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Keeping a home green not only helps the environment but may also help to prevent chronic diseases, ailments, and allergies that can affect children. We often don’t realize how we unwittingly expose our children to chemicals that have verified, and non-verified toxic effects because these chemicals go unseen and unnoticed.
For instance, volatile organic compounds contained in furniture, building materials, cleaning products, or toys can have an effect on neurological functions or can irritate the respiratory tracts and in extreme cases can be carcinogenic. Here’s how to give our kids the best start in life.
Toxins in the Home
Keep cleaning simple. You don't need a chemical arsenal to keep your house clean. Most messes are easily erased using ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. They are effective, inexpensive, and safer.
Christopher Gavigan, Author and CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World (non-profit organization)
Also, kidshealth.org suggests there are plenty of websites that offer green cleaning tips, and many stores carry pre-made nontoxic cleaners for those who don't want to make their own.
However, it’s also wise to be mindful at kid’s bath time, emedicinehealth.com advises parents to use products without phthalates or added fragrances, as non-natural fragrant or scented products contain unhealthy chemical compounds. Simply, the gentler and all-round more natural, the better.
There are many hazardous substances contained in furniture. Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., and an environmental chemist at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment in Durham, NC, examined children's exposure to semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and found that children who lived in homes where the sofa was in the living room had six-times-higher concentrations of flame-retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in their blood serum, compared with children living in homes that did not have PBDE-containing furniture.
Previous studies found that exposure to or ingestion of PBDEs can cause diabetes, liver problems, and thyroid disease, as well as adverse effects on the nervous, immune, and reproductive systems.
Yet, there are ways you can reduce this risk by choosing non-toxic furniture including your child’s bed frame, a mattress that does not contain flame retardant chemicals or formaldehyde glue, choose organically-certified bedding and avoid plastics in the home.
Solid wood furniture that contains no foam or fiberboard is a natural and sustainable choice and thankfully there are now many manufacturers that specialize in sustainable, eco-friendly and natural or recycled materials.
Plastics are everywhere and are a current scourge on our planet. However, moves are being made globally to reduce the number of plastics we are exposed to in our day-to-day life.
Health issues through exposure to plastics can be caused by the toxic effects of Bisphenol A (BPA) and because of a new level of ethical consciousness, many plastic products are now being marketed as BPA-free. However, we still have to go some way to reduce exposure to our kids.
Firstly, make sure you are not heating food in plastic containers and your children are not eating food off of or drinking out of plastic. There is plenty of bamboo, stainless steel, cardboard, or ceramic bowl alternatives. You can reduce all plastic throughout your home easily, as there are many choices especially now ethically conscious manufacturers are rushing to find alternatives.
Gavigan is confident that virtually every home could be made safer, cleaner, and greener with simple changes. "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Every little step you take at home helps your family live in a healthier environment.”
Healthy Home Tips
Gavigan offers tips like these to help make that happen:
- Keep cleaning simple. You don't need a chemical arsenal to keep your house clean. Most messes are easily erased using ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. They are effective, inexpensive, and safer.
- Learn what labels mean. A lot of claims made on product labels are unregulated or misleading. For example, you may think a food label that says something is "all-natural" would mean it gets a green light from the green police. However, the product could still be contaminated with potentially harmful chemicals, hormones, or genetically modified organisms. Look for items that are "100 % certified organic.”
- Buy toys that are good for kids and the planet. Those made with solid wood, non-toxic paints, and natural finishes are not only free of harmful chemicals and toxins but also look good and last longer. While a little pricier, their durability allows them to be passed down to a younger child.
- Use fewer personal care products and select ones with safer ingredients. If your baby has a diaper rash, avoid creams with petroleum products, fragrances, or unnecessary chemicals. Zinc diaper cream usually does the trick. So do home remedies like corn starch and aloe vera gel. Never use talc baby powder. It can cause lung irritation and may have traces of asbestos.
Sources and Further Reading
This article was updated on 24th February, 2020.