How Childhood Exposure to Toxic Chemicals Can Increase Cancer Risk

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Everything we breathe, see, ingest and touch is made up of chemicals. This is a combination of nature and science as well as a way of life. However, the exposure to toxic chemicals around us has become a growing health concern, and particularly disturbing is its negative impact when exposed during childhood.

Do you know that of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States, only a few hundred have been tested for safety? Today I will help you understand how toxic chemicals exposure can increase cancer risk.

The exposure of children to toxic chemicals may occur at different stages of their lives including:
-    embryonic (i.e. in utero or intrauterine) or prenatal exposure
-    postnatal (i.e. after newborn) exposure
-    teenage/puberty to later adult exposure

Obviously these are major developmental periods, and young kids are very susceptible to toxins. Some of DNA-damaging substances can have greater impacts on one’s early life stage, and others might have harmful effects that last for a lifetime. Another issue is once versus repeated exposure. For example, taking a X-ray examine is single exposure, but using chemically loaded daily products would be repeated exposure.

Nowadays, the exposure to toxic chemicals takes place virtually indoor and outdoor environment. The food we eat, the water we drink, the products we use (from cleaners, pesticides, plastic items to toys) all contain toxic chemicals and/or carcinogens. Then we breathe the air with environmental pollutants. Think about this: a mom’s uterine is the first environment for a baby. If the mom exposes herself to toxic chemicals during pregnancy when the risk of damaging consequences seems to be the highest, imagine what impact this has already had and will have on the baby? The uterine should be the safest place in the world for a developing baby.

To raise your awareness of children’s environment associated with cancer risk, keep in mind that many toxic chemicals and known or suspected carcinogens are NOT tested and/or regulated. It’s more urgent than ever to safeguard yourself and your children at home, at work and in a larger community. Research has suggested that fetal carcinogenic exposure might lead to predisposition to develop cancer during childhood or in later life.