The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the typical American spends about 90% of his or her time indoors where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations, making time on your couch more hazardous for your health than taking a walk around the block in several of our nation’s worst-polluted cities.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to reduce the toxins in your home:
- Use Toxin-Free Household Cleaners.
Many conventional household cleaning products contain chemicals that can remain in the air long after you’ve finished using them. Instead, consider using natural cleaning products made of plants or minerals, or make your own cleaners using products like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda.
Ingredients to avoid in conventional household cleaners:
- Synthetic Dyes
*DIY Glass Cleaner*
- 2 cups distilled water
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
- 1 to 2 drops of essential oils for a fresh smell (optional)
Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle. Shake well to mix. Spray on surface and wipe with a lint-free cloth.
2. Take Your Shoes Off
The bottom of your shoes contains more bacteria than an average toilet seat. Read that again! Making your home a shoe-free zone will lessen dirt being tracked in, keeping your floors cleaner, and you’ll track in fewer pesticides and other chemicals, which will help keep your house healthier. This is especially important in carpeted areas, which may contain traces of toxic chemicals for years.
Several studies have shown that bacteria, fungus, and viruses present on the bottom of your shoes don’t wear off the more you walk. They linger on the soles of your shoes and eventually end up on the tile, wood, and carpet floors of your house. In fact, scientists have discovered that whatever is on the bottom of your shoes will end up on your floor 90% of the time. And if you have carpet, that number is 99%.
3. Incorporate Houseplants
House Plants can help scale back levels of air pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde. Top air-purifiers include the philodendron, spider flower, gerbera daisy, chrysanthemums, bamboo palm, peace lily, Ficus, mother-in-law’s tongue, vine, and Chinese evergreen species.
4. Change or Clean Your Furnace and A/C Filters
Depending on usage, these filters should be changed every 1-3 months to stay your air clean and your system running efficiently. Mark it on your calendar.
5. Avoid Synthetic Air Fresheners (candles, plug-ins, aerosol room sprays, wax melts)
Artificial air fresheners may make your house smell like gingerbread or pumpkin spice, but they also contain multiple toxic chemicals. In 2010, the International Fragrance Association released a master list of more than 3,100 chemicals that are used by most manufacturers. Chemicals on that list include carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxicants, and numerous allergens (to name a few). A fragrance can be made up of more than 100 chemicals–and can include any of these harmful chemicals.
More and more studies are being published that link fragrances to conditions such as headaches, asthma, nausea, eczema, dermatitis, chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivity, neurological damage, cancer, and many others.
Instead, diffuse pure, therapeutic grade essential oils, set out a bouquet of fresh or dried flowers to add a floral scent, or simmer herbs and/or spices in some water on the stove. Try cloves and cinnamon for a great holiday scent.
6. Remodel and Refurnish in a Safer Way
When you’re remodeling your house or purchasing new furnishings, look for materials that release fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs)–choosing low-VOC paints, sealants, glues, and finishes. Purchase furniture made of real wood instead of wallboard and curtains made with natural materials like cotton, wool, or silk.
7. Open Your Windows
Since indoor pollution may be worse than the pollution outside, it is wise to let some fresh, outside air in. Cracking the windows on opposing sides of your house for as little as 5-10 minutes each day can help to circulate the air in your home and reduce the number of toxins inside your home.
8. Toss the Teflon
Non-stick cookware makes cleanup super easy, but it’s also risky for your health thanks to the PFOA used to manufacture it—studies have linked PFOA exposure to cancer, and WHO lists it as a possible carcinogen. Not only are non-toxic pots and pans healthier for you, but they’ll also last decades, making them worth the investment. Teflon coating on non-stick cookware inevitably starts peeling, which means it needs to be replaced, so over time, you’ll spend less money if you use nonstick stainless-steel pans, glass baking pans, or a cast iron skillet instead.
9. Detox Your Food Storage
Most people use plastic containers, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil to keep leftovers fresh in the frig, but phthalates, BPA, and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals can leach into your food. Instead, try glass food jars (mason jars are my favorite!), beeswax food wrap or food grade silicon. By detoxing your food storage, you’re not just switching to a safer alternative, you’re also creating less waste, which is also a win for our planet.