A Toxic-Free Environment for Babies and Children


images-1Originally posted here.

If you have a baby or young children in your principal’s household, you feel the awesome responsibility of providing the healthiest environment possible for them – especially if you’re the nanny. When a family hires a nanny, they have high expectations for the expertise that person will bring with them.

“Many nannies work in households that are going green. It’s important to keep educating ourselves on all of the new information coming out in the ever changing field of childcare.” says Leah Corum, Co-President of ADCAN (Association of DC Area Nannies), the longest running nanny support group in the U.S. Beyond all of their other duties, nannies are often the ones who are responsible to clean the things babies come into contact with most often – toys, cribs, high chairs, etc – often several times a day.

At the same time, Nikki Gribble, 2012 INA Nanny of the Year, reminded me that it’s got to be simple. “Nannies have to know so much about so many things, it can be overwhelming. Green concepts often involve changing so many things, and it can be hard to keep up with. If it isn’t simple, chances are it won’t happen”.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve started out with some key points nannies should know about the impacts of chemicals, especially cleaning chemicals, and I’ve included links if you (or mom or dad) want to learn more. Then you’ll hear about the truly simple, completely toxin-free strategies that are easy and quick to adopt.

1. Chemicals and Health.

  • Children, and especially babies, are particularly susceptible to toxic substances. Genetics and evolution alone cannot explain the sharp rise in health issues seen in the recent years.
  • Leading scientists believe industrial chemicals have created a silent pandemic, impairing the brain development of children worldwide.
  • We are exposed to chemicals in three ways: inhalation, ingestion, and absorption. If you spray a cleaning chemical, toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from it enter the air and can be inhaled. Any toxic residue left behind on a surface, such as a crib or high chair, can be absorbed through the skin (think nicotine patches!) or ingested (babies put their mouths on everything!). You heard right – you can have 3 routes of exposure for every 1 chemical used.

2. That’s why it’s so important to be educated on some basic facts about cleaning products:

  • Almost all traditional cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that have negative impacts on human health and the environment. Look up your favorite product and see for yourself at http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners.
  • “Green” products often contain the same toxic chemicals as traditional products, just in reduced amounts.
  • “Natural” and “Eco-Friendly” are unregulated terms, and they do not always equate to “non-toxic”. Rattlesnakes and arsenic are “natural”, but that doesn’t mean I want them around my house!
  • There are no regulations that require complete disclosure of all ingredients in cleaning products.

3. When it comes to disinfectants, there are some even more serious issues to be aware of:

  • Chemical disinfectants are pesticides. They contain substances linked with many health problems, from skin and eye irritation to nervous system disorders, reproductive problems, birth defects and cancer.
  • Disinfectant misuse and over-use has helped create new varieties of bacteria that are resistant to today’s chemistry and medicine.
  • The American Association of Pediatrics in 2012 took a rare policy stand warning of the dangers of pesticides to children, urging pediatricians (among other things) to learn to recognize the subtle signs of low-level chronic exposure to these potent chemicals.

Knowing all of that, it’s pretty clear that the only way to truly be sure that children are not being exposed to toxic cleaning chemicals at home is to eliminate them from the house. There’s an emerging and ever growing group of people who understand that toxic chemicals have done so much damage to our environment and our health that it isn’t enough to slow down or use less. We’re facing a health crisis, and we’ve got to STOP using toxins wherever possible right now.

The Good News

Until recently, unless you were willing to make all of your own cleaning products out of things like vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda, your options were limited. And even if you do make your own solutions, it’s likely you still have some commercial cleaning products around, because the homemade ones can only do so much. In the last few years, however, some innovative companies have developed cleaning technologies for the home that address the issue of dirt and contamination from a (curiously enough) radically different standpoint.

Instead of using toxic chemicals to “clean”, essentially adding contaminants to the air, water, and surfaces, these units use the power of water and electricity to create super-safe cleaning solutions. Yes, just water, charged a bit to make it clean better than plain water, but still only water. There are 3 that we have researched, use ourselves, and recommend:

Aqueous ozone,

Dry steam vapor, and

Electrolyzed water.

Each are created differently and work in unique ways, and in combination create a way to clean everything in the home using absolutely no toxic chemicals.

Aqueous ozone kills germs, and is wonderfully effective at eliminating odors as well as removing certain spots and stains. Dry steam vapor also kills germs, with tiny amounts of water but more cleaning power for tougher jobs, surfaces that shouldn’t get too wet, or hard to reach surfaces. Electrolyzed water works better than aqueous ozone on greasy spots, and stays charged longer for all-day quick mess cleanup.

When you have these 3 systems (and in a pinch, just the first two) you no longer need any commercial cleaning products, traditional, green, natural, or otherwise. Problem solved, and in a way that is so safe and simple anyone (even kids) can use them! The best part? They actually work better than chemicals (more on that later).

Next steps?

How to get started with your family. The right approach is always important, understanding that the family does not want to feel wrong about how they’re doing things currently, and making sure parents know the nanny is not criticizing or finding fault. “Smart nannies know how to make it mom’s idea”, says Beth Weiss of Caring Nannies. One approach is to “let mom know you’ve heard her request to use healthy, natural products, have started educating yourself, and want to share some of the research you have found”.

“When children are sick a lot or chronically ill, it affects everyone in the household”. Jenny Riojas of Caring Nannies acknowledges. “Nannies are usually the ones who ask ‘What am I doing wrong, and how can I do this better?’” Generally, when a nanny comes to the family with an approach she wants to implement to improve health, they are interested to hear about it. If she’s willing to take it on, they are usually happy to leave it to her.

Nannies are poised to be the heroes in this health crisis. You are uniquely positioned to materially impact children’s health on a daily basis, and influential with families who are willing and able to follow your lead. To get started now, go to http://www.toxicfreecleaning.com, http://www.pure-strategies.com, or call me at 410-533-4962 if you need some pointers. We’ve got more information on the websites, or you can purchase the technologies right now, start using them right away, and cross off one task from your to-do list!

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