Nowadays the world is bathed in a toxic soup of environmental pollutants from industry, transport, agriculture and even households.
Children, with smaller bodies than adults, take in proportionally more pollutants. They’re physically closer to the toxins in dust and soil, and because children tend to pop everything into their mouths, pollutants can easily make their way into their bodies.
Meanwhile, children are more sensitive to the potential health effects of pollutants because they’re developing, meaning their detoxification mechanisms aren’t yet fully formed.
Read on to discover how environmental toxins can affect your children’s health, and steps you can take to protect them.
Many different kinds of environmental pollutants exist in the modern world.
Widespread chemicals include Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, used in plastics, including food packaging and toys. These are both endocrine disruptors, meaning they mess up hormone balance, with particular implications for children and developing foetuses.
Then there are toxic metals like mercury, lead and cadmium. These can affect children’s behavioural and nervous system development, being implicated in autism, ADHD, and learning disorders. They can also lead to slow growth in early life, respiratory issues, and metabolic diseases like obesity, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
Pesticides used in commercial operations and in household gardens are another source of toxins, being connected with poorer attention, thinking and co-ordination in children. The pesticide glyphosate has been implicated in cancer.
One class of pollutants worth a special mention are persistent organic pollutions such as PCBs, banned in the 1980s because of their effect on health; and dioxins, previously produced by vehicles and incineration and now by the burning of wood and coal. As their name implies they hang around in the environment accumulating in food such as fish and animal products, putting humans at the top of the food chain at particular risk.
Particulate matter from vehicles and industry is an airborne mix of tiny solid and liquid particles containing mineral dust, sulphate and organic matter. The miniscule particles can travel through the lungs easily and enter the bloodstream. In one study, children exposed to particulate matter had higher than normal blood pressure readings as well as showing changes in the genes regulating their immune systems. Children are more likely to be affected by air pollution because they breathe in more air per kilo of their body weight.
Air pollution can affect children’s mental health, too, with psychiatric disorders correlated with levels of particulate matter, even though the readings were within air quality guidelines set by the Government.
Meanwhile, children can be affected by pollution even before they’re born. Research has found mothers living close to industry sites emitting pollutants gave birth to children with a lower than average birth weight and an increased risk of nervous system problems.
While it’s tempting to think most pollution is encountered outdoors, a significant amount of toxins could be lurking inside your home.
A major source of indoor pollution are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gases emitted from solids or liquids. They’re released by household items such as carpets, sofas, paints, building materials and even children’s play equipment, and float unnoticed in the air. VOCs have been found to be consistently higher indoors than outdoors. They’ve been connected with lung irritation, allergies, headaches and nausea, particularly in children whose faces are closer to carpets and soft furnishings.
All these toxic substances are inhaled, consumed in food and water and absorbed through the skin. Humans have developed incredibly sophisticated mechanisms of dealing with pollutants, from the physical barriers of the lungs and the skin to the hardworking liver, kidneys and lymphatic system. But because of the sheer amount of pollutants children are exposed to daily, the precise effect of the quantities and combinations of these chemicals simply isn’t known.
What is known, however, is exposure to pollutants, either in the womb or after a child is born, can impact a child’s physical and mental growth and development, adversely affect their immunity and increase their risk of developing chronic diseases.
A healthy environment grows healthy children. I can evaluate your child’s potential exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants, both before and after birth, and establish whether they may be contributing to their health issues. While it’s impossible to avoid all sources of pollutants, I’ll help you control the ones you can.
I’ll aim to improve your child’s natural ability to detoxify pollutants by supporting their liver and gut health, introducing foods rich in nutrients to aid detoxification, and avoiding foods placing a burden on detoxification systems. Specific nutrients to enhance toxin elimination may also be recommended.
A child’s time in the womb and their first few years of life are critical periods for their development and wellness throughout life. Give your child the healthiest start by contacting Embracing Nutrition today.
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