Fetuses and very young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of toxic chemicals. During early development, growth is rapid and organs, especially the brain, are developing. In the US, researchers estimate that 5% of childhood cancer and 30% of childhood asthma are related to chemical exposures. The President’s Cancer Panel noted in 2010, “the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.”
Health effects from exposure to toxic chemicals may not show up for years or even decades. Unlike adults, children have many years to develop illnesses caused by early exposures to toxic chemicals. It is important to practice the “precautionary principle” and protect children from potential health effects, even if some cause and effect relationships are not yet fully proven.
Many new products are marketed with terms such as “green” to make the public think they are safer. However, there is no legal definition of these terms, and when they are used on a product label, they do not assure that a product is safe. Fortunately, there are independent organizations and government agencies working to review cleaning products in order to identify products that are effective and safer for human health, wildlife, and the environment. This Toolkit will help you make good choices about products and tools to use in your program.