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Harmful chemicals might be hiding in even the most innocuous objects in your home. Here's how to get rid of them and make your home healthier.
It's time to give your home a detox. There are harmful chemicals in furniture, kitchenware and household products you use every day. They're being absorbed through your lungs and skin. But your home doesn't have to be toxic. Here are seven steps to detoxify your home.
1. Kick air fresheners to the curb
If you've been using a spray or plug-in air freshener, you've been releasing a cocktail of chemicals into your home, says Pamela Tourigny of Terra20, an eco-friendly department store with a focus on healthy and sustainable living. She says phthalates are one of the biggest offenders in air fresheners. If you have an odour you need to neutralize, Tourigny recommends nontoxic, unscented Deodoroc products. Or, if you're looking for a fresh scent, add a few drops of essential oils to a nebulizer.
2. Pitch that plastic
The containers you're storing leftovers in could be leaching the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) into your food. If you reheat food in plastic containers or put the containers in the dishwasher, you're even more at risk for unwanted ingredients seeping into your meal. When ingested, BPA acts like estrogen, so it can disrupt normal reproduction, causing problems like infertility or triggering early puberty. It's also been linked to obesity and breast and reproductive cancers. Look for BPA-free plastic, or switch to glass containers or cloth bags, to store food.
3. Cut the chemicals out of cleaning
"Most conventional cleaning products are chock-full of harsh chemicals that are tough on dirt but also tough on your lungs and our waterways," says Tourigny. The offending chemicals have a long list of crimes: Phthalates have been linked to early puberty; coal-tar dyes and diethanolamine (DEA) are suspected carcinogens; and formaldehyde can cause asthma and DNA damage. How do you clean without chemicals? Tourigny recommends Terra20's Ecobar products, which are free of the most harmful chemicals on the market. You could also make your own cleaning products with simple ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar.
4. Wash without antibacterials
You might think you're doing your health a favour by buying antibacterial soaps, but their main bacteria killer, triclosan, can mess with your hormones. Tourigny suggests avoiding triclosan by choosing a natural option, such as Purple Urchin's Plain Old Soap, which is made mainly of water, citric acid and vegetable, coconut and olive oils. Look for soaps without the word antibacterial on their labels and with ingredients you can understand.
5. Avoid VOCs
Volatile organic compounds can cause headaches, exacerbate asthma and irritate your eyes and throat when you breathe them in. Long-term exposure can impact your liver, kidneys or nervous system. The problem is that they're practically everywhere. VOCs can be found in paints, cleaning supplies, glues, dry-cleaning chemicals, auto emissions and upholstery materials. Still, there are ways to limit your exposure: When painting, choose low-VOC or zero-VOC options; buy solid wood or antique furniture instead of pressed wood; and when you purchase upholstered furniture, allow it to air out before bringing it into your home.
6. Clean up your cookware
Do your pots and pans have Teflon? Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which are used to make Teflon, are associated with smaller birth weight, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation and weakened immune defence, says the Environmental Working Group. So what is safe to cook with? Cookware made from glass, stainless steel or cast iron is healthy. Or, if you're looking for a nonstick cooking surface, Tourigny suggests GreenPan, which has a ceramic coating that won't release fumes even at super-high temperatures.
7. Do renovations right
Anyone who's ever done a reno knows it's a huge source of dust throughout the house. Some of that dust could include toxins that are released from building materials when knocking down walls or digging up flooring. Older homes (those built before the '80s) could even contain lead. To avoid breathing in the dangerous dust, ensure that any areas under construction are well sealed from the rest of the house with plastic sheeting and close vents that could distribute dust all over the home.
Concerned about the air in your home? Learn 35 ways to improve indoor air quality.