How Safe is my Child's Enviornment?

By Dr. Vinita Jain in Paediatrics (Ped)

Nov 13 , 2020 | 2 min read

Children are not little adults.  They are much more vulnerable to environmental hazards for several reasons:

  • In relation to body weight, children drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air than adults, so they have more exposure than adults to any toxicants that are present in water, food or air.
  • Exposures are magnified by their hand to mouth behaviour.
  • They live and play close to ground.
  • Immature metabolic pathways lead to more toxicity.
  • Children undergo rapid growth and development; their developmental processes are easily disrupted.
  • As children have more future years, than adults they have more time to develop chronic diseases triggered by early exposures.


There are several day to day objects and activities which expose a child to various toxicants. The prevention is also very simple if one is a little vigilant and aware. Some common modes of environmental toxicants are:

TOYS: Lead exposure may occur through paints on plastic toys and of PVC(Poly-vinyl chloride)toys. Hand -mouth behaviour encourages children to put these toys in mouth so more lead toxicity.

Prevention: pick wooden toys as far as possible and for young children toys made of cloth or PVC free material.

CLEANING FLOOR: children stay very close to ground so its very important to maintain floor hygiene. At the same time the chemical used on floor are important. The VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) tend to stay in the air space close to children causing air pollution. Babies tend to pick up things from the floor and put in mouth. An eating disorder caused by iron deficiency may lead children to ingest soil and any associated toxicants. Be careful in using insecticides, rodenticides at home.

Acute and chronic effect of VOCs include irritation and sensitization of eyes, nose, lungs and mucous membranes

Prevention: Preferably clean floors regularly with wet mops.

ART MATERIAL: Volatile organic compounds (VOC) may be released by various materials including plants, glues, resins, polishing and materials.

Prevention: for young children water colours, pencil colours or crayons are a safe bet.

Some common allergens

Most significant indoor allergens are dust mites, feathered and furry pets. Mattresses, upholstery and carpets are primary reservoirs of such allergens.

Prevention: avoid dusting in the presence of children. Do not keep furry or feathered pets. Avoid carpets and rugs. Minimum wall hangings or paintings in the house

LEAD: Most toxic chemical hazard in houses.

Source- deteriorating interior and exterior lead based paint.

Children may be exposed either by direct ingestion of paint chips or other lead-containing products (water from lead-based water pipes) or indirectly by ingesting lead-contaminated house dust or soil through hand to mouth behaviours.

Children’s and adolescents’ exposure to chemical, physical, and biological risks at home, in school, in the playground, at work and elsewhere deserves our immediate attention and needs to be recognized as an important threat to their development and survival. With little caution and knowledge, we can easily circumvent these.

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