Did you know that most Americans spend more than 90% of their time indoors, where concentrations of some air pollutants can be 2 to 5 times higher than outside?
Because we spend so much time inside, our built environments play a critical role in children’s brain development. Neurotoxic chemicals can be ubiquitous in common household items — perhaps even more so in the age of COVID, when families are using more chemicals and disinfectants than ever.
Women and children, as well as low-income communities and communities of color, are at the greatest risk from toxic chemical exposure in everyday consumer products and often have the least access to consumer information about how to protect themselves and fewer opportunities to engage in decision-making.
Our partners at the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), and Oregon METRO believe that every family and child should have access to non-toxic cleaning and consumer products that are effective and affordable.
So, we took action! OEC and Oregon Metro partnered with Hacienda CDC — an affordable housing provider in the Portland metro region — to develop a tailored curriculum to reduce neurotoxic chemical exposures for kids and families living in Hacienda properties.
WHAT WE DID: STEP-BY-STEP
- We used a train-the-trainer approach with program managers from Hacienda CDC’s programs — Portland Ninos, Expressiones, and Youth and Family Services — and conducted free workshops for interested families.
- All materials and workshops were bilingual in English and Spanish, and informed by the Hacienda CDC community. For example, families at Hacienda CDC wanted to know about bleach alternatives for disinfecting and alternatives to heavily fragranced products like Fabuloso.
- Participating families received a tailored pamphlet with instructions on how to clean children’s toys and spaces using non-toxic methods and gift cards to purchase ingredients as well as other items of choice. The average cost of all the ingredients in the eco-healthy home kit was ~ $45. The kit shared easy to use recipes for effective and fragrance free stain removers, floor cleaners, bathroom cleaners, and all-purpose cleaners made with simple ingredients like hydrogen peroxide.
- Families were given a bleach ratio chart and information about when bleach versus hydrogen peroxide should be used to minimize or eliminate bleach use.
- Hacienda CDC integrated the use of these homemade cleaners into their own office policies. Staff also incorporated this curriculum into their regular parenting programs given the high level of interest.
CREATING CHANGE TOGETHER
Flor Banuelos, a program manager with Hacienda’s Expressiones program noted that “many participants I have spoken to were surprised and happy to learn how accessible nontoxic cleaning could be by using everyday ingredients they were already purchasing.”
With the multiple challenges of the pandemic, it would have been difficult for Oregon Metro as an agency or OEC to implement this project alone. However, together, it was possible to share capacity, resources, and expertise.
Oregon Metro had already done much research in their existing Healthy Homes Program on effective ingredients and cleansers, while OEC had community building capacity and workshop capacity. Working with Hacienda CDC, it took all stakeholders to combine forces to successfully deliver this meaningful program.
More questions about Portland’s work? Contact Jamie Pang, Oregon Environmental Council’s Environmental Health Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions? To discuss this and anything else, please contact Bright Cities Program Director, Kyra Naumoff Shields at email@example.com.