What Individuals Can Do To Protect Their Families

Project TENDR’s scientists, medical professionals and children’s and environmental advocates are proposing a broad set of policy measures that governments, corporations and health care institutions should take to lower children’s risks for developing neurodevelopmental disorders. There are also things that we can do in our homes to reduce exposures to the chemicals that can harm the developing brain:

Food and Water

Choose fruits and vegetables that have lower levels of pesticides. Strawberries, apples, and nectarines and green beans, celery, and spinach are the most important types of produce to buy organically because the conventional varieties have the most pesticide residue. Better choices for non-organic fruit include cantaloupe, kiwi, and pineapples. Conventional corn, frozen peas and cauliflower are also safer choices. See the full list of which non-organic fruits and veggies are best.

Choose seafood high in brain-boosting nutrients (omega-3 fatty acid) and low in the common seafood pollutant mercury. Healthy choices include wild fresh and canned salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, and trout.

Breast feed your baby. Breast milk has a nearly perfect mix of the vitamins, protein, and fat that your baby needs to grow. If you need to bottle feed your baby, make sure any water you add is lead-free. You can test your water and find out what to do to protect your entire family from lead in the water supply with this kit.

Home Products

When buying any furniture with padding — from a bassinet or high chair to a sofa or king size mattress — look for products that are labeled as free of toxic flame retardants.

Tobacco smoke, wood smoke from fireplaces and woodstoves, idling car exhaust, and cooking fumes from stoves and grills can all contain hazardous air pollutants. Exposing your family to second hand smoke is one more reason not to use tobacco products. Some woodstoves and fireplace inserts are much less polluting than others. Learn more at EPA’s Burn Wise web page. Keeping your outdoor grill clean and never idling your car in a closed garage also reduce air pollution risks.

Vinyl flooring can be a major source of phthalates in house dust. If you’re putting in a new floor, choose phthalate-free vinyl flooring or linoleum, FSC-certified wood, bamboo and cork. Learn more

Plastic toys, backpacks, lunchboxes and school supplies made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can also be a source of phthalate exposure. The PVC Guide and Healthy Stuff include lists of PVC containing products and phthalate free alternatives.

Lead in Your Home

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has a list of 12 risk factors for high lead exposure.  If your home was built before 1978, lead paint may be the most important risk factor for your family. Where it’s chipping or peeling, it can build up in house dust, stick to children’s hands, and be a dangerous source of lead for your family. The Centers for Disease Control CDC website includes a list of lead exposure prevention tips.

House Dust

Exposures to lead and pesticides can be lowered by keeping dirt out of your home. Keeping the dust levels down inside your home and keeping your family’s hands clean can also reduce flame retardant and phthalate exposures. Taking shoes off before you come inside and using a doormat to trap dirt outside and inside your doorways is a way to trap dirt either before it comes into your house or keep it from spreading throughout your home. Washing hands frequently, damp-mopping, using a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner and dusting with microfiber cloths also make a difference.

Medications and Other Personal Care Products

Lead acetate can be found in some do-it-yourself hair dyes. Residues left in your bathroom can end up on your family’s hands. Phthalates are hidden in many personal care products that contain fragrance. Choose fragrant or phthalate free products. Mercury can be found in some imported skin lighteners. For more information see EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.

Stool softeners, laxatives and other time release capsules can be coated with phthalates. If a product includes the word phthalate on the list of inactive ingredients, choose another brand.

Protecting Homes, Pets and Gardens from Household Pests

Most pesticides on the market are toxic. Additionally, dogs and cats can be harmed by the use of pesticides to treat fleas and ticks and by the use of pesticides in the garden. The Pesticide Action Network of North America and NRDC provide information on non-toxic alternatives for pest control.