Detox your home to keep your children safe

Children's behaviour, including crawling and the hand-to-mouth activities of babies and toddlers, makes them more likely than adults to be exposed to harmful chemicals in and around the home.

"Common household cleaners and chemicals are responsible for 95 per cent of all childhood poisoning incidents."

Bleach, laundry detergent, disinfectant, oven cleaner, furniture polish, floor cleaners and medicines can hold a near-fatal attraction to children. These often contain colourful liquids - perfect for curious toddlers.

Home health and pregnancy

Some chemicals can cause harm to unborn children, so it is particularly important to avoid exposure during pregnancy. Solvents, pesticides, dry-cleaning fluids and anti-mould preparations are some of the chemicals that are best to avoid.

Lead and other harmful chemicals can accumulate in the body and be passed to babies through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Protecting Children From Harmful Household Chemicals

  • Buy products that are non-toxic and have childproof seals.

  • Keep cleaners and other chemicals in their original container, and make sure that the label is intact.

  • Store household chemicals in a cool, dry place, out of the reach of children and away from food.

  • Keep lids tightly closed to avoid leaks, spills and fumes.

  • Keep cockroach baits and other pesticides well away from children. Better still, don't use them.

  • Keep any potentially hazardous items such as medicines in a locked cupboard. Childproof locking devices are widely available.

  • Return any unused medicines to your pharmacy.

  • If you can't use or give away leftover chemicals, make sure that you dispose of them responsibly. Contact your local council, or visit for information on safe disposal.

Keeping Dust Down

House dust often contains lead, other toxic chemicals, allergens, moulds and fibres which can irritate the lungs.

Toddlers are especially susceptible to the ill effects of household dust.

Reducing the dust in your home through regular non-toxic cleaning and airing is one of the best ways to protect young children.

This is an edited extract from the booklet Detox your Home: easy steps you can take for a safer and healthier home, produced by the Total Environment Centre. For more information, visit the Safer Solutions project website at