Chemicals are part of our lives. We treat illnesses, paint our houses, and even clothe ourselves with products that have been developed through chemical research. However, there are reasons to be cautious about our exposure to some chemicals.
From the foods we eat to how we maintain our yards and clean our homes, we can be exposed to chemicals in many ways. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only a fraction of the more than 75,000 registered chemicals have gone through complete testing for human health concerns. Some chemicals have immediate toxic effects. Others are toxic to our bodies only after repeated, long-term exposure.
Children are especially susceptible to the negative effects of chemicals, warns the EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection. Pound for pound, children breathe more air, drink more water, and eat more food, and when they play, they crawl and put things in their mouths. As a result, children have an increased chance of exposure to potential pollutants, and because children’s bodies are still developing, they may process these pollutants differently from adults. Nursing mothers and women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should also take precautions.
A good principle to follow is always to look for ways to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals as we go about our daily lives, to keep our homes safe for our children, our pets, and us.
Simple changes in our everyday routines can reduce our long-term exposures to low levels of potentially harmful substances—changes in how we choose the products we buy, or the ways we clean our houses and take care of the yard. These changes will not only make our homes safer, they may also save us money.
Consider these helpful ideas for reducing toxic exposures in your home.
Until recently, indoor air pollution has been largely ignored as a source of exposure to toxicity. But studies have shown that levels of harmful chemicals in indoor air may exceed the standards set by the EPA to protect us from harmful chemicals. You can avoid such levels in your home by buying and using products that are free of toxic chemicals whenever possible.
Whenever possible, buy products that are free of toxic chemicals. Alternatives are available. The market for non-toxic household products is growing in response to customer demand.
Ingredient lists don’t always tell you everything that is in a product but they can offer clues to the toxicity.
When purchasing products, take a minute to carefully read the label. Look for products that appear to disclose all their ingredients. “Signal words” will help you spot ingredients that are harmful: caution, warning, danger, and poison (“caution” is least hazardous and “danger” is most hazardous; extremely toxic products must also include the word “poison.”). Choose the least-hazardous product to do the job.
Remove your shoes when you enter your house. Your shoes can track in harmful amounts of pesticides, lead, cadmium and other chemicals. Keeping a floor mat at your doors for people to wipe their feet on when they enter will also help.
Vacuum carpets and floors regularly. Children playing on your carpet may actually be more exposed to pesticides lodged in the carpet than from the outside, because pesticides break down less readily indoors than outdoors in the sunlight. Use a fine particulate filter, such as a HEPA filter, in your vacuum cleaner, if possible. Otherwise, the dust vacuumed up is redistributed into the air where it can be inhaled.
By cleaning with products like these, you can save money and avoid exposure to toxic chemicals.
Single-ingredient, common household materials such as baking soda, vinegar, or plant-based soaps and detergents can often do the job on your carpet or other surfaces. Soap and water has been shown to keep surfaces as free of bacteria as antibacterial soaps do. If your carpet needs professional cleaning, enlist a carpet service that uses less-toxic cleaners that are low in VOCs and irritants.
In order to survive, pests need food, water and living space. Remove all food sources through good sanitation and storage habits (i.e., screw-cap jars, zip-lock bags, garbage pails with tight-fitting lids). Block pest entrances to your kitchen by caulking holes, using door sweeps on the bottom of doors, and keeping window screens in good repair. Avoid placing chemical pesticides around your kitchen to kill indoor insect and rodent pests.
Try simple ingredients like Borax, non-chlorine bleach and washing soda.
Instead of more complicated detergents, try using a combination of washing soda and borax in your machine. These are usually as effective as more complex formulas and are also usually cheaper.
Clotheslines: A healthy hangup
Don’t rely on dryer sheets for freshening your laundry. Clotheslines are a great way to keep clothes, sheets and towels smelling clean. Fabrics will last longer if they’re not tumbled around—after all, isn’t dryer lint made up entirely of material from your clothes?
Dig into the root of the problem. Hand- and foot-powered weeding tools.
If your grass grows in heavy clay soil, aeration can be very beneficial. Aeration decreases compaction and allows air and water to get to the roots.
Look at reduce.org for more information on Growing a Healthy, No-waste Lawn and Garden.
The information at this site is for your consideration only. It is not intended to replace proper diagnosis and treatment guidance from a health professional. This is not medical advise.
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