Toxins In Our Homes—How to Track Them Down

I’ve posted about toxins that can show up in our homes, like those that may appear in household dust, cleaning cabinets, and even in the bedroom. But when we think about toxins in our homes, we’re often surprised by the idea that the one place we care for most of all could be so contaminated. After all, we typically clean house regularly, and we don’t imaging that we’re hauling in bucket loads of toxic stuff. So how does in-home toxic exposure become such a concern? Where are these toxins coming from?

Dr. Frank Lipman recently called attention to a great website called “Everyday Exposures,” which helps you seek out toxins in the various rooms throughout your home. I strongly urge you to check it out! Meanwhile, here are a few more tips for cutting down on household toxic exposure.

Laundry Room

Remember that detergents, bleaches, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets can all contain toxins. Cleaning agents can create skin damage, fragrances are full of unknown chemicals, and bleach can create skin, eye, and nose irritation. Look for dye-free and fragrance-free options, or consider making your own.

Kitchen

You may be surprised to hear that you may have toxic products in the kitchen—where you eat! Bleached paper products, for instance, like coffee filters and parchment paper, are typically bleached with chlorine gas or chlorine derivatives, and may create dioxins during the bleaching process. Use natural unbleached options instead (they’re not white!). Canned foods and plastic containers can contain BPA, a hormone disruptor in the plastic lining—choose foods in boxes and glass containers or BPA-free cans. Avoid plastic utensils as well. Remember that sponges and used dishcloths are full of germs and bacteria—throw them in the dishwasher to sanitize them. Use eco-friendly dish soap, filter your drinking water, and don’t forget to detox your fridge and stock up on nutritious foods!

Living Room

Man-made chemicals called volatile solvents can release toxic fumes—and they’re often present in furniture products such as coffee tables, end tables, reclining chairs, sofas, and the like. These items can also contain flame-retardants that may be linked to thyroid disruption and lowered immune system activity. Lamps can also contain mercury in the bases or behind old mirrors, which has been linked to nausea, vomiting, and even high blood pressure. Ask before you buy, and look for eco-conscious companies. If you’re thinking about a new color on the wall, remember that many paints contain compounds like benzene and formaldehyde—choose low-VOC and natural paints.

Bathroom

Where did you get your shower curtain? If it’s plastic or vinyl, it may contain phthalates, which are hormone disruptors. This is especially concerning for pregnant women. Usually a good amount of your hygiene products are in the bathroom, as well. Shaving gels, shampoos and conditioners, lotions, hairsprays, etc. can all contain preservatives called parabens, which have been associated with hormone disruption, and phthalates, which have been linked with cancer and liver damage. Bath mats and rugs may contain flame-retardants, as well, and antibacterial soaps probably have triclosan, which may contain dioxins. Go through your bathroom, shop for safer personal care products, and consider replacing shower curtains and mats with safer options. Don’t forget to look for safer toothpastes as well—many contain sulfates, which are harsh on gum tissue and can encourage the formation of mouth sores.

Bedroom

Again, pressed-wood furniture in the bedroom can release formaldehyde, which is a known human carcinogen. If we’re talking about a child’s room here, the toys may contain phthalates, BPA (hormone disruptor in plastics), and volatile solvents like toluene in rubber toys. Lamps may contain fluorescent bulbs, which have mercury inside them that can become a concern if the bulb is broken. These bulbs also release toxins like phenol, naphthalene, and styrene, which are highly irritating. Naphthalene has been linked to cancer in animal studies. Candles can also emit toxins like astoluene and benzene—choose those made of natural waxes like soybean and beeswax. Televisions, cell phones, and computers emit low levels of radiation—not good when you’re trying to sleep.

Garage

This is where a lot of people store more toxic products like antifreeze, car batteries, pesticides, oils, gasoline, and the like. But we often hear about tragic cases where pets and children accidentally get into these products. Be sure to store them carefully, out of reach. Better yet, dispose of extra toxic products in recommended ways.

Do you have other tips for reducing the toxins in your home? Please share!

Picture courtesy james.thompson via Flickr.com.

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