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It has been known for years that wearing your shoes indoors means that everything that is on the ground outdoors will be tracked into the home. Pesticides, heavy metals, lead, animal feces, and everything else out there.

Babies crawling around the floor (and also putting things into the mouth) get an extra heavy dose of "contaminants" that were tracked in. We all absorb contaminants through our skin, ingest (the mouth), or breathe them in.

All these contaminants become part of our indoor air quality. Our indoor air is not just the outside contaminants that made their way in, but there is also shedding of skin and cloth fibers from us and pets, as well as outgassing and breakdown (the dust) of whatever is in the home. We can't get rid of all contaminants, but we can really lower our exposure to them by not wearing our shoes indoors.

Bottom line: Take your shoes off at the door.

A nice discussion of this issue is in an article written by Professors M.P. Taylor and G. Filippelli earlier this year. Some excerpts from The Conversation: Wearing shoes in the house is just plain gross. The verdict from scientists who study indoor contaminants

You probably clean your shoes if you step in something muddy or disgusting (please pick up after your dog!). But when you get home, do you always de-shoe at the door?  ...continue reading "Leave Your Shoes At The Door"

Credit: Wikipedia

Another study with concerning results for children and pregnant women has been published. This time researchers found a commonly used fungicide in a majority of children and all pregnant women studied. Some children had chronic exposure. A small study, but still...

The fungicide is azoxystrobin, and is commonly used on crops (e.g., cereals, grapevines, potatoes, fruits, nuts, and vegetable crops), lawns, and in mildew and mold-resistant wallboard used in home construction. The fungicide migrates out of the wallboard (sheetrock) and is found in house dust. Thus, humans can have chronic exposure to it.

And yes, this fungicide has worrisome health effects in animal studies - for example, toxic to embryos, neurotoxicity, brain inflammation. Studies in pregnant mice found that the fungicide went from the mother to the developing babies by crossing the placenta and then entered the developing brain. Much is unknown and studies need to be done!

The problem is that in the USA chemicals are easily approved by the government for use, and it is up to consumers and researchers later to prove harm. But typically that is not enough to get any changes and the chemicals in question keep on being produced and used and causing harm.

What to do? Eat organically grown food. The fungicide is not allowed on organic crops. Don't use pesticides on your lawn. If renovating or constructing a home - avoid mold and mildew-resistant wallboard brands.

From Medical Xpress: Scientists detect common fungicide in pregnant women and children

For the first time, UNC-Chapel Hill researchers have measured the concentration of a biomarker of the commonly used fungicide azoxystrobin (AZ) in the urine of pregnant women and children ranging from 40–84 months of age. They also documented maternal transfer of AZ to mouse embryos and weaning-age mice.  ...continue reading "Commonly Used Fungicide Detected In Pregnant Women and Children"

Well, it looks like the medical advice for avoiding food allergies in children has come full circle. For decades health professionals said for babies to avoid eating problem foods (e.g., eggs, dairy, peanuts) if parents have food allergies. But..it turned out that following this advice did not prevent food allergies.

Results of studies in the past decade changed medical views regarding food allergies. Now the advice is: Early exposure (in the first year of life) to foods such as eggs, milk, peanut butter, and wheat is preventive - don't avoid.

A recent well done Scandinavian study confirmed that this advice is good for all young children, not just those with a family history of food allergies. Starting at 3 months of age, infants who regularly ate tiny amounts of foods (wheat, eggs, cow's milk, peanuts) had a lower chance of food allergies by 3 years of age.

Only .9% of these children developed food allergies, while 2.3% to 3% of children not getting early exposure to foods developed egg, dairy, or peanut allergies.

Also, in this study some infants had their skin rubbed with skin emollients, bath additives and facial cream from 2 weeks to 8 months, 4 times per week, and more of them developed food allergies - whether also avoiding foods or not. [My comment: Why would anyone think that would help with food allergies? It sounds irritating! And it perhaps/probably messed with their skin microbiome.]

New advice: Infants should have early exposure to potentially problem foods, starting as early as 3 months, to lower their risk of developing food allergies. Delaying the introduction of these foods actually increases the risk of food allergies. (By the way, the same advice also holds true for avoiding pet allergies - exposure to furry pets in the first year of life is important.)

From Medical Xpress: Early food introduction can reduce risk of food allergy in children

Infants who were given a taste of peanut, milk, wheat and egg from the age of three months had a lower risk of developing a food allergy at the age of three years than controls, reports a study by researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of Oslo in Norway published in The Lancet. ...continue reading "Early Exposure to Foods Reduces Risk of Developing Food Allergies"

We all get exposed to pesticides to varying degrees - whether from our water, foods we eat, inhaling them, or absorbing them through our skin (e.g., walking or playing on pesticide treated lawns). Unfortunately, studies show our exposure to the pesticide glyphosate (found in Roundup) is increasing each year.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) does biomonitoring of persons in the US to see what chemicals we are being exposed to by measuring levels in the blood and urine of both adults and children. They recently released the finding that about 80% of us have glyphosate residues. Even worse, about 87 percent of the 650 children they tested had detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide (it kills vegetation) in the US and the world. Nearly 300 million pounds of the pesticide are applied each year in the United States, with greater than 88.6 pounds per square mile in the US midwest (according to the USGS). Glyphosate residues have been found in all sorts of foods, honey and grain cereals.

What is it doing to us? It has been linked to a number of human health effects, such as cancer, endocrine (hormone) disruption, liver and kidney damage, preterm birth, and even having a negative effect on our gut microbiome - by killing off certain important species of gut microbes. There is much we still don't know about chronic exposure to low levels of the pesticide.

A 2017 study following adults over the age of 50 from 1993 to 2016, residing in Southern California, found that the percentage of adults with glyphosate residues in urine went from 12% to 70% during that time. And now the CDC reports an even higher rate. Much of this increase is due to genetically modified crops (crops that are Roundup resistant) and also to the increase in "preharvest" applications on regular crops.

What can you do? Eat as much organically grown food as possible. This is because organic farmers are NOT allowed to use glyphosate. And don't use Roundup or other glyphosate products on your property.

What EWG (Environmental Working Group) has to say about glyphosate: CDC finds toxic weedkiller in 87 percent of children tested

From Medical Xpress: Weed killer glyphosate found in most Americans' urine

More than 80% of Americans have a widely used herbicide lurking in their urine, a new government study suggests. ...continue reading "CDC Finds The Pesticide Glyphosate In Most Children"

Another recent study gave support to what has been known for decades - the youngest children in a class, especially boys, are most likely to be diagnosed and treated medically for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other behavioral problems.

Of course the youngest children in a class are - it's called immaturity. In a class there can be a 12 months age difference between the oldest and youngest children. Younger, more immature children have a harder time sitting still and focusing for hours, plus all those worksheets.... No wonder they are at increased risk for ADHD diagnoses and having to take medications.

The large study conducted in Scotland in Wales found that flexibility in when a child starts school helps lower the risk of an ADHD diagnosis. And if necessary, a child should stay back a year (repeat the school year)

Another thing to keep in mind -  it's especially hard for active children when recesses are eliminated, as so many schools are now doing.

From Medical Xpress: Youngest children within their school year are more likely to be treated for ADHD, says new study

New research involving experts from the University of Nottingham shows that children younger than their classmates within a school year are more likely to be treated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), suggesting immaturity may influence diagnosis. ...continue reading "Youngest Children in a Class Are At Increased Risk of ADHD Diagnosis and Medication"

Waterproof jacket Credit: Wikipedia

Uh-oh... A recent study found that even if a water- or stain-resistant children's product is labeled as "green" and "non-toxic", that label may be false. Silent Spring Institute researchers found that odds are good that the product contains persistent harmful PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Precisely the opposite of what the "green" or "non-toxic" label promises.

PFAS are a group of toxic chemicals used in many consumer and industrial products. They are known to be endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and exposure to these chemicals has been linked to health problems such as certain types of cancer, reproductive harm (e.g., poorer semen quality), and birth defects, lowered sex and growth hormones in children, thyroid disease, immune effects, and liver and kidney damage.

Almost all of us have PFAS in our bodies (at varying levels). It's very hard to avoid them totally, but you should try to minimize exposure. They are found in a variety of consumer products such as firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, cosmetics, and materials that protect against grease, oil, and water (e.g., stain-resistant carpeting and fabrics, food packaging, and water-repellent clothing).

What can you do? If possible, avoid products that are water and stain proof or leak-proof, especially if children will be using the product. (For ex., can look for physical barriers instead of a chemical coating). Also, avoid products labeled with a trademark for water or stain resistance. PFAS don't have to be mentioned on labels, so it's buyer beware.

From Environmental Health News: “Green” children's products not always PFAS-free, warns new study

PFAS are finding their way into “green” and “nontoxic” products, especially waterproof products marketed toward children and adolescents, according to new research.

The researchers tested 93 items marketed to or often used by children and adolescents, including clothing, face masks, mattress protectors, rugs, sheets, and upholstery. They detected fluorine, a PFAS indicator, in 54 of the 93 products. The 54 products shown to contain fluorine were then tested for specific PFAS chemicals. ...continue reading "Waterproof “Green” Children’s Products May Contain Harmful PFAS"

Many studies show that antibiotics disrupt the gut microbiome (intestinal microbial community of bacteria, viruses, fungi) in adults, but what about infants? A recent study found alterations in the gut microbes of young babies from a single course of antibiotics, with an increase in fungal species. And 6 weeks later the gut microbial community still wasn't back to normal. Yikes.

Antibiotics can be life-saving, but they must be used carefully - only when needed. As research shows, when some microbes are killed off by antibiotics, then other microbes (e.g. fungi such as Candida) that are resistant to the antibiotics increase (multiply) and move into the vacated spaces. There are no empty spaces in the gut.

Babies normally have a variety of fungal species in the gut already at a very young age - and this community of fungi is called the gut mycobiota or mycobiome. The Univ. of Helsinki researchers concluded that normally bacteria control fungi numbers in the gut - there is balance of all sorts of microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi). But if you kill off bacteria (with antibiotics), then fungi numbers increase - an example of an imbalance in the gut microbial community or dysbiosis.

From Science Daily: A single course of antibiotics affects the gut microbiota of infants

A study recently completed at the University of Helsinki revealed that the fungal microbiota in the gut is more abundant and diverse in children treated with antibiotics compared with the control group even six weeks following the start of the antibiotic course. In light of the findings, a reduction in the number of gut bacteria as a result of antibiotic therapy reduces competition for space and leaves more room for fungi to multiply. ...continue reading "Antibiotics Alter Gut Microbes In Young Infants"

Pregnancy should last 9 months, but sometimes it doesn't. With medical advances some babies born as early as 22 or 23 weeks can now survive. Truly miraculous! But how are these extremely preterm babies doing long-term?

A University of Gothenburg study examined this issue by following up on all 383 Swedish children born before 24 weeks (most at 23 weeks) between 2007 to 2018 and who survived. At follow-up the children were between 2 to 13 years of age. The researchers found that almost all of the children had serious long-term problems, whether health or developmental problems.

75% of children born before 24 weeks of gestation had neurodevelopmental disorders, including intellectual disabilities (40%), autism (24%), and 55% required habilitation services. 88% of the group had other physical problems - for example, 63% had asthma and 39% failed to thrive and/or were short for their age. Boys were more likely to have intellectual disabilities and visual impairment than girls.

Looking at the results in the study (see Table 1), it is clear that babies born at 23 weeks had significantly fewer serious problems than at 22 weeks. Every extra week is important!

From Science Daily: Wide-ranging problems in children born before 24 weeks gestation

In a study of children born after a pregnancy of less than 24 weeks, nearly all (96 percent) proved to have any of the diagnoses studied. According to the study, lead from the University of Gothenburg, neuropsychiatric and somatic diagnoses are prevalent as these extremely preterm infants grow into adulthood. ...continue reading "Babies Born Much Too Early May Have Long-term Problems"

Parents of babies overwhelmingly want to do the right thing for their babies. When formula makers make medical claims about the formulas they sell - parents believe them. For years companies such as Danone and Nestle marketed certain formulas as reducing milk allergies and eczema in babies. But the claims were (are) not true!

A recent British Medical Journal article reported how the science behind those marketing claims has been fraudulent or flawed. Scientific evidence does not support the allergy and eczema claims regarding formula milk called hydrolysed formula.

The article said that over time formula makers were forced to stop marketing them as preventing or reducing allergies in the US, Canada, and Europe, but... they still continue to make the baseless claims elsewhere, such as China and Russia. There consumers are still being persuaded to buy expensive formulas that have little evidence of benefits for healthy infants. It's all about $$$. [Note: still find these false claims if you do an internet search on hydrolysed formula]

By the way, scientific research shows living with furry pets (e.g., dogs and cats)  in the first year of life reduces allergy development. And research supports babies eating foods that could cause allergies (e.g., peanuts, eggs, dairy) to reduce the risk of food allergies. Again in the first year - to train the immune system.

From Medical Xpress: Formula milk companies continue to push allergy products despite flawed evidence

Many countries, including the UK, have toughened their approach to formula milk products that claim to reduce allergy risks. But elsewhere, consumers are still being persuaded to buy products that make health claims without high quality evidence, reports journalist Melanie Newman in The BMJ today. ...continue reading "Formula Companies Are Still Making Claims They Shouldn’t"

There is a growing concern about what everyday exposures to phthalates in consumer products is doing to our health. For example, they're in plastic toys, plastic food containers, personal care products, and vinyl floors. The biggest concern is what these chemicals are doing to the most vulnerable among us - developing babies during pregnancy (gestational exposure), and children (childhood exposure).

A newly published study finds a link between phthalate exposure during childhood (but not pregnancy) and higher risk of specific childhood cancers. Childhood phthalate exposure was linked to a 20% increase in childhood cancers, specifically osteosarcoma (a bone cancer) and lymphoma. The study followed 1,278,685 live births in Denmark for years.

While phthalates are in many consumer products (they make plastics soft or increase durability and consistency), they are in especially high levels in certain medications. Phthalates disrupt normal endocrine signaling and are associated with reproductive problems (e.g. negative effects on sperm, miscarriages), effects on thyroid function, and an increase in some cancers.

Studies like this show that we need to move away from phthalates in consumer products. The list of phthalate health harms is increasing annually.

From Science Daily: Exposure to phthalates -- the 'everywhere chemical' -- may increase children's cancer risk

In a first-of-its-kind study, research from the University of Vermont Cancer Center has linked phthalates, commonly called the "everywhere chemical," to higher incidence of specific childhood cancers.  ...continue reading "Childhood Exposure to Phthalates in Medications and Cancer"