You try to use non-toxic cleaning supplies, give your children (mostly) healthy food, and only use soaps and other personal care products with natural ingredients. That is, you do this in your home . . . but what happens when your child goes out? Now, I wouldn’t worry about the time your child needs to use the restroom at a restaurant and uses soap with (gasp!) antibacterial products in it, but what about somewhere your child goes EVERY day? Do you think about what products your child’s day care or school uses? This is especially important in very young children who are crawling around on the floor and putting things in their mouths.
Cleaning products can affect the indoor air quality of the day care your child goes to. If possible, the day care will use non toxic cleaners. Check out this website to research what products your day care is using: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners. Remember there are no laws regarding companies putting “natural” or “green” on labels so make sure you do your homework to determine if a product is really non toxic. If your day care insists on using toxic cleaning products, ask them to at least use them when the children are not in the area.
Air fresheners only mask existing odors and do nothing to remove them. According the Environmental Working Group (EWG): “They also contaminate the air, exposing people to a host of undisclosed, untested and potentially toxic substances, including phthalates, synthetic musks and allergens.” Make sure your day care is not using air freshners, especially around children. The EWG suggests identifying and removing or cleaning up the odor source, as well as opening windows and putting out an open container of baking soda.
If your children take naps at school, find out what kind of mats or cribs the school uses. Dangerous chemicals have been found in nap mats, so ask what the day care is using: http://ceh.org/making-news/press-releases/29-eliminating-toxics/630-naptime-nightmares-toxic-flame-retardants-found-in-day-care-nap-mats
If the school washes the sheets and blankets, find out what laundry detergent the school is using. If the detergent has fragrance in it, see if you can wash your own blankets and sheets.
You should take a look at what toys the day care has for your child to play with. Toys manufactured before 2009 could contain dangerous phthalates, which have been shown to cause many health problems. If a toy has a very plasticy smell, do you really want your child putting that in their mouth? Look for a day care with a lot of wooden toys and not too many plastic toys.
Bring your own diapers and fragrance free wipes. Do not be afraid to ask your day care center if they will use your cloth diapers if you are using them at home. Many centers do not realize how easy cloth diapers are these days. You can show the providers how to use them and you can bring your own wet bags where they can place the diapers.
Talk to the School
If you find that your school is using hazerdous chemicals, do your research and have information to bring to them and show them. Explain to them why you are concerned and how important this is to you. Have options that they can use instead and if you can, offer to buy them a product so they can try it and see that it works the same as something they already had.
Here is a helpful link to the Center for Health, Environment, & Justice (CHEJ) about helping to create healthy schools: http://chej.org/campaigns/pvc/projects/pvc-free-schools/
I will probably be adding to this in the future as there is just so much information out there!!
By Michelle Winters