Kids, Teens and the Environment:

Pollution Prevention and Environmental Health Information For Parents and Caregivers 

Images of groups of kids and teens
Kids and teens have developing bodies that can be more sensitive to chemicals in cleaning products, personal care products, pesticides and other chemicals in food, toys, electronics, furniture and clothing. They are also eager consumers of everything from snacks to electronics, so they use a lot of natural resources. And some don't get outdoors to appreciate the natural world as much as previous generations.

Kids and Consumerism - Kids and teens are bombarded with messages to buy the "latest and greatest." New American Dream has tools for parenting in a consumer culture

So how do you as a parent or caregiver protect your children from environmental hazards while instilling in them an appreciation for the earth's limited natural resources? You can arm yourself with information, introduce them to activities that will inspire them to appreciate nature, and set a good example by being an environmental steward yourself.



Kids and the Great Outdoors

Kids and Caring For the Earth

Children's Environmental Health Resources

At Home
Cleaning products
Cleaning products can contain solvents and surfactants that may present a health hazard to children. These products can impact air quality and trigger asthma. You can purchase less toxic cleaning products or you can follow our "recipes " to make them yourself with simple ingredients. (Also available in Spanish .)
Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables can contain pesticide residue. Farmed fish, meat, poultry and dairy items can contain antibiotics and chemicals like chlorine. These substances pollute the environment and can affect your kid's health.
  • Find out what are the most important foods for kids to eat organic.
  • The CT Department of Public Health (DPH) has information  on eating fish safely, including fish caught in CT for consumers and pregnant women in English, Spanish and some other languages. 
  • Limit the amount of tuna that your children eat because it may contain mercury . Mercury can accumulate in living tissue and cause neurological and reproductive disorders. Find out the amounts of tuna that are safe to eat based on body weight using the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) guide.
  • Too many crayons? Contact Crayons for Cancer which supports programs at the CT Children's Medical Center, Hasbro Children's Hospital (Providence, RI) and The Minneapolis Children's Hospital or send them to the National Crayon Recycle Program. Learn more re-use ideas on page 7 in our P2 View article.
  • Toys and toy jewelry can contain lead and plasticizers that are harmful to children. The US Consumer Products Safety Division has information about toys that have been recalled.
  • Many plastic toys and baby products contain phthalates, which are used to make PVC plastics flexible. Phthalates can disrupt testosterone production and have been associated with reproductive abnormalities. Do some research to find safer alternatives to plastic toys, such as plain wooden ones.

Furniture , Carpeting and Paint
Some furniture, carpeting and home accessories may contain chemicals such as formaldehyde that can make kids sick. There are many alternatives now available. If you are redecorating a child's room or preparing a room for a new baby, you may want to use environmentally-friendly products.
  • Keep toxic pesticides and petro-chemical fertilizer off your lawn to protect your kids and prevent water pollution. Learn about organic lawn care.
  • The CT DPH provides information and guidance about the environmental and health issues of pressure treated wood containing chromated copper arsenate (CCA).
At School 
School Lunches
  • The Farm-to-School Program is a statewide program designed to use Connecticut Grown fresh fruits and vegetables in your school's meals and snacks.
  • Pack a no waste lunch. Use a reusable lunch bag and avoid single serving containers. 
Walking And Biking To School
Walking and biking can reduce traffic congestion and contribute to a healthy life style, improve and air quality and more livable communities.
Idling is Fuelish! Turn off your engine while you wait to pick up your kids from school.
Healthy Schools Learn how your community can create healthy schools inside and out with less impact on the environment.
Get Rewarded
Get your kid's class to take on an environmental project and get recognized for your efforts! The CT Green Leaf Schools program recognizes the accomplishments of students and schools.
Personal Care Products
Anti-bacterial Products and Hand Sanitizers
Does your kid carry hand sanitizer around in her back pack? Many hand-sanitizer products contain triclosan EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) is updating their 2008 assessment of the potential endocrine effects of triclosan. Triclosan may also bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms.
Nail Polish
Nail polish may contain formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a plasticizer. Toluene pollutes water; formaldehyde is a known carcinogen; and DBP is a hormone disrupter. If your teen insists on painted nails, choose safer nail polishes and removers.
Do you know what's in that sunscreen you are slathering on your children? Chemicals in sunscreen can contain suspected carcinogens and endocrine disrupters and pollute our environment. Learn what to look for and what to avoid when buying sunscreen.
Make-up and Body Products
Experimenting with make-up and hair and body products is just something that most teenagers do. So, educate them to make smarter choices for their health and the environment.
  • Look for cosmetics and hair products that are
    Did you know?
    The average teen uses 17 personal care products each day. Source: EWG
    free of parabens  (used as preservatives) and sulfates  (e.g. surfactants, foaming agents). Parabens have been linked to some cancers and sulfates can be endocrine disrupters.
  • Your teen might like to try making their own unique body products from ingredients that are probably in your kitchen! There are many books and internet sources  on the topic.
Additional Resources
Kids And The Great Outdoors
Kids are distracted so much with computers, TVs, phones and other electronic gadgets that they may have lost touch with the outdoors. There is also an epidemic of childhood obesity. Getting them outside in activities that appeal to them will give them an appreciation of natural world and help to keep them healthy. kids playing outdoors in a field
  • Check out the DEEP's program, No Child Left Inside.
  • Letterboxing  is fun way to get kids interested in our state forests and the environment. It combines adventure of being in the woods and the thrill of hunting for treasures.
  • Look for other opportunities to get your kids outdoors: maybe your child would be interested in learning to fish, mountain bike or camp.
  • WalkCT Family Rambles are free kid-friendly walks led by trained WalkCT family guides. These walks are held at trails around the state on the last weekend of the month all year.

Kids And Caring For the Earth
Image of kids holding up the earth Even young children can get involved in caring for the earth. Maybe it can be their job to remember to bring reusable shopping bags to the store. Older children can be in charge of the recycling bin at home. High school students can take on environmental projects at school or in the community. Here are some ideas on how you can encourage your kids to be environmental stewards.
  • Get inspiration from students who are implementing climate change solutions in their communities. 
  • EPA resources for kids
  • Find more activities, websites and games to get kids interested in the environment.
Children’s Environmental Health Resources
Disclaimer: The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEEP) maintains the content on this web page to enhance public access to information and facilitate understanding of environmental issues. The DEEP is not recommending these resources over any others and recognizes these represent only a partial listing of resources on this subject.


Content last updated April 2020