Keeping kids’ areas and toys clean

What is in your children’s environment? Ninety- two percent of all poison exposures occurring in the home involve everyday household items such as medicines, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and personal care items. Many allergies and other health problems have been associated with chemicals in common household products, and tobacco smoke still remains the number one harmful air pollutant in homes.

Childcare providers Nicki Lahti and Jen Sebbas have suggested adults take a look at children’s exposure to chemicals. For more childcare information see,, and for column archives, videos, and pod casts.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission the average home today contains more chemicals than a chemistry lab in the early 1900s. The Commission has determined that cleaning products are some of the most dangerous substances in the home. Many cleaning supplies like common spray disinfectants that include insecticides, window cleaners, bleach, laundry/dishwashing detergent, shampoo, mouthwash and others can cause harm. These products can be lethal poisons if ingested and hurt children over a period of time with exposure. It takes only 26 seconds for a chemical to pass through skin and enter a child’s bloodstream.

For years the Commission has warned adults to childproof facilities and our homes. Now it is educating adults to go further. Children like to crawl around, explore, and put their hands in their mouth, nose, and eyes. How healthy is their environment? How clean is the air they breathe? Does it smell constantly of disinfectant? How do adults keep areas clean yet not build up harmful chemicals on toys, carpeting, walls, and the indoor air?

Safer cleaning

Real clean doesn’t have a scent. Adopting a child-safe cleaning routine might not keep your house as fresh smelling as an artificial pine forest. It might not keep your bathroom as antiseptic as an operating room, but it could have real health benefits for children, both now and in their future.

Household cleaners with harsh ingredients don’t only kill germs and get out tough stains. They can affect children’s health in a number of ways: eczema and other skin irritation, airway irritation, asthma, eye irritation, allergies, poisoning, and other health effects. Read labels on products and look up chemicals on line to find out what they do.

The good news is there are healthy and safer options of common green and organic products available at stores and co-ops. Homemade products made from natural based items are also available.

“What’s surprising to so many parents is that we don’t have good safety testing for a lot of the chemicals we use every day,” says Kenneth Bock, MD, pediatric neurotoxicologist. “We don’t really know what they might be doing to our kids.” To be cautious, many adults can try to reduce or change their use of household cleaners that contain harsh chemicals.

Next time: Safer Cleaning Tips and Recipes

Editor’s note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It’s supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book “Learning Through the Seasons” is available at area stores and Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.