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Expert offers guidance on helping families navigate chemicals of concern :

September 18, 2020












Editor's note: For more coverage of the 2020 AAP Virtual National Conference & Exhibition, visit

Is it safe to use bug repellent on my child? Are there nontoxic disinfectants I can use to ward off COVID-19 in my house? I’m worried about chemicals in vaccines.

Many parents are concerned about how chemicals in consumer products may affect their child. Yet when they do an internet search, they are inundated with information that may not be evidence based, said Aparna Bole, M.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee.

When pediatricians are asked for their advice, they may be at a loss.

Dr. Bole offers guidance on how pediatricians can provide practical, evidence-based advice to allay parents’ fears while building a rapport with them during a session titled “Addressing Parents’ Concerns About Chemicals in Products and Vaccines,” which can be accessed via the virtual platform through Jan. 31, 2021.

“My intent with this presentation is to share some evidence-based strategies for pediatricians to be able to counsel families about ways to avoid chemicals of concern in a variety of common products, like household products, safer cleaning and disinfection strategies, personal care products,” said Dr. Bole, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

She noted that vaccine hesitancy often is rooted in concerns about chemicals. When talking with parents who are reluctant to immunize their child due to those concerns, Dr. Bole pivots the conversation to address chemicals in other consumer products. She might say, “I appreciate that you’re worried about chemical exposure. There are a lot of evidence-based ways of avoiding chemicals in your household that I’d be glad to review with you. Avoiding vaccines is not an evidence-based way of avoiding chemicals of concern.”

She has found that expanding the discussion to include other products is “a very helpful way to build rapport and it gives pediatricians a route to go in that conversation.”

During the session, Dr. Bole discusses common categories of household products brought up by families in her own practice, including cleaning and disinfection products; personal care items such as soaps, moisturizers, cosmetics and shampoo; sunscreen and bug repellents; and food and food packaging.

She offers evidence-based tips on how to avoid chemicals of concern that pediatricians can share with worried families and during routine anticipatory guidance, noting that not all consumer products are created equal.

“There’s plenty of data to say the preponderance of evidence suggests that A is a better choice than B,” she said.

While pediatricians can empower families to make better purchasing decisions, Dr. Bole acknowledges that U.S. regulations regarding the release of chemicals into the environment and their use in industries are lacking.

“I don’t suggest that parents can purchase their way out of a chemical policy landscape that we need to fix in this country,” she said. “Ultimately, we need to create policies and regulations that guarantee a safer approach.”

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