baby or developing fetus.

Some awareness of this problem is reaching the public in recent years, but only as a series of isolated problems that can be easily dismissed as uncommon or of little importance by themselves. One example of progress is recent research showing increased risk of ADHD with higher levels of organophosphate pesticides in their blood or urine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently stated publicly that because of this and other noted adverse effects of pesticides, we should try to make sure our children are not exposed to pesticides. Agreed; but how do we do that?

The problem is much larger than pesticides, or any other single type or category of chemicals. It is the mass of exposures taken together as a whole. It is what we refer to as the “total load” phenomenon in environmental medicine. We use the concept of a rain barrel to depict the diverse toxins going into us from our environment. This includes man-made chemicals, naturally occurring toxins, heavy metals, electromagnetic radiation, excess sugar, psychological stress and everything else that is bad for us. Eventually that rain barrel can overflow and manifest as some sort of chronic illness condition, or multiple apparent conditions.

This is one general cause behind the massive increases we are seeing in neurological and neuropsychiatric problems in our young children today. Conditions like autism and related disorders have skyrocketed in incidence over the last generation, and will likely continue to rise. ADHD and other conditions requiring special education are rising dramatically in our schools as well, and it’s not just because we are looking for them. It seems that more children are having seizures, mood disorders and cancers; and the environment is a major cause of this collective epidemic.

The purpose or theme of my guest blog series is to alert parents and expectant parents to the presence of some of the more common and avoidable environmental toxins, to point out their sources, discuss their health effects, offer strategies for avoidance, discuss means of toxin elimination, and encourage readers to help move public policy more toward the interests of human health in this regard.

Published on: December 31, 2012
About the Author
Photo of Ty Vincent MD

Dr. Ty Vincent is an integrative physician who dispels many of the false beliefs the American culture has been led to embrace in regards to diet, exercise, and medical care in his new book Thinking Outside the Pill Box. He is a practicing physician, frequent speaker, and father of six.

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