What your kids need to know about chemicals in the house

Our homes are filled with chemical products: cleaning supplies, paints and stains, laundry supplies and more. Many of these may be harmful if they’re used improperly, swallowed or get on your skin. So, it’s important that you buy, store and dispose of them safely – and explain the potential hazards to children from an early age.

Cleaning supplies
Many common cleaning products can be corrosive to the skin and cause severe illness if consumed. With very young children in the house, these products should be stored in a locked drawer or cabinet.

Talk to your child about the hazard symbols found on household chemical products. Teach them what they mean including if a container or its contents are flammable, explosive, corrosive or toxic.

Family members should also be taught to use gloves when working with harsh cleaning products and to ensure the room they’re working in is adequately ventilated.

Finally, never mix cleaning products. For example, if you mix bleach with ammonia, you’ll create a toxic gas that can cause coughing, nausea, chest pain and more.

Laundry supplies
Children have become ill after mistaking colourful laundry detergent packets for candy. These should be stored in the child-proof containers they’re sold in and placed on a high shelf or in a locked cupboard. Bleach, fabric softener and other laundry supplies should also be kept out of reach of young children.

Paint supplies
When buying paint, look for brands that are marked no- or low-VOC. VOC is short for volatile organic compounds, a group of chemicals often found in paint. When the chemicals “off gas” into the air in your home, they can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, respiratory issues and eye, nose or throat irritation.

If you have leftover paint or other chemicals that you won’t be using, do not pour them down the drain. Some retailers will collect extra paint and some communities might have paint-exchange programs. Or you can drop them off at your municipal hazardous waste depot for safe disposal.

Find more tips on the safe use and storage of household chemicals at canada.ca/healthy-home

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