Today, I am inviting my beautiful and intelligent friend Allison Evans, co-founder of Branch Basics, to talk a bit about the importance of creating a non-toxic environment for children and why children are at the greatest risk of the danger of toxic exposure. This post is a bit long but so educational and also encouraging to you so that you don’t live in fear!
Remember, knowledge is power and each little conscious decision you choose, makes a big difference in the big picture of life!
Thank you Allison for sharing your expertise with us and be sure to go checkout Branch Basics, my go to for safe laundry and cleaning product and bonus points, because it actually works!!! Go check out Branch Basic’s amazing cleaning & laundry line and follow their helpful tips on Instagram.
How to Practically Create a Non-Toxic Environment for Children
When working to clean up your environment, why is removing the “junk” and toxic products always the first and most important step?
It’s true, we say that if you do one thing, make it this: REMOVAL. Crucial to the entire process of creating a clean environment is the complete removal of toxic cleaning products and pesticides. If you decide instead to store them away somewhere “just in case”, or “see if it really affects me”, these toxic chemicals are allowed to linger on in your home and continue to undermine your health, and all of those you live with. The presence of these products – even in small amounts – prevents the creation of a truly healthy home, hindering the ability for the body to remain healthy and/or heal. These toxic chemicals also prevent deep, restorative sleep, as they require the body to constantly use its precious energy to detoxify versus restore.
What’s awesome about this step is it’s a finite process and just the simple act of removal improves the air quality and immediately takes a huge load off the body’s detoxification system, increasing its capacity for handling unexpected exposures to chemicals, natural pollens, dust and mold. It also strengthens the body’s resistance to viruses and bacterial infection and frees the body to use its energy to rejuvenate and heal. (If you have products you aren’t ready to part with, ideally keep them in an outdoor storage closet or detached garage. Or, if necessary, keep them in a sealed, airtight container in the garage.)
Why is creating a non-toxic environment for children more important now than ever before, especially since children’s bodies are rapidly developing and more vulnerable?
Our children are facing an unprecedented amount of chemical and electromagnetic exposures that no other generation has before. Of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the US (think: furniture, personal care, cleaning products, toys, food, etc.), most haven’t been thoroughly tested for their effects on human health. To add to the exposures, EMFs are ever increasing in our tech-driven world: cell towers, smartphones and watches, Bluetooth, wireless laptops, alarms, baby monitors and and hotspots…the list goes on. And with the advancement and improvement of technology, these signals increase in strength. Skeptics may doubt what these exposures are doing to our children (especially the allusive and under-studied EMFs), but just as X-rays were once used as shoe-fitting devices, cigarettes were marketed to pregnant women and asbestos was touted as the best discovery in building materials, the actual safety of a product only comes with time, and unfortunately, at the expense of health. In the United States, most products are allowed on the marketplace and only removed with much litigation and when proof of health damage is already done (ie, innocent until proven guilty!).
Sadly, children are most at risk. Their nervous, respiratory, reproductive, and immune systems aren’t fully developed, so their ability to detoxify and excrete toxins is weaker than ours. Their developing cells are more susceptible to damage, especially for the central nervous system.
Pound per pound, they breathe more air than adults, and put freshly-”cleaned” items in their mouths. Kids also absorb a much greater proportion of toxins from their intestinal tract and the lungs (which, according to Chinese Medicine, are paired organs, so when one is compromised, the other likely is as well.) It’s also important to understand that, unlike what has long been accepted as fact , the dose does not necessarily make the poison; the relatively new science of epigenetics shows that exposure to even small amounts of one chemical has the capacity to alter DNA and turn on and off cancer genes.
This is why, more than ever, it is crucial that we as parents take charge of our children’s health. We are their best advocates, and we simply can’t trust that everything marketed is safe – even those touted as “safe”, “natural”, and “non-toxic”.
For children especially, what are 3 items you would recommend swapping first to create a more non-toxic home environment?
- Pesticides directly affect the neurological system and are stored disproportionality in our fat cells (the brain is nearly 60% fat!), so it’s crucial to not spray or use them in/around the home, throw out all cleaning products and sanitizers with pesticides in them (ie, “methylisothiazolinone” is found in many “green” cleaners) and opting for organic food whenever possible, especially when it comes to the “Dirty Dozen”.
- Synthetic fragrances, which contain a mixture of the fragrance industry’s 3,100 chemicals, are known to specifically affect and disrupt the endocrine system. Throw out all products with “fragrance” or “parfum” listed in the ingredients (don’t forget detergents and dryer sheets!).
- Lastly, while food dyes aren’t necessarily part of a “healthy home cleanup”, I couldn’t help but add them to this list of things to swap, because they are increasingly prevalent in children’s foods (up 500% in the past 50 years!), affect the brain directly and cause potential behavioral issues. If you remove anything, let these three things be the focus.
There is so much in life we cannot control—what is your encouragement to people to focus on what you can control, educate yourself and ultimately continue living your life!
The amount of toxins present today can absolutely seem overwhelming. When they leave for school, the park, a friend’s house, etc… who knows what they’ll be exposed to. But the good news is that the place that matters most for their health is the place we can control! Nighttime is when our bodies naturally rest, restore, detoxify and prepare for the next day. This should be so encouraging! By removing all pesticides, toxic cleaning products, and synthetic fragrances from your home, your entire family just did a liver cleanse and they didn’t even know about it!
Again, we always like to stress the importance of using only the purest products in your laundry room, because toxic detergents and dryer sheets undermine our health day and night through our clothes towels, and pillowcases/sheets. One of the greatest gifts you can give your family is that of a truly clean home for their bodies to heal and/or maintain health.
What is one way, without scaring them obviously, that you can teach your children about the importance of eliminating toxins from the home and why this matters?
We like to always avoid labeling something as “bad” or “toxic”. Instead, take the positive approach by emphasizing the healthy alternatives and making them readily available. When children are old enough to understand, you can make it a game by teaching them the difference between the red in a strawberry vs. the red in an artificially-dyed snack. When they can read, teaching them to look out for words like “Warning”, “Caution” and “Danger” on a cleaner or “sugar” or “canola oil” in a snack will help them get involved in the process. Healthy home and food choices are much more readily available! While it may take a little more time, involve them in the process of making a healthy pizza or baking delicious cookies, muffins and other desserts using real-food ingredients!
Your daughter is 20 months and totally adorable! How do you get her involved in the process?
I will say, she’s at a fun and fleeting age that allows me to make all of her decisions regarding healthy living without much resistance! She will sometimes reach for another kids’ snack (that’s not on our personal “yes” list), and I’ll be sure to always have a healthy alternative at hand. I’ll talk to her about how healthy and good my celery juice is, and over time she will often want a sip herself. I try to avoid any power struggles, but instead make her feel like she can choose between X and Y (both being healthier options). Another example is, in Houston, TX, mosquito trucks spray streets weekly (so sad!), so we don’t go outside for a few days following the spraying. She doesn’t understand this, but again, I am prepared with fun indoor activities. And when we’re in a pesticide-free zone, we play the barefoot game, so we can both get “grounded” as we play in the grass, on the beach…even walking on concrete!
Now that it is back to school time, what is your encouragement to parents to take this idea of “non-toxic” living beyond the house?
Once the “clean living bug” has bit you, it’s hard to stop at just your home, especially when your kids spend so much time at school. It’s essentially their second home! This can be a tougher road, but starting with what you can control, like packing your child’s lunch or providing them with a safe hand cleaner (hello, Branch Basics travel size!) and having them avoid the sanitizers is a really great start. Having conversations with the school/teachers regarding the environment is a bit tougher, but can (and should) absolutely be done.
There are an increasing amount of studies regarding the negative effects of indoor air pollution and how our children are disproportionately affected by toxins. In this Washington Post article, for instance, scientists explain how everyday chemicals rival cars as a source of air pollution. I believe there is a gentle way of educating the school on the importance of avoiding toxic pesticides (ie, Round-Up), and using heavy duty cleaning products only in areas where they are required by law. Many times, teachers can choose which products to use inside their classrooms for surface cleaning, and providing safe alternatives for them to try is a great option!
I firmly believe that creating a non-toxic environment goes beyond just the cleaning and skincare products we use, but is also about our stress, our tone of voice and word choices. What are some tips you can give for keeping the home a positive and calming environment for ourselves but also our sweet children?
I couldn’t agree more! Stress can be just as toxic to the body as the harmful chemicals found in these products, so it’s important to take it step by step and not become overwhelmed. Remind yourself that you are on the road to creating a safe home and that each item you remove and replace is one step closer in this finite process. I personally feel that most of our creating a non-toxic environment can and should be done without getting our children involved, they are simply the benefactors of these positive changes! When it comes to food, making it fun and taking the process at a slower pace versus “oh no, mom’s on a rampage!” is always wisest in the end.