Teen Scene: Top 10 Hidden Hazards of Young Adulthood
September 16, 2014
If you’re spending your kids’ childhoods vigilantly defending their growing bodies from environmental harm, it’s tempting to see the teenage years as a time parents can start to relax. If your little ones have older siblings, you likely already know that teens face their own set of toxic challenges. For the uninitiated, the places these often uniquely adolescent dangers pop up are surprising.
Here are some things to watch out for:
1. Acne treatments.
Zit meds become a big deal when it comes to tween and teen skin—with good reason. According to the FDA, the active acne-fighting ingredients benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can occasionally cause dangerous allergic reactions. Some studies have also indicated that benzoyl peroxide may cause developmental and/or reproductive issues in high amounts. Salicylic acid is readily absorbed through skin and overexposures can also cause a variety of health effects. Seek alternatives. (If nothing else works, and you have a miserable high schooler on your hands, use conservatively.)
Conventional tampons can contain dioxins. While amounts are small, precaution suggests that placing them in contact with, uh, sensitive tissues may not be the best idea. Since these poisons are created by chlorine bleaching, choose chlorine-free 100% organic cotton tampons for your teens instead. An added benefit? They’re fragrance-free. It’s a mystery why most conventional pads and tampons come scented. Also keep in mind that super-absorbent tampons may cause toxic shock, a serious bacterial infection.
3. Body sprays & perfumes.
Synthetic scents often use toxic hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates to enhance their fragrance. Steer your teens—boys and girls alike—to natural fragrance products like essential oils or to none at all.
4. Deodorants & antiperspirants.
The aluminum salts in antiperspirants have been linked to breast cancer, and the risk may be boosted by underarm shaving. To make matters worse, preservatives called parabens found in most products have been shown to disrupt the delicate endocrine system. Natural, aluminum- and paraben-free products are safer options.
5. Hair products.
It’s critical to have good hair at this phase of life! We get it. But conventional products can contain a whole host of potentially unsafe ingredients. Some hair products even include placenta extract, which contains a potent and likely carcinogenic hormone called progesterone, and can accelerate sexual development at a time when it’s already busily happening. Scrutinize labels to avoid this ingredient and more. Opt for the most natural products available.
6. Temporary tattoos.
If you can convince your teens to avoid these, fantastic. Some are created with “black henna,” a product often made with p-phenylenediamine, a coal tar-based hair dye ingredient that can cause dangerous skin reactions and permanent scarring. If your kids insist on using henna, make sure it’s 100% natural.
7. Nail polishes.
Girls as well as boys are busily painting their fingers and toes at this age. Conventional varieties come with everything from hormone-mimicking phthalates to carcinogenic formaldehyde and neurotoxic toluene. Encourage teens to go color-free or pick a natural option—or possibly even stickers—and apply outdoors. Avoid gel or shellac nail applications.
The Environmental Working Group says teens use more personal care products daily than the average adult woman! Regulations pretty much allow cosmetic products to contain unlimited amounts of toxic ingredients without testing, monitoring or strict labeling. Even so-called “natural and organic” products can’t be trusted across the board. The safest bet? Encourage makeup-free beauty and scrutinize labels of any cosmetics kids will be using. Look for safer solutions, too. Coconut oil, for example, makes lips seriously shiny.
9. Energy drinks.
These popular beverages use high amounts of caffeine and herbal stimulants to boost stamina. But drink too much and dehydration, heart problems, and even death can result. Make sure your kids understand the risks and take it easy on caffeinated drinks.
10. Hair dye.
Teens and hair color seem to go hand and hand. But hair dyes have been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, and bladder cancer. If your teen just has to do it, have them use natural dyes and colors like henna. For a non-natural look, apparently food dye (found in drink products like Kool Aid) will do the trick.