We were recently featured in an ABC News Nightline piece about finding chemicals in your home. If you're looking for ways to reduce your exposure to unwanted toxins, here are some tips to help you get started. Remember that there are over 84K chemicals currently in use in the United States, many of which are completely untested. As a consumer, it’s impossible to figure out which ones are the worst offenders. How can we determine what is most important to avoid?
· TIP: Go Organic whenever possible. Try to remove the most pesticide-laden foods. Use the EWG Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 Guide to make most impact, affordably: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/.
· TIP: Avoid Pesticides and Insecticides. Pesticides are designed to kill pests. Wash your fruits and veggies well. Watch a video from Environmental Working Group about why getting pesticides out is important: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkRqaRQRZyo
· TIP: If you’re using any kind of rodenticide, ant bait, or other sprays and traps with chemicals, switch to natural alternatives. People often forget that pesticides can come in many forms: sprays, liquids, foggers, sticks, powders, balls and baits. These especially shouldn’t be used in any home with kids or pets For more ideas on natural pest control visit: http://www.nrdc.org/health/pesticides/gpests.asp. Other easy tips on reducing your pesticide exposures that don’t cost anything include:
o Avoid playing, resting, or exercising on areas that have recently been sprayed with pesticides.
o Take off your shoes before entering your house so that pesticide residues and other toxins from outside aren’t spread around your home. Ask guests to do the same.
o Make your own cleaning compounds with basic ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon – they’re cheap and they work. Find recipes here: http://www.womensvoices.org/avoid-toxic-chemicals/diy-recipes/
· TIP: Get rid of antibacterial agents, especially in Personal Care products. Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent that is used as a pesticide and preservative.
o Check your hand wash, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, mouthwash and cleaning supplies. In addition, it might be added to toys, bedding, trash bags and other products where bacteria might grow.
o According the New York Times, Triclosan may alter hormone regulation in laboratory animals or cause antibiotic resistance.
o The FDA has already says the soap with Triclosan is no more effective than washing with ordinary soap and water.
o Wash your hands regularly with soap & water, and swap your antibacterial hand sanitizer loaded with chemicals for something that does the same job without any chemicals.
TIP: Improve your indoor air quality. As a general rule, the air inside our homes is far more polluted than the air outside of our homes.
o Open your windows daily. If it’s cold even just 10 minutes can make a difference but an hour is even better. Let the fresh air in.
o Stop using air fresheners. Not only are they expensive, they’re loaded with chemicals that are far from fresh and natural. In fact they contain one of the most common Endocrine Disruptors, a kind of chemical called a phthalate. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) these chemicals can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defect, and reproductive problems: http://www.nrdc.org/health/home/airfresheners/contents.asp and http://www.nrdc.org/living/healthreports/hidden-hazards-air-fresheners.asp.
o Paints and furniture can off-gas a lot. Look for naturally made items from companies that have eco or nontoxic certifications to prove it. Buy paints that are free of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and toys and art supplies that are all nontoxic as well.
o Get rid of anything in your home that’s made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or vinyl. PVC is often referred to as the “poison plastic” by environmentalists due to toxic properties and persistence in the environment: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/polyvinyl-chloride/the-poison-plastic/.
o PVC is found in everything from shower curtains to flooring to kids products. (You can also look for the #3 sign on the packaging.) See what you can get rid of and what you want to put on your long-term “to do” list. Here’s more information on PVC from Healthy Child: http://healthychild.org/easy-steps/reduce-your-use-of-pvc-in-plastics-and-other-household-products/
· TIP: Switch out plastics.
o The next time you’re going to buy something plastic, consider using stainless steel or glass instead. No food stains, lingering scents, or warping.
o Be sure that you’re never microwaving your food in plastic containers or on plastic plates as the heat can cause toxic chemicals like BPA and others to leach into your food. Here’s more on plastics and a shopping guide from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cookware-plastics-shoppers-guide-to-food-safety?page=3
· TIP: Avoid exposure to heavy metals. Toxins like Mercury, Arsenic, Lead and Aluminum are all “heavy metals”. While they occur naturally in the world, they’re not so natural to our bodies and they can often have devastating and even lethal effects.
o Lead is often found in PVC products, china, crystal and old or peeling paint. If you’re not sure have things tested or buy a simple Lead testing kit at your hardware store. For more information visit www.leadsafeamerica.org
o Seafood is loaded with Mercury and so buying fish with lower Mercury load is important. You can find out more from the NRDC here: http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/guide.asp.
o Use a good water filtration system. Most people think that bottled water is the “best” water there is but in fact we should use tap water in most instances. But tap water that has been filtered is even better. Not only can you reduce unwanted heavy metals you can reduce other contaminants and chemicals that make their way into the water supply where you live. To learn more about the water in your community visit this guide: http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/ and for more about good filtration read here: http://www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide
· TIP: Clean up personal care items. We absorb as much as 80% of what goes on our skin but the beauty and personal care industries are not regulated for safety. That means there can be items on store shelves that contain carcinogens, heavy metals and other harmful substances. Start to familiarize yourself with these chemicals and whether or not they seem safe for use to you with the EWG cosmetics database: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
o When in doubt, forgo products with more than 7 ingredients.
o Don’t use anything on your skin you wouldn’t eat.
o Skip products with any ingredients you can’t pronounce or understand.
o Be sure to look for certified organic, eco certification and nontoxic labels to be sure products are safer.
o Once you start realizing how many chemicals go into these products you may be inclined to use less. Once you are using fewer products you can spend a little of the savings to buy better products that have fewer chemicals.
If you’re still looking for specific products to use but you don’t want to do all the hard work and homework visit our shop and search by the kind of item you need next (ie: shampoo.) We aim to make nontoxic living so easy it’s think-proof.