Problems for children

Children are more susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults. They are more sensitive to the toxins which build up in their bodies.

Children breathe more than adults and are also closer to the ground, meaning that they are more likely to inhale dangerous chemicals such as volatile organic compounds found in dust, as well as those chemicals which they ingest directly by putting their hands in their mouth. Children’s skin is also more penetrable than adults’, and they eat and drink more in relation to adults, meaning that their bodies have a higher proportion of pollutants. Their body’s anti-toxin system is also not yet fully developed in childhood.

Cases of respiratory disorders, asthma, allergies, cancer, cognitive problems, hormonal changes etc. in infants and children are still increasing. According to many scientific studies, an increase in the chemical pollution which infants are exposed to (often in their own homes) can cause the aforementioned problems.

The high chemical exposure to environmental toxins for children, and the fact that we are seeing a considerable increase in the number of cases of various health problems, is an indicator of how toxins can seriously damage human health.

However, according to several reports, children’s bedrooms are one of the common places in the home in which dangerous chemicals build up. This is not only because of the amount of potentially risky products there but also because they tend to be confined spaces.

The European Commission admit that the current regulations on chemicals are not adequately protecting children. Additionally, the number of cases for a whole host of health problems which can affect children is still increasing.

Childhood asthma

Childhood asthma is among these health problems. Various studies have found a correlation between the illness and the exposure to common chemicals in our homes, such as phthalates emitted from sources such as PVC.

Various studies have warned that domestic exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at levels lower than those deemed “safe” can significantly increase the risk of childhood asthma. These compounds are emitted from household items such as solvents, flooring adhesives, paint, cleaning products, furniture, polishing wax and air fresheners.

Compounds such as benzene, ethylbenzene and toluene, for example, at relatively low levels, could cause an increased risk of presenting asthmatic symptoms. For every 10 µg/m3 increase in the concentration of benzene, the risk is almost three times higher.

Cancer

Other studies have linked childhood leukaemia to the exposure of some substances and chemicals e.g. household pesticides.

There have also been studies which have linked these to brain cancer in infancy.

Some studies have associated the use of anti-flea and tick products, products to combat termite infestations, anti-lice shampoo and household and garden pesticides with this group of illnesses.

There have been studies which show a link between the use of pesticides in the garden and a significantly increased risk of children developing a medulloblastoma.

The use of pesticides inside and around the home has been shown to double the risk of suffering from childhood cancer such as neuroblastoma.

Neurological changes

Scientists have discovered that some chemicals can have an effect on children’s cerebral development, particularly heavy metals e.g. lead.

Lead, which used to be found in paint and water pipes, has been linked to many cases of mild mental retardation in infants, renal and development problems, attention deficit, hyperactivity and irritability in children. It has even been linked to the altering of the parts of the brain associated with the control of impulses, a significant increase in aggressiveness and violent behaviour, and subsequent criminal behaviour in children found with certain levels of lead in their bodies.

However, there are many more pollutants that affect infant neurological development e.g. those which enter their bodies in food.

Various studies have shown that pesticide residues (e.g. organophosphates) found in our food, even at very low levels which are deemed “legal”, can cause effects on a child’s brain, which is very sensitive to toxins and are accumulated more in their bodies than in adults. It is therefore not surprising that there have been studies showing a correlation between these chemicals and behavioural problems, memory loss, motor development problems or slow reaction times. Other studies have found a strong link between this type of exposure, even at low levels of concentration, and an almost doubled risk of suffering from ADHD. These problems have been linked to other chemicals in pesticides which may be found in our food e.g. dioxins and furans, which are industrial pollutants often found in meat, fish and dairy products.

Amongst the common chemicals linked to ADHD: lead, manganese, solvents, PCBs, cadmium, pyrethroids and pyretrins, cipermetrina, deltametrina, organophosphates, diazinon, PBDEs and trichloroethylene.