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Creating a healthy environment for children PDF Print E-mail

We know that children are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of chemical pollution and their exposure is partly responsible for increasing rates of chronic childhood diseases such as asthma, allergies, cancers and birth defects.

Create a healthy home environment with these five simple and effective steps to reduce children’s chemical exposure in the home:

  1. Green your cleaning
  2. Go organic
  3. Use nature-based personal care products
  4. Renovate and decorate with healthy, low-toxic materials
  5. Manage pests with common sense and without harsh pesticides

1. Green your cleaning

Petroleum-based cleaners contain many hazardous chemicals that can harm your health and the environment. Review your cleaning needs; reduce the amount of chemicals you use and switch to 100% plant-based and natural cleaning products. Soap and water and sunshine are effective antibacterial agents, while vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are cheap and effective cleansers.
More green cleaning ideas

2. Go organic

Children are at risk from ingesting pesticide residues, artificial colours, flavours and preservatives in their food. Give children locally grown, certified organic, fresh whole foods. Aim to have at least 80% of their diet organic, especially fruit and vegetables and anything they eat or drink in large amounts. Avoid plastic wrapping, containers, drink bottles and cling wrap, which may expose them to hormone disrupting chemicals such as plasticisers. Choose natural fibre clothing wherever possible and beware of synthetic fabrics and those treated with antibacterial agents such as triclosan.

If you suspect your child has food allergies or intolerances visit the Food Intolerance Network,

3. Use nature-based personal care products

This is an important area because many personal care products are laden with toxic chemicals and are put directly on the skin, face and in the mouth. Do a checklist of your child’s personal care products and reduce them wherever you can. Choose nature-based products with certified organic plant extracts rather than petrochemical products. Natural options are readily available for toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, soap, baby products, head lice treatments, face creams and sunblock. Beware of children’s make-up kits, nail polish and hair care products, many of which contain chemicals that are very hazardous.

For a comprehensive approach to head lice management see .

4. Renovate and decorate with healthy, low-toxic materials

Building and decorating materials can bring numerous toxic chemicals into your home which can linger for years in the air and dust. Nurseries and children’s rooms should be healthy, low-toxic environments because children spend many hours sleeping and playing in them. There are safer options for all renovating and decorating needs including water-based and nature-based paints, sealants, wood finishes and glues. Avoid synthetic foam insulation and furnishings and reconstituted wood products, which emit volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde.

Carpets are not recommended as they usually come with hazardous chemical treatments to repel stains, grease and pests. The underlay is usually applied with strong glues and synthetic carpet materials also emit dangerous chemicals such as isocynates and vinyl acetate. Natural fibre floor coverings such as jute or sisal and wool throw rugs are better options. Avoid furniture, mattresses, curtains and coverings, which have been treated with fire retardants and stain resistant coatings. Untreated natural fibres such as hemp, organic cotton and wool and rubber are safer choices.

Source low toxic and environmentally friendly building materials

5. Manage pests with common sense and without harsh pesticides

Pesticides, designed to kill living organisms, are among some of the most dangerous chemicals we are exposed to. Remove any synthetic pesticides, especially aerosols, surface sprays and plug-in devices as their use may leave invisible residues on surfaces and floors where children come into contact with them. Do not have regular pesticide treatments to your home or garden. Manage pests with common sense approaches including insect screens, mosquito nets, natural repellents, better hygiene and storage practices. When using pesticides on pets, keep children away from the pet and ensure they wash their hands after they have touched the pet. Maintain high levels of hygiene in problems areas like the kitchen, where it is also useful to seal cracks and crevices and put weather strips on doors.

Find Safer Solutions to pest management

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