Children & Toxic Chemicals

What you will find in this section

  • The scope of the problem
  • Two wide-ranging studies that demonstrate the extent of the larger problems
  • A clinic that helps children with environmental health problems
  • Websites
  • Reading Material – Medical and Scientific; three important scholar

The Scope of the Problem 

We often say that “children are our future.” Of course, we mean it literally – healthy children will be needed for our species, our families and our communities – to live on into the future. But for everyone I know, these words are also a deeply felt personal statement: whether it’s about our own children, our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren or the children of our friends, we love children in a special way. The thought of their pain, their struggles with various illnesses and disorders, what they will have to carry with them in disease and disability into later life brings us a special kind of pain and fear that is hard for us to bear as well.

Every week there are dozens of negative stories about environmental health developments that impact children. Even as I write these words, to take just one example, EcoWatch has sent out a story that first appeared in USA today about a new report demonstrating that 80 per cent of baby foods are contaminated with arsenic. This toxin is associated with developmental defects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes and even cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The same study also found cadmium, lead and acrylymide at alarming levels. And this is only one scary datapoint in a vast tapestry of technological/environmental assaults that are eroding the health, reproductive, and cognitive capacities of current and future generations.

And so it is with special urgency that we need to understand how our current chemical regime is affecting children – the most vulnerable among us. And it is with special urgency that we must do everything in our power as parents, as guardians and as voting, participating citizens, even as elected representatives, at all levels of government to radically change the stunning amount of toxicity that is affecting so many of our children. It can be done. We must become eco-parents as well as eco-citizens.

Greening the chemistry of everyday consumer products is critical to that effort. So choosing wisely today among available products children will be exposed to is extremely important, individually and to give manufacturers a message. Because, loaded with toxic chemicals from furnishing and cleaning products, building materials and (so-called) air fresheners and even pesticides, indoor air quality at home and school is a bigger health problem for children who don’t live in industrial neighbourhoods than outdoor air quality. So using guides such as those provided by EWG , is a critical first step everyone can take right now. Have a look, too, at Environmental Defence’s study, The Dirty Truth, to see what they found in Canada.

But such actions, though important, are not nearly enough. Many other societal steps are needed to get us there, and they require regulation, big environmental and health policy changes and big changes in our health care services. You can read three articles of mine about children and environmental health that address these broader steps. Download them directly as PDFs if you like.

Techno Environmental Assaults On Childhood In America, with researcher Gary Sampson, Childhood Lost: How American Culture Is Failing Our Kids, in 2005, Sharna Olfman, Ph.D., editor. Toxic World_Troubled Minds, With David S. Fenton, in No Child Left Different, also with Sharna Olfman as editor, from Praeger in 2006. And the piece most concentrated on public policy and action plans, A World Fit For Children, Child Honoring: How to Turn this World Around, edited by Raffi Cavoukian and Sharna Olfman, with a foreword by the Dalai Lama. Praeger, 2006.

Written in 2005 and 2006, their findings, policy and action suggestions are as relevant – alas! – today as they were then. In the meantime, as far as solutions are concerned, check the sidebar for the takeaways.

Many of the resources I’ve listed on the other pages in this section are also directly relevant to children. I’ve re-gathered some of below here and added a few more. 

Two wide-ranging studies demonstrate the extent of the larger problems

Let’s begin with the latest EPA report which in itself, looking back over 20 years – should be read as a call to arms for our whole society. It shows evidence for the need for a whole new politics of green chemistry and chemical footprint regulation hand in hand with climate justice politics. An earlier scoping study – 2011 – showed the trends the EPA study confirmed in October.

NIEHS/EPA Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Centers Impact Report:  Protecting children’s health where they live, learn, and play, the EPA report on the impacts of industrial and consumer chemicals on children’s health, average estimated cost per year, $76 billion dollars. Read about it at, where you can also download it.

Early Exposures to Hazardous Chemical/Pollution and Chronic Disease: A Scoping Review. June 2011. A Report from the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the Environmental Health Institute of Canada, showed how extensively, by 2011, correlations had been made by researchers among certain classes of chemicals in everyday products and certain types of diseases and disorders.

A clinic that helps children with environmental health problems

It is exceptionally difficult to find care for children with environmental health problems. One place that has a children’s program is the Environmental Health Center, Dallas


Environmental Working Group (USA)

Environmental Defense (Canada), and The Dirty Truth (pdf)

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition (U.S.A.)

This child was brought in for care for chemical burns caused by aerosol sun spray


The Chemical Sensitivity Foundation

Children’s Health and the Environment

Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment (CPCHE)

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)

Ecology Center (Ann Arbor): (1) (2) (3)

Health Care Without Harm

Pesticides Action Network (PAN)

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Sierra Club Michigan Environmental Justice Program

Anne Steinemann, Ph.D., Professor of Civil Engineering, and Chair of Sustainable Cities, University of Melbourne, Australia. Leading scientific investigator of indoor air quality, consumer product safety. Also find MCS bibliography.

A Toxic Tour of Canada’s Chemical Valley – VICE

‘Cancer Alley,’ Louisiana,

Reading Material

Accessible reads on or involving children and everyday chemicals

Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence, and Suvival? A Scientific Detective Story. Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanowski and John Peterson Myers. Foreword by Al Gore. Penguin. New York 1997 (on endocrine disrupting properties of microdoses)

Doubt is their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. David Michaels. Oxford University Press. New York 2008

The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-being. Nena Baker. North Point Press/Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. New York 2008 

Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health. Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. Vintage Canada. Toronto 2009

“Techno-Environmental Assaults on Childhood in America” Varda Burstyn with researcher Gary Sampson, in Childhood Lost: How American Culture Is Failing Our Kids, 2005. Childhood in America series, Sharna Olfman, ed. Praeger. Westport. 2005

“Toxic World, Troubled Minds” Varda Burstyn with David S. Fenton, in No Child Left Different. Sharna Olfman, ed. Praeger. Westport. 2006

“A World Fit for Children” Varda Burstyn, in Child Honoring: How to Turn this World Around. Raffi Cavoukian and Sharna Olfman, editors. Foreword by the Dalai Lama. Praeger. Westport. 2006.

Diagnosis Mercury: Money, Politics & Poison. Jane Hightower MD. Island Press/Shearwater Books. Washington D.C. 2009

Endocrine Disruptors, Brain, and Behavior. Heather B. Patisaul and Scott M. Belcher. Oxford University Press 2017

Endocrine Disruption and Human Health 1st Edition. Philippa D. Darbre, ed. Elsevier/Academic Press 2015. eBook ISBN: 9780128011201 Hardcover ISBN: 9780128011393

Is This Your Child? Doris Rapp, M.D.. HarperCollins. New York. 1991

Is This Your Child’s World? Doris Rapp. M.D.

Lake Effect: Two Sisters and a Town’s Toxic Legacy. Nancy A. Nichols. Shearwater Books/The Center for Resource Economics. Washington D.C. 2008

Medical and scientific literature – three important scholars

Philip J Landrigan, MD, occupational medicine, Mount Sinai Medical School, New York. Dean for global health, professor, environmental medicine & public health, paediatrics. Find his publications at:

Textbook of Children’s Environmental Health, edited by Philip J. Landrigan and Ruth A. Etzel. Oxford University Press. 2013

Shanna H Swan, PhD, Mt Sinai Hospital School of Medicine;. Professor, Environmental Medicine & Public Health, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science Mt. Sinai Medical School, New York. Find her publications on endocrine disruptors, special emphasis boys, at

Anne Steinemann, Ph.D., Professor of Civil Engineering, and Chair of Sustainable Cities, University of Melbourne, Australia, a leading scientific investigator of indoor air quality and consumer product safety. Find her publications and information at. and at