Exposure to air pollution – whether indoors or out – harms children’s cognitive development. Specifically, it reduces intelligence.” – Sandra Steingraber, biologist, author, advocate
We’ve found that toxic chemicals are ending up in our homes and work environments. Since we spend most of our time indoors, it’s important to take a few simple steps to help clean up and “detox” your indoor air quality. These simple steps will go a long way to protect your health!
A little context to start: Toxic chemicals are legal to be used in the products we bring into our homes. Due to our weak federal law on toxic chemicals, a variety of toxic chemicals are lurking in our household products. Toxic flame retardants linked to cancer are in 85% of couches in the U.S., hormone-disrupting chemicals are found in scented products, household cleaners and vinyl flooring. The list goes on.
While we should take the steps listed below, we also need to tell Congress that we’re tired of having to worry about toxic chemicals. The time has come for strong laws on toxic chemicals that would ensure chemicals are safe before they end up in our homes and environment.
Reduce toxic indoor air pollution
Use a microfiber cloth and dust at least once a week. Electronics, couches and building materials can leach toxic chemicals that end up in household dust. Cleaning up the dust means you and your family or roommates will inhale less toxic chemicals. (See #5 about why we should take dust seriously).
2- Choose safer household cleaners
A variety of toxic chemicals are found in the products we use to clean our home (how ironic). Women’s Voices for the Earth found chemicals linked to hormone-disruption, asthma, respiratory problems among other problems in their report Dirty Secrets. I use a variety of household cleaners including white vinegar (for sinks, floors, toilets) which kills over 95% of germs and viruses. Bon Ami and baking soda make great shower and sink scrubbers. Easy and cheap!
My favorite non-toxic cleaners HERE.
3- Vacuum with a HEPA filter
Don’t worry all the tips don’t have to do with cleaning! A HEPA filter is the best kind of filter you can buy for your vacuuming needs. Scientists recommend using a HEPA filter to suck up toxic chemicals found in our carpets and dust.
4- Change your furnace filters at least once a month
A simple way to clean up the indoor air quality in your home or apartment.
5- Leave your shoes at the front door
A lot of heavy metals and pesticides are tracked into our homes on our shoes. So in addition to keeping gross germs off your floors, drop your feet at the front door.
6- Mop with hot water, vinegar and essential oils
Cleaning your floors (after dusting) will help mop up additional dust that you may not have gotten while dusting. The major pathway for toxic chemical exposure in our homes is through household dust. Studies have shown that the same levels of flame retardants that the average American inhales from their home, is the same level that have shown harm in laboratory studies. In short, take dust serious as a route of exposure!
7- Use plants to filter toxic chemicals
Various plants are known to be great at filtering toxic chemicals from our indoor air. Lori Alper, green lifestyle blogger at Groovy Green Livin wrote about the best plants for filtering indoor air (as recommended by the EPA). Peace lily’s (pictured right) are on the list of top ten plants for filtering toxics!
8- Open up your windows at least once a week
Even in the winter, it’s a good practice to open up your windows after you do a little cleaning. This freshens up the air and cleans out toxic chemicals in the air. If you live in a warmer climate, try opening the windows for a few minutes each day.
9- Avoid fragrance and scented candles
I love candles, but the majority of them contain harmful chemicals especially the ones with heavy fragrance. Skip the plug-ins, air fresheners and scented candles which have been found to contain: hormone-disrupting chemicals, allergens, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and cancer causing chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde. If you want a safer option go for beeswax candles. My favorite can be found here.
Many people are attached to their perfume or cologne (I understand, I reluctantly gave up my perfume when starting this job). Musks, perfumes and colognes are chalk full of toxic chemicals. I cringe when I think about putting musk on my neck everyday during my formative teen and young adult years!
10- Skip the fabric softener
Here’s an interesting study that found phthalates in ants (from the indoor air), which underscores the importance of cleaning up our homes. Fabric softener or scented laundry detergents may contain harmful chemicals or skin and respiratory allergens. Even if you’re not sensitive to the scented products, many people are and you’ll be doing your community and co-workers a favor!