According to the National Institutes of Health, “accidents are, by far, the leading cause of death among children and adolescents.” June is Child Safety Awareness month and I’ve been looking over child safety guidelines from folks like the CDC, NIH, and the AAP. I thought I’d highlight some of the simple steps you can take to both live greener and prevent accidents involving your children.
1. Use non-toxic cleaners.
Ingestion of household cleaners is a leading cause of poisoning among children, and poisoning is one of the top five types of accidental death among children (in addition to auto accident, drowning, fire, and falls). If you don’t use caustic cleaners, you don’t have to worry about locking them in a high cabinet out of reach of your small children. In fact, one of the big benefits of using green cleaners is that it’s safe for your children to help you with the cleaning. Click here for tips for identifying a green cleaner. A simple one: avoid cleaners with the label “DANGER.”
2. Use non-toxic personal products.
A good reason to use fewer cosmetics and toiletries, and to use the least toxic, most natural personal products available, is that your child will eventually get his hands on one of them and may attempt to use it or even ingest it. Products such as perfume, hairspray, nail polish and remover, and mouthwash can be hazardous to children. Personally, I like to use personal products that I feel are safe enough for my children to use also. Although I’m not interested in my kids ingesting my personal products, I’m confident doing so would not be fatal.
3. Don’t use pesticides.
Pesticides have been linked to “a range of health problems, including asthma, hyperactivity and behavior problems, cancer, learning disabilities, reproductive disorders, and compromised brain development.” (source) They can kill if ingested. They are, after all, poisons.
4. Avoid junky toys.
All toys with small parts could pose a hazard to a baby or toddler. Yet if you have older children, it can be nearly impossible to keep all “Not for under 3″ toys away from the under-3 set. So I at least try to avoid those inexpensive, poorly made toys from ever entering my home. In my experience, cheap crappy toys (think: Happy Meal toy, party favors) are extremely likely to fall apart and leave tiny plastic bits around your house. For those beloved toys that involve lots of little parts (like Legos) that you do want to keep, I’ve found it useful to store them in a separate container, and allow the older child to play in her room or other contained space on top of a blanket/tablecloth/sheet to facilitate quick clean up as soon as she is done playing. I find that a lot of the high-quality, classic wood and cloth toys that my older children still use (blocks, larger vehicles and pull toys, pretend play food and dishes, stuffed cotton animals) are perfectly safe around the baby.
5. Avoid plastic bags, especially the super light-weight plastic bags used at grocery and other stores.
Babies and kids just love plastic bags. When I watch my kids play with a plastic bag they get their hands on, it’s not difficult for me to imagine how those bags can end up suffocating a child. There are many many reasons to skip plastic bags, but I think child safety is a pretty good one. Use reusable bags whenever possible and look for products with little or no packaging. Keep any plastic bags you do acquire away from little children. Definitely do not buy and use a gadget to store innumerable plastic bags under your sink or in the hall closet. Those gigantic plastic bags your dry cleaning gets returned in are also trouble. Remove the plastic bag outside of your house (and leave your clothes outside the home for a while too, which also allows some of the toxic chemicals used in dry cleaning to off-gas) and never bring the plastic bag inside your house.
6. Cover up and seek shade when outside.
Use safe and effective sunscreens when outside for extended periods of time.
7. Set your water heater to 120 F or lower to avoid scalding burns.
Saves money and energy too!
8. Have kids take showers instead of baths.
As soon as my kids can stand well, we start switching them over to showers, at least some of the time. Short showers use a lot less water than baths. And you don’t have to worry about someone drowning. Even better, shower with your young kids in order to save time and water and to provide automatic adult supervision.