Nowadays, many of us are aware of the importance of healthy eating and the food we put into our bodies. But what about the health of our environment?
If you want to live a truly healthy life, you cannot ignore the health of your home. Your home should be a safe, nurturing place that supports your overall health and wellbeing – especially nowadays, with many people spending more time indoors.
Consider this: The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the typical American spends about 90% of his or her time inside, and levels of indoor air pollutants may be as much as 100 times greater than levels outdoors. That would make sitting on your couch more hazardous for your health than being outside in some of the nation’s worst-polluted cities.
Our homes can be filled with hundreds of different chemicals, and 150 chemicals found in the home are connected to allergies, birth defects, cancer, psychological disorders, reproductive disorders and autoimmune diseases.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the amount of toxins and pollution inside your home.
Here are 10 ways you can reduce toxic exposures and protect your health:1. Leave your shoes at the door.
Dirt, germs, pesticides, bacteria and viruses come into your home via the bottom of your shoes, so this is an easy hack to reduce contaminants. Have everyone slip off their shoes and leave them by the door, go barefoot, or have slippers ready for chillier days.2. Use houseplants.
Plants are a natural, inexpensive way to purify the air in your home and scale back pollutants like formaldehyde, benzene xylene, ammonia, trichloroethylene and carbon monoxide. Breathe easier by adding philodendron, spider flower, gerbera daisy, chrysanthemums, bamboo palm, peace lily, ficus, mother-in-law’s tongue, snake plants, English ivy, or Chinese evergreen species.3. Choose green cleaning products.
The average American uses about 25 gallons of products with hazardous chemicals per year in their home, and a major portion of these can be found in household cleaning products.
So many of our household cleaners are full of toxic chemicals and harsh additives, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalate-containing fragrances, asthma-causing fumes, and skin irritants.
Opt instead for natural cleaning products, or make your own cleaners using products like vinegar, baking soda and lemon.
Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is another great alternative that can be used as an all-purpose cleaner. Use it for dishes, laundry, mopping, pets, fruit/veggie rinse, and more. You can also use it in the shower as a face and body wash, shaving cream, or shampoo.4. Ditch the dryer sheets.
Dryer sheets come with a laundry list (pun intended) of toxic ingredients that can have a negative impact on your overall health and wellness. Many aren't regulated by the FDA and come with a nasty list of potential side effects.
Opt for these adorable, eco-friendly wool dryer balls instead!5. Bring on the filters.
Make sure to change the filter for your air conditioner every 90 days, or three months. You could also purchase a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) purifier.
Filters are also helpful for removing fluoride, chemicals, and heavy metals from your drinking water and shower head. You can install a whole house filtration system, or purchase individual filters for your sink, shower heads, bathtub faucets, and drinking water. Not all water filters remove all contaminants, so make sure the one you purchase is NSF-certified and has two-stage filtration.6. Avoid synthetic air fresheners.
They may make your house smell nice, but artificial, plug-in, and aerosol air fresheners release chemicals that you definitely don’t want to breathe in.
Instead, use a diffuser and essential oils or organic/non-toxic candles to freshen up your home.7. Reduce plastics.
Avoiding or replacing plastics is one of the best things you can do for both your own health, and the health of the environment. Plastic products contain chemical additives that have been associated with serious health problems, such as hormone disorders, cancer, infertility, and neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and autism.
Eliminate as many plastics (especially single-use) as you can, and consider these helpful swaps:
- Plastic wrap → beeswax food covers
- Plastic tupperware and disposable containers → reusable steel or glass containers/jars
- Plastic ziplock bags → reusable, food-grade silicone bags
- Shampoo and conditioner bottles → shampoo and conditioner bars
- Water bottles → reusable bottle
- Plastic pads or tampons → period underwear, reusable fabric pads, or menstrual cups
- Plastic bags → reusable cloth bags
- Conventional sponges → eco-friendly cloths/sponges or brushes
By staying away from plastics, you’ll greatly reduce your exposure to phthalates, BPA, and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals.8. Sleep clean.
We spend roughly one-third of our lives in our beds, so it’s crucial that you aren’t sleeping on and breathing in harmful toxins. If possible, swap your regular mattress for an organic mattress made without pesticides and manufactured by chemical-free processes. If you can’t (as they can be expensive), cover your regular mattress with an organic mattress cover.
You can also use organic bedding and sheets, and remember to replace your pillows every 1-2 years.9. Embrace clean beauty.
Your skincare and makeup products are applied directly to your skin, and can be absorbed straight into your bloodstream. Replacing conventional beauty products with clean alternatives is one of the best things you can do for your health, and to reduce your body’s intake of harmful chemicals.10. Consider your food (and how you cook it).
Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases their updated list of the Dirty Dozen — the 12 fruits and vegetables that are most likely to have toxic pesticide residues. These are the fruits and veggies you should buy organic if you don’t have the budget to go 100% organic.
Along with the food itself, it’s also important to consider how you are cooking your food. Avoid non-stick cookware, which is coated with teflon, aka PFOA. Studies have linked PFOA exposure to cancer, and the World Health Organization lists it as a possible carcinogen. Opt for non-toxic, stainless steel, or cast-iron cookware instead.
If you can, it’s also best to avoid the microwave. Yes, they’re convenient, but it’s really not worth the negative health effects. Studies show that microwaving your food exposes you to toxic carcinogens, electromagnetic radiation, and free radicals. It also damages the nutritional value of your food.
Finally, opt for gentler cooking methods such as roasting and steaming, and make sure to use oils with a high smoke point for high heat cooking.
5 Bonus Tips
- Dust and vacuum often, as “dust bunnies” are found to be magnets for chemicals.
- Open your windows on a daily basis. Recycling the air is so important!
- If you treat your lawn, seek out alternatives to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Many companies are now offering organic options.
- Watch out for areas in the home that may have too much moisture, which can lead to mold. Use a dehumidifier if you aren’t able to keep the humidity below 60%.
- Use non-VOC paint.
Reducing the toxins in your home doesn’t need to feel overwhelming, and it’s worth it when it comes to protecting your health and the health of your family.
Commit to making the change, decide where you want to start, and then make the transition gradually, one step at a time.