Detoxify Your Home For Your Health

kitchen-2165756_1920This blog has regularly focused on indoor air quality and creating a non-toxic home environment since its inception. So much so, that I’m continually surprised when friends and family are stunned to hear that conventional fragranced candles or air fresheners are not a good idea. Or that bleach and chemically based cleaners are toxic to breath. A recent Nicholas Kristof Op-Ed in The New York Times titled What Poisons Are in Your Body? illuminates and identifies common toxins in our homes and daily practicesMost of the items that Kristof targets are products that we use everyday – toothpaste, nail polish, mothballs… . The great news is that unless an addiction is involved, most of us can change our routine or switch products once we discover that it’s better for us to do so. So let’s change some habits! At the risk of repeating myself, I’d like to reiterate some real toxic culprits that many, very health conscious and astute people, are regulary using in their homes and daily routines.

Plastic Food Storage Containers

spices-2454799_1920Buy glass or stainless food containers and start replacing your plastic stash. Glass in particular goes the distance – and since glass is non-toxic, you don’t have to worry about popping it in the microwave or its effect on the environment if not recycled. A great hack is to buy foods and condiments in glass rather than plastic (relish, mayonnaise, peanut butter…). Once empty, remove the label, wash, and voila! Perfect storage containers!

Vinyl Shower Curtains & Liners

Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC is a plastic that off-gasses – or releases chemical compounds throughout the life of the material. There is no safe way to produce or rid the environment of vinyl. You most certainly don’t want to be trapped breathing while surrounded by vinyl or expose it to extreme temperatures – like your daily hot shower ritual. Purchase one or two cloth liners and swap them out every few weeks, washing them as you would your sheets. I’ve had the same two, cloth shower curtain liners for over 20 years! Cotton, hemp and linen options are available – but don’t worry about choosing a less expensive option in a polyester fabric blend. While polyester is technically plastic, it contains no PVC so it does not off-gas – and washes and wears well.

Fragranced Paraffin Candles

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 12.38.38 AMUse only non-paraffin candles – such as beeswax – with 100% natural essential oil fragrance. Soy or coconut wax are also options (note that the burn time is not as long), but be sure that the fragrance is 100% natural. Paraffin, begins as the sludge (literally, the bottom of the barrel) of oil’s pre-refining process. White tea lights or tapers require bleaching and chemical treatments (which include benzene and toulene – known carcinogens). To achieve a pleasing smell & color, a cocktail of chemical fragrances and dyes are required. Researchers have shown some scented candles produce smoke laced with almost as many toxins as those produced by cigarettes.

Air Fresheners (aerosol or plug-ins)

Some of most commonly used cleaning and air-freshening household products may be the most toxic additions to your home. Avoid products containing non-disclosed fragrances included in most conventional fragranced products such as laundry detergents, air and upholstery fresheners (including Glade plug-ins), and dryer sheets. The FDA does not require the disclosure of fragrance ingredients/chemicals, regarding them as “proprietary”. Synthetic fragrances contain numerous known carcinogens making them the last thing you’d want heat up – like plugging them into an outlet!

Non-organic Mattresses

pillows-1031079_1920Most mattress companies are extremely non-transparent in regards to all materials incorporated in their product. Latex “memory-foam” can be misleading, as many memory foams will use any combination of synthetic foam and latex to form a hybrid foam. Conventional memory foam is a chemically produced, synthetic, petroleum product made from polyurethane. When choosing a mattress, look for pure, 100% Natural Latex, which is inherently hypoallergenic, dust mite resistant, and antimicrobial – all inhibiting the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew.

Foam CushionsScreen Shot 2018-02-27 at 7.54.16 PM

Your next sofa should ideally have 100% Natural Latex or soy-based/latex foam cushions. As with non-organic mattresses, traditional foam cushions are a synthetic petroleum product made from polyurethane. As of 2015, all furniture manufacturers require a permanent disclosure label indicating whether flame retardants (Chlorinated Tris or TDCPP ) are used in their product. Look for the label!

Stain Resistant Carpets and Upholstery

Opt only for natural, non-treated textiles and carpets. Stain resistant anything introduces a perpetual off-gassing bomb in your home. Most stain and water repellents contain PFCs (also known as fluorinated chemicals). Exposure to these compounds have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, harm to the immune system, liver toxicity and low birth weight.

Plastic Beverage Bottles

bottles-774466_1920We could make a dent in our 50 billion single use, plastic bottle habit if we as individuals would get in the habit of carrying a reusable bottle. Only 23% of recyclable plastic bottles actually get recycled. The healthiest choice for the planet and your body is glass or stainless steel. A hack for when you’re on the go and need to buy a bottled beverage, opt for reusable, recyclable, non-toxic glass!

Chemical Based Cleaning Products

Plain soap and water combined with vinegar add up to a powerful, non-chemical cleaning alternative for everyday household germs and bacteria. There are alternatives to bleach as well. Oxygenated bleaches do not contain chlorine and do a great job lifting stains and whitening. The tried-and-true vinegar and baking soda combo remains a champion spot cleaner. Hydrogen peroxide is a whitener as well and will boost the disinfecting properties of any cleaner. And I defy you to prove that Bon Ami scrub works any less effectively than scrubs that contain bleach.

Treated Carpets & Upholstery

carpet-2935773_1920Avoid synthetic and chemically treated rugs and carpets – particularly with vinyl backing. Sustainability experts on indoor air pollution agree that more transparency is needed regarding the host of chemicals and compounds that are found in synthetic carpeting fibers, backing fabric, padding, and stain-resistant and soil-resistant treatments. To be safe, opt for wool, cotton, linen or silk, non-treated rugs and textiles.

Non-toxic Cookware

Screen shot 2014-10-20 at 12.04.44 AMTake a close look at your cookware and seriously consider an upgrade. Edit out scratched and non-stick coated pans. Choose stainless steel – like All-Clad, anodized aluminum – like Calphalon, Green Pan brand, enameled cast iron – like Le Creuset, or ceramic earthenware. Well seasoned, cast iron is also an option, but not for everyday cooking or preparing acidic foods. Experts agree that reactive metals are harmful when ingested at certain quantities. A number of cookware coatings that ostensibly protect us from excess metals when cooking, have toxic properties. Many non-stick coatings, like Teflon, contain synthetic polymer(s) (PTFE) or (PFOA), a known carcinogen. When considering any coated cookware, always confirm that the product is PTFE and PFOA-free.

Personal Care Products

You’ll notice that I haven’t included personal care products….deodorants, toothpaste, sunscreens, make-up….perfumes. I have posted on sunscreens multiple times. EWG has a sister site called Skin Deep that rates personal care items for toxicity. Check out the site for an overview of some of your favorite shampoos and skincare lines. As for me, I buy only natural personal care, skincare and make-up lines, like Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and  Z Natural Life natural deodorant.

Last Wordplants & bike

Add plants. Open a window! Ventilation and air exchange is key to reducing airborne toxins. Indoor plants have been shown to reduce Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particle air pollutants (dust) by 75% according to a NASA study.

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

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  1. catherinejallen@mac.com' Cate Allen says:

    great article – knowledge is power!

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