Child Obesity Continues to Climb - Can We Reverse the Tide by Choosing Safer Building Materials?

Julie Silas | January 07, 2010

A summary of "The Health and Well-Being of Children: A Portrait of States and the Nation 2007" was released by our government today. In addition to the stark reality that too many of American children continue to lack basic health care coverage, were two findings relevant to our work at Pharos - and just as relevant, to our work as parents:

Nearly one-third of U.S. children, ages 10 to 17, were overweight or obese.

Over 25 percent of American children under age 5 were at risk for developmental and behavioral problems or social delays.

Because of my work researching building products and chemicals for HBN, I've known for quite some time that some studies suggest there is a link between exposure to phthalates (chemicals used in PVC plastic found in flooring and wall coverings) and obesity or insulin resistance in humans.1 And, having worked on children's environmental issues in a previous work life, I am also acutely aware of the fact that some heavy metals (chemicals such as lead used as a stabilizer in PVC products and chromium found in furniture) are linked to neuro-developmental problems in kids.2

But, my children aren't obese and have not exhibited any developmental or behavioral issues (beyond the norm of my 11-year-old who is just entering that ever wondrous stage of puberty!). And yet, the increase in obesity and learning problems concerns me. While the statistics don't represent my immediate family, my kids' peers, the world's future, are represented by those statistics. And I see in my daily work that we as consumers of building products have the power to help reverse the tide and in even the smallest ways, take action to reduce kids' chemical exposures - simply by purchasing safer and healthier building products.