Bill Moyers: 12 Ways You Can Avoid Toxic Chemicals
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After watching this week’s interview with Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, you’ll probably be wondering what you can do to protect yourself and your family from toxic chemicals. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is become politically involved – join the fight against both chemicals in our environment and money in our political system. In today’s world, it’s virtually impossible to avoid dangerous chemicals, even in your own home, but here are a few simple steps you can take to limit your exposure to known toxins like lead, flame retardants and BPA.
If you think that lead poisoning is a problem of the past, or one that only affects the urban poor, think again. While it’s true that lead paint has been illegal since the 70s and leaded gasoline was phased out in the 80s, the highly toxic substance still lurks in old homes, parking lots, water pipes, and in products imported from countries that don’t have the same regulations. And while lead poisoning no longer the killer it once was, miniscule amounts of lead can cause neurological damage and behavioral problems in children. According to the CDC, there are currently half a million children with elevated levels of lead in their blood. Here’s what you can do to protect your family from lead poisoning:
1) Find out if there’s lead in your water. A good place to start is with your local government. website. At NYC.gov, for example, you can order a free testing kit. You can also try contacting your local water company, your landlord or a private lab. You may also want to install an NSF-certified water filter on your water tap. Though the EPA has mandated that water systems be tested for lead since 1991, your home’s own internal plumbing could still contain lead, particularly if you live in an older building.
2) Replace old windows. Though lead paint has been illegal since 1978 and has largely been removed from old buildings, in some cases, it was seen as too costly to replace the windows. To have your windows replaced (or to do any sort of renovation on a building that may still contain lead paint), contact an EPA-certified renovator who has been trained to follow lead safety practices. In some cases, your local government may cover the costs.
3) Throw out colorfully-painted toys that were made outside the U.S. or Europe. They may look innocent, but toys, crayons, ceramic and jewelry, particularly those manufactured in China or Mexico, may contain lead, and as any parent knows, children are likely to put these things in their mouths.
4) Dust or vacuum regularly. Even without any obvious source of lead in your home, there may still be lead in the air, particularly if you live in an industrial area or if a neighbor has been renovating an old home. Dust particles containing lead are especially dangerous to babies who crawl around on the floor. It’s also important to keep toys and hands clean.
5) Test the soil. Urban and suburban yards can still contain contaminants from the days when lead paint and gasoline were widespread. Before planting a garden or even letting your kids run around in the yard, make sure the soil is lead-free. Your local public health department may offer free testing; you can also contact a private or university-run lab.
The hazards of flame retardants have been known for some time — brominated tris was banned from children’s pajamas back in 1977. And yet, similar chemicals can still be found in everything from couch cushions to television sets. Studies have linked one group of flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, to lower IQs, behavioral problems, early puberty and fertility issues. And the fire-safety benefits of these chemicals are debatable. Here’s what you can to keep toxic flame retardants out of your home: