developmental problems

  1. New risks linked to common chemicals

    'Everywhere' chemicals in new disease links

    You can't see them, feel them, smell them or even taste them -- but there's a good chance you're rubbing toxic chemicals onto your skin and even putting them in your mouth every single day.

    They're the "everywhere chemicals" used in everything from soaps to cosmetics to food containers, and new research shows new dangers for two of the most common ones.

    Let me start with the one you haven't heard too much about.

    It's called triclosan, and it's a pesticide used to make products resistant to bacteria. You'll find it in antibacterial soap, of course, but you'll also find it in many of the products with the word "antibacterial" or "antiseptic" on the package -- and that includes everything from bedding and clothing to toys and toothpaste.

    Sounds convenient, right? Of course it is -- but all that convenience comes at a terrible price, as new research finds that triclosan could prevent the brain from communicating with muscle, including the crucial muscles that power your heart.

    In one set of experiments on mice, researchers found that exposure to triclosan reduced heart function by 25 percent and grip strength by 18 percent. In another set of experiments, fish in water laced with triclosan swam slower.

    By itself, the study is worrisome. But when you consider the rest of research on triclosan, it's positively alarming -- because other studies have found it can mimic the thyroid hormone and alter thyroid function as a result.

    That's bad news when you consider that up to 75 percent of us have measurable levels of triclosan pumping through our bodies right now, according to CDC estimates.

    But of course, that's not the only dangerous "everywhere chemical." Bisphenol-A is the one that usually gets most of the press, and for good reason: It's the most dangerous of the lot.

    We're learning of new risks linked to BPA almost every day, and the risk du jour is a narrowing of the arteries -- a condition that could cause serious heart problems and even death.

    British researchers examined close to 600 men and women and found that those with the most clogged-up arteries had 20 percent more BPA in their urine than those with healthy arteries, according to the study in PLoS One.

    BPA is of course used in the packaging of the worst processed foods and canned goods, including soda, so it's quite likely that a lousy diet high in packaged foods is also playing a big role here.

    But since other studies have consistently linked BPA exposure to heart disease, I think it's also very likely that the chemical itself is also damaging those arteries. Throw in the fact that BPA has been linked to obesity, developmental problems, sexual dysfunction, and more, and I say it's time to stop waiting to see what tomorrow's risk will be.

    Take action today to limit exposure.

    One study last year found that switching to a diet of natural fresh foods and using only metal and glass for food storage cut BPA levels by 60 percent over three days.

    That's not 100 percent, but it's a good start. And while you're at it, don't forget to ditch the antibacterial soap.

  2. Docs: No more TV for tots

    The American Academy of Pediatrics got it all wrong on ADHD with its outrageous new screening guidelines -- but the organization did manage to hit one nail right on the head.

    And that's with the new advice on television and little kids: Keep it off.

    The group now says the only safe amount of television for a kid under the age of 2 is no television at all -- and that includes "educational" programs and any DVDs that claim they can turn your child into the next Einstein, Mozart or da Vinci.

    See? We can agree on something -- although TV is a pretty easy target. After all, there are no studies that find television is good for children, especially young children.

    Instead, multiple studies have found that little kids who watch TV -- any TV, even the supposedly age-appropriate shows and videos -- have a higher risk of developmental problems.

    Other problems may not crop up right away -- but you can bet the remote control they're there: Children raised in front of a glowing screen have a higher risk of obesity, problems with social skills and even trouble doing their schoolwork... not to mention no time for homework.

    After all, who has time for homework when SpongeBob is on?

    And SpongeBob, by the way, is the last TV "friend" you want your kids spending time with -- and not just the under-2 set. A recent study found that 4-year-old children who watch this show have immediate problems with attention spans, focus and memory.

    It doesn't get any better after that -- a study I told you about last spring found that kids as young as 6 who watch the most TV already show the earliest warning signs of heart disease.

    These problems follow kids right through childhood -- and you don't need a crystal ball to see where it'll lead them in adulthood. One study this summer found that every two hours of daily TV viewing boosts the odds of type 2 diabetes by 20 percent, heart disease by 15 percent and death from any cause by 13 percent in adults.

    Good advice tends to be good advice, no matter how old -- or how young -- you are. So whether you have little ones at home or not, do yourself a favor and keep the TV off as much as possible.

  3. TV linked to death

    A new study finds that those of us who spend the most time tuned in are most likely to check out early: Two or more hours of TV a day can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and an early death.

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