Illnesses — including remarkable combinations of symptoms — are on the rise.
- Over the past 50 years, there has been a steady increase in the incidence of children developing cancer, asthma, attention deficit disorders, allergies, autoimmune disorders, and others.
- This is due to industrial chemicals being used in products that weren’t even formulated prior to about 1950. Our children are subjected to an endless barrage of artificial pathogens that tax their systems to the max.
Is there a connection between the rise in illnesses and products you use in your home?
- But inadequate data exists regarding the chronic (long term, low level) health risks of most chemicals, and proving an absolute link between chemicals and these disorders isn’t easy, because in most cases it’s a slow-brewing condition that can smolder for decades before symptoms appear. Furthermore, the timing of toxic exposure plays a much more significant role than previously recognized – babies exposed during critical periods of development often have a more severe reaction than those exposed at other times.
The chemicals used in textile processing are among the most toxic known, yet the fabrics themselves are often overlooked as a source of pollution.
Using organic products (like fabrics) is especially important for children, because children tend to be more influenced by their environment than adults. Children are still developing, and many of these developmental processes are very sensitive to environmental contaminants, which can easily disrupt development. Also, children take in much more of their environment relative to their body weight. This amount, called the dose, has a much greater effect on children than on the adults around them, because children’s bodies are much smaller. And finally, children tend to come in contact with environmental contaminants more often than adults do, simply because of their habits – like the two year olds who put everything in their mouths, or toddlers who spend a lot of time in the dust on the floor, where contaminants collect.
In outfitting your nursery, you see lots of information about baby products – lotions, powders, foods. But please remember that there are other products that impact your child’s health, such as mattresses and fabrics. You almost never hear somebody mention fabrics as a source of pollution – are they really so important? Remembering that new studies are demonstrating that even nano doses of chemicals can contribute to disease over time, there are also many studies which specifically linked diseases to chemicals found in textiles:
- In 2007, The National Institutes of health and the University of Washington released the findings of a 14 year study that demonstrates those who work with textiles were significantly more likely to die from an autoimmune disease than people who didn’t.
- A study by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found a link in textile workers between length of exposure to formaldehyde and leukemia deaths.
- Women who work in textile factories with acrylic fibers have seven times the risk of developing breast cancer than does the normal population.
- Studies have shown that if children are exposed to lead, either in the womb or in early childhood, their brains are likely to be smaller. Note: lead is a common component in textile dyestuffs.
- Many of the chemicals found in fabrics (which are, after all, about 27% synthetic chemicals, by weight) are known to have negative health effects, such as:
- Disruptions during development (including autism, which now occurs in 1 of every 110 births in the US); attention deficit disorders (ADD) and hyperactivity (ADHD). Chemicals commonly used in textiles which contribute:
- Breathing difficulties, including asthma ( in children under 5 asthma has increased 160% between 1980-1994) and allergies. Chemicals used in textiles which contribute:
- Formaldehyde, other aldehydes
- Benzene, toluene
- Cancer – all childhood cancers have grown at about 1% per year for the past two decades; the environmental attributable fraction of childhood cancer can be between 5% and 90%, depending on the type of cancer. Chemicals linked to cancers, all of which are used in textile processing:
- Lead, cadmium
- Vinyl chloride
So how do you try to limit your child’s exposure to this chemical contamination?
- Our #1 recommendation is to use only natural fiber fabrics, rather than synthetics (including those ubiquitous cotton/poly blends), which are petroleum based and made entirely of toxic chemicals. On top of that, synthetics are highly flammable. So ditch the synthetics.
- And don’t think that a fabric made of “organic cotton” is safe, because that doesn’t address the question of processing, where all the chemical contamination occurs. If you use natural fibers, try to find GOTS or Oeko Tex certified fabrics.
- Don’t buy clothing or bedding (or anything made of fabric) that has a stain resistant or wrinkle resistant finish on it: stain resistant finishes contain perfluorochemicals (Teflon, Scotchguard, Stainmaster, Crypton, Nanotex, Gore-Tex) and wrinkle resistant finishes use formaldehyde.
- Crib mattresses are often made of polyurethane foam enclosed in vinyl covers. These plastic products are made by combining highly toxic chemicals together to form the final material. When your child is asleep, every breath pulls in air that is literally inches away from the petroleum chemical materials used in the manufacturing of the bed itself. With each breath, these chemical molecules are pulled across the child’s airways and then transferred to the blood from deep within the lungs. This process is repeated with each breath 365 nights a year.
Best choice: Buy a natural latex core covered in organic GOTS or Oeko Tex certified fabric.
- Sleepwear, bedding, even curtains and upholstery fabric – because they’re made of fabric! Why should you use organic fabrics – not just fabrics made with organic fibers – for your baby? The skin is the largest organ of the body and the skin allows many chemicals to pass into your baby through absorption. Also, a baby’s skin is thinner and more permeable than an adult’s skin. Not to mention the fact that many chemicals evaporate, to be breathed in. Best choice: GOTS or Oeko Tex certified fabrics.
- Diapers – first choice would be organic diapers made of natural fibers (GOTS or Oeko Tex certified) – even though it probably means you’ll have to do the diaper laundering. Hey, there are worse things.
“US Cancer Rates Continue to Fall”, Business Week, March 31, 2011; all
childhood cancers have grown at about 1% per year for the past two decades
Type 1 diabetes has increased fivefold in past 40 years, in children 4 and
under, it’s increasing 6% per year. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/14/AR2008031403386.html
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Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2010, 67:263-269 doi:
10.1136/oem.2009.049817 SEE ALSO: http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/new_research/20100401b.jsp AND http://www.medpagetoday.com/Oncology/BreastCancer/19321
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