Easy ways to maintain a healthy home and reduce your exposure to chemicals.

Go Shoeless.  Remove your shoes upon entering the home. This reduces the amount of oil, pesticides, dirt that will be tracked into the home.  You will also be reducing exposure to those who spend the most time on the floor: pets and children.

Nontoxic cleaners.  There are plenty of great non-toxic cleaning products on the market. Citrus and soy-based cleaners are found in health-conscious supermarkets.  Vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and essential oils can be used to clean most things. The environmental working group has numerous links for healthy living suggestions, including one on healthy cleaning.  Additionally, two App helps you scan product UPC codes to determine toxicity of products and foods.

Natural Fragrances.  Remove synthetic based fragrance products from your home. These include scented candles and plug in deodorizers. They may smell good, but they may also contain a multitude of chemicals. Essential oils are a great substitution for synthetic fragrance and perfume. Many synthetic perfumes may be made from a combination of chemicals and may cause asthma symptoms or skin irritation.  If you are an avid candle burner, consider beeswax candles with lead free wicks. Importantly, avoiding fragrance-based fabric softener sheets will reduce a lot of chemical exposure.

Choose non-toxic personal care products. Avoid fragrance in soap, shampoo, laundry soap, dryer sheets, body spray, etc.  The cosmetic database at www.ewg.org can be helpful to determine the toxicity of some products.

Water filters.  Chlorine is used to keep our water supply safe because it is an excellent disinfectant, but that doesn’t mean you need it in your body where it can do oxidative damage. Other contaminants may also be in our water including metals, pesticides, and pharmaceutical drugs. A whole house filter helps ensure that the water you drink and the water you bath in are clean. If that option is not right for you, place water filters on your drinking water tap and shower head.  Several manufacturers produce a chlorine filter designed for the bath. This product is great to help reduce chlorine exposure to children and those of us who love to take hot baths.

 Buy organic food.  See www.ewg.org for more information. Pesticide residue may be on fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides.  There are more choices for organic foods these days than ever. They are still an expensive choice, but I always like to look at the big picture. When organic methods are used, the soil is healthier, toxin exposure to farm workers, children, aquifers, and wildlife is reduced, and the consumer eats fewer chemical pesticides.  If buying organic food is too expensive, a cheap alternative is to wash your fruit/vegetables in a vinegar or vitamin C solution.  Place ½ cup of vinegar or several tablespoons of vitamin C powder in a sink-full of water to wash off your vegetables. A mild base or acid solution helps to remove pesticide residue from the outside of the food.  It has been found that washing with soap does NOT work.  Peeling vegetable skins also reduces pesticides.

Eat naturally.  Refrain from colorings, preservatives, additives, and flavorings in food.  Many times, these compounds are not natural. Removing these compounds from the diets of hyperactive and autistic children can show dramatic improvement in symptoms.  Also note that Nutrasweet/Equal/Aspartamine made out of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. This product breaks down to methanol (wood alcohol) and/or formaldehyde in the body.

Stay away from storing and preparing food in plastic.  Plastic contains phthalates and other plasticizers. These plasticizers are very estrogen like.  Replacing your plastic containers with glass or Pyrex removes the possibility of contamination.  Reduce the amount of food you wrap in plastic wrap as this is another source of plasticizers.

Keep dry cleaning outside.  Place dry cleaned clothes outside for 2 weeks when returned from the dry cleaners.  Most people place their newly cleaned clothes in their bedroom closets.  The dry-cleaning chemicals do off-gas.  Since we spend a significant time in our bedrooms (1/3 of the day if we sleep a full 8 hours), exposure to these chemicals is significant as we are sleep right next to the source.

For more advanced house keeping:

Air purifiers.  A HEPA air filter helps reduce the level of small particulates in the air.  HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor and is specified to remove 99.97 % of particles 0.3 microns or less.  If you live near an agriculturally sprayed area, much of the dust can be coated with pesticides/herbicides.  A HEPA unit in the home can remove these fine particulates as well as bacteria, mold, tobacco particulates, dust mites.  Some air filters have been designed to remove particulates down to 0.003 microns (this will eliminate most viruses).  Combined with a carbon filter to remove odors and chemical fumes, HEPA filters are an excellent tool for the home.

Alternatively, air purifiers that operate without a HEPA filter may not actually clean the home.  For example, negative ion generators work by making dust particles heavier, and thus taking them out of the air column, but they do not take dust out of your living or workspace.  Furthermore, negative ion generators may create ozone.   Ozone is a pro oxidant and can create oxidative damage to lung tissue when breathed in. Remember, anti aging = anti oxidant (not pro oxidant).  My recommendation is to only use a negative ion generator when all living creatures are removed (people, animals, plants), and then thoroughly air out the space before re inhabiting the area.

Reduce Electromagnetic Frequency Radiation (EMFs).  With the widespread use of electronic devices and Wi-Fi, exposure to EMF’s has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. Physiology of humans, animals, and plants depends on the balance of electrical energy in our systems. Addition of EMF’s can affect numerous organs including the brain, immune system, energy levels, sleep health, and hormone regulation. Consider wiring your house to provide a non Wi-Fi environment.  Sources such as the EMF Academy, EMF Analysis or building biologists  provide helpful educational resources.  You can read more about EMF’s HERE.

Assess the health of your home. Building Biologists can provide an in-home assessment and recommendations to reduce exposure to indoor toxins including mold, EMF’s, volatile organic compounds, and other sources of toxins. Local building biologists include:

Whole Home and Body Health – Cathy Cooke

Test My Home – Ryan Blaser