How Safe is Your Home? Reducing Toxins in Your Home
By Tina Gallagher
A toxin is any substance capable of harming a person if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed into the body. From the foods we eat to how we clean our homes, maintain our yards, and bathe ourselves, we can be exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals on a daily basis. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only a fraction of the 75,000 registered chemicals have gone through complete testing for human health concerns. Some chemicals have an immediate effect, while others are harmful to our bodies only after long-term exposure.
Many toxic substances have been falsely deemed a necessary part of our lives and are considered essential in order to clean our homes, maintain our lawns, and wash our bodies. A lot of people don’t even know household items can be toxic. They think that because these products are on the market, they must be safe. But that’s not always the case.
“So many new chemicals have been produced, but very few tested for toxicity or long-term effects,” says Karen Asper, RN. “And it’s not just cleaners that are a problem, personal care products such as soaps, lotions, cosmetics, shampoos, and deodorants can be toxic, too.”
Children are more vulnerable than adults to the harmful effects of chemical toxins because they are still growing and developing. Also, children’s behavior, including increased hand to mouth activity, a tendency to crawl and play in places that could be contaminated, and a lack of awareness about proper safety and sanitary habits, all put them at higher risk.
Various health effects can result from toxic chemical exposure, including allergic reactions, asthma, migraines, dizziness, nausea, eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation, and various forms of cancer. These effects are dependent upon many factors including the toxicity of the chemical and the degree and length of exposure.
“My daughter was constantly sick and I kept taking her to specialists, who put her on more and more medications,” says Asper. “About two years ago, I started doing research on toxic chemicals in the home and started shopping for and using only eco-friendly products. Ever since I made the switch to nontoxic products, my daughter has been healthy and medication free.”
So what can you do to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in your home?
“Read labels to know what you’re buying and bringing into or using around your home,” says Asper. “If you can’t pronounce it and don’t know what the ingredient is, don’t buy it. Be pro-active about the products you’re using and their dangers, then find better, safer alternative products that are effective and don’t cost your family a lot of money. Just because a product is greener, doesn’t mean it has to cost a lot.”
You could also use natural products as cleaning agents such as baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and plant-based soaps and detergents. But if you’re not quite ready for that big of a switch, make an effort to use nontoxic or less toxic products, a variety of which can be found in health food stores, supermarkets, or at eco-friendly online companies.
According to Asper, “My family shops with a twenty-five-year-old eco-friendly company. We shop for everything through this store and I love the convenience. I shop online, save money on my household consumable goods, and the products are delivered directly to my door. For more information, visit www.safer4yourhome.com.”
Simple changes can reduce exposure to potentially harmful substances. Also, be sure to educate yourself.
“The internet is the information superhighway so do your research,” says Asper. “And when considering whether or not to use a product, remember, if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, you shouldn’t want it put on your skin.”
Below are a few websites offering additional information on the dangers of chemicals in the home.
epa.gov/kidshometour - part of EPA’s website geared toward children’s information and a tour of toxic chemicals in the home.
atsdr.cdc.gov – a website for the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a government agency that provides information and effects of hazardous substances.
safer4yourhome.com – sells eco-friendly products.
healthychild.org – a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.