By guest blogger, Richa Parma
Are you aware that, according to the EPA, the indoor air inside your home is two to five times more toxic than the outdoor environment? Add to this fact that Americans, on average, spend about 90% of their lives indoors and you can quickly see a recipe for poor health emerge.
If you’d like to become or stay healthy, the toxins in your home must be removed or at least reduced. The air you breathe, and the items you touch and come in contact with daily in your home can have a major impact on your long-term health and well-being.
Rather than feeling overwhelmed, kick start your immune system by joining the 7-Day Healthy at Home Challenge.
Next, select a handful of ways to craft a healthier, less toxic home. It is pretty simple once you know where the hidden household toxins reside and you’ll start to feel better as you to eliminate these hidden hazards.
1. Reduce Plastic Use
To completely eliminate the use of plastic in your home can be impractical, but you can reduce your usage.
Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical present in many plastic products, can be ingested or absorbed when your skin comes in contact with plastics containing this chemical. BPA can cause damage to your endocrine system.
Research indicates that by continuous exposure to BPA, 95% of adults have traces of it in their bodies. You can limit exposure by steering clear from heavily processed, hard plastics, and packaged food. Also, make sure canned foods come with a BPA-free label.
2. Use Essential Oil Diffusers vs. Scented Candles & Air Fresheners
The scented candles you use at home might seem harmless, but research proves otherwise. In a 2009 study conducted by U.S. researchers, paraffin contained in candles was found to emit carcinogens and chemicals that could deteriorate the condition of asthma patients.
In Danish homes where candles are burned at an average of 3.5 kg yearly, 60 percent of ultrafine particles are emitted from burning candles into the air.
Also, air fresheners have been found to release more than a hundred different chemicals; many linked to adverse health effects including migraine headaches, asthma attacks, and other breathing and respiratory ailments.
Opt instead for natural essential oil diffusers or use homemade sprays made with 100 percent therapeutic and organic essential oils to keep your air fresh and clean.
3. Remove Dry Cleaning Items
Most professional dry cleaners still use Perchloroethylene (PERC), a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin.
And a new study conducted at Georgetown University found that dry-cleaned wool, cotton, and polyester contained high levels of residual PERC. Moreover, these chemicals build up with repeat cleanings. The same study suggests that PERC, which vaporizes from clothing, is released into your home and into the air you breathe.
To eliminate PERC from your home, remove any dry-cleaning bags, and air out your clothes before hanging them in your closet. You may also opt for the “press only” option or hand wash delicate items to reduce your dry cleaning. Alternatively, seek out a green substitute such as a wet or CO2 cleaner.
4. Remove Shoes when Entering the Home
Even if you wipe your shoes on the front door mat, they can still track in all kinds of toxic residues, including lead dust. Short-term overexposure to lead can cause abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, headache, and even memory loss.
Shoes can also track pesticides and herbicides onto the floors of your home. Researchers point out that the herbicide 2,4-D can be easily brought inside your home via the bottom of your shoes even one week after an application.
It’s prudent to leave your shoes on the front porch, in the garage, or an entry closet or shelf before you enter your home.
5. Replace Carpet with Hard Surfaces or Non-Toxic Carpeting
Carpets are made from petroleum byproducts and synthetics, including polypropylene, nylon, and acrylic. They are usually treated with stain repellents, artificial dyes, anti-static sprays, antimicrobial treatments, and other harmful finishes.
The carpet backing can be comprised of vinyl or synthetic latex, while the padding material is often derived from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or urethane. The aforementioned chemicals are toxic, and you may be exposed to some, if not all of these if your home contains carpet.
Choose a healthier alternative by replacing carpet with tile, hardwood, or a non-toxic or natural fiber carpeting like wool (minus the toxic topical treatments).
6. Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies
It’s estimated that there are over 84,000 chemicals in the market, yet only one percent of these have been tested for safety.
It understandable that over time you may have become brand loyal and trust whatever you see on store shelves. However, many consumers don’t read the labels or know what ingredients are contained in the cleaning products they purchase. However, many of the toxic chemicals present in name brand cleaning supplies pose a high risk to your family’s health.
Consider switching to non-toxic household cleaner brands and look for products made from, safe, non-toxic, and eco-friendly ingredients for everything under your roof – from windows and floors to a natural baseboard cleaner.
7. Skip Nonstick Cookware
Non-stick, or water-repellent, surfaces in cookware are made using chemicals called poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances. These substances are highly persistent in our bodies and the environment. Studies found that these chemicals can pose numerous health problems including cancer, immune dysfunction, metabolic disorders, and affect neurodevelopment.
Swap your non-stick pans for non-coated pans if you haven’t already. Choose cookware made of cast iron, ceramic or stainless steel.
8. Use Zero-VOC paints
When painting, opt for zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, varnishes, waxes, and other finishes. Paints emit trace amounts of lethal gases (VOCs such as formaldehyde, toluene, and acetaldehyde) for up to one year even after the paint has have dried.
VOCs pose health risks, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and can damage your liver, kidney, and central nervous system. It’s recommended to keep your windows open and portable air purifiers and exhaust fans on while you paint.
Maintaining a non-toxic home isn’t difficult, but it does require you to be a more informed consumer. Be aware of what you are consuming and using throughout your home so that you can reduce the use of toxic products or abandon them altogether.
Our home should be our sanctuary or haven, but for many people, it’s often riddled with dangerous chemicals. Follow the steps above to make your home healthier so that you can breathe easy.
About the Guest Blogger
Richa Parmar is an architect and passionate about design & creativity. Her inclination towards nature has helped her tackle challenging assignments in landscaping and blogging. Richa works as a Senior Manager cum Architect Blogger at the GharPedia portal. You can reach her via LinkedIn.