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How to protect yourself from chemicals

Woman washing vegetables in a sink.

It may seem kind of scary when you think about all the chemicals around us that could cause health problems. But there are many things you can do to stay safe! You can take charge of your own health.

Staying safe from lead

  • If your house was built before 1978, ask an adult to have it tested for lead.
  • Wash your hands often, and always before eating and sleeping.
  • Use cold water for drinking and cooking.
  • Make sure you eat foods that have lots of calcium, iron, and vitamin C.
  • Eat less fatty foods because they can make you absorb more lead.

Staying safe from mercury

  • Follow the recommendations of local, state, and federal warnings on fish that are safe to eat.
  • Find out if the water where you like to fish is polluted. Find out if it is ok to eat the fish you catch.
  • If you break a mercury thermometer, do not touch the mercury. Ask an adult for help. Never vacuum or sweep the spill. Never pour mercury down the drain. Never wash mercury-contaminated clothes in your washing machine.

Staying safe from Bisphenol-A (BPA)

  • If you can, switch from a plastic water bottle to a stainless steel water bottle that does not contain BPA.
  • Do not microwave food in plastic containers. Use glass or ceramic containers instead.
  • Check your plastics. BPA is often found in food containers that are marked with “PC” or with the recycling number 7. Plastics with the recycling numbers 1, 2, and 4 do not contain BPA.
  • When possible, use frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned. You can also buy soups and drinks in glass containers.

Staying safe from pesticides, poisons, and chemicals

  • Prevent pesticide poisonings in your house. Have an adult help make sure chemicals and poisons are locked up and are out of reach of small children.
  • If you must use pesticides, like bug spray, be sure to use them the right way. Read the label and have an adult supervise!
  • Never play with poisons or poison containers.
  • Never play on lawns that have been recently sprayed with pesticides. Keep your pets off of them, too!
  • Try wearing long sleeves and long pants to keep the mosquitoes away, instead of spraying yourself with lots of bug spray.
  • Always wash and scrub fruits and vegetables under running water. After washing, peel fruits and vegetables when you can. Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Talk to an adult in your house about buying organic fruits, vegetables, meats, and milk. These are grown without pesticides.
  • If your dog or cat has been treated for fleas or ticks, don’t pet him for 24 hours after treatment. Also, don’t let your pet sleep in your bed after a flea and tick treatment. You don’t want the chemicals to get on your hands or bedding.

Staying safe when using medicines, vitamins, and “natural” supplements

  • Read the label before taking or giving medicine.
  • Use medicine only as directed by your doctor or the label.
  • Do not order medicines, vitamins, “natural” supplements, or weight-loss pills on the Internet.

Staying safe when using make-up and hair dye

  • Always read the package and directions when using make-up and hair dye. When using make-up and lotions, don’t use too much and try to use unscented products. Learn more about hair dye and make-up in the Body section of girlshealth.gov!

 

Content last reviewed July 20, 2010
Page last updated October 31, 2013

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