MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Janice Barbieri will be extra careful to check product labels before buying food, toys or other everyday items after attending a lecture Wednesday night by two Mount Sinai Hospital employees addressing how to reduce your children's exposure to environmental toxins at the Rye Neck High School library.
Barbieri, a Mamaroneck resident, was overwhelmed by how prevalent environmental toxins are in everyday items and the hazards they could pose to her 8-year-old son.
"You almost feel like it's in everything," Barbieri said. "It's almost like you're dodging bullets when you shop."
Rhonda Sherwood, vice chairman of the Executive Board of the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center, told an audience of approximately 50 parents that there are more than 85,000 chemicals in commerce today, 62,000 of which are presumed to be safe because they were introduced before the federal government began regulating the $675 billion industry with the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.
Even now, Sherwood said, the testing - done by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - is minimal. Additionally, the EPA doesn't have funding to adequately test all 1,000 to 2,000 new chemicals introduced every year. Consequently, Sherwood said, only five chemicals have been banned since 1976.
"Absence of testing does not indicate a product is safe," she said.
As great as the challenges are to reducing exposure to chemical toxins, Sherwood and her colleague, Mt. Sinai pediatrician Dr. Maida Galvez, said there are both short-term and long-term ways to prevent exposure.
On a daily basis, people can choose fragrance-free products, avoid the use of No. 3 and No. 7 plastics in the microwave and dishwasher, avoid canned foods and beverages, and ventilate your home.
Long-term solutions, however, require legislative action, said Sherwood.
In the 1970s, Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a Mamaroneck resident, went to El Paso, Texas, to research why learning disabilities were so common among children there. He found out that the closer a child lived to the lead smelting plant in El Paso, the lower their IQ. His research led to legislation that removed lead from gasoline and paint.
Sherwood and Galvez urged attendees to write their representatives in support of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 , which seeks to reform the 1976 legislation by requiring chemicals be proven safe for children before they are sold.
To learn which products are safer to use, visit the Environmental Working Group's database ; Body Sense ; Healthy Stuff ; Green Guide ; Beyond Pesticides ; or NYC's Residential Guide to Safe Handling and Disposal .
To lean which plastics are safest for children, check Pediatric Environmental Health Safety Units . To find out which toys are safest for children and toddlers, visit the Kids Health ; the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Product Recals ; and the Healthy Child Healthy World's Trusted Partners .
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