Back to school time often means back to the store to stock up on new clothing and school gear. It’s also a great time to think about making some changes in your daily routine to keep your kids safe and healthy. Everyday items, from backpacks to lunch containers, can contain a wide variety of hazardous chemicals. Some of these interfere with development and fertility, or have been linked with other health effects including allergies, asthma, and cancer. Children’s developing bodies are especially vulnerable to environmental chemicals—so protecting them from harmful everyday exposures now could protect them from developing health problems later in life.
To help busy parents start the school year off right, here are Silent Spring’s Top 10 Back to School Tips!
1. Help your child stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle made of glass or stainless steel, not plastic.
2. When picking a backpack, look for ones that are PVC (or vinyl)-free. PVC can be a major source of hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates.
3. Avoid school supplies that claim to fight bacteria as they may contain triclosan, nanosilver, and other chemicals of concern.
4. For packing lunches, choose glass or stainless steel containers instead of plastic. Cloth snack and sandwich bags are also a great alternative.
5. Wash new clothing at least once before your child wears them. Chemicals used in clothing manufacturing can linger in new garments.
6. Discourage makeup and nail polish. Cosmetics can contain harmful chemicals (or ones with unknown health effects). Encourage your child’s natural beauty.
7. Go organic. Whether it’s an apple for the teacher or your child, choose organic produce as much as possible.
8. When crafting, opt for water-based paints and avoid paints made with solvents. Also, steer clear of aerosol sprays and polymer modeling clays.
9. Reduce air pollution by choosing to carpool or take the bus. If you can, walk or ride bikes.
10. Join your parent-teacher organization to advocate for healthier schools. For example, encourage the cafeteria to provide fresh food prepared and served without plastic; discourage the use of pesticides on green spaces; help plant a garden; adopt an anti-idling policy for buses and cars; or support less toxic pest control and cleaning methods.
For more tips on reducing your everyday chemical exposures, check out Silent Spring’s mobile app Detox Me—our free guide to healthier living.