March 10, 2012 · Updated 12:59 PM

Toxic substances are common in our environment, both indoors and out.  Harmful chemicals that stick to dust, fumes from cleaning and renovation products, chemicals in plastics, mercury in fish – all of these can have serious impacts on the health of children.  The good news is that parents can take some simple steps – beyond what they already do – to reduce risk in the home.

Children are at greater risk than adults because their natural defences are not fully developed.  Babies and toddlers also explore the work with their hands and mouths, which exposes them to more harmful substances.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.  Chemicals in dust and cleaning products or mercury in fish may not make your children look or feel sick.

But exposure to small amounts of toxic substances can have long-term often subtle effects on the developing brain, lungs, and reproductive systems of a fetus or young child.  Scientists still don’t understand all of these effects.  However, when it comes to children’s health, it is better to be safe than sorry.  Small amounts of harmful substances can add up. But so can your efforts to reduce everyday exposure.

Here are some easy tips that can make an immediate impact with simple actions and without spending a lot of money.

• Bust that dust – clean with a good vacuum or simply a damp cloth or wet mop and take your shoes off at the door.

• Go green when you clean – use non-toxic cleaning products and choose not to use air “fresheners” and fragrances.

• Renovate right – choose less toxic paints and glues, control and contain the dust and, if you are pregnant, try to avoid being exposed to potentially harmful chemicals or substances.

• Get drastic with plastic – don’t use plastic containers or plastic wrap in the microwave, whenever possible reduce exposure to foods in cans with BPA linings and avoid plastics that contain PVC; especially in teething toys and bath toys.

• Dish safer fish – choose varieties that are low in mercury and if you are eating canned fish; look for “light” rather than “white” tuna varieties.

I  have been delivering local workshops to parents, service providers and health practitioners on information about child health and environment, funded by the Aboriginal re-investment funds through the Snc’c’amala?tn Early Childhood Centre.

I am also a member of the Vernon Environmental Advisory Committee and an advisory member with the national research project: Knowledge Leaders in Children’s Environmental Health.

For more information, contact me at or by phone at 250-549-4534.

This article information was excerpted from