Our Blog

Stay up to date with our recent research findings, news features, and publications below! Our blog is a great place to learn more detailed information about the collective nationwide network of Children's Environmental Health researchers and their findings.

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Certain plastics are known to contain toxic chemicals which have negative impacts on human health. The primary toxic chemicals in plastics are Bisphenol A (BPA) and Phthalates. These two toxic ingredients in plastics are of particular concern, as research increasingly shows that these chemicals mimic or suppress hormones (e.g., estrogen and testosterone) and disrupt normal development and growth. (Source)

Exposure to Phthalates occurs through the following:

  1. Inhalation- breathing in fragrances, or fumes from solvents and fixatives

  2. Ingestion- chewing on a plastic toy creates small openings in the plastic, providing an avenue for leaching of chemicals from the toy into a child’s mouth

  3. Skin Absorption- lotion, perfumes, deodorants

Exposure to BPAs occurs primarily through ingestion and through direct exposure or exposure through dust particles that contain microplastics. Children are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemicals found in plastics and microplastics since their body systems and organs are still developing.

Microplastics are small particles of plastic with a diameter of less than 5mm. There are two types of microplastics. Primary microplastics are items that have intentionally been manufactured in a small size, such as microfibers from clothing, microbeads and plastic pellets.

Secondary microplastics make up the majority of microplastics waste in the environment. They are made up of fragments from larger pieces of litter such as plastic bags, bottles or packaging.

Ten Tips for Safer Use of Plastics:

  1. Purchase baby bottles and sippy cups labeled “BPA free” or glass options.

  2. Never heat or microwave food or drink in any plastic containers, as leaching of toxic chemicals from plastic to food or liquid may occur.

  3. Use a paper towel instead of plastic wrap to cover food in the microwave. 4. Never heat plastic baby bottles.

  4. When mixing formula, heat the water before mixing.

  5. When warming breast milk, use a glass bottle.

  6. Use PVC-free plastic wrap (buy plastic wrap and bags made with polyethylene).

  7. Eat fresh produce - Minimize the use of canned foods and canned drinks as many are lined with BPA. 7.

  8. Only buy “new” plastic toys for infants and toddlers that are labeled “phthalate -free” or “PVC-free” due to their mouthing behaviors.

  9. Purchase phthalate-free beauty products.

  10. Ask your dentist for BPA-free sealants and composite fillings.

  11. Discard all worn or scratched plastic food containers, especially baby bottles, sippy cups and infant feeding plates and cups.

Our Study and the Children’s Environmental Health Movement

Each October, we celebrate Children’s Environmental Health Month. As a member of the Children’s Environmental Health Network, we strive to increase awareness and understanding of children’s environmental health among key audiences. Through our research and outreach work, we are committed to creating intervention and prevention methods among communities, health care professionals, and policymakers. Today’s children face an epidemic of illnesses and chronic diseases - linked to environmental exposures, and our changing climate. There is an urgent need to put children and their families into the forefront of our nation's public health and environmental health-related actions.

As a research center in the Children’s Environmental Health Network, we strive to positively impact local environmental policy in our region with the findings of our studies. As part of this network we strive to:

  1. Increase awareness and understanding of children’s environmental health among key audiences

  2. Mobilize action on children’s environmental health issues

  3. Establish/expand the community and network of partners working on children’s environmental health issues

Our Efforts

Through our continued research on the health outcomes associated with early childhood exposure to arsenic, we have been successful in advocating for and informing policies locally and nationwide. In 2019, our research on arsenic exposure through drinking water and the health effects it has on children informed the policy that was created in NH to limit the amount of arsenic in municipal drinking water systems. Our research on the presence of arsenic in rice-based baby food was also fundamental to the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021. The bill, which was proposed to congress will limit the amounts of heavy metals in baby food.

We have recently expanded our outreach efforts to inform healthcare providers of the prevalence of naturally occurring in our region’s drinking water. While it’s been a great success to see limitations on arsenic enforced in public drinking water, a huge portion of the population in rural NH and VT get their drinking water from private wells, which are not regularly tested for arsenic.

In a recent trial study, we encourage local children’s healthcare providers to ask patients where they receive their water source. Eleven healthcare clinics in mostly rural areas of New Hampshire and Vermont were asked to give out prepaid water sampling kits, covering several possible contaminants including arsenic. The study test different approaches to distributing the kits and found the most parents completed them when doctors handed them out in person and followed up with reminder calls, solidifying the importance of disseminating pertinent research findings to providers and the greater community.

Indoor air pollution is not always the first thing we think about when we hear the word “pollution”. While outdoor pollution continues to be a forefront issue affecting our health and our environment, indoor air quality is not often discussed in the same context. Especially in New England, many households use woodstoves and fireplaces as primary or supplementary heating sources. Unfortunately, smoke and soot from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces can be a significant source of air pollution both outside and inside the home, negatively impacting your health and the environment.

Smoke from a wood stove is generated by incomplete combustion. When purchasing a wood stove, make sure you are purchasing an EPA-certified, clean-burning model with design features that promote complete combustion to reduce the number of harmful air pollutants released into the air.

Margaret Karagas, the principal investigator here at the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study, worked with a team of other researchers to learn more about the health effects associated with using wood stoves in fireplaces in the home. To learn more, the team of researchers collected 7-day indoor air samples in 137 homes of pregnant women in Northern New England, using a micro-environmental monitor. They found that homes with wood stoves, particularly those that were older and non-EPA-certified or burning wet wood had higher concentrations of indoor air combustion-related pollutants.

Exposure to air pollution is associated with respiratory disease, and children are particularly vulnerable. As compared to adults, children’s lungs are still developing, and children inhale a larger relative amount of air pollutants because of their smaller body size, higher respiratory minute volume per unit body weight, and higher activity level.

What can you do?

The type of wood and type, age, and condition of the wood stove impact the magnitude and composition of air pollutants. The state of New Hampshire currently has a wood stove changeout program to help provide funding to people who have older wood stoves, which have been shown to burn less effectively and produce poor indoor air quality. Check out this website to learn more: link.

While burning wood can be a more cost-effective way to heat your home it is important to have your wood stove or chimney evaluated by a professional to ensure it meets current standards for effective use. This can also help prevent “backdrafting”. "Backdrafting" occurs when a woodstove puffs smoke into the living space instead of up and out the chimney. It's always a bad sign. Wood smoke should never enter your living space. An inadequate or clogged chimney can cause a backdraft. Like all fuels, wood needs oxygen to burn.


Check out the EPA’s list of best burn practices:

  • Season and dry wood outdoors for at least 6 months before burning it.

  • Start fires with clean newspaper and dry kindling.

  • Burn hot fires.

  • Never burn garbage, plastic, or pressure-treated wood, which can produce harmful chemicals when burned.

  • Learn more about best burn practices.

Have a certified technician inspect and service your appliance annually.

  • Have your chimney annually cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. Nearly 7 percent of home fires are caused by creosote build-up in the chimney.

  • A properly installed and maintained wood-burning appliance burns more efficiently.

  • If you smell smoke in your home, something is wrong. Shut down the appliance and call a certified chimney sweep to inspect the unit.

  • Learn more about correct installation and maintenance.

Keep your home healthy by upgrading to an efficient, EPA-approved wood-burning appliance.

  • Today's wood-burning appliances burn cleaner and produce less smoke inside and outside your home.

  • Efficient wood-burning appliances burn less wood, saving time and money.

  • Learn how to choose the best appliance for your needs.

Remember to check your local air quality forecast before you burn.