The naturally healthy home

The naturally healthy home

Time for spring-cleaning!  We clean our kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, playrooms – but what kind of supplies are we using to clean those areas? Take a look at the bottles of cleanser you’re using, and I challenge you to pronounce all the ingredients! Maybe now’s the time to think about having a naturally healthy home.  

We all know that chemicals are a part of life. Cars pollute the air burning gas, and companies produce our food with a load of ingredients we can’t pronounce. Almost everything we use and consume has chemicals. Luckily, there’s one place we can minimize the effect toxins have on our lives: at home.

While we can’t decide what chemicals and toxins are found in home products, we can choose the brands and products based on what they contain. This, along with some other changes, will ensure that your home is as toxin-free as possible.

Unregulated ingredients

There are many ingredients found in common household products that should be minimally and properly used or avoided altogether. Phthalates. Formaldehyde. Perchloroethylene. 2-Butoxyethanol.

Yes, quite a mouthful, and unfortunately it’s not always easy to know what is in your products because cleaning products are not regulated as strictly as food in regards to what goes on the label.

Luckily, we have the internet with a host of information at our fingertips. You can Google most any product and find the ingredients and often reviews and warnings about it. There are also databases that help you find all of the information you need to know, such as the Environmental Working Group.

What is the TSCA?

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is the principle federal statute governing the use and safety of the thousands of chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday lives, but it needs to be updated and reformed. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), while responsible for the TSCA, has little authority to enforce this law, enacted in 1976.  

It was broken from the start, with thousands of chemicals grandfathered in because they were already on the market.  So much so, that the EPA could not even ban asbestos, which we all know is a cancer-causing substance still in use.

Currently, there are nearly 85,000 chemicals currently approved for, and in use, that the federal government and consumers know little to nothing about. Ultimately, real toxic chemical reform needs to ensure protection of public health, protection of the environment and of course, the most vulnerable populations.

EWG is a non-profit organization with tons of resources to help you make informed decisions about the products you buy. They have information about the chemicals found in sunscreen and cosmetics, pesticides found on produce, even a database of national drinking water, along with their Hall of Shame for household cleaners.

 

What Toxins Should I Look For?

There are many concerning things found in household products to pay attention to. These can range from chemicals that are generally hazardous to work with and should be used with caution, to chemicals that have been known to cause health problems.

Organic bleachBleach

One of the most common ingredients in cleaners, bleach certainly gets the job done, and quickly.  However, there are many health concerns that go along with using bleach. First of all, it stays on surfaces so even if you think the surface is clean, you, your kids and your pets can all still come in contact with it.

Studies show that children who are exposed to bleach could end up having respiratory problems. Pets who touch surfaces with bleach may lick themselves in the affected area and ingest it.

As if that weren’t enough, exposure to bleach can lead to irritation inside the lungs, on the skin when it is contacted, and can cause lightheadedness. Not only is bleach extremely dangerous on its own, it can have bad interactions with other cleaners such as vinegar and especially ammonia.

The fumes caused by bleach interacting with ammonia are toxic. (1)

Organic ammoniaAmmonia

Ammonia has similar properties to bleach and is often found in window cleaners because it doesn’t leave streaks behind. Inhaling ammonia fumes can instantly cause breathing problems and cause chronic afflictions such as asthma and bronchitis.

It can’t be stated enough, however: do not mix or bring in contact with bleach. (2) The release of toxic chloramine vapor is so toxic that it can be deadly. Don’t do it…!

Formaldehyde

This chemical is a known carcinogen, yet it is found in a surprising number of places in your home. Not only do some household cleaners contain it, but also air fresheners, paper towels, nail polish, toothpaste, baby wipes, even particle board furniture and clothing.

Fabrics are treated with formaldehyde to make them wrinkle free, waterproof, stain resistant or other things that make them easier to care for. Formaldehyde exposure can not only lead to cancer but also respiratory problems, headaches and nausea, among a long list of other problems. (3)

Fruit boxesPhthalates

This strangely named chemical is responsible for plastics being flexible and can be found in more than just plastic products. It is used in personal care products for texture, as well as in the containers we use every day.

Food kept in flexible plastic packaging with phthalates can absorb the chemical, thus passing it on to us, when we ingest whatever is in the container, which can, in turn, affect our endocrine systems.

Phthalates have been linked to all sorts of birth defects as well, as they can cross the placenta. And after the baby is born, they can be found in formula and baby food packaging as well as the formula itself. (4

What are Endocrine Disruptors?

How exactly can chemicals disrupt our endocrine systems? The endocrine system is responsible for hormone production, and chemicals that enter our body through ingestion or skin absorption can mimic these hormones and wreak havoc. They can cause natural hormone reactions to be more strong, or be nonexistent.

These reactions are especially concerning for children, as a disrupted endocrine system can affect normal growth processes from birth through puberty. (5)

  • BPA
  • Dioxin
  • Atrazine
  • Perchlorate
  • Fire retardants
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • PFCs
  • Pesticides
  • Glycol Ethers

How to Avoid Them?

    • Check out EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/) and avoid products with those ingredients.
    • Read labels. Do your research. It is almost impossible to avoid every harmful ingredient, so be vigilant and do your best.

Here are some tips to avoid some of the worst offenders:

  • Avoid eating or consuming anything kept in plastic containers. Buy glass whenever possible or buy as much as you can without any packaging at all. This includes bottled water: buy a chemical-free reusable bottle and fill it with filtered tap water. This way you can avoid phthalates and BPA, which can be found in both plastic containers and some cans.
  • Avoid synthetic fragrances. These may smell good but can contain concerning ingredients. Try organic essential oils (make sure they don’t contain anything bad).
  • Make your own cleaners. You can clean almost anything in your house with water, vinegar and baking soda.
  • Avoid cooking on nonstick pans. They’re more convenient, but also can release chemicals when heated or leach them into your food if they get scratched. Use stainless steel or cast iron instead.
  • Eat more off of the Clean Fifteen list, and more organic, plant-based food in general. 

We are lucky to have the Environmental Working Group on our side, doing the work for us, and advocating for our health and safety. They get it, and they work tirelessly to protect our food sources, soil, streams, air, and personal products. 

Every time you go into the store to buy organic and healthy products, you are voting for a healthier future! We deserve to know the truth about everything we slather on our skin, and everything we consume, and EWG is helping us do that.  Retail therapy only goes so far, if what we are buying only contributes to the problem.  Sign up for their newsletter to stay current on new legislation.  Removing toxins from your home is only the first step!

 

 

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14 thoughts on “The naturally healthy home”

  • I would like to pipe in about the cleaning power of baking soda. I can’t tell you how many adults I’ve met who don’t know how to clean a bathtub. They spray the chemical crap over and over, and the scum is still there. All it takes is baking soda, water, a little time and an even smaller amount of elbow grease…good as new!

  • Thanks so much for this site. You gave me so much to think about and to do as the weather here is getting cold. I was aware of some of those items you talked about avoiding but you gave a lot more that I didn’t know about. Thanks
    You didn’t mention anything about black mold which is dangerous and needs to be taken care of if it is in your house but most people say to use bleach with vinegar to kill it. Without using bleach, do you recommend anything?

    • Black mold is a whole ‘nother issue of which I am not all that familiar. I do know enough to say that if you have black mold in your house, maybe a call to ServePro or some kind of household remediation company might be in order. You may have to take out the wall where the mold is. I would go so far as to say that I would not attempt any home remedy for black mold. Call the professionals. Thank you for writing!

  • Hi Amy

    It’s surprising how much toxic substances and hazards for our health we have in our houses. And that’s the place where we spend most of our time. I’ll be sure to be more conscious about what I’m going to drag home from the store in the future. Very informative and good article.

    Erik

  • OMG! I didn’t know how bad it was to use bleach. Thank you for this info. I am going to start making my own cleaners immediately. I used bleach to kill viruses in my home because I have a low immune system due to my seizures and I have been getting colds more often from my children, so will I be able to get the same effects using simple vinegar?

    • Thank you for the comment, and yes, I believe that vinegar works wonders — BUT — I have never used it as a cleaner. I prefer buying the products already mixed and ready to use — from Whole Foods or Amazon or even the local supermarkets. Some of them are used as germ-cleaners, and I would trust those over vinegar.
      No more bleach…!

  • Hi Amy, thank you for a very enlightening article. I was aware of some things however you have highlighted a lot more.

    I think it is scandalous that companies are allowed to get away with using toxic chemicals, and don’t even get me started on Formaldehyde, isn’t this used to preserve dead bodies?

    I must say I was still using plastic containers to store left over food but after reading your article I will be rushing out to buy glass storage jars today.

    Thank you again for a very interesting article. I have bookmarked you site and will be visting regularly.

    • Thank you, Moni, and glad you found my post to be informative. Yes you are correct that Formaldehyde is used to preserve dead bodies. Gross, right?
      It is amazing what we clean our homes and bodies with — You can also check out ewg.org for more detailed information. Thanks!

  • Wow! A very informative and interesting article. I’ve been using glass containers to store leftover food. Pyrex makes a really nice set. Going to try the vinegar , baking soda, lemon homemade cleanser for kitchen clean up.

  • Hi Amy,

    I learned a great deal reading your post. Trying to go for more natural products every time I shop. Luckily, I’ve already eradicated most OTC cleaners and this is definitely a step in the right direction.

    Great information here. I’ll be checking back often to read your other posts.

    Thanks again,
    Sue

    • Thanks, Sue! There are a lot of natural cleaners, and natural facial and body products on the market, and so the availability of these healthy choices makes it easy to live clean and green. It took me awhile to get rid of bleach, but I don’t miss it…! Thanks for writing! /a.

  • Hi Amy,
    I am very interested in these toxin issues. I have hormone problems such as estrogen dominance which can cause many health problems such as night sweats, muscle aches, horrible itching that is from nerves, fibroids and those are just the ones I have! The list is long.

    I try to avoid these endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen in plastics. I use natural progesterone to try to balance out the estrogen. I try to avoid plastics by using a metal water bottle, and not using plastic dishes. I don’t microwave anything plastic and cringe when I see people microwaving their tupperware and other containers. I also try to buy organic foods.

    It is really hard to escape all the endocrine disruptors we are surrounded with! They are in soap, shampoo and everything.

    I knew it was not good to microwave paper towels either but I forgot there was formaldehyde in them! Yuck! I took an environmental risk assessment course for my Master’s Degree and it was frightening to learn about the lack of regulation for these chemicals and how they are surrounding us everyday.

    Thanks for this very informative post.
    Jessica

    • Hi Jessica and thanks so much for writing…!
      I learned through my research with the Environmental Working Group, that most chemicals are not regulated and therefore are used in many places we would never suspect, such as paper towels. It’s awful, isn’t it? I don’t use the microwave, either, and cringe when I see people microwaving food covered in plastic. All the chemicals from the plastic are leaching into the food. YUK. I’ve started buying recycled, unbleached paper towels, since I use them all the time. Buying organic is great, too, and since Whole Foods has lowered some of their prices, it’s not so bad. Plus, organic food tastes so much better. As far as estrogen dominance, I remember using natural progesterone, which helped a lot. Feel good, and thanks again for writing. /a.

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