Americans have about half a million different products containing chemicals available for household use*. In fact, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air**.
But you can keep many of those toxins under control if you know what to watch for. Use this helpful checklist to kick off your domestic detox.
When you leave your shoes at the door, you stop dirt in its tracks, along with pesticides, lead and whatever was on the floor in that public restroom.
Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide can cause a cocktail of serious ailments. Make sure your gas stove has an exhaust hood. Check your chimneys and furnace every year. Install a carbon monoxide monitor. And never use unvented combustion appliances (e.g., portable kerosene heaters) indoors.
The U.S. has one of the world’s safest water supplies overall. But it’s still best to be extra safe. To check water quality in your area, call the EPA Drinking Water Hotline at 800-246-4791, or visit www.epa.gov/safewater/dwhealth.html. If you use a private well, test your water every year for nitrates, bacteria, pesticides, organic chemicals and radon.
You’ll find the worst offenders for potential carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals in cooking oil bottles, cling wrap, microwaveable ovenware, Styrofoam containers, hard-plastic drinking bottles and plastic liners of almost all food and soft-drink cans.
What’s more dangerous than DDT? The chlorine byproducts (a.k.a., dioxins) found in chemical bleached paper towels, bleached toilet paper and bleached coffee filters. Look instead for oxygen-bleached or natural/organic paper products.
Triclosan (the antibacterial component in antibacterial soaps) doesn’t just kill “bad” bacteria. It kills the good stuff our body needs for optimal health. Plus, when mixed with chlorinated tap water, triclosans can create the carcinogenic gas chloroform.
The same products that save you time in the kitchen can seriously damage your liver or thyroid, and mess with your immune system.
Beauty products are a major source of outrageous chemical ingredients that the FDA doesn’t regulate, such as mercury, lead, toluene, formaldehyde, parabens, placenta, phthalates and triclosan. Choose natural products, but always double-check ingredients.
Most tick and flea products contain active ingredients and solvents that might cause cancer in animals. (They’re no good for pet owners, either.)
Your worst enemies are drain-, oven- and toilet bowl cleaners—or anything containing chlorine or ammonia. (By the way, mixing chlorine and ammonia can actually be fatal.) For poison-free peace of mind, switch to 100 percent natural products.
Stain-resistant fabrics (both clothing and furniture) pose a similar problem to nonstick cookware. Same goes for wrinkle-free, permanent press materials. And dry-cleaning chemicals are harsh on skin. If you must dry-clean certain items, ask your cleaner not to cover them in plastic (which traps chemicals). Always let your clothes air out (outside) before wearing.
Use low-VOC, low-odor latex (water-based) paint. Be conscious of toxins in synthetic carpeting. Seal (with a non toxic sealer) or replace particleboard walls, floors or cabinets (they often contain formaldehyde). Avoid plywood, fiberglass, fiberboard and paneling.
**Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/learn-issues/learn-about-air