There is no need to buy only organic products from now on. With just a few small changes in your family’s routine, you can drastically reduce exposure to toxins in your home.
Toxins are all around you
Let’s start with the bad news: there are toxins all around you. Not all of them are recognized or regulated. And these substances end up in your body. Every year, some 200 to 300 synthetic substances are found in the mother’s milk, blood and urine of test subjects according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.
Although scientists have studied the individual substances thoroughly, they know far less about the combination of these substances. Jennifer Lowry, toxicologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, has her own term for this ubiquitous mix: “I call it sludge,” she says. “When you’re sitting in your living room, you don’t just breathe in the flame retardants from your couch, the dust from old lead paint or the chemicals you walked in with your shoes. You’re exposed to a mixture of all these substances.”
The good news: although you cannot completely prevent this exposure, you can reduce it with a few simple techniques.
1. Provide venting
If you live in an environment with good air quality, open the windows to dilute the pollution indoors. Put large new purchases such as mattresses or furniture made with glue, composites, paint or stain if possible for a week in the garage or garden. This will allow these products to exhale the chemicals before you put them in the house.
2. Take off your shoes
You don’t think about using weedkiller indoors. But did you know that you can find pesticide residues on the soles of your shoes up to a week after watering your lawn? “Taking off your shoes at the front door can make a significant difference in the concentration of contaminants in your home,” says Jerome Paulson, professor of environment and health at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.
3. Do not heat plastic products
“Heating weakens the material, allowing potentially harmful chemicals to leak out,” says Alison Bernstein, professor of Molecular Medicine at Michigan State University. “It’s not advisable to put plastic in the microwave or dishwasher on a regular basis.” Simply wash bottles and parts of pumps with soap and hot water to clean them thoroughly.
4. Get rid of dust
“Household dust can contain a lot of chemicals,” says pediatrician Lauren Zajac of the Icahn School of Medicine in New York. “So use a wet mop or damp duster regularly.” She swears on damp microfibre cloths before dusting. For homes with carpeted floors, she recommends using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to catch small particles.
5. Scrub your hands clean
Soap and water not only remove annoying germs. Washing your child’s hands, especially before eating, is important to rinse off traces of chemicals. These substances can come from household dust or, for example, from playing outside.
6. Use less sunscreen
Protecting your child from UV rays from the sun is a top priority, requiring the use of sunscreen. However, this product also contains chemicals. You can minimise the amount your child (and you!) needs by wearing UV protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved swimming shirt. “I also have my daughter wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect her face and scalp,” says Dr. Zajac. She recommends avoiding spray sunscreen, because children can breathe in the particles in the air.
With a few adaptions, you can ensure that you live a healthier life with less toxins.