How to Reduce Your Children's Exposure to Chemicals

Children are more susceptible to the impacts of chemicals on their immature immune systems and general growth. Every parent wants the best for their child and reduction of chemical exposure is a prudent precautionary approach to reducing the opportunities for harmful impacts on your child.


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    Prefer organic and home-grown foods over other food. You don't have to break the bank to eat organic. There are some foods that should always be preferred in their organic form owing to the heavy use of pesticides to grow these foods. See Choose the Most Important Organic Foods for more details. Be sure to wash conventionally grown foods well, using a vinegar and water rinse (10% vinegar to 90% water) on fruit and vegetables prior to consumption. Preferring organic and home-grown foods will help reduce your child's exposure to pesticides.
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    Take care with fish products.[1] Smaller fish are safer for children's consumption; larger fish have lived longer and have had more time and space to accumulate pesticide and heavy metal residues including mercury, PCBs and dioxins.[2] The cleanest fish are the smaller ones, including anchovies, sardines and mackerel. Always prefer wild fish over farmed fish to avoid antibiotic overloads.
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    Use purified or filtered drinking water. This will remove many of the potential chemical contaminants that might impact your child's health. Cut back on or eliminate the use of bottled water; not only is this a very unsustainable and expensive way to consume water but the use of bisphenol A used to manufacture some bottles is considered to be of some concern.[3][4] Although the jury is still out on these claims,[5] it makes sense to use the municipal supply and reduce your ecological footprint anyway.
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    Keep your home with green cleaning. Use eco-friendly and human-friendly cleaning products promoted by green cleaning. Avoid purchasing toxic cleaners and laundry products.[6] Many of these products contain allergens, asthma triggers, endocrine-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens.[7]
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    Have a green garden. As with household products, do not use chemical sprays, dusts and other products on your lawn and garden. Choose organic and eco-friendly solutions to garden maintenance. Be guided by the motto that if you could eat off it safely, your child can play on it safely.
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    Reduce or eliminate the use of plastics in your home. Plastic wraps, plastic food containers and drink containers contain plasticizers and other chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.[8] Choose glass for storage of food and for reheating and cooking of food. Keep away from plastic food wraps.
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    Be careful of toys. Not all toys are benign. Plastic toys, especially, can be harmful to your child's health, containing such chemicals as phthalates.[9] Toys from wood, cloth, natural fibers and paper are better choices for children than plastic toys. Be careful of painted wooden toys, however; check that the paint is non-toxic. Hand-me-down wooden toys may use lead-based paint - have them tested before passing them on.
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    Keep your cooking green and clean. Avoid grilling food, as this form of cooking can create potentially carcinogenic compounds.[10] Avoid charring meats or other foods on a barbecue and always cook foods on a barbecue outdoors and on gas or electricity, not with charcoal products.
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    Check your cookware. Some cookware is unhealthy when heated, such as Teflon™ products, which contain PFOA (perfluuoro-octanoic acid), considered to be a potential carcinogen.[11]Better choices are stainless steel, cast iron (great source of iron!) or ceramic-coated steel. You can also try parchment/baking paper in the base of a skillet or pan for non-stick "frying".
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    Ensure that the house is free of allergens and toxins from off-gassing and maintain indoor air quality. Remove mold whenever it grows; it is a known asthma trigger. Be careful of having carpet laid - choose low-allergen carpets with safe glues. Many floor coverings use formaldehyde based chemicals and the gases that are emitted impact children who tend to sit on the floor frequently.[12] Prefer linoleum, natural carpets, bamboo flooring etc. Paints should also be chosen carefully as their contents can outgas harmful chemicals; select eco-friendly and natural paint options. Many companies are very conscious of this need now, so look them up and support them.[13]
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    Don't expose your children to secondhand smoke. There is no excuse for this one and remember not to smoke in the car; not even with the window down.
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    Keep medications to a minimum and only under the supervision of a certified health professional. Get a good doctor who has no fear in saying no to antibiotics for the sake of mollifying parental concern. Follow instructions and complete courses of antibiotics when they are needed.[14] And keep the use of cough syrups, cough lozenges and other readily available self-chosen remedies to a minimum. Many of these products contain artificial colorings, flavorings and strong chemicals that children should not be exposed to.[15] If a product says that it should not be administered to babies, infants, and children, follow that advice and don't use it.


  • All things in moderation is a good motto to live by; but some things are better not even taking a risk with. Use your gut instinct to help guide your choices. If it can be lived without, there will be less clutter in your life and more quality time with the kids.
  • Assessing the impact of human-created and naturally occurring chemicals on the human body, child or adult, remains an ever-evolving science. There will be a lot of arguments against the findings that there may be health problems with certain heavily used chemicals. That's healthy insofar as it provokes good research and debate. Where it is not healthy is where it is sponsored by those who seek to cover up possible harm because profit is at stake. You are entitled to information and you are entitled to make your own decisions based on your assessments of all available information. If you feel that exposure to some chemicals is too much of a risk, then follow your feelings. Precaution is always much better than mopping up afterwards, if that is even an option.

Things You'll Need

  • Information to make informed decisions
  • Research skills
  • Ability to follow the latest research through news items
  • Healthy cleaning products
  • Healthy cooking equipment

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Health | Asthma