Ideas for Using CPCHE's Top 5 Tips Resources with Parents and Families

Top 5 Tips Resources

Do you work with prospective parents and/or families with young children? Are you interested in adding information on children’s environmental health into your educational and outreach programs?

CPCHE's “top 5 tips” resources provide families with simple, low-cost ways to reduce exposures to toxic substances commonly found in the home. They are a great way to integrate children’s environmental health information into your existing programs and routine interactions with parents and families.


CPCHE’s video, Creating Healthy Home Environments for Kids: Top 5 Tips, is a great way to introduce parents/caregivers to basic concepts of children’s environmental health, such as why the fetus and child are more vulnerable to the potential effects of toxic chemicals, as well as simple tips for reducing toxic substances in the home. Its playful, illustrated format makes it suitable for sessions in which children are present.

The 13-minute video is available in English and French on DVD or USB, or can be viewed directly from the CPCHE homepage. The DVD and USB versions include optional subtitles and continuous looping, making it practical for use in waiting rooms and public spaces.


CPCHE’s top 5 tips brochure, Creating Healthy Environments for Kids, covers the same content as the Top 5 Tips video, and thus can serve as a useful take-home resource when showing the video. It can also be disseminated in community centres, clinics, child care centres and other places frequented by prospective parents and families. It is available as a 4-panel brochure with photos in English and French, and as a text-only PDF in Arabic, simple Chinese, Punjabi, Spanish and Tagalog.

Tip cards

CPCHE’s attractive, plain-language tip cards are available for each of the top 5 tips, and for radon. They help reinforce learning as a take-home resource during sessions at which the video is shown. Or, use a tip card as a starting point for discussion on one of the 5 areas. “Get drastic with plastic” and “Go green when you clean” are hot topics for many parents. The tip cards can also be used as a “take one” resource in waiting areas and public spaces.

Each of the top 5 tips has a dedicated webpage, with additional information, FAQs and relevant links.

Ideas for Workshops and Information Sessions

If you have 20-30 minutes…

If the curriculum for your prenatal or parenting class is already packed, all you need is 20-30 minutes to introduce key children’s environmental health concepts and practical tips by showing the video. Be sure to leave some time for discussion. Questions such as “What was the most surprising thing you heard?” can help get the conversation going. Have some fact sheets on hand, such as Fragrances and Plastics, to help you respond to questions that may arise. Consider handing out copies of the top 5 tips brochure or a set of the tip cards (or both) to reinforce learning. Oftentimes, the parents themselves will be a source of information and ideas that can be shared within the group.

If you have 1-2 hours…

After welcoming participants, start off by showing the video. It will do the job of introducing the topic for you. Encourage participants to discuss the video. Questions such as “What was the most surprising thing you heard?” or “Do you already do some of these things at home?” can help get the conversation going. Next, engage participants in the popular “Grab Bag” activity (form smaller groups, as needed, aiming for 6-10 people per group). The Grab Bag Activity sheet offers suggestions on items to put in the grab bag and why, along with guidance on how to run the activity. Use the remaining time for questions and answers and discussion. Encourage participants to consider what new actions they may take, if any, based on what they’ve learned. Provide participants with either the top 5 tips brochure or a set of the tip cards (or both) as take-away resources to reinforce learning.

If you have a full day…

As with the shorter sessions described above, starting with the top 5 tips video is a great way to kick-start your workshop. Consider engaging participants in 1-2 hands-on activities in small groups to encourage interaction and discussion, such as the Grab Bag activity, the Mercury in Fish activity or, for a workshop in a First Nations/Aboriginal community, the Medicine Wheel activity and/or the Caring for Mother Earth Checklist. The Quiz can be a fun way to enliven the workshop: ask quiz questions at various points throughout the day and provide small prizes for the correct responses. (Prizes can be thematic, such as micro-fibre cloths to go with the “bust that dust” tip theme). Be sure to allow plenty of time throughout the workshop for discussion. 

The following resources may be of use in designing the workshop:

Sample agenda – full day

Sample evaluation form

Workshop Planning, Logistics and Checklist

Collection of resources for workshops for service providers working in First Nation Communities

Provide participants with the top 5 tips brochure and/or a set of the tip cards as take-away resources to reinforce learning. Consider providing copies of the CPCHE Primer, relevant fact sheets or other resources, such as the Checklist for child care settings. All of CPCHE’s resources are available as free downloads (in English and French, and in some cases, additional languages) or can be ordered in hard copy (see CPCHE order form for descriptions and costs). 


Backgrounder #1: Bust that Dust

Common house dust contains low levels of toxic chemicals released by everyday household items such as electronics, plastics, furniture, cleaners and leaded paint. Chemicals in dust can include heavy metals, flame retardants, pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

Crawling infants and young children are more highly exposed to toxic chemicals in dust as compared to adults. Their behaviours, such as crawling on the floor and frequent hand-to-mouth activity, lead to higher exposures via ingestion. Infants and children also breathe more, per unit body weight, and thus experience greater exposure to the chemicals affixed to airborne dust particles.

Children are vulnerable to the harmful effects of chemicals in dust. Their brains and bodies are still developing, and these toxic substances can interfere with normal growth and development. Their immune systems and other natural defenses are also immature, contributing to their greater vulnerability.

Lead [1]

Exposure to even low levels of lead can disrupt physical and cognitive development in the developing fetus, infants and children. Even at low levels, lead exposure is linked to behavioural problems, learning disabilities and hearing impairment. It is known to cause infertility. About 50 percent of the daily lead intake of two-year old urban children comes from house dust through typical hand-to-mouth behaviour.

Flame retardants [2]

Polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (PBDEs) are chemicals that have been widely used in carpets, draperies, upholstered furniture, televisions and computers to make them less likely to catch fire. PBDEs are continuously released from these products and end up in household dust. Dust is a significant source of human exposure to PBDEs. From animal studies and limited human data, there is evidence that PBDE exposure may disrupt the endocrine system, particularly the hormones of the thyroid gland, which in turn may disrupt fetal brain development. There is also animal evidence that PBDEs are toxic to the developing nervous system and act as reproductive toxicants. Further, PBDEs are suspected carcinogens.

The Canadian government has plans to ban the production and import of all PBDEs. Even if the ban is implemented, PBDEs will still exist in products that people have in their homes that were manufactured or imported before this date.

Other chemicals of concern [3]

Other chemicals that have been found in household dust include

  • phthalates, likely originating from vinyl flooring and other softened plastics, such as shower curtains
  • alkylphenol compounds used in cosmetics and other personal care products 
  • organotin compounds used to stabilize PVC plastics or to kill dust mites in carpeting
  • short-chain chlorinated paraffins used in plastics, paints and rubbers. 

Additional studies have found residues of pesticides in dust.

Tips for prospective/new parents

For parents and families, simple actions — such as keeping floors and other surfaces clean and dust-free, having washable mats at entryways, and removing footwear at the door — can help reduce fetal/child exposures. It is important to dust with a cloth that is dampened with regular water, rather than a dry cloth or duster that will recirculate the dust back into the air. Using a good quality vacuum, ideally one fitted with a HEPA filter, is also important to avoid reentrainment of dust into the air.

For more information

CPCHE’s dust-busting webpage includes an overview of the issue, exposure-reduction tips for families, and quick links to relevant CPCHE resource materials as well as those of other authoritative sources.


[1] CPCHE. 2005. Child Health and the Environment: A Primer. CPCHE: Toronto, pp. 24, 27, 46, 65.

[2] CPCHE. 2005. Child Health and the Environment: A Primer. CPCHE: Toronto, pp. 38, 51, 55, 56.

[3] CPCHE. 2005. Child Health and the Environment: A Primer. CPCHE: Toronto, p. 65.