Flame-retardants, pesticides, plastics and prevention

Leonardo Trasande, MD, shares advice for parents on how to protect your children from the dangerous chemicals found in in flame-retardants, pesticides, and plastics
How To Prevent Dangers From Flame-Retardants, Pesticides, and Plastics
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Flame-retardants, pesticides, plastics and prevention

The recycling number that's routinely found on plastic bottles is a great ally for families to identify and eliminate certain chemicals of concern from their lives. The recycling number is represented by a number surrounded by three arrows in a triangle. The numbers range from "1" to "7". Typically, I advise families to avoid the numbers "3", "6", and "7" because studies to date have identified certain concerns about chemicals that may exist in those types of bottles. In general, numbers "1", "2", "4", and "5" are relatively safe for use--that is, that we don't know of any concerns at the present time. In addition, there are some steps that families should take at home in dealing with reusable plastic containers. They should not microwave food in plastic containers because it can lead to leaching of the plastic into the food. They should not dishwash plastic containers because that can actually lead to etches and scratches that can lead to plastic chemical coming out into drinks or food. In addition, if families see a plastic bottle with an etch or a scratch, that's the signal that it's time to throw it away.

Leonardo Trasande, MD, shares advice for parents on how to protect your children from the dangerous chemicals found in in flame-retardants, pesticides, and plastics


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Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP

Associate Professor, NYU School of Medicine

Dr. Leo Trasande's research focuses on identifying the role of environmental exposures in childhood obesity and cardiovascular risks, and documenting the economic costs for policy makers of failing to prevent diseases of environmental origin in children proactively. Dr. Trasande is perhaps best known for a 2012 Journal of the American Medical Association study associating Bisphenol A exposure in children and adolescents with obesity, and a 2011 study in Health Affairs which found that children's exposures to chemicals in the environment cost $76.6 billion in 2008. His analysis of the economic costs of mercury pollution played a critical role in preventing the Clear Skies Act (which would have relaxed regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants) from becoming law. He has also published a series of studies which document increases in hospitalizations associated with childhood obesity and increases in medical expenditures associated with being obese or overweight in childhood.

These studies have been cited in the Presidential Task Force Report in Childhood Obesity, and another landmark study identified that a $2 billion annual investment in prevention would be cost-effective even if it produced small reductions in the number of children who were obese and overweight. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Council for Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee for the World Trade Center Health Program. He recently served on a United Nations Environment Programme Steering Committee which published a Global Outlook on Chemicals in 2013, and on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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