How to Reduce Household Toxins
How to Reduce Household Toxins
Our homes are places where we want ourselves and our families to feel happy and safe. We take measures to help this be the case, often focusing on security measures, but what happens when we can’t see the things that are dangerous in our homes?
Toxins are things that we cannot see but are potentially leaking from the products we keep and use in our homes. The good news is that there are some straightforward steps we can take to limit the number of toxic chemicals in our households.
Common Household Toxins
So, what are the most common household toxins? While not exhaustive, below is a list of some of common household toxins, where they come from, and the impact they can have:
Bisphenol A (BPA)
You have likely heard of this one, particularly in recent years as some companies have started marking their products as “BPA-free”, but what can this chemical do to us? High levels of BPA exposure can cause infertility, brain and behavioral problems in young children or fetuses, and has been linked to some cancers. BPA is used in plastics manufacturing and is commonly found in water bottles, food packaging including in the lining of cans, plastic wrap, and even in baby bottles.
This one might come as a major surprise, given that many of us live in areas where fluoride is added to our water, use fluoride toothpaste, and have heard throughout our lives the benefits fluoride provides to our dental health. However, there are numerous negative effects of fluoride and ample reasons you might want to limit your exposure.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
The EPA reports that levels of VOCs are anywhere between 2 and 5 times higher in our homes than outside, so, while this category refers to a variety of chemicals, it is worth trying to avoid bringing them into our homes.
VOCs are found in so many of the products in our houses that it’s no wonder the levels are so high. For example, your carpets, couches, mattresses, paints, and disinfectants are just some of the products that might be emitting VOCs into your home, and they can do so for years.
And what are these gasses doing to us? VOCs can cause damage to our respiratory and nervous systems, liver and kidney damage, headaches and dizziness, and have even been linked to cancer.
Products like mattresses, car seats and baby carriers often contain flame retardant chemicals, which can be toxic and are linked to various health problems. If you consider the amount of time your baby spends on a mattress, in a car seat, or in a baby carrier, this is likely a category you want to be aware of in order to protect their developing systems.
Parabens, Propylene glycol, and “Fragrance”
All of these chemicals can be found in the products we put directly onto our and our children’s skin. That’s right, even some of those products marketed at babies and children contain these toxic components. Parabens are all over the place, in shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, etc., and have been linked to hormone disturbances, cancer, and reproductive implications.
How to Reduce Common Household Toxins
So, if we now know a little more about the chemicals sneaking into our homes, what can we do to get rid of, or at least lower, them? While it might be tough to completely detoxify your home, you can definitely take steps to reduce your exposure and the exposure of your children.
- Reduce plastics in your home: Plastics have so many issues associated with them, both for us and for the environment. It definitely makes sense to limit the number of plastics we bring into our homes and give to our children. Switch from plastic wrap to wax wraps, from plastic food containers and baby bottles to glass or stainless steel, and switch out plastic toys for natural wooden ones to reduce the risk of your baby chewing on potentially damaging chemicals.
- Use a water filter: For your drinking water and even for your shower, a water filter is one of the best ways to lower your exposure to chemicals in your water that you might either ingest or absorb through your skin. You can check the quality of the water in your area through the EWG and, even in ‘good’ water areas, you might be surprised by the chemicals hiding there.
- Shop organic fabrics: Whether for your clothes, your baby’s clothes, or the carpets you put in your home, look for natural, certified organic fabrics. These are better for the environment and for your home, containing far fewer chemicals and toxins. It’s also worth remembering that any fabric your baby or child will lie on, play on, or rub against will benefit from being non-toxic to reduce their risk of exposure.
- Use non-toxic furniture: When purchasing new furniture, and particularly when shopping for products for your little ones, look for non-toxic options. Mattresses and carpets made from organic cotton or wool; car seats with non-brominated fire retardants (such as wool blends); Greenguard certified nursery furniture (especially cribs where you baby will spend a lot of time and may chew on the sides); and low-VOC paints are all good ways to furnish your home and nursery in greener, cleaner ways.
- Use natural skin care products: For yourself and your kids, invest in all natural cleansing and beauty products. Look for unscented or exclusively naturally scented products - no added “fragrance” - and shop “paraben-free”. If you have the time, making your own natural skin and hair care products is also a great option. Use fluoride-free toothpaste, particularly for your little ones, to reduce ingestion of fluoride. And, if you have a little one who uses diapers, use either organic cloth diapers or non-toxic, unscented disposable diapers.
- Use natural cleaning products: Reduce your risk of exposure to irritants such as ammonia, triclosan, and chlorine by buying or making natural cleaning products. From dish soap to laundry detergent and floor cleaners, switch to natural options for a cleaner home with fewer chemicals. And, yes, you can definitely get rid of dirt and germs with natural products. If you are purchasing them, get all the safety low down from the EWG here.
- Take off your shoes: Lots of people, especially those of us with little ones, have people take off their shoes and wash their hands to reduce dirt and germ exposure. This is a great way to reduce the toxins you are trekking into your home and your body. So, when you enter the house, slip those shoes off, and, before you eat, or have a baby chew on your fingers, wash those hands to get rid of chemicals you might have picked up outside.