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Children and harmful substances

By 18/04/2023February 14th, 2024No Comments
APRIL 18 - 2023

Children and harmful substances

Our children come into contact every day with a wide range of products that contain problematic or harmful chemicals. As parents, no matter how much we want to, we cannot shield our children from everything harmful in this world. It’s therefore largely about prioritising your strengths. Invest where it makes sense and where you and your child will get the most benefit.

This blog post offers an overview and basic understanding of some of the most common harmful substances. Once you know the problem areas and how to avoid them, it will make safely navigating the maze that little bit easier!

Protecting your child from the worst chemical culprits doesn’t have to be time-consuming, exhausting and completely unmanageable. You can make a big difference with a few simple but good precautions. You can find these at the bottom of this blog post.

What are endocrine disruptors?

The human hormone system can be affected by both external factors (e.g., food, clothing, indoor climate) and internal factors (e.g., stress). Endocrine disruptors are, roughly speaking, substances that the body can mistake for hormones. These substances disrupt the body’s hormone balance by either inhibiting or activating the body’s hormone receptors.

Endocrine disruptors are known to damage sperm quality, advance puberty in girls, cause malformations in foetuses and increase the risk of breast and testicular cancer. Even very small amounts can cause hormonal imbalances.

These are the harmful substances you should know about


Bisphenol A – or bisphenols, as it is also known – is on the EU’s list of suspected endocrine disruptors. Bisphenols are prohibited in materials that come into contact with food for children under the age of three.


Most N-nitrosamines are carcinogenic and so there are strict limits on the amount that is permitted to be in products for children under three years of age/products that come into contact with the mouth area. N-nitrosamines are found in a wide range of foods such as salted and smoked meats, drinks, cosmetics, and rubber products such as natural rubber. Nitrosamines are extracted/removed from natural rubber pacifiers during the production process. All natural rubber pacifiers are continuously tested for their level of nitrosatable substances. Small amounts of nitrosamines may be released when the natural rubber comes into contact with saliva – although in significantly smaller amounts than you would find in, say, cosmetic products or smoked meat.


Parabens are preservatives that can be found, among other places, in care products such as creams, shampoos and cosmetics. The use of certain parabens in products for children under three years of age has been outlawed in Denmark since 2011 due to parabens being suspected endocrine disruptors. Parabens can also cause allergic reactions. Nordic Eco-Labelled products must not contain parabens.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you avoid propylparaben and butylparaben which are found in body lotion and sunscreen etc.


Perfume is a known allergen which rarely has any necessary function in products. Perfume causes what we call a contact allergy. Just like any other substances that cause contact allergies, once you have the contact allergy, you will be allergic to the substance for the rest of your life. This allergy will not get better – it can only get worse.


Pesticides are chemicals that are sprayed on plants and crops. Pesticides are also endocrine disruptors. If you buy organic fruit and vegetables, these will contain significantly fewer pesticides than regular fruit and vegetables. Certain pesticides are permitted within organic farming. Always remember to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly in order to remove any residues of harmful substances as much as possible.


Phthalates are a group of chemical substances used as plasticisers in PVC (plastic). Not all phthalates are equally harmful – the most harmful in the group, and those with the greatest impact on hormones, are called: DEHP, DBP, DIBP and BBP.

Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable

The younger your child is, the more susceptible they are to harmful substances. One reason for this is that babies and young children consume a relatively greater amount of food than adults do. As a result, the younger your child is, the more chemicals they will be exposed to in food. Additionally, part of a young child’s development is specifically about not just observing the world, but tasting it, touching it, and having plenty of physical contact with the things they are exploring.

It is therefore particularly important to think about how to protect your child from harmful chemicals.

How to minimise the amount of harmful chemicals in your child’s everyday life

Unfortunately, in our society it is almost impossible to avoid harmful chemicals altogether but, by taking a few simple precautions, you can reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that your child is exposed to:

  • Products that come into contact with the skin/food should always be sterilised thoroughly before being used for the first time as there may be chemical residues from the production process. This applies to everything from pacifiers and bibs to clothes, bedding, and teddy bears. If the product cannot be sterilized with boiling water, it must be washed carefully before use.

  • Eat varied, organic food and avoid ready meals. That way, you can better control what you consume – pesticides, for example, are endocrine-disruptors and are found on/in foodstuffs that have been sprayed.

  • Buy unscented products with the Nordic Ecolabel or the EU flower – the Nordic Ecolabel is your guarantee that the product does not contain any of the substances on the EU’s list of suspected hormone disruptors.

  • Buy CE-marked toys – The CE mark is your guarantee that the product meets all Danish and European requirements for health, safety, and the environment.

  • Old toys can have great sentimental value but bear in mind that old plastic toys, in particular, can contain large amounts of harmful phthalates.

  • It is also important to maintain a good indoor climate as dust contains relatively large amounts of chemicals from our electrical appliances and so on. Air your home several times a day and clean/dust at least once a week, taking extra care in the rooms where your child plays and sleeps.