10 EASY STEPS TO LIMIT TOXIC EXPOSURE
We live in a chemical world and while there is definitely a place for industrial chemicals, the home should not be one of them!
There are many ways we are exposed to toxins in our environment, some things we have no control over, but there are many things that we do. We don’t often think that our home could actually be more toxic than the air outside so when I found out that a stay-at-home mom has a 54% higher chance of developing cancer than a mom who leaves the home for work, I was shocked! What on earth was in the home that was causing so many problems? Well, it seems that virtually everything in our homes has the potential to produce toxic effects over time, but there are some simple steps that we can take.
1/ Use chemical free cleaning and personal care products
This is probably one of the easiest ways to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in the home. Remember that skin exposure and inhalation can be more dangerous than ingestion! Daily repeated exposure to small amounts of chemicals over many years can have a compound effect so removing those harmful chemicals is really important. It may not be something that you will see today but you will benefit in the long run.
Start by checking out the CLEANING PRODUCTS that you are currently using on the EWG website link and look for healthier choices. You may be surprised to see that what you thought was healthy is in fact not!
You may have been Greenwashed!
With the average person being exposed to over 200 chemicals before they even leave the house in the morning, PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS are a big area for exposure! Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, hairspray, and cosmetics all contribute to our toxic load! Check out your products here using the skin deep guide and download the skin deep app onto your phone for easy access while out shopping.
2/ Dust and vacuum frequently
Keeping your home clean serves much more of a purpose than just looking nice in case you have a visitor! Have you heard of PBDE’s? Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are highly toxic flame retardant chemicals found in furniture and electronic equipment and are released into the air in our homes. These chemicals are inhaled or become attached to particles in the air and settle on all the surfaces. Several studies have found that these chemicals can affect thyroid and estrogen levels in animals. As you can imagine our kids are most at risk, because they love to be on the floor and I don’t know a kid that doesn’t touch everything in site! Whenever we touch a surface we are picking up those chemicals and they are absorbed through the skin or ingested. Using a Hepa filter vacuum and keeping your electronics and furniture surfaces free from dust by wiping them down with a damp cloth can greatly reduce your exposure.
3/ Reduce exposure to BPA
Have you heard of BPA, Bisphenol A? Many people have because of the water bottle and baby bottle scare several years ago when it was revealed that this dangerous chemical was leaching into the liquids from the plastic containers. BPA is commonly found in all plastics and in the epoxy linings of canned goods and thermal cash register receipts! Why should you avoid it? BPA is thought to be a hormone disruptor, it mimics estrogen in the body and is also suspected to have an effect on the brain of the developing fetus. So, switching out your plastic for aluminum or glass is a great place to start, most stores are now carrying safe alternatives; check out replacement containers at kidskonserve.com, love them! Many companies are also offering BPA free canned goods, EWG.org has a comprehensive list of those companies that do and don’t, check on the link below. Lastly, try and avoid handling thermal cash register receipts, (mostly the ones that have the shiny finish). If you can get an email receipt, great, or
have them drop it in the bag, just avoid repeated handling which happens when we stuff them in our wallet! Caution to cashiers who are pregnant, good idea to wear protective gloves, studies have shown much higher levels of BPA after just 2 hours of handling receipts!
4/ Filter Your Water.
Extensive studies conducted by the EWG found that 45 states had contaminated drinking water. While local water companies do offer reports of water contaminants, levels of chemicals that are considered ‘safe’ have not been proven safe, they have just not been proven unsafe! Many people choose to use bottled water as an alternative to tap water but the biggest problem here is that most bottled water companies do not disclose the test quality of their water, and many have been found to be contaminated also! So, whats the answer? We have had a reverse osmosis filter for drinking water and a whole house soft water filter for years. I love knowing that we are drinking and showering in clean soft water and it certainly has saved from stains on the shower doors! But it comes down to your budget. The least expensive option for drinking water is a system at the faucet or a filter jug. A reverse osmosis system would be the next step and and whole house system actually removes more chemicals and filters the water that you shower and wash you clothes in too. Check out this handy guide.
5/ Avoid Nonstick and waterproof finishes.
Non stick coatings containing PFC’s, perflourinated chemicals and are found everywhere from the kitchen to carpets to fast food to camping equipment. PFC’s even line the bags of popcorn! Why to avoid? PFC’s have been linked to birth defects, obesity, kidney and testicular cancer! Not a nice chemical to have around although it is pretty much everywhere.
Best ways to avoid, limit fast food containers, avoid scotch guarding furniture, cook without those non stick Teflon pans and use stainless steel or aluminum. More information? Check out this handy guide to avoid PFC’s
6/ Avoid air fresheners and scented candles.
I have to admit, I was the queen of the Glade air fresheners! They were everywhere, two or three per room! And candles! Count me IN! I just loved to have my home smelling of vanilla and lavender, cinnamon and pine in the winter. That was before I found out that my efforts were polluting the very air we were breathing. Top of the ingredient list for both air fresheners and candles is fragrance which can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals, none of which have been tested for safety. Other ingredients may be phthalates which help the fragrance to last longer. Phthalates are on the list of the Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors and linked to male reproductive birth defects and allergies. Check out this link for the Dirty Dozen! What is the alternative? Best candles would be beeswax, fragrance free if you love candles for ambiance. Auracacia makes an aromatherapy room diffuser for use with essential oils which may be a safer choice, or an essential oil vaporizer is an option if you like the therapeutic effects of your favorite oil. If it’s a smell you are trying to mask, best to eliminate the smell, empty the cat box or the garbage can and open the windows to let in some fresh air!
7/ Avoid lead based paints
For the large part, lead based paint is no longer seen in current construction after being banned from household paint in the US since 1978. Lead poisoning is especially dangerous to young children and has been linked to development delay, lower IQ, kidney damage and reproductive problems. It’s not actually the paint itself but the dust that is given off as the paint flakes with age or friction, often occurring during renovation of older properties. Special care needs to be taken when removing lead paint, there are qualified professionals who are trained to do this and limit your exposures.
When looking for fresh paint, think of your health and the environment! Check out the new Eco friendly paints that are out on the market with low to no VOC’s. Natural paints are derived from substances such as citrus and balsam, as well as minerals. Although these paints are made with natural materials and are petroleum-free, they often contain terpenes, which are VOCs derived from plants. However, natural paints do not off-gas biocides and fungicides.
Check out this handy guide from eartheasy.com
8/ Open Windows
It’s estimated that people spend between 65 – 90% of their time indoors and that indoor pollution levels can be between 2 – 100 times higher than outdoor levels! Hard to believe sometimes when you consider air quality and pollution even in the inner cities. The most common sources of pollutants are from inadequately vented heaters and appliances, off gassing of the chemical formaldehyde and VOC’s from construction materials, furniture, paints, solvents, preservatives and cleaners. All of these can cause minor to major problems from headaches, dizziness, nausea, allergies and respiratory problems and skin irritations to long term chronic illness from repeated exposure.
So, whats the answer? Ventilate your home! Open your windows whenever you can and let in the fresh air. Change HVAC filters frequently, use more natural wood furniture and less pressed particle board, choose fire retardant free furnishings and toxicfree cleaning products, don’t run the car in the attached garage and add a few indoor plants! The spider plant is a really hardy plant, easy to grow and actually sucks up pollutants from the environment.
9/ Take your shoes off at the door.
There is one sure way to find out how clean your floor is; Just put a white pair of socks on a toddler and let them run around for a while! It always amazes me how clean my floor looks until my granddaughter comes over!
In reality it’s actually what is in the dirt that is more concerning. I remember my grandmother telling me that there’s nothing wrong with good old fashioned dirt. The problem is that with all the VOC’s in our environment today along with pesticides, heavy metals and bacteria there is nothing good about our dirt and all these can be tracked into the home on the bottom of your shoes.
Many pesticides and heavy metals are known carcinogens and are also neurotoxic so definitely not something you want to expose your kids to and they do spend a lot of time on the floor! So start by making it a habit in your home to remove shoes at the door and that will encourage your visitors to do the same!
10/ Be aware of what you are putting next to your skin.
I thought this deserved a shout out all for itself, because it so often goes unnoticed. Fabrics are something that we all put next to our skin, 24 hours a day, every day, clothes, sheets and towels. What’s on them can get into us through the surface of the skin.
What to do:
- Always wash new garments before you were them. Many items are produced abroad and to protect them in the journey to the consumer they are treated with pesticides before they are packed. You want to make sure that this is not getting transferred directly to you!
- Wash clothing, bedding and towels in toxic free detergent and avoid fabric conditioner. People who have any kind of skin sensitivities, such as those with eczema or psoriasis would be well advised to remove chemical fragrance from their laundry. I know that we all love to have fragrance on our laundry but that fragrance is made up of hundreds of different chemicals, most of which have NOT been tested for safety. Not only are they being absorbed through the skin but inhaling those chemicals for long periods of time can have an adverse effect on your health.
I can say from personal experience that after a year of having removed many chemicals from our home, we stayed overnight with a friend who used fabric conditioner in her laundry. Within a few minutes of getting in between the sheets I could feel my throat starting to itch and it became more difficult to breathe. I realized then how desensitized I must have been to chemicals until I removed them from my home.
- Try to AVOID buying clothes that are dry clean only. During the dry cleaning process they use a dangerous solvent called PERC, perchloroethylene, which is anticipated to be a human carcinogen by several respected research groups. While highly toxic at high levels, even at low concentrations it can cause respiratory problems, dizziness, headaches and vision problems. So if you do have clothing dry cleaned hang it in a well ventilated area for up to a week before wearing it and if possible, avoid bringing it into the house altogether.