Are harmful chemicals in your homecare and personal products harming your health and wellbeing?
There really is a surprising lack of awareness of indoor home air toxicity in New Zealand; however, overwhelming scientific evidencein both the US and Europe indicates that the air within our homes is polluted, and that illness caused by exposure to these pollutants can be a serious threat to our health.
Aside from the assault of chemicals that surround us constantly in our workplaces, water, food and the air that we breathe, perhaps the most serious concern is the widely unknown toxicity in our home environment.
Your home should be a healthy safe-haven of rejuvenation - not an environment that forces your body into continuous detoxification. The only environment that you can control is your home, so why not make it as healthy as possible?
Here are 15 ways you can reduce the toxins in your home right now:
Use non-toxic personal care products You have probably heard the news on ingredients such as parabens, SLS, SLES and SLC (the ‘not safe’ surfactants) - but did you know that fragrance is also a harmful ingredient to your health? Fragrance ingredients have been strongly linked to endocrine disruption along with other hormonal and fertility disorders and diseases. Beware of ingredients such as ‘parfum’, ‘natural fragrance’ and even ‘fragrance-free’ (as sometimes this just means they have added a fragrance masker) Tips: - Ditch the hand and body wash for plain old soap. Research showsthat it is far more effective at washing away germs and safer for our health to use soap when washing our hands - and you avoid buying more plastic! - Use shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled liquids - there are some amazing bars on the market today and our personal favourite isMatakana Skincare - we highly recommend these! Again … you also avoid buying more plastic. - Use a simple oil such as almond or coconut as a body moisturiser. You can also make a simple shower scrub out of olive oil and coarse brown sugar - this will leave your skin silky smooth and nourished without the need to add additional products afterwards.
Choose safer home improvement products Treated woods, some ply, flooring materials, paints and glues release toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) long after you have completed your project. Where possible request or buy VOC-free and water-based products.
Mop and dust often Toxic substances like lead, pesticides and flame retardants are present in household dust. - Vacuum often (it is recommended you use aHEPA vacuum cleaner to ensure dust is not released back into the air) - Use a wet mop or microfibre cloth to regularly clean floors and surfaces. - Try to minimize clutter as much as possible (like notorious dust collectors such as ornaments) - Bang out and air floor rugs, mattresses, duvets, pillows and cushions regularly - Ventilate and air your home as much as possible
Clean with non-toxic products Not only do chemical cleaners and disinfectants leave behind toxic residues on the surfaces you clean, but they are simply not enough to wash away dirt and grime and truly clean your home. It is necessary to clean with a detergent or soap-based cleaner and water to effectively clean surfaces. Here's how they work:
Soaps & Detergents- Rather than ‘killing’ or ‘partially killing’ harmful bacteria and leaving them on your surfaces, soaps and detergents physically remove and wash these away along with other potentially harmful residues, leaving your home truly clean. Disinfectants and Antibacterial - These work by ‘killing’ or attempting to kill the bacteria, without removing them from your surfaces. It is also now known that many bacteria are becoming resistant to disinfectants and antibacterial products
What products are safe to use? You can try making your own cleaning products using ingredients like vinegar and baking soda - check out some DIY recipes here
Try a soap-based cleaner like CLEANZ. It is an all-round completely safe, ecological cleaning concentrate that works to remove and wash away grime and germs
Remove your shoes inside The soles of your shoes can carry toxic residues into your home - leave them at the door!
Don’t dry-clean your clothes Many dry-cleaners use toxic chemicals - either source an ecological and chemical-free dry-cleaner, or, wash delicate clothes by hand
Avoid pesticides and herbicides ‘-Cide’ literally means ‘kill’- toxic chemicals used to kill insects, rodents, weeds, bacteria, mould and and other ‘pests’ and plants can also be extremely harmful to your health. Check out our Natural Pest Control tips here.
Select flame-retardant-free foam products Upholstered products such as mattresses, padded nap mats and squabs can contain flame-retardants, which can harm health and also affect a child’s brain and development. Select foam products labeled as “flame-retardant-free."
Avoid toxins in your food and water Whenever possible, eat organic or spray-free foods to reduce your exposure to pesticides. If you are not able to buy organic produce, choose the fruits and vegetables that contain the least pesticide residue - check out the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group)Clean Fifteen andDirty Dozen guides. They list foods you can safely buy non-organic, and the ones you should absolutely avoid. If you have a little space for a garden (even a planter box on your balcony), try growing your own - it’s an amazing feeling! For guidance on natural and organic gardening, check out New Zealander Claire Mummery ofGrow Inspired, a world class expert on all things gardening and composting to learn how.
Make sure your water is clean and filtered Ensure you have a comprehensive water filtration system that not only kills harmful microorganisms, but also filters out potential heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides (especially if you are on tank supply). If you are on main supply, your filtration system should filter out water treatment chemicals such as chlorine and other additives.
Limit foods high in animal fat Many toxic substances build up in animal fat
Use less plastic Choose glass, stainless steel or ceramic containers for food. Do not use plastic containers for hot foods or drinks as heat makes plastic release chemicals. Ensure that any plastic storage you may have is BPA-free.
Avoid lead exposure Any home built before 1979 may have lead paint. There may also be lead in household dust and garden soil. If you are renovating an old home that may contain lead paint,check out this article on how to work safely
Avoid mercury in your diet and home. Select fish with lower levels of mercury (avoid larger fish such as tuna and swordfish). Replace your mercury thermometer with a digital one.
Avoid canned foods and beverages Eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as this limits your exposure to BPA, a toxic substance used in the lining of most cans.
With a few small changes to your lifestyle and product choices, you can make great improvements to the air quality in your home, protecting the health and wellbeing of yourself and your family.