Nutritious food and a safe environment is, of course, a basic requirement for a healthy upbringing. Currently there are > 10,000 chemicals allowed as additives in food and food contact materials in the US. There is growing evidence that at least some of of these products pose significant health risks for children. There are several reasons why these chemicals are riskier for kids. Children are smaller so the per kilogram ingestion dose is typically larger; their organs are still developing; and lastly children will likely carry these ingested materials internally for decades longer.
Questions raised by some of the newer research involve odd sounding chemicals with even stranger spellings–bisphenols, phthalates, perfluoroalkyls, perchlorates–used to enhance the functionality of food storage products made of plastic or metal, that may seriously impair the function of endocrine, neurologic, or metabolic function. The American Academy of Pediatrics feels that the Food and Drug Administration needs to take additional steps to “raise its game” with respect to these and many other additives. Some of the steps recommended include update and strengthen the “generally regarded as safe (GRAS)” process, prioritize retesting of previously approved agents, leverage expertise across agencies to streamline communication for better policymaking, dedicate more resources ($) to the effort, expand the scope of research and testing, and expand efforts at transparency of information for the public.
Under the current federal Administration, the present priority is clearly in the opposite direction towards cutting back on research and regulating these products as they feel that those steps are burdensome to industry and thus a drag on economic development and job creation. I will limit my political commentary about that here to pointing out that generally the AAP does not agree with that priority and feels that children’s health is placed at risk by that approach. Suffice to say that it is unlikely that we will see these policy preferences, as expressed by the AAP, become reality any time soon. Thus it is left to us to take the initiative to shield children from exposure to these potential hazards. Keep the following in mind:
- Prioritize consumption of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when possible and support that effort be developing a list of low cost sources of that type of produce.
- Avoid processed meats, especially maternal consumption during pregnancy.
- Avoid microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic
- Avoid placing plastics in dishwashers.
- Use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.
- Check the recycling code on the bottom of products to find the plastic type, and avoid products with recycling codes 3(phthalates), 6(styrenes), and 7(bisphenols) unless they are labeled “biobased” or “greenware” indicating that they are corn based and do not contain bisphenols.
- Encourage hand washing before handling foods and/or drinks, and wash all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.
Bottom line: be aware that as a matter of public policy in the present environment it is largely up to you to monitor the safety of the products used for your children. Keep that in mind during future political campaigns.
Thanks for following.