Chemicals and toxins can be found in most areas of the home. While we may be unaware of many of them, they can affect our health and especially the health of our sensitive children; here’s how to green your life.
It is wise to take an inventory of your home to gauge the toxic burden, and the list below will help.
If it seems overwhelming at first, try making small changes one at a time. Some of the easiest things you can do are to get fresh air, wash hands frequently and filter your tap water.
A study by the EPA found significantly higher concentrations of 20 toxic compounds inside homes than outdoors.
So, weather permitting, open your windows to circulate fresh air. Try to spend a few minutes outside every day. Exhaust fans in the bath, kitchen and attic can also help.
A HEPA-filter vacuum will help remove some of the lead, fire-retardants and other contaminants found in household dust. HEPA air filters may also improve air quality.
Removing shoes while indoors will also help reduce the amount of contaminants brought into the home.
Water is essential for all body systems to operate smoothly and should be the main source for hydration.
But all water is not the same, and there are ways to make healthier choices in the water that you drink.
A carbon filter pitcher or a reverse osmosis system can be used to reduce exposure to chemicals in water, such as lead and chlorine.
Bottled water is not necessarily a safer option. It may be packaged, un-filtered tap water and the plastic bottle itself may contain BPA.
Mix infant formula with fluoride-free water. To learn more, click here.
Besides reducing illness, frequent hand-washing will reduce exposure to chemicals. Anti-bacterial soaps are not recommended since the ingredient triclosan complexes with chlorine in the tap water to form carcinogens.
A multitude of chemicals make their way into the home through toiletries, cosmetics, laundry detergent and house cleaning products.
It is essential to read ingredient lists on all products to determine which are safe for use. Take inventory of all household cleaners, laundry supplies, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, lotions and deodorants.
Try to avoid ingredients such as triclosan, BHA, fragrance, parabens, sodium laurel/laureth sulfate and oxybenzone. You can also look up your products on www.cosmeticsdatabase.com and www.lesstoxicguide.ca. To learn more, go to www.healthychild.org and www.dienviro.com.
A “clean” diet is one that consists mostly of organic whole foods that are uncontaminated and free of additives and preservatives. Localharvest.org can help you find organic food in your area. See foodnews.org to find conventionally grown produce with the least amount of pesticides.
When purchasing dairy, eggs and meat look for products raised without added growth hormones or antibiotics.
Most children’s sleepwear, linens and mattresses have been treated with flame-retardant chemicals, which can be toxic. PBDE’s, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers are persistent compounds similar to PCB’s.
Studies show that PBDE’s can disrupt thyroid activity. PBDE’s can be found in other materials as well. To see a list, click www.ewg.org/pbdefree.
The chemicals in fire-retardant pajamas have been linked to the development of allergies.
One possible solution for pajamas is to purchase snug fitting cotton pajamas. It is also important to wash new clothing several times before wearing to reduce chemical exposure.
Some plastics contain BPA (Bisphenol A), an endocrine disruptor linked to cancer, fertility problems and other health concerns.
Try to avoid clear, hard plastic marked with a #7, PC or #6 Polystyrene.
Limit canned foods if possible. Most canned items including infant formula, have a lining that contains BPA. Canned tomatoes are one of the worst offenders as the acid in the tomato leaches the BPA from the lining and is thus consumed.
Food should be stored in glass or metal containers (excluding aluminum), and if you need to use plastic wrap, be sure it does not come in direct contact with the food. Plastic packaging is unstable, which means the chemicals can migrate into the food or drink.
Some plastics migrate when heated, others when cooled and still others upon contact. Microwaving plastic may increase the contamination level.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) is considered one of the worst plastics for our health and environment.
PVC is primarily used in the production of building materials; however, it’s also used in many other consumer products such as children’s toys, shower curtains, office supplies and packaging.
PVC products often contain dangerous toxic additives such as phthalates, lead and cadmium. Many of these additives are not chemically bound to the plastic and can migrate out of the product posing potential hazards to consumers.
Studies show that PVC exposure can be linked to various cancers, leukemia, lymphoma and reproductive disorders. To learn more, go to www.besafenet.com/pvc/pvcproducts.htm#app.