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Food & Health

Harmful Chemicals in Kids' Products You Should Avoid

Photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Being surrounded by all kinds of health claims when we walk into the supermarket everyday, it can be confusing to deduce what exactly are the ingredients we should avoid and what is removed from a product to make it kid-safe. Here are some harmful chemicals found in everyday products that you should avoid because of these health concerns:

Bedding products

Harmful chemical: Flame retardants
Present in: Bedding, car seats, nursing pillows and nap mats.

Health concern: Flame retardants damage children’s brains because a compound called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) can lead to a decrease in the thyroid-stimulating hormone and this can in turn affect your child’s IQ. It is also linked to long-term effects such as endocrine disruption, ADD, fertility issues, impact thyroid levels and cancer.

Alternative: Flame retardants in baby products have been proliferating since years back, and it is tough to find a product that does not contain this chemical. However, a few different choices you make will help you emit this substance as much as possibly from your baby’s life. For example, switch to 100% cotton or wool bedding, place an organic cotton or wool topper on top of a mattress to minimise exposure, avoid foam baby products and consider purchasing an organic mattress.

Care and cleaning products

Harmful chemical: Pesticides
Present in: Bug repellents, disinfectant cleaners and hand soaps.

Health concern: Long exposure to pesticides can lead to cancer, nervous system diseases and reproductive problems. Pesticides have also been linked to increased presence of neurological disorders, Parkinson’s disease, childhood leukemia, lymphoma, asthma and more.

Alternative: Reduce use of disinfectant cleaners and avoid hand and dish soaps labeled “antibacterial”.

Harmful chemical: Phthalates
Present in: Fragrance in personal cleaning and care products as well as plastics.

Health concern: Phthalates have been linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.

Alternative: Opt for fragrance-free cleaners and personal care products, non-vinyl covering of crib mattresses and bibs, and plastic-free teethers and toys as much as possible.

Harmful chemical: BPA
Present in: Baby bottles, sippy cups, feeding containers, plastic food packaging and canned food liners.

Health concern: BPA exposure during early life is thought to influence prostate and breast tissue development in ways that increase the risk of cancer. There is also a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes in people with high BPA levels.

Alternative: Breastfeed, if possible. Look for baby bottles with nipples made from hospital-grade silicone. Switch to glass and stainless steel containers and bottles as much as possible. Never microwave plastic, because this causes the chemicals in the material to leach.


Harmful chemical: Pesticides
Present in: Residues in non-organic produce

Health concern: Several types of cancer including breast, prostate, thyroid, colon and lung have been linked to the consumption of pesticides. Obesity, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, infertility and autism are all part of the risks associated with high exposure to pesticides.

Alternative: Choose organic produce as much as possible and GMO foods have significantly lesser amounts of pesticides too.

Harmful chemical: Mercury
Present in: All fishes, though there is a varying amount of mercury in different types of fishes. Fishes that contain high levels of mercury are: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

Health concern: Large amounts of mercury in a person’s body can lead to mercury poisoning and it results in the loss of peripheral vision, lack of coordination of movements, speech, hearing and walking impairment and muscle weakness.

Alternative: Opt for low-level mercury fishes like shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.

Keep an eye out and try to avoid these products especially when it comes to those you use on/feed to infants and children – it’s easy to overlook these ingredients but the effects over time can be detrimental.

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