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Every day we ingest, inhale, and absorb toxins that can severely affect our overall health and wellness. Even when we eat well and exercise regularly the fact of the matter is we live in a toxic world. Over time, poisonous toxins take a toll on our energy level, metabolism, immune system, and mood. This ultimately compromises our quality of life and can lead to disease.
Many of us are sick and don’t even realize it. The process can be a slow progression and we just accept the way we feel as normal. I do not think I have to remind you that not feeling well and having problematic symptoms is not normal.
As a reminder, this 4-article series includes 4 changes you can make to reduce your toxin exposure. This final article will focus on household products and home items that contribute to our toxic overload.
- Food: Consume organic foods (click here for this article)
- Internal Factors: Rid yourself of negative thought patterns and emotions (click here for this article)
- Personal Care: Use personal care products without harmful ingredients (click here for this article)
- Home Environment: Use non-toxic household products and eco friendly safe home items
Potentially harmful chemicals can be lurking in every room of your home. They are also in many of the typical household products people use on a daily basis. This may include but is not limited to: cleaning or pest control products that contain harmful chemicals; toxic kitchenware; toxins in plastics getting into our food; harmful substances in furniture, cabinets, and flooring or elements used for their installation; air fresheners with toxic chemicals; and more.
It is important to note that products labeled as ‘non-toxic’ or ‘natural’ may still contain harmful substances. This list can help you decode the labels.
Here are top hazardous substances to avoid that are typical for every day use. Rather than go through all the details and go on and on about the hazards you may have or be using in our home, I’ll get to the nitty-gritty. Here is a list of typical household product and home item categories so you can assess what you currently have. To invest in your health, you may want to set a plan to transition to healthier alternatives to avoid the hazardous chemicals we are exposed to in our home environment.
- Environmental Working Group (EWG) compares ingredients on cleaning products that cover any type of cleaning in the home and provides hazard ratings.
- You may recognize some of the brands at this EWG Hall of Shame Cleaner Database that are high offenders for hazardous ingredients.
- This page on the Women’s Voices for the Earth website has information about hazardous chemicals in cleaning products and safer alternatives.
- Safe and healthier DIY cleaning alternatives
- Safe alternative examples
- Natural insect pest control includes various alternatives for a multitude of insects
- Click here for more tips on natural protection, homemade pest control, and devices if you want to avoid sprays, creams, and candles altogether.
Most air fresheners and deodorizes, including well-known brands, include numerous toxic and hazardous chemicals. You say “But, oh, they smell so nice.” Sure they do. Yet underneath what you do smell are fumes that are hidden and masked and doing great harm to your health. In addition, conventional candles also have toxic elements.
Paints & Solvents
This includes items such as wall, furniture, or craft paints and paint thinners or strippers, coatings, solvents, and adhesives. These items contain a variety of toxic chemicals called VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that emit harmful gasses and fumes. Choose items that are no or low VOC.
Furniture, Upholstery, Mattresses
This includes furniture, cabinets, upholstery, pillows, mattresses, etc. Unless it is low-toxicity and eco-friendly, it is treated and/or made with toxic chemicals. The chemicals could be in various forms of VOCs that off-gas harmful fumes or various chemical flame-retardants for which the powders mix with the dust in our homes. Memory foam mattresses, mattress toppers, and pillows seem to be very popular for obvious comfort reasons but they harbor health harms. There are alternative memory foam safer products that still have the same memory foam feel and comfort.
- Buy organic and “green” eco-friendly materials. Some of the air quality certifications and standards you can trust are: Greenguard; BIFMA; and SCS’s Indoor Advantage.
- Choose eco-friendly products that are no or low VOC
- Buy used/vintage – since products are much older, they have already off-gassed.
- Buy “flame-retardant free” products. Click here and here for more information on flame-retardant hazards and risks outweighing any benefits and state policies. Furniture products (sofas, chairs, mattresses, etc.) filled with cotton, wool, or polyester and made with 100% natural latex tend to be safe.
- Brand of eco-friendly memory foam products
Both wood and carpet flooring and installation can be hazardous and a source of considerable indoor air pollution.
- Overview of safer flooring
- How to choose “green” furniture
- Mohawk, Armstrong, and IVC Floors are just some of the companies that make safer, reasonably priced flooring products and there are many others out there for safe alternatives.
Avoid the dangers of Teflon non-stick pans that include polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). When PTFE heats up, it releases toxic gasses.
Alternative cookware: Healthier Alternatives are stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic cookware. For the non-stick element, the reason you may have been using Teflon to begin with, ceramic cookware is a perfect safe alternative.
BPA (Bisphenol-A) has become a household name. So, keep it a name and out of your home. It is used for retail receipts, the inside of tin cans, and plastic bottles. Unfortunately, chemicals used to replace BPA may be nearly as bad yet the formal research is still out on those. For now, it is recommended to avoid BPA.
Regardless of the content in the plastic, never heat plastic and drink or eat out of it. That means not leaving plastic water bottles in the hot car and not drinking or eating from plastic cups or plates that have been heated in the microwave. Heated plastics leach dangerous chemicals into our food and drink that we then end up consuming. It is also best not to put plastic in the dishwasher as when it is heated, hazardous chemicals then leach out.
Plastics have a classification system, which most are aware of, called the Resin Identification Code. It is the number printed on the bottom of most plastic bottles and food containers and describes what kind of plastic resin the product is made out of. This article provides more details about each code and the hazards of plastic.
Alternatives to plastics
- BPA-free plastic and cans.
- Use glass or stainless steel for drinking bottles and to store food. This keeps food and drink from being in contact with plastic at all.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), “nearly 1 in 3 homes checked in seven states and on three Indian lands had screening levels over the EPA’s recommended action level for radon exposure.” Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. Unfortunately, because it is odorless, many are unaware that it is lurking at unsafe levels in their home. Review the radon fact sheet for more details.
What to do
Have your home tested. It is not expensive ($15) and you can do it yourself easily. You order the test, complete the test in a specific area of your home, send the results in for interpretation, and receive your results.
- Di Renzo GC, Conry JA, Blake J, et. al. International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics opinion on reproductive health impacts of exposure to toxic environmental chemicals. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. http://www.figo.org/sites/default/files/uploads/News/Final%20PDF_8462.pdf.
- Gore AC, Chappell VA, Fenton SE, et. al. Executive summary to EDC-2: the Endocrine Society’s second scientific statement on endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocr Rev. https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/er.2015-1093.