Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An inconvenient truth


Chemicals are all around us, so how can we prevent them from harming our children?


Ever wondered why more children are diagnosed with autism or ADHD or asthma?
It is “no coincidence that with the increase in toxic chemicals in the world, there is also an increase in health problems that are affecting our children, or have their origins in childhood“.
The above statement was written by Dr Sarah Lantz – a writer, researcher and mother – who is visiting Cairns next week.
In her book Chemical Free Kids – Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World, she shows how chemicals in the environment play a critical role in our health and wellbeing.
Dr Lantz says her goal in writing the book is to better understand chemicals and their impact on the body, particularly those of young children.
What makes a chemical toxic? How are children exposed to chemicals? How can we implement health changes and reduce their harmful effects?

Chemical Free Kids will help parents and carers read labels and identify toxic and harmful ingredients in not just the food they buy, but also in clothing.
The data in the book comes from a range of sources and experts including doctors, nurses, chemists, toxicologists, naturopaths, nutritionists and researchers.
Some of the chapters may scare the pants off you, but nothing is made up – the facts are in black and white and they are ugly. Many chemicals we come into contact with can cause cancer, are toxic to the brain and nervous system and many cause birth defects or abnormal development.
Dr Lantz reports that research has shown asthma mortality has doubled, leukaemia, diabetes and brain cancer have increased in incidence, and neurodevelopmental dysfunction and behavioural problems are widespread.
Most shocking were the amount of chemicals that can be transferred to your baby through the umbilical cord, placenta and even breastmilk.
Dozens of chemicals you absorbed when you were a baby can remain in your system and be passed on to your children.
What was also alarming is that so many chemicals found in everyday products are not tested for safety.
The section "What’s really in baby products?" is a must-read for every new parent, while women who paint their faces every morning with expensive make-up should read "What the cosmetic companies don’t want us to know".
Did you know that one third of personal care products contain at least one ingredient linked to cancer? And that 60 per cent of products contain chemicals that can act like oestrogens or disrupt hormones in the body?
The personal stories from Australian families, particularly children, are touching and poignant.
There’s the child who suffers convulsions caused by pesticides used on the farm where he lives.
Then there’s the toddler who appeared in more than 40 television commercials for popular baby products such as bubble bath, no-tears shampoo, nappy wipes and, when she was older, a body spray for teenage girls.
When she was 14, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, as well as sensitivities to everyday products such as perfume.
While the information is evidence‑based, I’ll be honest here… I struggled to come to terms with some of the facts put forward by Dr Lantz.
This is because my beliefs have been challenged.
I’ve always been pro-vaccination, never understood the hype around fluoride and have no problem popping pain-relieving medication when needed.
But this book has me questioning myself and my assumptions.
Just as companies today continue to claim their products are safe, it was not so long ago that tobacco companies were also making these claims about smoking.
Dr Lantz has a list of 10 steps we can take to live well in a toxic world, and they are all do-able.
We can blame chemical manufacturers, governments or big industries, but ultimately we are responsible for what our children consume and use.
We choose what’s in their food, what shampoo they use, what clothes they wear and what example we set for them.
Therefore, every parent should educate themselves about their environment and aim to protect their children from toxic exposure so that they can thrive well into the future.

  • Dr Lantz presents a public seminar on non‑toxic living, at 2pm, on Sunday, April 3, at Brothers World of Entertainment. The seminar will expose the contaminants in everyday foods, personal care products, medications and household items. Tickets are $15 each, available at Baby Yeti, Enviromart, Neil’s Organics and Cairns Montessori.

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