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People use chemicals in hopes of achieving a variety of beneficial results. However, there are also major downsides to using chemicals. One of the most compelling problems is that toxic chemicals can accidentally wind up in places that we never intended them to - for example, places like human breast milk. Let's take a look at a couple of ways toxic chemicals could possibly be harming your child:

Phthalates and Other Harmful Chemicals Might Be Hiding in Your Child's Plastic Toys

According to recent research published in the Environment International journal, there are 126 potentially harmful substances lurking in children's plastic toys. Some of the substances are known carcinogens, and the researchers are concerned because they found that the cancer risks posed by these chemicals exceed regulatory risk thresholds. 

The researchers point out that there's no easy way to recognize which plastic toys contain toxic chemicals; however, they warn parents that soft plastics have a greater likelihood of causing high levels of exposure to certain toxic chemicals. They suggest taking the following actions to protect your children:

  • Reduce your household use of all plastic materials.

  • Avoid giving your children soft plastic toys.

  • Ensure your children's bedrooms are well ventilated. They make this suggestion because it is possible for children to inhale chemicals that diffuse from toys present in the same room with them. They found that the greatest risk posed by plastic toys was that of inhalation exposure.

One additional solution could be to give your child toys made from natural materials; for example, there are wooden building blocks, stacking rings, puzzles and other toys; plush toys made from natural fibers and stuffed with organic wool; and toys made from natural rubber.

Your Child's Mattress Might Contain Harmful Chemicals

According to research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, it's possible for mattresses to contain a variety of chemicals that can cause harm. In particular, mattresses that contain polyurethane, flame retardants, plastics, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and benzene can all be problematic. They create problems by off-gassing toxic fumes when a person's body heats the surface of the mattress. The researchers were specifically concerned that the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released could be harmful to babies and small children. Potential health problems resulting from this could include headaches and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. Furthermore, VOC exposure could contribute to organ damage or cancer in the long term. 

Until quite recently, toxic flame retardants were ubiquitous in mattresses and some other products distributed in the United States and certain other countries. This is because the inclusion of flame retardants was a legal requirement.

Recently, some governments have taken steps to restrict the use of some toxic flame retardants. For example, in January of 2020, the state of California banned some flame retardants. This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't eliminate all the possible problematic chemicals that could potentially be contained in a child's mattress.

There are several solutions to consider:

  • Your best protection, really, is to be an informed consumer. You can educate yourself by consulting this checklist of things to look for when buying a cot mattress for your little one.

  • Avoid buying a mattress made from polyurethane foam.

  • As mentioned above, you'll want to maintain good ventilation inside your child's room; the researchers in this study recommended using fans and opening the windows.

  • Furthermore, to avoid toxic flame retardants, don't buy older used mattresses, because older products are far likelier to contain these chemicals. When purchasing a new mattress, if in doubt, consult the manufacturer to ask if they're using flame retardants - or look for OEKO-TEX certification.

You wouldn't expect toxic chemicals to be in your child's toys or mattresses, so it's no doubt disturbing to learn that you have to be proactive about avoiding such problems. Now that you're aware of these issues, you're better equipped to protect your child from harm.