What could be making you sick and how to go green in your home
We have already spoken about ingredients to avoid in beauty and body care products but what about the chemicals we are exposed to in our own home?
We tend to focus on the quality of our outdoor air but do you ever stop to think about what you are being exposed to every day in your very own home?
Our home is where we spend most of our time (along with the workplace), which means we are being exposed to its many toxins every single day.
North Americans spend, on average, about 85% of their time indoors, and even more so during the winter months.
Health effects of ingredients in common household products include:
Eye and skin irritations
Hormonal and reproductive disruptions
It makes sense to become aware of the sources of toxins in order to make the right choices for our health and wellbeing and to make our home a safe place.
Where do these toxins hide?
Dishwashing soap We all try to avoid cleaning the dishes but what we really need to avoid is toxic dishwashing. This may seem like it’s not a big deal but these products do come into contact with our bodies and also with the environment. So let’s make sure we are doing ourselves and our planet a favor. Conventional dishwashing soaps contain many chemicals like phtalates, benzisothiazolinone, sodium hypochlorite, and methylisothiazolinone,which are toxic to the immune system and the brain, as well as allergenic, promoting respiratory problems and skin reactions.
Solution: Look for greener brands like Nellie's All Natural Dish Soap or check out our recommendations section at the bottom of this post for DIY instructions and tips on how to find clean products.
Carpets Most carpets are made from synthetic materials such as nylon and polypropylene, as well as a variety of other derivatives that have been shown to emit harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Not to mention carpets are often treated with chemicals to reduce staining and increase durability. Many of these compounds are known carcinogens, hormonal disruptors, and have even been linked to birth defects.
Solution: Avoid carpet whenever possible, and opt for wood or tiling instead. Cleaner carpet options include wool or felt carpet, which are more natural and will avoid exposure to VOCs. When choosing a synthetic carpet, always look for the certification Green Label Plus to ensure the lowest possible exposure to VOCs.
All-purpose cleaners Common ingredients in all-purpose cleaners include 1.4-dioxane, fragrances, ethylene oxide, chlorine bleach, ammonia, and VOCs. Research shows that these toxins increase the risk of asthma, allergic reactions, developmental problems, reproductive toxicity, and even cancers.
Solutions: Look for alternative products free of fragrances, bleach, triclosan and ammonia, and that include the Eco Logo certification.
Laundry detergents Your typical laundry detergent contains many hazardous ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), 1.4-dioxane, NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate), and phosphates. Some chemicals may not even be listed on the label.
The effects of these chemicals can be vast: organ toxicity, skin and eye irritations, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and cancers.
These chemicals are toxic to humans but also to the environment, harming wildlife and ecosystems, and contaminating waterways.
This is a big deal because your clothes retain these chemicals and then come in direct contact with your body.
Solutions: When shopping, look for the biodegradable label as well as "phosphate free", "bleach free", "SLE free" and "NPE free." Use cleaner products by following the EWG guide or alternative soaps. We love Dr. Bronner's for cleaning all sorts of household items, from clothes to makeup brushes, to countertops and even hair and body!
Vinyl Shower curtains Surprisingly, your shower may be one of the most toxic places in your house. With heat and humidity, the chemicals contained in vinyl shower curtains can release and disperse toxins into the atmosphere. PVC Shower curtains contain toxic chemicals like phtalates, triclosan, and volatile organic compounds, that can increase the risk of liver toxicity, asthma, and reproductive and developmental problems.
Solutions: Choose PVC-free shower curtains or opt for organic cotton or hemp curtains.
Air fresheners As the name suggests, air fresheners directly release into the air and can significantly increase chemical exposure through inhalation as they can contain hundreds of chemicals per bottle! This is especially problematic for young children who are more vulnerable to these toxic effects and may develop allergic reactions and respiratory concerns throughout childhood and adulthood.
Solutions: Avoid using air fresheners and opt for more natural options, like essential oils. We love lavender and orange for fresh and natural fragrances!
Ideas to green your home
Add plants Not only are plants uplifting and beautifying to a room, they provide many health benefits! Plants help filter out toxins in the air whilst boosting oxygen levels. This helps to reduce our toxic load and increase energy, wellbeing, focus and even reduce stress and sickness!
Some plants that are specifically air purifying:
DIY your own products The cheapest and cleanest way to go green with your indoor cleaning products? Make them yourself! This will support your health, the environment, and your wallet. Win-win-win.
Top DIY cleaning ingredients:
Lemon juice: cuts through grease, mildew, and mold and leaves surfaces shiny and clean.
Essential oils: contain naturally occurring volatile compounds that are great at eliminating unpleasant odors and also have potent cleaning, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties.
Castile soap: made entirely from plants, castile soap is a great option to use as a soap for cleaning household products, clothes, surfaces, as well as an alternative to body wash and shampoo.
White Vinegar: eliminates grease, mildew, grime and odors.
Baking soda: effectively, cleans, deodorizes, and eliminates grease and grime.
DIY all-purpose cleaner: white vinegar + baking soda + lemon juice
DIY disinfectant: water + castile soap + 20 drops of tea tree essential oil
DIY bathroom cleaner: ½ cup baking soda + liquid soap
Wash your clothes before wearing them
Most clothes contain residues of dyes and chemicals that can come into contact with your body through direct skin contact or inhalation. Avoid this by washing your brand new clothes first before putting them on.
Search for cleaner brands
Swap out your conventional cleaning products for cleaner options that use greener ingredients and therefore won’t harm your health or the environment. We love EWG’s guide to cleaning products to find tons of green brands and to rate your own products at home.
Open up those windows! Even during the winter months, be sure to let in some fresh air into your home to filter out toxins at least once per day.
You may be concerned about vehicle pollution or greenhouse gases but the air in our home can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. This is air we are exposed to every single day. Indoor air pollution is now classified in the top 5 health hazards to humans. Look into a good ventilation system for your home, or an air filter like the HEPA air purifier.
Vacuum with a HEPA filter We recommend vacuuming at least a couple of times per week with a HEPA vacuum filter in order to get rid of toxins, chemicals, dirt, allergens and dust mites. This will help reduce your toxic load as well as allergic reactions and respiratory symptoms.
Take your shoes off Who knows what kind of toxins we carry on our shoes, and frankly we are probably better off not knowing… Make it a habit of taking off your shoes and leaving them at the door to prevent an increase of dirt and pollutants entering the home.
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.