It’s Not Easy Being Green: Recipes for a healthy home

Dr. Scott Goldstein’s subtitle, and big question, at his discussion about pediatric environmental health at our NWCP Brown Bag Chat on April 19, 2017, was “Is anything not going to kill us?” (His answer was, “Probably not!”) Dr. Goldstein’s goals were to present common pediatric environmental health concerns, to offer practical suggestions to make our homes more environmentally safe and to provide trusted resources for families to learn more about these concerning topics.  He included information about air pollution (inside and outside), carbon monoxide, electric and magnetic fields, tobacco smoke, herbs and dietary supplements, food and radon. 

Please refer to Dr. Goldstein’s slides for comprehensive and concise information about these topics. Included below are some practical tips Dr. Goldstein recommended to help make your family’s environment safer.

As Dr. Goldstein emphasized, children are NOT just small adults and related to the following characteristics, they are more susceptible to environmental concerns: children are closer to the ground, they often put things in their mouth, and the proportion of what they eat and drink per body weight is higher compared to adults. 

Pollution prevention:

  1. Have your furnace, stove, and fireplace inspected by a professional regularly.
  2. Minimize VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) such as paints and spray cleaners in your home. Open the windows when using these products.  Store them in the garage with proper ventilation
  3. Choose products that are recyclable, have reduced flammability/dye/fragrance, choose pumps over aerosols (if your dry cleaning smells like chemicals, try another dry cleaner)
  4. Check out Dr. Goldstein’s recipes for household cleaning concoctions for glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner and furniture polish (see below)
  5. Do not smoke
  6. Reduce clutter, carpeting (a reservoir for indoor air pollutants)
  7. Increase recycling
  8. Encourage a “no shoes inside” policy inside

Carbon monoxide exposure prevention:

  1. Recognize sources of carbon monoxide such as car exhaust, space heaters, gas powered water heaters and dryers
  2. Look for carbon monoxide detectors with a ULRC label to minimize false alarms

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure risk:

  1. Do not smoke (did we say that already?!) – encourage NO smoking in ANY structure, including outside windows near where children live
  2. Increase awareness that ETS can cause increases in: SIDS, respiratory illnesses, pediatric cavities, missed school days

Herbs, supplements and food safety:

  1. Recognize children metabolize herbs and supplements differently than adults and that there are no standards nor FDA rules for these supplements
  2. Wash and scrub fruits and vegetables with running water
  3. Buy fruits and vegetables in season, eat fresh food rather than canned food
  4. If you are choosing organic foods, consider choosing more of the “Dirty Dozen”, although there is no difference in nutrients between organic and non-organic produce and milk products. It is less important to choose organic foods from the “Clean Fifteen” list (see below).
  5. To minimize exposure to plasticizers, phthalates, and BPA, choose products that have a recycling code of 1,2,4 and 5 (3,6 and 7 are less safe unless they are “biobased” or “greenware”)
  6. Avoid heating in plastic, use glass when possible and buy phthalate-free or EU approved toys

Mercury, noise, and UV light exposure:

  1. Eat shrimp, salmon and canned light tuna; avoid fish with high mercury content (shark, mackerel, swordfish, tilefish)
  2. For older children, set the volume at 60% of maximum for less than 60 min/day to avoid permanent hearing loss. If your child has headphones on and he/she cannot hear you speak in a conversational voice, the sound is too loud. Headphones are better than ear plugs.
  3. Wear sunscreen – at least SPF 30 for all ages [as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), apply generously (about 1 ounce), every 2 hours, and always after swimming]
  4. Wear sunglasses to avoid eye damage (as recommended by AAP, use sunglasses that provide 97-100% protection against both UVA and UVB)

Household Cleaning Cookbook:

Glass cleaner: Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Use a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar

Furniture Polish: 1 teaspoon lemon juice in 1 pint vegetable oil

Rug deodorizer: sprinkle rug with baking soda, then vacuum after 15minutes

Plant spray: Wipe leaves with mild soap and rinse with water

Helpful Links/Resources:

Air Pollution Prevention

Environmental Protection Agency

Air quality:

Integrated Risk Information System:


Herbs and Dietary Supplements


Sun Safety

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