Get up now and go into your kitchen, utility closet or any cabinets where you store all those miracles of modern chemistry. I am, of course, referring to the cleaners and myriad other products you use to clean, soften, perfume or need for household/office tasks. Have you ever read any of the labels outside of the directions or the cautions?
Ah, yes, there are those benzyl-whatevers that you can’t make hide nor hair of and you really don’t know what that all means, but it must be safe or they wouldn’t sell it, right? Oh, baby, are you wrong. Do you also believe that cigarettes are safe or they wouldn’t be able to sell them?
But don’t take my word for it. I have known about these things for a long time but I’m not a research chemist so you might just think I’m mouthing off on something about which I know nothing. However, I have seen the result of the miracles of modern chemistry as their end products walked into my office at a psychiatric hospital or mental health center. They were, sometimes, like the walking dead with wooden faces, dead eyes and a near-inability to relate in anything but the most tangential manner.
The idea of brain damage due to household chemicals had been rattling around in my head since those days of yore. I’d seen the kids who huffed the whipped cream in the dairy case at the market. And I’d seen the ones who took to huffing rags soaked with paint thinners or paper correcting products. I’d also seen the film, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Love Liza.” If anyone needed lessons on huffing, that film provided it in spades.
I had even come into contact with one woman, in a lovely California research center, where she was scheduled for an evaluation. Beautifully dressed and made up, you would have assumed that there was nothing wrong with her, until you asked her simple things like her birthday or where she lived or even if she were married (her husband brought her). She had Alzheimer’s (SDAT) but she also had something else which is now seen as another characteristic of SDAT and that was anosmia.
The lack of an ability to accurately smell things, anosmia may also be brought on by something other than Alzheimer’s. This woman did have Alzheimer’s but she had, for years, been using dangerous substances which she never perceived as such; she combined two common household cleaners to more effectively cleanse her home. The combination probably caused irreparable damage to her sensitive olfactory nerve (leads directly to the brain) and she now had lost that sense.
Adults do have the ability to defend themselves against exposure to dangerous substances or toxic fumes, but kids don’t. And yet we blithely purchase items which carry the potential for incredible damage to nerve tissue and brains and put them in our cupboards. No lock and key. No signs of warning. But signs wouldn’t help because these kids are too young to read.
The colorful containers just sit there, often under the sink, waiting for some unwary soul to venture into their toxic lair. Little wide eyes are caught by the fanciful labels and, if something spritzes out, it’s incredible fun, so spritz away little one. Prefer a presentation by a knowledgable professional on the topic? Ok, here’s one entitled “Little Things Matter.”
Aside from the more obvious substances in household items, such as formaldehyde (absorbed through the skin BTW) which had been in some baby shampoos and adult shampoo products, there are what is known as endocrine disruptors. These problematic substances can be found in pesticides, plastics and fire retardants.
The consequences for kids who are exposed to them? According to an article in the October 2015 edition of the Monitor on Psychology (“Chemical Threats”) from the American Psychological Association, they may be responsible for learning and behavioral problems, autism and attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The developing nervous system and brain may be subtly affected, but we cannot dismiss this subtilty as inconsequential.
“In a 2012 report, the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health
Organization (WHO) said endocrine disruptors pose “significant health implications”
and called for more research on them.” Furthermore, endocrinologists saw themto have “likely contributed to neurobehavioral deficits and disability”
and estimated the total cost to the EU as “150 billion euros (U.S. $170 billion) per year in treatment and lost productivity.”
When professional express consternation at the increasing numbers of children with neurological difficulties, autism, bipolar disorder and ADHD, where is the recognition of how these toxins enter not only directly but in utero? The disruption to the child’s entire endocrine system, the most important and complex pathway for all human activity, cannot be overstated in its potential for damage.
Small amounts can mean major problems so it is somewhat naïve to say that such small quantities couldn’t be anything but safe. Safety is relative when we’re dealing with the nervous system. Some parts of the system react rather dramatically and even more so in small quantities rather than large amounts, an apparent contradiction, but seen in research nevertheless.
Directly addressing the problem of pesticides commonly found in the home, a research study cited in the article indicated that “In a national sample of 687 children ages 8 to 15, boys with detectable levels of pyrethroid pesticides — the most commonly used insecticide in homes — in their urine were more than twice as likely to have hyperactive and impulsive symptoms compared with boys who had levels below detection.”
Even the packaging used for these products present danger to the developing brain cell growth, neuronal migration and differentiation as well as in the formation of synapses. Synapses are the highways in the brain and body that enable human actions including all learning activities of thought, speech, and movement. Continue the proliferation of them and you have succeeded in creating a children with impairments perhaps too significant for real remediation.
Materials in packaging, known as phthalates, are in containers and even children’s toys, plastic wrap, dryer laundry sheets and air fresheners and containers for food or liquid packaging have these substances leaching out. This leaching results in the presence of the toxins in the products they are to protect. They are then ingested and, ultimately, may enter the water supply and ground water, further polluting the environment.
This ugly feedback loop is created daily and it can only become more destructive as it accumulates. Some of the toxins will even accumulate in body fat where it leaches out, too, over time. We’ve heard how medications are entering our water supply as they are flushed down sewage systems. The evidence appears in deformed animal life dependent on a watery home environment.
Tin had been removed from cans as the material that held them together, but how many cans still contain another, yet unproven toxin, in them? What about the bags of frozen foods that go straight into the microwave for cooking? Does the plastic material in them leach out into the food? How about the water bottles you give your kids for sports activities or even the water or soft drink bottles used for beverages? They, along with some baby bottles, used BPA, and now another product, BPS, which may also have similar effects on the endocrine system.
Your protection here aside from your own vigilance in what you bring into your home or place into your mouth or the mouths of others is not found in the EPA. The Monitor article clearly states that, “Through the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may require chemical manufacturers to provide evidence that a new product is safe only if the EPA can prove it poses an “unreasonable” risk to humans that far outweighs cost considerations. However, the EPA has only 90 days to request testing and has only done so for some 200 chemicals. Meanwhile, manufacturers often dispute what findings there are,
contributing to delays, researchers say. As a result , only five in use have been broadly regulated, of the roughly 83,000 chemicals with limits on their production and use.”
Even asbestos is still legal even though we know that its fine, needle-like structures do terrible damage to the lungs.
Who’s watching our health? Seems we are our own watchdogs.