Most people don’t think of their homes as toxic, but many of the items and products we surround ourselves with or use on our bodies every day, can have a negative impact on your health. Here’s 10 tips to help you have a healthier home and a healthier you.
My first tip is so very simple to do, and it’s impact is huge.
1. Remove your shoes at the door.
Think about where you have walked all day and what you’ve been stepping in. From the tars, oils, residues in the streets, to public restrooms, to the public gardens and grassy areas laden with pesticides, and the thousands of footprints who’ve gone before you, the bottom of your shoes is not only a carnival of germs, it’s a toxic soup. Place a pair of inside only shoes or slippers at the door for easy access and leave the nasties at your doorstep.
2. Give your personal care products an overhaul and switch to those with cleaner & safer ingredients.
Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs a lot, if not most of what we put on it. It’s time to look at the ingredients in your shampoo & conditioners, your face creams and body lotions, your deodorant, toothpaste and even your make up. There is little to no regulation in regards to ingredients used in the personal care and beauty industries, and the stark facts are, that most have never been tested for safety and health exposure. Some commonly used ingredients like parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, and phthalates, to name a few, have been linked to hormone disruption, skin irritation, reproductive issues, cancers and more. So this is an important place to start if you are looking to limit your toxic exposure. For guidance I turn to the Environmental Working Group, (Ewg.org) Skin Deep Cosmetics database. The EWG is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. The database includes search by product and ingredient and rates them on a scale of 1-10 ( 1= low concern – 10 high concern). For easy access you can download their Healthy Living App. This app provides information on ingredients in both personal care and food, which is a double plus for me. The more information I have allows me to make better choices for me and my family.
3. Switch to fresh, organic, free range, grass fed and hormone free when ever possible.
When it comes to our food supply, some key issues to look for are contamination from pesticides, antibiotics, hormones , as well as chemicals that leach into them from their containers. Utilize the healthy living app I referenced above and check out EWG’s guide to the Dirty Dozen & Clean 15. The top 15 foods with the least pesticides are referred to as the Clean 15, while the 12 foods with the most pesticides are called the Dirty Dozen.
4. Reduce or eliminate plastic bottles, food storage containers & plastic wrap/ bags
Step away from BPA! BPA can be found in plastic water bottles, food storage container, linings of canned foods, even your grocery & retail receipts.
BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles.
BPA has been linked to a myriad of health issues from female and male infertility, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more. For a little more background on this check out these articles fromPubMed andMedical News today. [LINK1] [LINK2]
Choose stainless steel refillable water bottles filled with filtered water ( see #8). Opt for email receipts whenever possible. Get rid of all those plastic storage containers and switch to glass or bpa/bps free. To make it easy on your budget – replace 1 a week or even 1 a month. The overall goal is to reduce your exposure.
Substitute wax paper, parchment paper, silicone mats and wraps for plastic wraps and foils. A quick revisit to #3 —choose fresh when you can, and can the can food! Not all but most cans are lined with a coating which is providing you a serving of bpa.
5. Change your air filters on your air & heating system often, and dust frequently.
This is another easy step that carries a big impact. We all need clean air and if you can add an air purifier to your home then that is definitely recommended. But if that’s not in your budget the next best thing is to change the filters on the vents for your air conditioning & heating. These filters are readily available in most big box stores and supermarkets and are pretty inexpensive. They filter dust, pollen and other contaminants in the air from smoke, cooking, etc. They also help your equipment run better – so double pluses here. Set a reminder on your phone calendar to change quarterly, and if you can change monthly- even better!
Household dust - it’s nasty, it’s unsightly and it can even be toxic. For the most part dust is dead skin cells, dander from pets and dust mites but there are other components that enter from the outside, that bring the pollutants in ( back to #1). Reduce dust by vacuuming often, preferably with a machine with a filter that limits blow back. Mop hard surfaces with white vinegar and water solutions. Dust often and polish wood furniture with healthier alternative like jojoba oil.
Check out this article from geochemist Gabriel Filippelli —How the dust in your home may affect your health. The article also touches on my no outdoor shoes inside policy with stats that may leave you a bit unsettled. [LINK1]
6. Toss the teflon!
Teflon is a nonstick coating and from the get go, was all the rage. Cook without your food sticking, using little to no oils or added fats and clean up is a breeze. Unfortunately what doesn’t clean up are the PFAS found in our bodies and our blood. PFAS is know as a forever chemical because it doesn’t break down and can stay in the environment and our bodies for decades. Studies has linked PFAS to serious health issues like cancer, developmental issues during pregnancy, weakened immunity in children, endocrine disruption and so much more. Learn more here. [LINK1]
So toss the teflon and choose ceramic, glass, copper, cast iron, stainless steel.
7. Clean up your cleaning supplies.
Like everything else it comes down to ingredients, toxicity and safety. Look at the labels and research the ingredients. Utilize the EWG’s guide to healthy cleaning products at https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/Avoid artificial fragrances and antibacterial cleansers. [LINK1]
Look for recipes online for laundry detergents, floor cleaners, and all purpose cleansers that utilize baking soda, white vinegar and natural enzymes, essential oils. Hydrogen Peroxide is great for removing blood, urine, and organic stains. Choose baking soda and white vinegar to unclog drains and there are also natural enzymes you can add to drains to keep pipes clean. Use wool balls in your dryer to soften clothes and absorb water— and white vinegar can be a base for lots of cleaners. Add essential oils if not a fan of the smell. You can also find many clean brands – use the handy guide to help you select!
8. Use Water filters and purifiers
Water is essential to life — but these days finding water that’s clean and not laden with heavy metals, chemicals, fluoride and pharmaceuticals is a challenge. Recent studies on bottled water leaves many questions regarding purity.
Our water source for our homes is one of those things that you don’t really have a choice over. If you draw from municipal systems, they abide by government standards of just how much contaminants are “safely allowed”. But the facts are, there are many factors that play into the water you drink like the source, your pipes and where you live. Here’s a safe drinking water guide from the EWG. [LINK1]
Bottom line is use some type of filtration and change the filter often. There are many available at all different price points to fit your budget. If you can, add filters to your shower heads too, to limit additional absorption through your skin.
9. Your Home Furnishings
So I bet you never thought that a piece of furniture could make you sick. Synthetics, lacquers, paints, particle board, glues, fire retardant, stain guards, upholstery, mattresses, all can emit (off gas) VOC’s like formaldehyde. Some VOC’s can cause headaches, nausea, and fatigue others like formaldehyde can have much more serious implications.
What to do: When shopping for new furniture – ask what it’s made of, select more natural fibers, opt out of toxic stain guards, select wood over particle board construction, and give upholstery a chance to air out before using it. Make sure your room is well ventilated, open windows if needed. When purchasing mattresses be aware that petroleum based polyurethane, glue, fire retardants and synthetics make up what you will be spending many hours on per day. Take some time to research and choose manufacturers that are transparent about the ingredients used in the process, as many are not required to disclose.
A note about flame retardants: they can accumulate in your body over time and can be linked to endocrine and thyroid disruption, cancer, as well as negative impacts on the immune system, reproductive health, and more. Check out this article from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and make informed decisions when purchasing. [LINK1]
10. Add live plants
I saved this one for last because there really is no downside on this one unless you have a brown thumb! Live plants add life, reduce CO2, and adds humidity to the air making it a little less stuffy. And best yet, they have some positive health affects like reducing stress and just making you happy!