6 Things to Know About Your Kids’ Afterschool Activities

Navigating the endless world of afterschool activities just got trickier. It’s no longer enough to be up on what is fun, cool, and developmentally stimulating. Gone are the days of only trying to find out who is the best piano teacher, or which of your kid’s many friends might also be willing to take a rollerblading, swimming, or stop animation class. Now you also need to know if the afterschool activity of choice is safe.

That’s right, safe.

Do you have a little gymnast at home? You might be interested to know the recent news from the gym: Scientists studying collegiate gymnasts at a U.S. training facility found that their blood contained high levels of a chemical known as BDE-153, a breakdown product of a toxic flame retardant. The source is believed to be dust created by retardant-treated foam blocks that fill the safety pit over which the gymnasts practice. Does this make you want to scream or pull your hair out? You’re not alone.

Unfortunately even the most innocent childhood scenes can hide unexpected dangers. Knowledge is power. So here are six key places parents should investigate when choosing afterschool activities:

1. Mats (including sleeping mats), toys, and other items made with soft vinyl typically contain phthalates, an endocrine-disrupting chemical linked to multiple health effects.

2. Indoor swimming pools treated with chlorine fill surrounding air with vaporized chlorine, a poison that’s easily inhaled by swimmers.