Maintaining a healthy environment is essential for longevity and enhancing quality of life. Creating a healthy home means reduced illnesses, healthy breathing and better sleep.
There are over 80,000 chemicals used in North America, and unfortunately most of them were never adequately tested to determine harmful health effects on humans. Furthermore, for those chemicals that have been tested, the determined level of health risk does not consider cumulative exposure. On average, we use well over 100 chemicals on our body daily, so we have to consider the compounding effects of numerous chemicals on the body’s ability to detoxify the hundreds of chemicals that end up in the bloodstream. A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, cancer, and neurotoxicity.
Warnings and recommendations on labels don’t address secondary sources of toxicity that can occur as a product comes into contact with different environments. Some sources of indoor air pollution can be more significant than outdoors yet most have only been measured in outdoor spaces. Homes have become more energy efficient which also means they have very low ventilation rates, so polluted air stays in circulation indoors. Since we spend on average 22 hours of each day indoors, we are at a greater risk of adverse health effects from indoor air pollutants over time. Cooking, cleaning, and burning candles all contribute to indoor air pollution; as do paint, furniture flooring and footwear.
There are numerous choices we can make to reduce the level of irritants and chemical load for a healthier home environment. Let’s consider some ways of creating a healthy home:
1. Purchase refillable non-toxic cleaning and personal care products.
One way of creating a healthy home is by reducing the amount of plastic packaging that comes into your home. A number of Canadian skincare companies are building sustainable, low waste brands. Look for brands that organic products and glass packaging to reduce your chemical load. Reuse containers and fill them with your own Foaming Hand Soap using just a few simple ingredients.
2. Avoid products with fragrances or perfumes.
Fragrances, which may be listed as individual ingredients or simply as “parfum” in Canada, can be potentially harmful and can cause severe allergic reactions in some people. In a study across four countries, 32.2% of the population reported a sensitivity to fragranced consumer products. Even “unscented” products may contain fragrance to mask the product smell and there is no law requiring disclosure that a product contains fragrance.
If you like scents, this Chocolate Body Butter has a luscious chocolate aroma that’ll almost make you want to eat it.
3. Replace toxic cleaning products with vinegar, lemon and baking soda.
Toxic chemicals in some cleaning products may contain high level of volatile organic compounds that can cause lung irritations, asthma and other health problems. Avoid products with a CAUTION or DANGER label. I like to use Seventh Generation for my laundry and dishes. Their products are natural, organic, biodegradable and eco-friendly and I can get my bottles refilled at a local health food store.
Instead of toxic chlorine bleach try a combination of baking soda, washing soda and water. Use vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of fabric softeners and toss wool dryer balls in the dryer instead of dryer sheets. If you want a scent, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to the dryer ball.
Vinegar is a great all natural cleaner for every room in your house. Baking soda is an excellent deodorizer and cleaner. Lemons are also cleaning product superstars for your home. These three products can also work in a variety of combinations together to safely clean even more things in and around your home without the toxic load that is in most commercial cleaning products.
4. Use beeswax candles instead of paraffin.
Create a healthy home without paraffin and petroleum based candles. Petroleum-based and paraffin wax candles release potentially hazardous chemicals in the air when burned. Beeswax candles burn clean and don’t produce those harmful chemicals, making them a better option. Look for wood or cotton wicks.
5. Replace air fresheners with baking soda and essential oils.
Air fresheners emit over 100 different chemicals, including volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde and have been associated with numerous health concerns: breathing difficulties, asthma attacks, migraine headaches, dermatitis, neurological problems, and more. Baking soda and a few drops of essential oils can deodorize a room without ingestion of hazardous chemicals.
6. Keep houseplants to remove indoor air pollution.
Plants are terrific air purifiers. They are able to absorb a variety of volatile organic compounds. Aloe vera, Boston ferns, ivy, peace lilies, philodendrons and spider plants are all great choices to neutralize air pollution.
7. Open windows whenever possible to circulate clean air into the home.
Create a healthy home by getting fresh air moving through the house whenever possible even in colder months. Indoor air can contain two to five times higher levels of pollution than outdoor air. Opening windows circulates the air to help remove allergens from dust mites and pets, emissions from appliances and toxins moving through the air.
8. Be conscious of furniture, flooring, and paint choices.
Many of these flame retardants can cause significant health issues, including neurotoxicity, cancer and reproductive toxicity. PFC (perfluorinforated chemicals) are used to make carpets and upholstery stain resistant. Glues and chemicals added to upholstery, flooring and paint can off gas for years.
The majority of paint brands contain high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are hazardous because they give off a breathable gas when applied to the walls. In the short term VOCs can cause dizziness, headaches and nausea. In the long term they have been associated with significant health concerns, including asthma, liver damage and cancer. Look for paint that is low or no VOC.
9. Establish a no shoes policy in your home.
A study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found a high prevalence of microbiological pathogens on the bottoms of outdoor footwear, including Clostridium difficile and Staphylococcus aureus. Other contaminants found on the soles of footwear include herbicides, petrochemicals and animal droppings.
10. Use cast iron, enamel coated iron and stainless steel pots and pans.
(Non-stick cookware emits toxic fumes from the perfluorinated (PFCs) chemicals used to make the nonstick coatings. The toxic chemicals are bioaccumulative. PFOA used in the process of making Teflon is considered a possible human carcinogen. Cast iron, enamel cast iron and stainless steel are considered much safer options for cookware and bakeware.
11. Use glass containers and beeswax wraps for food storage.
Plastic containers are made with toxic chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors, interfering with the body’s natural hormones. Exposure to endocrine disruptors can have life-long and even intergenerational effects. Glass is a sustainable option, as it can be recycled endlessly. Beeswax wraps are multi-use, washable, sustainable and anti-bacterial.
12. Drink filtered water.
Even though municipal water facilities filters tap water, it is never totally pure. Common contaminants in tap water include pesticides, agricultural runoff, bleach and toxins from pharmaceuticals. Using a water filter can help remove these contaminants.
Creating a healthy home is essential for longevity, enhanced quality of life, reduced illnesses, healthy breathing and better sleep.