Independence Day brings lots of great activities but also lots of opportunities to come into contact with toxins. Pregnant women and parents with young children might want to pay some extra attention to the additional toxins their little ones are exposed to at this time of year. While no one likes a Debbie Downer, being mindful of our health is not the same as denying yourself and your family a fun time. Getting sick is certainly no fun!
Most kids and adults can handle occasional treats, but toxins do accumulate in all of us. We know from the Environmental Working Group that babies are born now with over 200 chemicals in their umbilical cord blood, including BPA. Adults and children who are already compromised in some way or who have poor detoxification for genetic reasons, liver issues, or unhealthy diet would be served well by paying attention to their choices this holiday.
Although most things in moderation can be tolerated by most people, here are some of the issues those with young children and compromised systems might want to consider to stay safe and healthy.
Toxins in Fireworks
It’s best to see them from afar to limit what you breathe in and skin exposure as well. See articles about the chemicals in fireworks from Holistic Help and Newsweek and more thoughts on safe firework use from Healthy Child, Healthy World.
Lead in sparklers
Breathing in lead fumes can cause permanent damage so best to avoid those sparkly sticks. See this article from Lead-Safe America.
The DC area already gets an F for air quality in the American Lung Association analysis. If the air is especially unhealthy, it really is best to stay inside. Limit outdoor activity to morning when there is less ground-level ozone, or smog. See AirNow.gov and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments for real-time levels and the American Lung Association for general information about air quality at its State of the Air website.
To get involved in the fight for clean air, participate in the Moms Clean Air Force Play-In for Climate Action on Tuesday, July 7.
Some face paints have lead and other chemicals that you would not want to eat. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so best practice is to treat it like another mouth! Check out these articles on face paint from Green Mom Guide, A Child Grows in Brooklyn blog and Baby Center.
Whether it’s food storage or trinkets from the dollar store, plastic seems to be everywhere. But there seems to be ample reason to avoid it when you can. There is evidence that BPA-free is not good enough and that its alternatives have issues too. See related articles at Mother Jones and Scientific American and a guide to plastics from Healthy Child, Healthy World.
Many dollar-store trinkets are health hazards. See this NBC News report for starters and “1 in 3 Toys Contains Toxins, Study Finds” a great recap on Healthy Child, Healthy World of the research from The Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff project.
Even knockoffs of Loom Bands may be problematic. See this article by Mother Jones that talks about cancer-causing phthalates.
Beads and decorations
All kids like to dress up, but many of them also like to chew on things that could be filled with bad chemicals. Check out this article from Alternet on the toxins in Mardi Gras beads with lead and endocrine disruptors. Plastic flags and the like could have a host of other problems.
The less healthy our food choices, the more work our body has to do to detoxify from all the chemicals we come into contact with. When possible, choose local or organic. Some foods, like sweet corn, should be certified organic or else are likely to be genetically-modified. Other foods that are harder to grow in certain places may be polluted with pesticides if not organic. See the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists from the EWG. Seek out local produce grown by farmers who, even if not able to pay for organic certification, tell you they do not spray with pesticides and/or use Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
So what’s a healthy family to do for a fun Fourth?
Quick Tips for a Safe, Healthy & Non-Toxic 4th of July … and the rest of summer!
- Play outdoors in the morning and away from highways.
- Consult the EWG’s 2015 Guide to Sunscreens and also its Guide to Bug Repellents
- Watch fireworks from afar and avoid home fireworks or sparklers
- Eat healthy foods of lots of colors, including fresh berries rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients
- Do your best to say “No, thanks,” to trinkets and beads. A disarming smile and “We are swimming in stuff right now and trying to purge” may do the trick. Or try “I can’t keep things out of their mouths, so we’d better pass, but thanks for the offer!”
- When possible, use metal and glass containers to serve and store food. Some local stores like MOM’s Organic Market carry great options, and many are available online through numerous retailers, including Reuseit.com
- Try to pass on the face painting or bring your own non-toxic paints
- Limit temporary tattoos in number and tell kids they will stay on for only one day
- Smile, breathe, and drink a lot of water!