Children's Diseases Linked to Chemicals Are on the Rise

child, childrenChronic childhood diseases linked to exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment have been surging upward, costing the U.S. almost $55 billion a year.

There are 3,000 high-volume chemicals used today; for roughly half, there is no basic toxicity information publicly available. For the past six to eight years, national surveys have found these chemicals present in the blood and urine of practically everyone in the U.S.

Asthma can result from a range of environmental factors, including tobacco smoke, pesticides, mold and cockroach droppings. Cancer in children has been linked to exposure to radiation, solvents, paints and pesticides.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

There are about 75,000 chemicals regularly manufactured and imported by U.S. industries, and of the 3,000 high-volume chemicals (over 1 million pounds per year) used, about half have no basic toxicity information available. What this likely means is that no one knows whether commonly used chemicals all around you … in your food, water, and air … are safe.

And unfortunately it is our future generations who will pay the price for this lack of safety concern.

Pregnant women may be most at risk from environmental chemicals, as an embryo and fetus develop at a much faster rate than adults. While this development occurs, cell division and growth is rapid -- and these rapid changes provide many opportunities for mistakes to occur.

What Happens When Fetuses, Babies and Children are Exposed to Toxins?

If a baby is exposed to numerous toxic compounds in utero, changes may occur that either directly cause cancer, or lengthen the period of sensitivity to carcinogens, therefore making the child more susceptible to cancer, and other diseases, later in life.

Babies are actually born at considerable risk nowadays due to the toxic load of their mothers. One study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that blood samples from newborns contained an average of 287 toxins, including mercury, fire retardants, pesticides, and Teflon chemicals.

Of the 287 chemicals EWG detected in umbilical cord blood, it’s known that:

  • 180 cause cancer in humans or animals

  • 217 are toxic to your brain and nervous system

  • 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests

Children, meanwhile, experience greater exposure to chemicals pound-for-pound than adults, and have an immature and porous blood-brain barrier, which allows greater chemical exposures to reach their developing brain.

Children also have lower levels of some chemical-binding proteins, according to EWG, which allows more of a chemical to reach their organs, while systems that detoxify and excrete chemicals in adults are not fully developed. These factors, coupled with the fact that a child will be around for 80 years or more, allows more than enough time for chemicals to do their damage signals a major challenge for kids born today.

Experts believe rising rates of birth defects, asthma, neuro-developmental disorders and other serious diseases in U.S. children are a result of these early chemical exposures.

How are Children Being Exposed to Chemicals?

Like adults, children are exposed to chemicals every day. During pregnancy, many chemicals are passed on to newborns either in utero or through breast milk, and once born contaminants are literally everywhere … in your home, food, water and air.

In an average day, children are exposed to 61 chemicals in personal care products alone, 27 of which have not been found safe for kids, according to a national survey by EWG.

This means that the simple acts of shampooing your baby’s hair, giving him a bath and putting on some lotion, several times a week or more, is exposing him to chemicals that could very well harm his health. Even though they are likely small exposures at each bath time, over time these exposures add up and may contribute to disease … and the same scenario goes for chemicals that exist all around you.

Of course, this does not mean that the only safe option is to live in a bubble. Awareness is the first step, and I suggest you first become aware of some of the most ubiquitous toxins and begin taking the steps you can to avoid them …

10 of the Most Common Environmental Toxins and How to Avoid Them

1. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls): This industrial chemical has been banned in the United States for decades, yet is a persistent organic pollutant that's still present in your environment.

  • Risks: Cancer, impaired fetal brain development

  • Major Source: Farm-raised salmon and other farm-raised fish. Most farm-raised salmon, which accounts for most of the supply in the United States are fed meals of ground-up fish that have absorbed PCBs from the environment and for this reason should be avoided.

2. Pesticides: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides are known to be carcinogenic. Alarmingly, pesticide residues have been detected in 50 percent to 95 percent of U.S. foods.

  • Risks: Cancer, Parkinson's disease, miscarriage, nerve damage, birth defects, blocking the absorption of food nutrients         

  • Major Sources: Food (fruits, vegetables and commercially raised meats and dairy products), bug sprays

3. Mold and other Fungal Toxins: One in three people have had an allergic reaction to mold. Mycotoxins (fungal toxins) can cause a range of health problems with exposure to only a small amount.

  • Risks: Cancer, heart disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis, diabetes

  • Major Sources: Contaminated buildings, food like peanuts, wheat, corn and alcoholic beverages

4. Phthalates: These chemicals are used to lengthen the life of fragrances and soften plastics.

  • Risks: Endocrine system damage (phthalates chemically mimic hormones and are particularly dangerous to children)

  • Major Sources: Plastic wrap, plastic bottles, plastic food storage containers. All of these can leach phthalates into our food.

5. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): VOCs are a major contributing factor to ozone, an air pollutant. According to the EPA, VOCs tend to be even higher (two to five times) in indoor air than outdoor air, likely because they are present in so many household products.

  • Risks: Cancer, eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment

  • Major Sources: Drinking water, carpet, paints, deodorants, cleaning fluids, varnishes, cosmetics, dry cleaned clothing, moth repellants, air fresheners.

6. Dioxins: Chemical compounds formed as a result of combustion processes such as commercial or municipal waste incineration and from burning fuels (like wood, coal or oil).

  • Risks: Cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, chloracne (a severe skin disease with acne-like lesions), skin rashes, skin discoloration, excessive body hair, mild liver damage

  • Major Sources: Animal fats: Over 95 percent of exposure comes from eating commercial animal fats, so seek out grass-fed, naturally raised, organic animal foods instead.

7. Asbestos: This insulating material was widely used from the 1950s to 1970s. Problems arise when the material becomes old and crumbly, releasing fibers into the air.

  • Risks: Cancer, scarring of the lung tissue, mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer)

  • Major Sources: Insulation on floors, ceilings, water pipes and healing ducts from the 1950s to 1970s.

8. Toxic Metals: Metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, aluminum and cadmium, which are prevalent in many areas of our environment, can accumulate in soft tissues of the body.

  • Risks: Cancer, neurological disorders, Alzheimer's disease, foggy head, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels

  • Major Sources: Drinking water, fish, vaccines, pesticides, preserved wood, antiperspirant, building materials, dental amalgams, chlorine plants

9. Chloroform: This colorless liquid has a pleasant, nonirritating odor and a slightly sweet taste, and is used to make other chemicals. It's also formed when chlorine is added to water.

  • Risks: Cancer, potential reproductive damage, birth defects, dizziness, fatigue, headache, liver and kidney damage.

  • Major Sources: Air, drinking water and food can contain chloroform.

10. Chlorine: This highly toxic, yellow-green gas is one of the most heavily used chemical agents.

  • Risks: Sore throat, coughing, eye and skin irritation, rapid breathing, narrowing of the bronchi, wheezing, blue coloring of the skin, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, pain in the lung region, severe eye and skin burns, lung collapse, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS) (a type of asthma)

  • Major Sources: Household cleaners, drinking water (in small amounts), air when living near an industry (such as a paper plant) that uses chlorine in industrial processes, tap water in your shower/bath.

You should also look out for bisphenol A (BPA), a common ingredient in many plastics, including those in reusable water bottles and resins lining some food cans and dental sealants that can change the course of fetal development in a way that increases your risk of breast cancer.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), meanwhile, found in grease- and water-resistant coatings and cookware like Teflon and Gore-Tex, is a likely carcinogen that can be partly avoided by not using Teflon non-stick cookware.

10 Simple, Common Sense Tips to Reduce Your Chemical Exposures (and Your Child’s)

Rather than lamenting over past toxic exposure to yourself or your family it is far healthier to take control over that which you can positively influence, such as your diet, your physical fitness, your emotional state, and your current and future exposure to toxins.

You can limit your exposure to environmental chemicals as much as possible with the following tips:

  1. Buy and eat, as much as possible, organic produce and free-range, organic foods

  2. Rather than eating fish, which is largely contaminated with PCBs and mercury, consume a high-quality purified krill oil.

  3. Avoid processed foods -- remember that they're processed with chemicals!

  4. Only use natural cleaning products in your home. Most health food stores will have these available or you can search online for them.

  5. Switch over to natural brands of toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. Same sources here, either your local health food store or you can search online.

  6. Avoid spraying insect repellants that contain DEET on your body. There are safe, effective and natural alternatives out there.

  7. Remove any metal fillings. Amalgams are a major source of mercury and any metal, including gold, can cause biogalvanism. Be sure to have this done by a qualified biological dentist. Although nearly any dentist is technically qualified to replace your amalgam fillings, far less than 95 percent have any clue on how to do it properly so your risk of mercury exposure is minimized.

  8. Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances as they can pollute the air you are breathing.

  9. Avoid artificial food additives of all kind, including artificial sweeteners and MSG.

  10. Limit your use of drugs (prescription and over-the-counter) as much as possible. Drugs are chemicals too, and they will leave residues and accumulate in your body over time.

Finally, Dr. Doris J. Rapp, MD, board-certified as both an environmental medical specialist and pediatric allergist, has a web site,, that is an excellent resource for anyone interested in avoiding environmental toxins.

I highly recommend browsing through her site for more information, and also reading Dr. Rapp’s intriguing book Our Toxic World: A Wake Up Call. It contains many insights that can protect you and your family from the toxins that are so common in your environment.