Toxic substances are common in our environment, both indoors and out and can harm children’s health even before they are born. Exposure to small amounts of toxic substances can have long term effects on the developing brain, lungs and reproductive system of an unborn baby or young child.

  • Household dust contains small amounts of toxic substances such as chemicals, mould and pet dander.
  • These substances can be harmful to children’s health.
  • Children can be exposed to dust through:
    • swallowing by touching dusty surfaces and transferring to their mouth especially when playing or crawling on the floor
    • breathing in dust
  • You can protect your child by:
    • getting rid of the dust
    • taking your shoes off inside your home
    • reducing the amount of clutter in your house
    • storing toys in closed containers
  • Pregnant women should avoid changing vacuum bags.
  • Many cleaning products contain toxic chemicals.
  • These chemicals can increase the chance of health problems in children.
  • Children can be exposed to toxic chemicals through:
    • swallowing by touching surfaces with cleaning product residue and unknowingly transferring into their mouth
    • breathing in fumes from cleaning products
    • absorbing cleaning products through their skin by touching them
  • Many of these toxic chemicals can cross the placenta and reach the fetus during pregnancy and can cause health problems such as wheezing and asthma in children later in life.
  • You can protect your child by:
    • using non-toxic cleaning products
    • avoiding fragranced products
    • keeping all cleaning products out of the reach of children
  • Mercury is found naturally in rocks and soils and can leak into fish habitats in lakes and streams. The bigger the fish, the higher the concentration of mercury.
  • Mercury exposure is harmful during fetal and childhood development because it can affect the brain and nervous system.
  • Children can be exposed to mercury through:
    • swallowing by eating fish that contains mercury.
    • breathing in toxin fumes from work places where mercury is used (industry, mining), silver dental filings, broken products that contain mercury (glass thermometers, batteries)
  • You can protect your child by choosing fish that is low in mercury.
  • Plastic is made of many different chemicals, some are harmful.
  • Exposure to these harmful chemicals as a fetus or young child can impact brain development.
  • There are three types of harmful plastics:
    1. Phthalates: used to make plastic flexible and labelled polyvinyl chloride (PVC) on products. It is found in soft plastic toys, teething rings and personal care products.
    2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): chemicals that evaporate into the air, giving off a “new plastic” smell. It is found in toys, cleaners, shower curtains, air fresheners and paint.
    3. Bisphenol–A (BPA): used to make hard clear plastic. It is found in reusable water bottles and the lining of food and beverage cans.
  • Children can be exposed to harmful plastic chemicals through:
    • swallowing by chewing or sucking on plastic items, eating or drinking items that have been heated in plastic
    • breathing in vapours from new plastic material such as flooring or shower curtains
  • You can protect your child by:
    • not using plastic in the microwave
    • storing food in glass containers
    • choosing fresh or frozen food instead of canned
    • avoiding teething rings, toys and other items that contain PVCs, VOCs and BPAs
  • Paints, solvents and dust caused by home renovations may have harmful chemicals and fumes. These chemicals can cause breathing problems and affect the brain of children and developing fetus.
  • Indoor paint made before 1980 and outdoor paint made before 1990 may contain lead.
  • Children can be exposed through:
    • swallowing lead contaminated paint chips and dust, chewing old painted items
    • breathing in fumes from freshly applied paint and painting products such as paint thinners, breathing in lead contaminated dust and mould
  • Children and pregnant women should stay away from areas being renovated.

Second-hand smoke is the smoke from the end of a burning cigarette and the smoke that is exhaled by the person smoking the cigarette.

  • There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke is the toxic chemicals and tiny particles that stay on surfaces and in household dust after a cigarette is smoked (For example, smoke that gets trapped in hair, skin, walls, fabric, carpet, furniture and toys)

  • Infants and children take in more chemicals from second-hand smoke because they breathe more quickly and have smaller lungs.
  • Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at greater risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma.
  • Children can be exposed through:
    • breathing in second-hand smoke
    • swallowing by touching surfaces that have chemicals from third-hand smoke and transferring to their mouth especially when playing or crawling on the floor
  • You can protect your child by not allowing smoking in your home or car.