There are several chemicals found in children’s bedding, clothes, toys, and other everyday items that pose potential hazardous health effects. While most of these chemicals are regulated by the federal government, there are still health concerns related to even minimal exposure to these toxins.

Difference between Child & Adult Exposure

Physiological and Developmental Differences

In utero to adolescence children experience periods of rapid growth. During periods of rapid growth developmental processes can easily be offset by chemical exposure, resulting in sometimes irreversible consequences.

Children’s brains are especially susceptible to chemical exposure from the prenatal period though the first through months of life when the blood brain barrier is formed (Chemicals, 2009).

Lower body weight contributes to children inhaling a greater volume of air and consuming more food and water per kilogram of body weight. Thus, children are exposed to a greater level of chemicals in food, water, and air than adults.

Socioeconomic & Activity Differences

The United States has a higher number of children in poverty than any other age group (Chemicals, 2009). This may expose more children to subpar living conditions that are susceptible to chemical exposure through various outlets.

Children also spend most of their times indoors. This increases the period of time they are exposed to potentially harmful toxins.

Common Chemical Exposure

The most common chemicals children are exposed to are arsenic, bisphenol A (BPA), fire retardants, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, and other volatile organic compounds.


Exposure to arsenic is associated with lower IQ scores, respiratory disease, nerve and skin damage, and may cause increased risk for cancer.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, can cause increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high levels of particular liver enzymes.

Fire Retardants

As with many other chemicals, fire retardants can be passed through the placenta to a developing embryo and can also be transferred through breast milk. Exposure to fire retardants has been shown to produce thyroid effect and neurobehavioral issues in newborn animals.


Minimal Formaldehyde exposure can produce allergy like symptoms including increase asthma attacks.


Exposure to lead can result in adverse neurological effects. At high levels lead exposure can result in mental retardation, coma, or even death.


Moderate levels of mercury exposure can negative effect developing fetuses, cause negative personality and neurological behavior outcomes. Exposure to mercury vapors can result in respiratory, circulatory, and cardiac system issues.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are the most prevalent indoor compound. They may interact with other compounds to cause respiratory, cardiac, and gastrointestinal issues.

Chemicals in common products: Risky business for children’s health (2009). Marietta, GA: GREENGUARD Environmental Institution. Retrieved from:

Louise Baker is a freelance blogger who usually writes about accredited online colleges for Zen College Life. Her most recent article ranked online criminal justice degrees.