It has been reported that on average, poison centers in America handle one poison exposure case every 14 seconds – that’s more than two million people each year. Most often, in-home poisonings involve everyday household items including cleaning supplies, drugs (both legal and illegal), and even cosmetics and personal care products. But other poisons can creep into your home as well, including gases, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
Here are eight easy things you can change in your home environment that will make a big, positive impact on your health.
- Filter indoor air. Replacing your air filter frequently is one easy way to combat toxins and allergens in indoor air. Another is to add extra filtration with a portable air filter.
- Use natural air fresheners. Instead of masking odors by using candles and air fresheners, which actually introduce more toxins into the air, try eliminating them using baking soda. To get that pretty smell you love, try naturally derived alternatives such as potpourri or essential oils.
- Drink clean, use a filter. Chlorine is a common “cleaning” agent used in the treatment of tap water. Studies have shown that chlorinated drinking water can negatively impact the thyroid, immune system and even pregnancy, possibly increasing the risk of birth defects and miscarriage. Referred to as “the chlorine dilemma,” a better large-scale cleaning solution for water has yet to be found. As it stands, the best way to reduce your intake of toxins from your drinking water is to purchase a filter. The Environmental Working Group’s national drinking water database & filter buying guide can help you better understand the contaminants present in your tap water and choose the best water filter for you.
- Give your cleaning supplies cabinet a makeover. While conventional products may disinfect, they also leave behind additional toxins that have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive and hormonal problems. EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning lists hidden toxins in cleaning supplies and provides information on how to read cleaning product labels. Try some non-toxic methods, such as using diluted vinegar for windows, and baking soda paste for scrubbing. For DIY solutions, check out DIY Natural’s Cleaning guides, including their book. Both are packed with DIY recipes for homemade natural cleaners!
- Ditch the plastic. Storing, cooking and freezing food in plastic containing petrochemicals such as #3PVC (commonly used in food packaging and plastic wrap) and Bisphenol A (BPA) (commonly used in hard plastics like tupperware, water bottles and baby bottles) can cause these chemicals to leak into your food. Studies have linked #3PVC and BPA to a number of health problems, most notably cancer, reproductive system damage, impaired brain development, liver dysfunction and impaired immune function. Not all plastics are created equal. When purchasing plastics, look for the resin identification number located in a triangle on the product. Opt for containers made of #1, 2, 4 or 5 plastics. Better yet, ditch plastics in favor of lightweight stainless steel or Pyrex glass containers.
- Truly clean your laundry. Laundry soaps, fabric softeners and dryer sheets, particularly those of the scented variety, are allergen and asthma inducing culprits. In fact, fragrances are among the world’s top five allergens. Additionally, many softening chemicals, referred to as “quats,” have antibacterial qualities, and overuse of such chemicals may cause the development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. To reduce your family’s exposure, choose free and clear laundry soaps. Skip fabric softeners and dryer sheets all together and substitute with a 1/2 cup of white vinegar per load during the rinse cycle.
- Bathe in nature. Soaps, shampoos, conditioners and other body products often contain harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Read more in our Skin Care Safety article to learn more about your personal care items and help you make less toxic choices in the future.
- Protect your grin. Most toothpaste sold in the U.S. contains fluoride. Proper usage instructions are often confused with advertising tactics, making the use of fluoride potentially very dangerous. In fact, the health risks associated with fluoride are so serious that the FDA requires a poison warning on every tube of fluoride toothpaste now sold in the US. Risks from ingestion include stomach problems, permanent tooth discoloration, skin rash, metabolism impairment and acute toxicity. The best solution to eliminating the risk of fluoride poisoning is to switch to a fluoride-free brand of toothpaste. If switching isn’t an option, be sure to abide by the real rules of use and stick to a pea-size amount of toothpaste, and don’t swallow.
Quick Tips for Making Your Home Healthier and Greener:
- Decorate with air-cleaning plants. They will help cut down on seasonal allergies.
- Dilute cleaning supplies and use gloves when cleaning.
- Avoid “antibacterial” cleaners. Use soap and water instead.
- Remember, just because the word natural, or some other variation, appears on the container does not mean that the product is truly natural, much less toxin free.
- Photo Credit. FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
- Poisoning and toxicity. Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph. 2013.
- Your best air freshener isn’t an air freshener. Rebecca Sutton, PhD, EWG Senior Scientist. Environmental Working Group.
- EWG National Drinking Water Database. Environmental Working Group.
- Do you filter your tapwater? Should you? Environmental Working Group.
- Forgotten Toxics in American Water. Renee Sharp, EWG Senior Scientist and J. Paul Pestano, EWG Research Analyst. Environmental Working Group.
- Chlorinated Tap Water Called Risk for Pregnant Women. San Francisco Chronicle.
- Healthy Home Tips: Tip 9 – Use greener cleaners and avoid pesticides. Environmental Working Group.
- EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Environmental Working Group.
- EWG Questions FDA Verdict on Plastic Chemical. Environmental Working Group.
- Storing food safely in plastic containers. TheEcologist.org.
- Adverse Health Effects of Plastics. Ecology Center.
- Don’t get slimed: Skip the fabric softener. Rebecca Sutton, PhD, EWG Senior Scientist. Environmental Working Group.
- EGW’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Environmental Working Group.
- Toothpastes. FlourideAlert.org. http://fluoridealert.org/issues/dental-products/toothpastes/