After Birth: Getting Started
Teaching Your Baby to Read
Teaching Your Baby Math
Baby's Physical Development
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Toxins to Avoid
Are there any toxins that can harm my baby and her ability to learn?
Yes! As distressing as this may be, there are in fact quite a few toxins that can harm your baby and cause learning, developmental or even behavioral disabilities. What's worse is that many of these toxins may easily be within reach of your children.
Here, we have listed some of the most common and damaging toxins to your baby's brain:
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
There are many types of pesticides which can deal different and varying levels of damage to your child. Pesticides can be found in:
Pesticides have been linked to neurochemical and behavioral changes in animals, as well as decreases in stamina, coordination and memory in children. Organophosphates, a class of pesticides which is used to control pests at home, blocks the action of enzymes that helps your baby control skeletal and muscle action as well as regulate memory. Keep in mind that pesticides are especially dangerous to children because its residue is stored in fat cells and remain in the body forever.
To minimize the risk to your children, here are safer alternatives to using pesticides:
Apart from these, keep your baby safe by reading labels of any substances you use and make sure they do not contain any toxic pesticides like nicotine, rotenone, pyrethrum and sabadilla (note that this is not the full list). You may also want to keep your younger children away from other gardens or backyards as you may not know what previous owners have used as pesticides or herbicides.
For children, mercury is known to cause problems with concentration and learning, and can invoke symptoms such as tremors, irritability, drowsiness, impaired memory and sleep disturbances. In the worst of cases, babies develop visual and gait problems as well as mental retardation.
Mercury levels often build up inside a fish's system (mercury is emitted into the environment from coal-powered plants and it falls back into the earth and waterways). Although pregnant women and younger children are advised to avoid or limit their consumptions of specific types of fish like tuna, keep in mind that some types of fish are beneficial to your child's brain development.
Lead is a type of heavy metal found in various items around your house including paint, batteries, pipes, gasoline, toys, some ceramics, and tap water. Your baby is most likely to be exposed to lead through swallowing paint dust and drinking tap water.
Lead is classified as a developmental neurotoxin, and it is known to directly affect a child's brain developmental processes causing behavioral defects. Although most new products must abide by federal safety guidelines regarding lead levels, you may want to be cautious and take the following precautions at home.
Flush out your water pipes (until the water is as cold as it can be) before using it for drinking.
Solvents are liquids used to dissolve something else, many of which you use daily. Some solvents are not toxic when inhaled (like water), but most other solvents can cause depression of the central nervous system, skin irritation as well as some other permanent side effects to your child's brain and heart. The following are common household solvents that release toxic fumes, so take care to keep them locked up and away from your children.
After using any of these products, remember to air out the space where you have used the product or even the object you've used them on (e.g. dry-cleaned clothes).
Flame retardants were first introduced as a safety feature for children's pajamas and home furniture. These chemicals prevent fire from spreading - however, there have been studies that indicate that they are particularly harmful during the critical period of brain development.
Research shows that some flame retardants (especially PBDE or polybrominated diphenyl ether) mimic thyroid hormones in the body which may then interrupt a child's brain development.
Arsenic is another known neurotoxin and although it can be found naturally in the earth's crust, the most harmful type of arsenic is man-made and used to preserve wood. Chromate copper arsenate (CCA) change hormonal functions (even at low levels), and therefore largely impact the developing brain. Through contact with arsenic-treated wood (like a wooden playground set), high levels of arsenic is directly released to your child's hands. In fact, arsenic leeches into the soil around and underneath the structure, so make sure your children do not put their hands near their mouth until they have washed their hands.
What should you do if you have existing arsenic-treated wood?
Note: Do not burn or sand arsenic-treated wood, it is extremely hazardous!
Second-hand smoke is perhaps one of the most common toxins that your child will encounter. It is responsible for countless lower respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months and has been known to aggravate symptoms in children with asthma. Aside from health effects, researchers have also found a link between tobacco smoke and intellectual and behavioral problems. Children who have had higher exposure to second-hand smoke showed reduced vocabulary and were even held back a grade in early education.
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