Last summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued guidelines and concerns about ingesting certain chemicals into our bodies. It’s nothing new, but are you making changes?
The chemical culprits include nitrates and nitrites (used as preservatives mainly for meats); phthalates (used to make plastic packaging); and bisphenols (used in plastics and the lining of metal cans for food products). In spite of a growing number of scientific studies warning against their use, the FDA still lists these chemicals as “generally safe.”
What’s true, the AAP says (representing 67,000 pediatricians in the U.S.), is these chemicals may interfere with your child’s natural hormones in ways that impact his long-term growth and development.
Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of chemicals in food partly because they eat more food per pound of body weight than adults. Yet everywhere you go, you can see adults handing children prepackaged portions of snacks whether it’s at home, day care, school or sports practice — that packaging may contain perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), another harmful agent.
Children’s metabolic systems and organ systems are still developing and maturing, so hormone disruptions caused by the ingesting of too many chemicals can potentially cause lasting changes.
The chemicals described in the pediatrics report have been shown to interfere with normal hormone function “by mimicking or blocking the actions of hormones that are responsible for brain development, development of the sex organs and normal metabolic functions.”
It’s time to be smart. There are simple steps you can take to safeguard your family from harmful chemicals.
The AAP urges households to limit the use of plastic food containers (never place in dishwasher or microwave; heating stimulates harmful chemicals) and aim to serve children more whole fruits and vegetables and less processed food.
While the AAP has called for more rigorous testing and regulation of thousands of chemicals used as food additives or indirectly added to foods when they are used in manufacturing, at home you can take matters into your own hands. Monitor kids who may be heating something up without awareness. Check your dishwasher for plastics before starting the cycle. Wash all whole foods before cooking or preparing, and be aware of what your kids are eating. No matter what, you now are more aware of harmful chemicals.
How to Avoid Ingesting Chemicals
• Prioritize the eating of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
• Avoid processed meats.
• Avoid microwaving food and beverages in plastic containers. This includes infant formula and pumped breast milk.
• Don’t put plastic food containers in the dishwasher.
• Use alternatives to plastic like glass or stainless steel whenever possible.
• Check the recycling code on the bottom of products and avoid plastics with recycling codes 3, 6 and 7, which may contain phthalates, styrene and bisphenols.
• Always wash hands before handling food and drinks.
• Wash all fruits and vegetables that are not peeled.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Susan Swindell Day is the editor of this publication and the mom of four amazing kids.