10 Tips for a Healthier, Toxin-Free Home
Pollutants commonly found in households can trigger asthma, allergies, chronic disease, and other negative health effects. You can protect your family’s health by adopting “eco-healthy” practices in every room in your home.
1. Open Windows
Often the most economical and efficient way to clean the air in your home is to just open that window and cross-ventilate. Consumer Reports magazine says that “just opening a few windows may do the job… even in the winter, cracking open a window a couple of inches won’t raise your heating bill by more than a few pennies an hour.” To control pollen from outdoor air, purchase a window filter.
2. Replace Toxic Cleaning Supplies
First address the toxicity of cleaning products by reading the labels. Check for signal words such as caution, irritant, danger and warning. Our opinion is that it is best to not use any cleaning product with these labels. Many people are unaware that they can cause serious illnesses such as cancer (view the Dirty Dozen list).
Replace them with safer cleaners (make sure to dispose of them at a household hazardous waste facility.) There are many great resources online for greener and healthier cleaners made from a few simple ingredients that have low or no toxicity. When you know what each ingredient can do, you can use your own recipes!
Here are a few essential ingredients and their function:
Baking Soda: This alkali powder neutralizes acids—which makes it effective at absorbing odors, loosening grease and removing some stains such as blood, wine and grass. It’s mild abrasive quality makes it an effective scouring paste. You may also use it as a carpet deodorizer, room deodorizer, litter box freshener or laundry booster.
Vegetable-based / liquid castile soap:
Castile soap, made from plant oils, has one simple purpose: to lift oil or dirt from a surface and suspend it so that it can be washed away. Use it for lifting oil and dirt off dishes, floors, counters and your body. Mixed with baking soda, it makes a great all-purpose cleaner with scouring action.
Hydrogen peroxide (brown bottle in first aid aisle):
Peroxide works by breaking down cell structure which also makes it good for lifting stains like grass and wine. To sanitize bathrooms and kitchens, spray on peroxide to let it evaporate. Peroxide breaks down harmlessly into water in about ten minutes. Hydrogen peroxide must be stored in a dark bottle and in a cool place so it doesn’t break down.
Distilled white vinegar:
As a mild acid, vinegar kills germs and mold, polishes chrome, stainless steel and windows and dissolves mineral deposits. It neutralizes odors, cuts soap scum, dissolves grease and adhesives, softens laundry and more. Don’t worry about the slight scent when it’s wet, dry vinegar leaves no odor.
3. Replace toxic personal care products with natural ones.
This applies to ANY product you put on your skin. Even those products that claim to be “natural” or “green” may contain highly toxic ingredients. Search your personal care products’ toxicity levels with EWG’s Skin Deep Data Base. In this site, you can actually type the name of the shampoo you used this morning, and you will find out how safe or unsafe it is to use.
4. Avoid Foods High in Pesticides
Pesticides are known to be toxic to the nervous system, cause cancer, disrupt hormones and cause brain damage in children. Pregnant women are advised to avoid foods containing pesticides. A study by Harvard School of Public Health found children exposed to pesticides had a higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
When possible, avoid the fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide levels -or- buy them organic!
• Apples -
• Grapes – imported
• Sweet Bell Peppers
• Blueberries – domestic
• Kale / collard greens
According to the EWG’s Shopper Guide to Pesticides in Produce, the cleanest 15 produce items with the least amount of pesticides are:
• Sweet Corn
• Sweet Peas
• Cantaloupe – domestic
• Sweet Potatoes
Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables from the “dirty dozen” list would mean you’d get an average of 14 different pesticides. By choosing five from the clean list, you’d consume fewer than two pesticides.
5. Use a Shower Filter
Tap water often contains high levels of chlorine. More chlorine enters the body through the skin’s absorption and inhalation while showering than through drinking tap water. Skin’s pores widen while showering, making dermal absorption of chlorine and other chemicals found in water possible. Chlorine is also a suspected cause of breast cancer. Women suffering from breast cancer are all found to have 50-60% more chlorine in their breast tissue than healthy women. The prices for shower filters range from $30-$120. We recommend doing some research to find the best shower filter for your home and budget.
6. Reduce the use of toxic plastics in foods or toys.
The numbers 1-7 in chasing arrows on a plastic container tell you one thing: the basic resin that serves as the building block for that product. They can be handy in identifying which plastics can go in the recycling bin. But many durable plastic containers are not labeled at all. Labels never list the chemicals added to make a plastic tall, soft, colored, clear, stable or shatter-proof. Here’s what we do know; some of these additives are toxic, and some may “migrate” from plastic into food or drink when subjected to heat, wear and tear, and contact with greasy foods, saliva, etc.
• Avoid PVC and vinyl – Plastic #3
Plasticizers added to PVC and vinyl can leach into food and drink. Sometimes PVC plastic is labeled with recycling number 3. Other times, you’ll find it in cling wrap and candy twist-wrappers, plastic trays, in boxed cookies or chocolates and candy bar wrappers. Remember, however, that even though Glad, Saran, and Ziploc tout its products as being PVC-free, staying away from plastics spares the landfill of yet another long-term squatter who won’t be budging for the next 1,000 years.
PVC can also be found in mattress covers and shower curtains / liners. Choose mattress covers and shower curtains made from tightly woven polyester or nylon. These are water-resistant materials that may be laundered.
• Avoid Polystyrene – Plastic #6
This plastic is often labeled as recycling number 6. It may appear as styrofoam (in coffee cups, deli meat trays, take-out containers) or in rigid form (disposable soup and coffee cup lids). In contact with heat, fat or alcohol, this plastic can leach styrene, which can cause long-term or delayed effects on the nervous system or interfere with hormones.
• Avoid Polycarbonate – Plastic # 7
Science continues to emerge about the links between Bisphenol A (BPA), the building block of polycarbonate plastic, and a wide range of health problems. BPA is also used in the lining of cans and may leach into food and drink. The good news is that, after 50 years, polycarbonate is on its way out of the marketplace. Many retailers and manufacturers have responded by replacing polycarbonate with safer alternatives. Unfortunately, it can be hard to determine the difference between polycarbonate and a safer hard plastic. Polycarbonate is clear, hard and shatterproof.
7. Ditch the artificial fragrances.
If you love spraying air fresheners, and are not familiar with the possible health implications these bring, read: The Truth About Air Fresheners & How to Improve Indoor Air Quality Naturally.
• Avoid “fragrance” in products when you can; fragrances can contain hundreds of chemicals including phthalates (also found in vinyl), which can disrupt hormones.
• Check ingredients to ensure that a product contains NO FRAGRANCE. Even “unscented” products may contain a fragrance to mask the scent.
Essential oils distilled from plants are a good alternative to artificial scents because they have very simple ingredients. A few drops of lemon essential oil in an open box of baking soda, for example, can freshen a room. However, it is important to use essential oils with caution. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s always safe. Tea tree oil, for example, can kill germs—but it can also cause adverse health effects. Both tea tree and lavender oils are suspected of interfering with hormones in boys when absorbed regularly from lotion, shampoo and other personal products.
8. Avoid Non-Stick Cookware.
Non-stick coating for cookware is made with toxic, persistent perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). When non-stick pans are heated to 450°F, PFC-containing gases are released. A non-stick frying pan can easily reach over 700°F in about three minutes on an electric stove top.
• If you choose to use non-stick cookware, do not overheat or burn it, and discard it when non-stick coating is scratched or shows sign of wear.
• Choose alternatives to non-stick pans such as enamel-covered cast iron, cast iron and carbon steel.
9. Skip the anti-bacterial (triclosan) in soaps.
Studies show that products containing triclosan don’t work better than regular soap at preventing illness, but it may lead to a greater chance of allergies in children, and may create bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics.
10. Keep the Dirt Out
Soil near busy, highways, older buildings, old agriculture sites and industrial sites may be contaminated from car exhaust, pesticides, lead paint, mercury and other persistent pollutants. Offer a rough doormat for people to scrape the dirt off their shoes at the door, or provide a bench so that people may remove and store their shoes upon entering your home.
Every change you make to promote a healthy home is a good one, and every change that endures will benefit your family’s health!
Entry filed under: Heatlh Hazards, Home and Health, Natural Cleaning, Sustainability & Lifestyle. Tags: bathrooms and kitchens, hazardous waste facility, household hazardous waste, hydrogen peroxide, liquid castile soap, negative health effects.