1 August, 2023

Take a look at Breast Cancer UK’s guide to toxic-free back-to-school products just in time for the new school year!  

The summer is finally upon us, and with it comes the sunshine, cold drinks, picnics in the park and making time for long overdue catch-ups with friends.

But as any parent or guardian will know, it won’t be long until schools reopen! Which means dealing with our little ones’ inevitable growth spurts and a need for new stationery, uniforms and lunch boxes.

 But did you know? 

Some of these necessary purchases may increase your child’s exposure to harmful chemicals within the materials they are made from. Choosing safer, less toxic options is best.

Children are likely to be more susceptible to harmful chemical exposures than adults because their bodies are still developing. This makes childhood a particularly sensitive and vulnerable time.

They often have higher levels of chemicals present in their bodies than adults. This is due to various factors, including their exploratory behaviours (e.g., hand-to-mouth curiosity) and increased food and drink consumption frequency.

Childhood exposure to various environmental chemicals has been linked to several adverse health effects, including asthma, behavioural disorders and issues with reproductive health.

Some animal studies have also suggested that early-life (including in the womb) chemical exposure could be associated with adverse health effects later in life, including potentially increasing the risk of certain cancers, such as breast cancer. However, more research is needed to confirm this.

Here are our five tips for reducing you child’s chemical exposure when they go back to school:

Switch up the school uniform

An average school day can consist of a lot of rough and tumble, but believe it or not, stain-resistant clothing is not the answer. PFAS is often a key ingredient in the chemical treatments that make clothing stain resistant. Instead, opt for clothing labelled as “PFC-free” or made with alternative water- and stain-resistant treatments where possible to minimise potential risks. 

Watch out for waterproof jackets

The return to school almost always overlaps with the return of bad weather, and whilst a waterproof jacket will protect your little one from a drenching, it could also open the door for harmful chemical exposure. Clothing labelled ‘water resistant’ (e.g., outdoor jackets) often contains toxic chemical coatings, such as PFAS. Try and opt for something made from natural fibres such as; wax-coated jackets (usually made from cotton or canvas), oilskin jackets which are made from tightly woven cotton wool, and wool jackets, which are naturally water-resistant and can keep you warm and dry in light rain or mist.

Be careful where you store their food

We all know how important it is to send our kids to school with a nutritious lunch. However,being mindful of what we’re packing it in is also just as important. Try switching from a plastic lunch box to a stainless steel one; they’re more durable and are unlikely to contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as PVC, BPA and PFAS.

Soak up the late summer sun without taking in the chemicals

Suncreams are essential in avoiding sunburn. But many on the market may cause just as much harm as good. Rather than ditching them altogether, we recommend using sun cream that contains a mineral UV filter in non-nano form (nano-form materials are small enough to be absorbed by the skin and may harm aquatic life). Check for Zinc Oxide on the ingredient list. You can find out more here in our blog.

Hydrate differently

Reusable water bottles made of stainless steel are a safer alternative to single-use or plastic water bottles and are much more environmentally friendly. Studies have yet to demonstrate a link between microplastics and breast cancer risk, but such a link is feasible. Microplastics often contain mixtures of EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals), which mimic oestrogen. These chemicals in plastics can then leach into our food and drink and interfere with hormone function, posing a breast cancer risk.

To start yours and your family’s breast cancer prevention and toxic-free journey, take a look at our Chemical iguide. It’s full of helpful resources to give you a kickstart!

If this blog has inspired you, please consider donating to help prevent breast cancer. Your donation can provide vital funds for our animal-free research into breast cancer prevention. 

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