Years ago I went on a quest to "detoxify" my home. I threw out all the toxic cleaning products, replacing them with kinder, gentler brands. I eliminated all of my non-stick cooking appliances, opting instead for stainless steel or pure metal. I started buying more organic food. I quit using antibacterial soap. The more I read about all of the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis, the more I wanted them out of my house.
If you, too, feel this way, here is a great starting point to detox your home:
1. Make or buy green cleaners
Check out my post on this.
2. Cleaning isn’t disinfecting
Loads of cleaning products, personal care products, and even socks contain antibacterials, which have been added to make you believe you’ll fend off harmful bacteria by using them. It’s not true. In fact, antibacterials cause more harm than good by leading to antibiotic resistance. Soap and water gets the job done without harming the environment or creating a new generation of “super germs.”
3. Eat healthy and shop smart
Going organic is healthy and it is possible to do it without bankrupting your family. First, know which fruits and vegetables should always be organic (and avoid the Dirty Dozen) and which have the lowest amount of pesticide contamination. Dr. Alan Greene, a Healthy Child advisor, has compiled a top 10 list of food you should buy organic, starting with milk.
4. Skip cans
Many food and beverage cans are lined with the toxic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to breast cancer and other health concerns. Avoid cans to reduce your kids’ exposure to the chemical, as they are more vulnerable to the effects of hormone-disrupters like BPA.
5. Stay beautiful without chemicals
Personal care products, like shampoo, makeup, lotions, may contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to reproductive harm, cancer, and skin irritation (not to mention many are tested on animals). Avoid parabens in lotions, and antibacterials, like trichlosan, a carcinogen that shows up in toothpaste (yuck). EWG’s Skin Deep website makes it easier for you to find products that are safer for you. Also check out Story of Cosmetics to get the big picture of the problem, and bookmark the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics so you can learn which lipsticks have lead and why it’s always smart to skip fragrances (including fragrance-free)
6. Just say no to PVC
PVC is the worst of the plastics, made with toxic chemicals, including lead. PVC is identified by the #3 on the bottom and that “vinyl shower curtain smell,” which is the result of toxic chemicals called phthalates off-gassing into your home. Unless you make a point to avoid PVC, you’ll inadvertently fill your house with the toxic stuff, as it is ubiquitous and found in plastic food wrap, soft squeeze toys, wallpaper, flooring, and more. PVC is toxic, can’t be recycled, and is often the material of cheap, disposable toys that you don’t want in your kid sucking on or keeping in his or her playbox. Avoiding PVC is good for workers, your family, and the planet.
7. Ban pesticides from your home and yard
Pesticides are poisons and, in most cases, their negative effects outweigh any short-term gain. Pesticides have been linked to a range of health problems, including asthma, hyperactivity and behavior problems, cancer, learning disabilities, reproductive disorders, and compromised brain development. Food storage solutions and good sanitation is the first step to preventing pests from entering your home. Removing your shoes at the door will prevent you from tracking in pesticides and other dirt from the yard and walkways into your living space. Instead of using herbicides on your lawn, yank weeds early, and use mulch to block weed growth. Use natural fertilizers, and plants that bugs don’t like (like marigolds) to help keep pests out of your garden.
[I feel very strongly about this one. I will NEVER use pesticides in or near my home or my children. A few years ago 2 small girls died in Salt Lake City after their parents had their lawn sprayed with pesticides. It is NOT worth it! Here are some non-toxic pest remedies.]
8. Commit to buying and using less stuff!
Buy and use less stuff! The simple act of bringing a bag to the grocery store and using a refillable coffee mug or water bottle pays back great dividends and sets a good example for your kids. Do your best to avoid buying “throw-away” or single use items. Invest in products and materials that will last; it saves trees, water, and money.
(On that note, if you haven't, you should check out The Story of Stuff).
If you haven't figured out by now, I really love Healthy Child - they discuss such great topics. Which is where I've obtained the info for these latest posts. I already blogged about #1, 2, and 5 in this recent post, but here are their "Top 10 Toxic Products You Don't Need":
1. Air fresheners
2. Drain, oven and toilet bowl cleaners
3. Canned food: It's probably shocking to find a food item on a toxic product list, but it's no mistake. Food cans are lined with an epoxy resin that contains bisphenol-A (BPA). Most experts believe this is our main source of exposure to BPA, which has been linked to hormone disruption, obesity, heart disease, and much more. Opt for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred foods (or food in a tetra-pack box).
4. Pesticides: This is a huge category of products, but they deserve inclusion in their entirety because of how extremely toxic they are. They're made to be. That's how they kill things. But, solving your pest problem may leave you with another problem - residual poisons that linger on surfaces, contaminate air, and get tracked onto carpet from the bottom of shoes. There are so many non-toxic ways to eliminate pests and weeds - next time you need to get on the offense, check out the recommendations at Beyond Pesticides.
6. Bottled water: Most people buy bottled water thinking they're avoiding any contaminants that may be present in their tap water. For the most part, they're wrong. Bottled water can be just as, or even more, contaminated than tap water. In fact, some bottled water IS tap water - just packaged (in plastic that can leach chemicals into the water) and over-priced. Also, from manufacture to disposal, bottled water creates an enormous amount of pollution - making our water even less drinkable. Do yourself and the world a favor and invest in a reusable stainless steel water bottle and a water filter. [Please read my post about bottled water -something I feel very strongly about.]
7. Rubber duckies: How does such a cute toy end up on a toxic product list? When it's made from PVC - the poison plastic. Banned in over 14 countries and the European Union, PVC, also known as vinyl, is still legally sold by U.S. retailers although it threatens environmental and consumer health at every stage of its product life cycle, according to the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice. When it's in your home, PVC can leach phthalates (linked to hormone disruption) and lead (a potent neurotoxicant) - contaminating air, dust, and eventually you. Go PVC-free by reading packages and avoiding the #3 in the chasing arrows symbol (usually found on the bottom of a product). If a plastic is not labeled, call the manufacturer.Learn more.
8. Couch cushions: No, you needn't get rid of all your cushions and consign yourself to a future of discomfort. Just avoid cushions, pillows, and anything with foam labeled as meeting California TB 117, as it is likely to contain toxic fire retardants. These chemicals migrate from the foam to dust to people. In animal research, these chemicals are associated with cancer, birth defects, thyroid disruption, reproductive and neurological disorders such as hyperactivity and mental retardation. Don't worry about increasing your fire risk, data does not show that this standard has resulted in increased fire safety. Look for foam and cushions made with polyester, down, wool, or cotton as they are unlikely to contain toxic fire retardants.
9. Perfume and cologne: Colognes and perfumes may make us more attractive. But mixed in with the colors and scents are a wide variety of unattractive chemicals. Perfumes and fragrances can consist of hundreds of chemicals. Testing of Calvin Klein's Eternity by an independent lab, commissioned by Environmental Health Network (EHN), revealed that the perfume contained over 800 compounds. Among the chemicals of concern is diethyl phthalate (DEP) that is absorbed through the skin and can accumulate in human fat tissue. Phthalates are suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors that are increasingly being linked to reproductive disorders.
It's not so simple to avoid phthalates by switching products because they are rarely listed on product ingredient labels. Phthalates are claimed as a part of trade secret formulas, and are exempt from federal labeling requirements. Find out if products you currently use contain phthalates and find safer ones on Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Searchable Product Guide website.
10. Oil-based paints and finishes: There are 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens potentially present in oil-based paint, according to a John Hopkins University study. Still interested in coating your walls and furniture with this gunk? I hope not. Look for water-based options - ideally those that are low- or no-VOC. You could also explore natural finishes like milk paint and vegetable or wax based wood finishes.
Finally, this report details the use of BPA and NPEs, prevalent in paint, toys, and many other household items.
What can you do? Ask your senator to co-sponsor the Safer Chemicals Act.