Janelle Sorensen is the Chief Communications Officer for Healthy Child Healthy World. Simultaneously, she takes care of her sweet little girls, cooks, cleans, gardens, reads, bikes, hikes, crafts, laughs, speaks using silly voices and accents, drafts environmental policies, works on a Master's Degree, and tries to keep up with social media. Well, typically not all at the same time.

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A Green Guide to Poison Prevention

Did you know March 14th through the 20th is National Poison Prevention Week? I am personally thankful for the many Poison Control Centers across the country. When my older daughter was about 4, she climbed on top of our kitchen counter and reached high into the cupboard where we kept her vitamins, grabbed them, jumped down, and ate them all. I found her peacefully sitting on the couch next to the empty bottle, asked her what she had done, and called Poison Control (that number, by the way is 1-800-222-1222, keep it handy, you never know when you’ll need it). The woman I spoke with asked me some questions about the brand of vitamin and my daughter’s age and size. And, after a few tense moments of waiting while she entered the information into her computer, she kindly told me my daughter would be fine. Phew!

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), almost 2 1/2 million poisonings are reported each year – that’s a call every 13 seconds. More than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home and almost 50 percent occur in children younger than six years old.

The AAPCC recommends a lengthy list of actions including locking cabinets, only using toxic products when you can completely focus on the task at hand, and keeping an ever watchful eye on your children. Great tips in general, but every parent knows how quickly distractions occur and how easy it is to forget taking precautions sometimes (hey, we’re busy and sleep deprived and multitasking to the best of our abilities). So, I have a simpler suggestion – go green. Green products don’t rely on the toxic chemicals used in conventional products. So, if you opt for green, non-toxic options, you’re reducing the possibility of poisonings, reducing the number of precautions you need to take, and reducing worries.

What’s poisoning our children and how do we prevent it?

Personal Care Products.
Shampoos, lotions, and cosmetics contain hundreds of synthetic chemicals (read the labels to get a glimpse inside). Three steps can help you reduce this risk: eliminate unnecessary products (how many face creams do you really need?), look for natural and organic products (visit cosmeticsdatabase.com), and get back to the basics (olive oil makes a great moisturizer and I’ve heard you can wash your hair with baking soda if you really want to simplify).

Cleaning Products.
Instead of worrying about “safe” use and proper storage of cleaning products, stop buying toxic products and make the switch to green cleaners or use basic ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. (If you mix up your own cleaner, label the bottle and list what ingredients you used.)

Pesticides.
In 2006, there were over 77,000 calls regarding potential exposure to pesticides. Again, the advice is to lock up these poisonous products, but you can avoid having them altogether by taking preventative steps to avoid pests and using safer methods for killing them if you still end up with a problem. Visit BeyondPesticides.org for more information.

Plants.
Plants are beautiful additions to any home and actually help purify your indoor air, but some can be poisonous for children and pets. Safe plants that have been shown to help clean up indoor air include Chinese evergreen, arrow head vine, English ivy, and spider plants.

Arts, Crafts, and Office Supplies.
Kids love crafting, but chemicals in materials can end up being absorbed by their skin, eaten (if your kids are young), or inhaled. So avoid the risk and go green with your crafts and your office by selecting supplies made of natural materials.

This is actually just the beginning of a very long list of the many different potentially poisonous materials we have in our homes the AAPCC receive calls about. It doesn’t make sense to me that we so nonchalantly bring these things into our living spaces and keep them (and use them) around our children. Especially when we now know that it’s not always the dose that makes the poison.  For very young children or the developing fetus, small exposures can have lifelong negative health impacts even if there’s no immediate signs of poisoning. In these cases it’s the timing that makes the poison.

Your safest bet for poisoning prevention AND good health in general is to go green. Start using the Health eHome and HealthyChild.org today. If you’re already taking steps to create a healthier home, kudos. Keep making progress and share your knowledge with friends, family, neighbors, and your community.

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