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October 18 Presentation by Dr. John Yim on Healthy Gut, Healthy Body

Over 25 years of practice, Dr. Yim has discovered a common thread in treating patients. Find out how he uses the 5R’s of Gut Health to improve overall wellness and vitality for a host of health conditions.

 

Top five Environmental Hazards for Kids

5 Top Environmental Hazards 
By Beth Hendry-Yim

Like many parents, Tina makes sure toxic household chemicals are safely out of her children’s reach.  She has no pesticides indoors and keeps cleaners safely tucked away. She’s careful because, “I worry about what kind of effects they have on my kids.”  

Unfortunately, some of Tina’s neighbours feel differently.  While Tina and her children played in the backyard one windy day, her neighbour began eradicating weeds from his yard.  Garbed in protective rubber boots, gloves, and inhalation mask, the neighbour began liberally applying the herbicide 24D with Tina’s dog and children mere feet from the toxic spray.  

Within minutes Tina was having difficulty breathing and immediately gathered up her three young children and raced indoors.  She says, “I protect my children from these toxic chemicals by keeping them out of my home but what am I supposed to do about my neighbour’s spraying?  He didn’t even think about the dog inches from where he was spraying or the fact that the wind was blowing the spray into our yard and onto my kids.”  She adds, “If I had trouble breathing after inhaling the stuff, what did it do to my kids?”

         Tina, like other Canadian parents, has every right to be concerned about toxic chemicals.  According to research published in the Lancet, chemical neurotoxins may have affected the brains, learning, and behaviour of millions of children around the world.  The report, titled, The Silent Pandemic: Industrial Chemicals Are Impairing the Brain Development of Children Worldwidelights a volatile fuse under the chemical industry’s collective you-know-what’s by boldly stating that industrial chemicals may be responsible for impaired brain development of children, resulting in lower IQ’s, shortened attention spans, and behaviour challenges.

         The report claims that one out of every six children is dealing with a developmental disability that involves deficits and delays of the nervous system.  In the report, this damage is linked to exposure to industrial chemicals.  

         Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of chemicals.  Their skin is more permeable and readily absorbs toxins while their livers are unable to detoxify as well as those found in adults and as children are more likely to put hands or toys in their mouths they have an increased chance of ingesting a variety of chemicals and toxins.  Another factor that makes children more susceptible is the ratio of food and drink intake per body weight.  It’s higher than adults, so children get more toxins per kilogram of body weight than adults.  Plus, the current allowable levels of exposure are set for a healthy adult male with a fully functioning detoxification system not a developing child with less ability to detoxify and an immature immune system.

         The list of chemicals polluting our environment is staggering.  However, most parents would be surprised to note that the worst offenders are in their home, lurking in stuffed animals, wafting from scented air fresheners, and buried deep in carpets.  The following is a list of five of the top environmental hazards, where they are found, the possible health effects, and how to reduce your child’s risk of exposure to them.

Formaldehyde

Where is it found

 A colourless, acrid-smelling gas used as a preservative in pressed wood products, furniture, and press board.  It can be found in carpets, cushions, tobacco smoke, some textiles, drapes, and glues. 

Health Effects

This invisible toxin can cause a range of symptoms: burning eyes and throat, watery eyes, nausea, fatigue, skin rash, severe allergic reactions, and it may cause cancer in humans.  

Reducing Exposure

  • Maintain a moderate temperature and even humidity to prevent the acceleration, by heat, of the formaldehyde.

  • Use “lower emission” wood products like exterior grade pressed wood products or hand milled, untreated wood.

  • Let new products air out before adding to home.

  • Ensure proper ventilation at all times.

  • Philodendron, chrysanthemum, and ivy plants naturally filter formaldehyde.

Lead

Where is it found

         The largest source of lead has been old lead-based paints but it was also found in pipes and leaded gasoline.  Even though these sources of lead have been removed from the market or made safer, lead can still be found in older houses. Because of its general use in the past and its bioaccumulating effect, it is still found in your child’s environment from the soil to food and according to Environment Canada it is “toxic, persistent, and can be "taken up" and stored in biological tissues.”  

Health Effects

         Lead impacts every system of the body but is particularly toxic to a child’s developing brain and central nervous system.  Even levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter can impair mental and physical development.  Exposure to lead can also lower IQ, shorten attention span, and cause behaviour and learning challenges.

Reducing Exposure

  • Remove shoes outside or wipe them off well before entering home.

  • Use a solution of powdered automatic dishwashing detergent in warm water to wipe down floors, window ledges, and surfaces that children may chew or come into contact with. Multi-purpose cleaners don’t always remove lead dust.

  • Wash toys and stuffed animals once a month.

  • If your home was built before 1978 it may contain lead. Have a professional seal or remove it.

  • If someone in the house works with products that may contain lead, avoid bringing it home by changing clothes at work.

  • Iron and calcium absorb lead so ensure your child consumes a balanced diet that contains these nutrients.

Phthalates

Where are they found

         With a billion pounds a year being produced worldwide, pthlates are one of the most ubiquitous environmental hazards. They can be found in plastics, perfumes, lubricants, hairsprays, and even that new car smell we find so appealing. 

Health Effects

         Pthalates are hormone disruptors, meaning they have the ability to mimic estrogen and other hormones important to the smooth running of our bodies.  These imitation hormones cause imbalances that can lead to a variety of conditions.  Even small amounts of these hormone disruptors can wreak havoc on our bodies.  In 2005 researchers and the Study for Future Families Research Group reported on the demasculization of the human male reproductive tract, may increase the likelihood of undescended testes, and lowered sperm counts, and testicular tumors in adulthood.  World Wildlife Foundation researchers have found health concerns in animals due to hormone disrupting chemicals, including: thyroid disorders, compromised immunity, and abnormal sexual development.  

Reducing Exposure

  • Use natural, non-toxic essential oils instead of air fresheners.

  • Use unscented beeswax candles rather than chemically scented ones.

  • Avoid cosmetics that contain dibutyl phthlates.

  • Use glass containers and non-bleached parchment paper instead of plastic containers.

  • Choose un-treated wooden toys over plastic.

  • Ventilate your child’s play area and bedroom.

Mercury

Where is it Found?

         Mercury is found in the earth’s crust in rocks that also contain coal.  When coal is burned, mercury is released. Mercury also enters the environment via the burning and improper disposal of hazardous wastes, as well as breaking and spilling mercury containing products which include: batteries, fluorescent lamps, some necklaces and jewelry, paint, thermostats, and thermometers.  

         Mercury released into the air can be deposited in water or on land where it can wash into lakes, rivers, and the ocean.  Once there microorganisms can change it into methyl mercury a very toxic form that can build up in fish, 

shellfish, and animals that eat fish.  By the time humans consume the contaminated fish, levels of methymercury can be dangerous.

         Mercury is also found in amalgam fillings.  According to John Cline, MD, co-author of “The Textbook for Functional Medicine” and a faculty member of the Institute of Functional Medicine, “off-gassing of mercury vapor from mercury amalgams is the most common source of mercury for people in the industrialized world with an average of 3 - 17 micrograms of mercury vapor exposure per day.”  He adds that “children get exposed to mercury in the womb, if their mothers have mercury in their systems or if the mother gets dental work during the pregnancy or consumes fish that is contaminated with mercury.”  

Health Effects

         According to the Environmental Protection Agency high levels of methyl mercury in the bloodstreams of unborn babies and young children can lead to slower thinking and learning due to the fact that children’s nervous systems are still developing and are more susceptible to mercury’s deleterious effects. Other possible effects may be lack of coordination of movements, impairments in speech, hearing and walking, and muscle weakness.

Reducing Exposure

  • If your child needs dental work ask the dentist about alternative products like porcelain fillings.

  • Use mercury-free products and dispose of mercury products properly.

  • Health Canada suggests a limit to consuming shark, swordfish, and fresh or frozen tuna to one meal a week. Pregnant women and women of child bearing years and young children should consume only once a month.

Pesticides 

Where are they found?

         With over 34 million kilograms of pesticides used annually in Canada alone, you don’t have to look far to find them.  They can be found on lawns, gardens, food, and water.  They can be tracked into the house on shoes and in the air. And because of the growing taste for exotic, non-local foods children may be exposed to pesticides banned in Canada but not in other countries.

Health Effects

         The impact on health depends on the type of pesticide and its use, but can range from mild skin irritations to death.  Organophosphates and carbamates affect the nervous system, others may be carcinogenic, while some may be hormone disruptors that affect the endocrine system.

Reducing Exposure

  • Buy local as much as possible. Locally grown produce is processed less and may have lower levels of pesticides. Buying organically grown local produce is even better.

  • Wash or soak produce in a vegetable and fruit cleanser to remove any residues.

  • Purchase organically grown products wherever possible.

  • Remove shoes before entering your home or wipe them off well.

  • Use natural alternatives to pesticides for lawns and gardens.

  • Keep any pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals away from the house so children can’t accidentally handle them.

Every year thousands of chemicals are used in Canada without adequate testing or regulations.  These gaps in testing put children at an unacceptable risk.  Almost half of the chemicals, sited in the Silent Pandemicstudy are toxic to the brain and are in regular use.   

Every child in Canada has a right to live and play in a safe environment, to reach their highest potential academically, physically, and emotionally.  Industry and the government must take steps to ensure this basic human right for our next generation.

“We must make protection of the young brain a paramount goal of public health protection. You have only one chance to develop a brain.” Phillipe Grandjean, co-author of Silent Pandemic.