CPCHE has distributed nearly 300,000 copies across Canada of our popular Playing it Safe brochure, summarizing Child Health and the Environment – A Primer. CPCHE Partners continue to develop fact sheets based on the Primer and our ongoing work. Our Fact Sheets are posted to other thematic collections on this site and all Fact Sheets will continue to be aggregated here.
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) contain a small amount of mercury sealed within their glass tubing. If a CFL bulb breaks, mercury can be directly released as an odourless, colourless vapour, and can also stick to the powder on the inside of the bulb. Exposure to even small amounts of mercury can cause serious health problems. It is particularly harmful to the developing brains of fetuses, infants and children.
Some fragrance chemicals may be harmful, particularly to children and to individuals who are sensitive to them. They may trigger itchy or watery eyes, worsening of asthma symptoms and other breathing problems, headaches or other acute effects.
House dust contains small amounts of toxic chemicals, much of which comes from products such as furniture and electronics. These chemicals can harm children’s health.
Fish is a healthy food choice. But some fish contain mercury, a metal that can harm the developing brain.
Many cleaning products contain chemicals that can be harmful to babies, children, and the developing fetus in the womb.
Harmful chemicals can move into food or drinks that are heated or stored in plastic.
Home renovations and energy retrofits or upgrades can make homes more comfortable, reduce energy bills, and help protect the environment. However, they can also put children’s health at risk from exposures to toxic substances.
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 risks in the home.
A baby’s or young child’s delicate skin can absorb potentially harmful chemicals from everyday products, such as insect repellents, sunscreens, lotions and diaper creams. The developing fetus can also be exposed to chemicals in cosmetics and other products used on the mother’s skin during pregnancy.
In early learning and child care environments, children receive care and nurturing, learn to socialize with their peers, and develop important skills. They may also, however, come into contact with a variety of potentially harmful chemicals or pollutants. Children may take in such chemicals by mouthing certain plastic or painted toys, eating foods heated in plastic containers, breathing in fine dust from art and craft materials, or absorbing chemicals through their skin from cleaning products. While chemical exposures from individual products may be small, they can add up and, in combination, potentially contribute to asthma, learning disabilities, cancer and other chronic conditions.
Plastics have become common in our everyday lives. Most are made from petrochemicals (non-renewable resources), many are not readily recyclable, and they are often used to make single-use, disposable items that end up in landfill. Chemicals are typically added to plastics to give them certain qualities, such as to make them soft or hard, or to give them colour or fire resistance. Some of these chemicals are thought to be harmful to human health and the environment. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or vinyl), polystyrene and polycarbonate are three plastics that contain chemicals of concern and should be avoided, when possible.
We know that young children explore and learn through hand-to-mouth activity. But these innocent actions may also harm their health. Everyday items like TVs, computers, furniture, plastic toys and cleaners often contain toxic chemicals. Through normal use, small amounts of these chemicals end up in dust, along with pollutants that are tracked in from outdoors. Toys, objects and sticky fingers then carry that dust into curious mouths.
Exposure to toxic chemicals can occur during all stages of renovations from demolition to rebuilding. Extreme care is necessary to prevent hazards for children and pregnant or nursing women. This fact sheet is one in a series about safe home renovations.
New carpeting can release many different chemicals. Our children are more exposed and at greater risk than adults from these chemicals. They spend a lot of time on the floor. As our kids grow and develop, their bodies are more vulnerable to chemicals and pollution.
The greatest concern arises from organic solvents found in products, for example oil paints and varnishes, paint thinners, paint strippers, industrial floor and tile cleaners, stains, and many different glues and adhesives. They are linked to many harmful effects including impacts on the developing brain of the fetus and child.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in building materials prior to 1980 because it is soft and can withstand heat. Asbestos fibres are tiny and very hazardous if breathed in or swallowed. Tiny amounts of asbestos are known to cause cancer in humans. There is probably no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Old paint contains lead. Lead is a soft metal that is highly toxic to the developing brain. Scientists now believe that lead is unsafe for a fetus or young children at any exposure level.
Lead is a soft metal that is highly toxic to the developing brain. Scientists now believe that lead is unsafe for a fetus or young children at any exposure level. If you are pregnant and are not getting enough calcium, your baby can be exposed to lead in the womb and through breastfeeding.