Household Chemicals Damage Cognition (And Small Changes You Can Make To Protect Yourself)

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A recent study just published May 2016 in the journal Environmental Research reveals the extent of damage that common household chemicals are having on children…

… impairing cognitive function and behavioral development.


Chemicals that are routinely found in homes that are implicated in impairing cognitive function of children are commonly found in nonstick cooking pans, carpet pads, upholstery, and in electronics.

Exposure during pregnancy to these and other toxic items containing polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) is now definitively associated with decreased cognitive function of children later in life.

These findings show that the mother’s concentration of these chemicals in the blood during pregnancy is having a functional impact on her child almost a decade later.

Children aged 5 – 8 years old were found to have impaired executive mental function corollary to their exposure in utero.


The study:

  • Researchers looked at more than 250 mothers and their children.
  • Serum concentration of PDBE and PFAS in the mother’s blood was tested approximately 4 months into the pregnancy.
  • A follow up test on the children, called the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, was subsequently given to the children between the ages of 5 and 8 years old.


The results:

  • Researchers found that the higher concentrations of PBDEs in utero was associated with lower behavior regulation and cognitive function in the children years later.
  • Increased levels of some forms of PDBEs also were associated with marked deficits in global executive brain function in the children.
  • Increased PFOS levels were associated with worse behavior regulation, poor global executive brain function, AND poorer metacognition as well.


PDBEs and PFASs are persistently found in detectable blood concentrations ***worldwide*** — and this exposure is taking a toll on our most valuable resource… the future of our children.


Almost everyone has detectable amounts of PBDEs in our bodies thanks to the global usage of these toxic chemical compounds in household products.


So what can you do?

You know I never ever share upsetting health information without providing lots of things you can do to make a difference right now in your own health.

So here are are some recommendations that will decrease your exposure to these toxic compounds:

To reduce your exposure to PBDEs:

  • use a HEPA filter in your vacuum

  • use a HEPA filter if you have air conditioning in your home

  • consider running a HEPA filter air purifier in the bedroom

  • wash your hands regularly, especially before eating and touching your face (for example, prior to applying make up or putting in contact lenses.)

Additionally, to reduce your exposure to PFASs:

  • limit or eliminate your use of microwave food packaging (if you must microwave, transfer the food from the packaging to a glass container first!)

  • limit or eliminate your use of nonstick coated pans and cookware, particulalry if it shows signs of deterioration! I recommend stainless steel pots and pans and glass bakeware whenever possible.


And for anyone who may have had this chemical exposure in utero, or for those who simply want to support and boost brain function (and protect future brain development!) here are in 6 holistic ways to do just that, including:

1 Eat broccoli


A small but important study showed that a component of broccoli and broccoli sprouts (sulforaphane) can help give autistic patients a significant boost to social skills and verbal communication… naturally!

Published Oct 13, 2014, researchers studied 40 males between the ages of 13 and 27… all who had moderate to severe autism. 26 received broccoli sprout extract (50 to 150 umol daily) and 14 received placebo and measured the results after 18 weeks.

The results were impressive — almost half showed measurable improvement in several different areas including social and verbal skills.

46 % of participants had measurably improved social and verbal skills after taking broccoli-sprout extract for over 4 months, compared to only 3% of the placebo group. Benefits included: improved social interactions, improved eye contact, improved verbal communication, decreased repetitive movements, decreased irritability and decreased hyperactivity

Dietary sulforaphane (found in both broccoli and broccoli sprouts) is healthy and has a recognized low toxicity profile, so it appears to be very safe to recommend a broccoli rich diet to patients with Autism. Hopefully this positive and encouraging but small study will be repeated on a larger scale, for a longer period of time, and with female autistic patients as well!


2. Broccoli sprout supplements


If you can’t routinely get broccoli into your diet but you want to increase your intake of sulforaphane, consider broccoli sprout supplements like these.


3. Earthing


As I talk about in this radio interview on Q104.3 in Jan 2014 (when the film The Grounded hit theaters in New York) Earthing has shown promising results with autistic patients.

There are two pathways in which Earthing might help…

  • first by reducing the negative effects of EMF exposure (to which autistic patients are exquisitely sensitive)
  • and second, by increasing restorative sleep (sleep disturbances are well-known to exacerbate autistic symptoms).



Want to introduce Earthing to your child?


My children’s book From The Ground Up visually introduces the concept of Earthing and gives parents tons of ideas on how to earth with their child to support their health!



4. Sleep


Sleep is a time to integrate, process, repair, release and grow.

Yet sleep disturbances are a hallmark of autism and autistic spectrum disorders.

Autistic folks need this down time to regroup as much or more than anybody else. Be sure to focus on getting deep restorative sleep — ideally for 9 + hours a night.

As I mentioned in tip #1, Earthing can help with this. For more tips on getting a good nights sleep, head here.


5. Fish oil


Omega 3s are essential to support our nervous system (as well as many other organ systems in our body.) Autism is a very complex condition that is primarily considered a neurological condition that affects communication.

From treating depression to preserving brain volume to reducing symptoms of ADHD, fish oil has been shown to be incredibly helpful in stabilizing brain function. More on that here.


6. Eat organic

As I blog about here, pesticide exposure is directly linked to autism.


I will continue to scour the medical literature to bring you holistic, healthy things you can do to optimize brain function — and Well Being in general — and I will share it with you here on my blog!

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter by entering your email into the box at the top right sidebar of my blog to stay posted on all aspects of positive uplifting natural healing!

xoxo, Laura