Environmental Health
Healthy Home Environment
Protect Kids from Toxins
  protect kids from toxics  

Healthier Environment

  Choose the Least Hazardous Product  l  Protect Children from Lead Poisoning  l

Keep Pesticides Away from Children  l  Keep Children & Mercury Apart  l

Choose Safer Building Materials  l Remove Hazardous Products from Your Home

Children and fetuses are particularly at risk from toxic chemicals. Medical studies show that certain chemicals cross the placenta and affect the brain of developing babies. Children are more exposed than adults. Children under the age of five breathe twice as much air, eat three to four times more food, and drink two to seven times more water, per pound of body weight, than adults! Because children's bodies are still developing, they take in toxins differently than adults. Children tend to put their hands in their mouths. They often play on the floor, where toxins such as pesticides and lead are tracked in from outdoors, and concentrate in dust or carpets.

Create a healthier environment for your child. There are many things you can do to make a healthier environment for your child, inside and outside your home:

Choose the Least Hazardous Product

Young boy with a ballRead the label! Look for the signal words POISON, DANGER, WARNING, or CAUTION on product labels to help you choose the least hazardous product.

It's the law: all household products that contain a hazardous ingredient must list a signal word on the label that matches the product's safety level. A product is considered hazardous if it contains chemicals that burn, corrode, poison, or explode, which are immediate, short-term health effects.

Long-term health threats, such as cancer and reproductive or hormonal effects, are not often represented by signal words on product labels. The label also does not indicate risks to the environment or health effects when chemicals are combined. Many household products have not been tested for these properties.

What the Signal Words Mean

Here's what the signal words on most cleaning products mean:

Poison ― highly toxic, even a few drops can be harmful or fatal if swallowed

Danger ― highly toxic; extremely flammable (catches fire easily); or extremely corrosive (can burn skin, eyes)

Warning or Caution ― mildly to moderately hazardous; may severely burn your skin; or may irritate your skin and eyes

Pesticides and other products that carry an EPA identification number are labeled with a slightly different system. On products that claim to have properties that kills something (germs, plants, animals), warning means the product is more hazardous than caution.

No signal word means "not hazardous," unless you have found a really old product before labeling laws came into effect!

Remember: Products marked Danger or Poison are the most hazardous. To protect your family's health:

  • Look for the least hazardous product to do the job.
  • Follow the directions and precautions on the label.

Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

  • If concerned, get kids tested for lead by their doctor or healthcare provider.
  • Test your home for lead paint hazards if it was built before 1978.
  • Wash children's hands before they eat; wash bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
  • Wash floors and window sills to protect kids from dust and peeling paint contaminated with lead—especially in older homes.
  • Run the cold water for at least 30 seconds to flush lead from pipes.

Additional Resources

Keep Pesticides Away from Children

  • Avoid using pesticides, including weed killers, near children. To learn more about less-toxic gardening, see Common Sense Gardening.
  • Store food and trash in closed containers to keep pests from coming into your home.
  • Read product labels and follow directions.
  • Cartoon of woman, child and pesticidesKeep children, toys, and pets away from where pesticides are applied; don't let them play in fields, orchards, and gardens after pesticides have been used for at least the time recommended on the pesticide label.
  • Choose organic fruits and vegetables. For more information, see Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before eating—peel them before eating, when possible.

Keep Children and Mercury Apart

  • Avoid buying products with mercury and dispose of mercury products responsibly. For additional information on mercury, see Mercury in Home Products.
  • Pregnant women and young children should limit eating certain types of fish that are high in mercury. For local fish advisories, visit the WA Dept of Health Fish and Shellfish Advisories or call 877-485-7316.
  • Replace mercury thermometers with digital thermometers. Bring mercury thermometers and other household hazardous waste to HazoHouse at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center.
  • Don't let kids handle or play with mercury.
  • Never heat or burn mercury.
  • Contact your state or local health/environment department if mercury is spilled—never vacuum a spill.

Choose Safer Building Materials

  • Choose paints low in solvents, especially if you are pregnant or preparing a child's bedroom. For additional information, see Healthy Indoor Painting.
  • Certain types of wood products (plywood, chipboard), carpeting, and furniture may give off harmful vapors. Choose nontoxic or less-toxic materials, such as solid wood and natural, untreated fabrics. Look for carpets that do not need to be glued to the floor.
  • Avoid arsenic-treated wood when building outdoor decks, play structures, raised garden beds, etc. For additional information, see Pressure-Treated Wood (CCA).

Remove Hazardous Products from Your Home

  • Remvoing haz waste productsDispose of household hazardous products (with the words Danger, Poison, Warning, or Caution) Warning, or Caution at HazoHouse.
  • Store hazardous products in secure cupboards, out of danger of floods or spilling.
  • Store pesticides and toxic chemicals where kids can't reach them—never put them in other containers that kids can mistake for food or drink.
  Check out our
Protect Kids from Toxins brochure, display, poster, and other resources for childcare providers.
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This page last updated: 05/12/21