“I’ve been watching study after study roll out detailing new information regarding the environmental health risks facing kids,” Christopher Gavigan (our eco expert and the co-founder of The Honest Co.) says. “It’s not light or entertaining reading—but it fuels societal changes like increased chemical regulation and an expanding marketplace of safer products.” With the understanding that knowledge is power, we asked Christopher to share three new environmental health risks facing kids, and what you can do to protect your family.
The PFAS Effect
PFASs, also referred to as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), are used in everything from fire retardants and water and stain repellent textiles to furniture, waterproof clothes, take out containers, and non-stick cookware. According to the EPA, “these chemicals are persistent, and resist degradation in the environment.” They also bioaccumulate, meaning their concentration increases over time in the blood and organs. At high concentrations, some PFAS have been linked to adverse health effects in lab animals—low birth weight, delayed puberty onset, elevated cholesterol levels, and reduced immunologic responses to vaccination. Scary stuff.
And then there’s the drinking water. According to a Harvard study released in August, more than 16 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with PFASs released from military and industrial sites. Since the study only looked at reporting from large municipalities, the number is likely much higher, as small systems and private wells aren’t typically tested for these contaminants.
What can you do? Refer to the map of contaminated drinking water sources provided by the study’s authors. If you live in any of these areas and rely on a small municipal water system or use a private well, get your water tested. If you’re concerned about PFASs in your drinking water, consider using an activated carbon and/or reverse osmosis filtering system.
BPA’s Not-So Nice Cousins
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical that’s been used in hard plastic, the linings of cans, food packaging, and thermal receipts for decades, but it’s also a known hormone disruptor. In 2012, the FDA announced a ban on the use of it in baby bottles, children’s cups, and infant formula cans. While the “BPA-Free” claim on product labels may offer parents a sense of relief, it can be misleading. BPA has largely been replaced with Bisphenol-S (BPS) and Bisphenol-F (BPF), and studies are finding that these substitutes may have similar health impacts. While there’s still much to be learned about the potential impacts of BPA, BPS, and BPF, the current body of evidence suggests there isn’t a safe bisphenol.
What can you do? Follow the same rules that apply to avoiding BPA. Avoid hard plastics with the number 7 resin code (found in the chasing arrows symbol typically on the bottom of a product). The number 7 is a catchall code for many types of plastics, but unless a company will tell you exactly what it is, assume it’s a bisphenol. Plastics numbered 1, 2, 4, and 5 are your best bet. You should also avoid microwaving plastics (or putting hot foods in them), and opt for glass or stainless steel water bottles. Skip the receipt when you can.
Another Reason To Put Down Your Cell Phone
The potential impact of cell phone (and mobile device) radiation causes has been a debatable and sometimes controversial topic. In May, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) released the results of a study suggesting a potential link between cellphone use and tumors. In response to these results, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued specific recommendations to reduce wireless cell phone exposure.
What can you do? Follow the recommendations put forth by the AAP, including limiting overall phone conversation time, not carrying the phone against your body (in a pocket, etc.), and not allowing it to be used as a toy or teething item.