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Taking Action on Toxic Chemicals


Salt Lake City recently hosted a visit with a program director from the Healthy Babies, Bright Futures (HBBF) program to continue our work as a member of the “Bright Cities” cohort.

Heidi Gerbracht, Bright Cities National Program Director, joined us in mid-July to meet with Mayor Jackie Biskupski, department heads, and several community organizations & agencies, to begin assessing the current risks, priorities and opportunities related to neurotoxic chemical exposures in our City.

Mayor Biskupski meets with Heidi Gerbracht, Bright Cities National Program Director.

Mayor Biskupski meets with Heidi Gerbracht, Bright Cities National Program Director.

Next steps include engaging in a public process to educate the community, as well as creating a final plan to reduce or eliminate the impact of these dangerous chemicals on babies’ brains.

This work can’t come soon enough.

Just last month, citing a study for which HBBF was a convener, a leading group of physicians, scientists, and health advocates called for stronger regulations around everyday chemicals that can harm the developing brain.

Research suggests that everything from lead pipes, to food packaging, to the pesticides used to grow our food, can lead to higher levels of neurodevelopmental disorders in children, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disabilities, and other learning and behavioral disabilities.

Leading Experts confirm that toxic chemicals in our homes and environment are linked to learning disabilities, autism, and other brain development problems.

This unique coalition included leading obstetricians, children’s health advocates, and heavy-hitting associations such as the National Medical Association. Based on the year-long study, the researchers determined that, while neurodevelopmental disorders are complex and have interconnected causes, chemical exposure does play a role and can be mitigated.

“Based on these findings, we assert that the current system in the United States for evaluating scientific evidence and making health-based decisions about environmental chemicals is fundamentally broken,” the coalition stated. ” . . .[We] must eliminate or significantly reduce exposures to chemicals. . . These measures are urgently needed if we are to protect healthy brain development so that current and future generations can reach their fullest potential.”

We’re proud to begin taking action on a municipal level in Salt Lake City by participating in the Healthy Babies, Bright Future program.

Still, more needs to be done on the federal level.  While this plays out, we encourage you to educate yourself on individual steps you can take to limit exposure, copied here from a recent New York Times Well column which discussed the recent news.

How to Limit Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

  • Reduce pesticide exposure by choosing organic strawberries, apples, nectarines, green beans, celery and spinach.
  • Choose seafood low in mercury like salmon, sardines, trout.
  • Breast-feed your baby if you can; if you use formula, make sure the water is lead-free.
  • When buying furniture with padding like a high chair, sofa or mattress, ask for products that are labeled free of toxic flame retardants.
  • Avoid exposing the family to tobacco smoke, wood smoke from fireplaces and wood stoves, idling car exhaust, cooking fumes from stoves and grills.
  • If you’re putting in a new floor, choose either phthalate-free vinyl flooring or wood, bamboo or cork.
  • Avoid plastic toys, backpacks, lunch boxes and school supplies made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which can be a source of phthalates.
  • Choose fragrance-free personal care products to avoid phthalates in fragrances .
  • When using stool softeners, laxatives and other time-release capsules, look for phthalates on the list of inactive ingredients so you can avoid them.
  • Use nontoxic alternatives to pesticides in your yard and on your pets.
  • Screen your house for lead. If it was built before 1978, lead paint may place your family at risk. If paint is chipping or peeling, it can build up in house dust and stick to children’s hands.
  • Reduce household dust that may contain lead, flame retardants, phthalates and pesticides. Take shoes off before you come into the house and use a doormat to trap dirt outside and inside the doorway. Damp mop, use a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner and dust with a microfiber cloth.
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