By Margie Kelly
When it comes to getting toxic chemicals out of your home, is there any question that can’t be answered with “baking soda and vinegar”?
It’s true that you can get amazingly far with the combination of the two, but even the mighty union of baking soda and vinegar can’t solve all your toxic issues.
The book “Healthy Child Healthy World” is full of advice about how to create a cleaner, greener, safer home. Using that book as my North Star, in addition to the expertise generously shared with us over the years by Healthy Child Blogger Network members, I’ve pulled together a starting list for chasing toxic chemicals out of your home.
1. Make or buy green cleaners
Baking soda and vinegar steal the spotlight in this category, and there are plenty of recipes for mixing up your own homemade green cleaner. But if you want to be able to buy something to get the job done, follow the cleaning tips from Betsy at Eco-novice.
Among my favorites are: avoid fragrance, don’t buy anything with scary warnings and danger labels, and search out products with verifiable eco labeling.
2. Cleaning isn’t disinfecting
Loads of cleaning products, personal care products, and even socks contain antibacterials, which have been added to make you believe you’ll fend off harmful bacteria by using them. It’s not true. In fact, antibacterials cause more harm than good by leading to antibiotic resistance. Soap and water gets the job done without harming the environment or creating a new generation of “super germs.”
3. Eat healthy and shop smart
Going organic is healthy and it is possible to do it without bankrupting your family. First, know which fruits and vegetables should always be organic (and avoid the Dirty Dozen) and which have the lowest amount of pesticide contamination. Dr. Alan Greene, a Healthy Child advisor, has compiled a top 10 list of foods you should buy organic, starting with milk.
4. Skip cans
Many food and beverage cans are lined with the toxic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to breast cancer and other health concerns. Avoid cans to reduce your kids’ exposure to the chemical, as they are more vulnerable to the effects of hormone-disrupters like BPA. As more companies bring BPA-free cans onto the market, keep your eyes open for BPA-free cans on store shelves and stay up to date on the issue by connecting with the Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans not Cancer campaign.
5. Stay beautiful without chemicals
Personal care products, like shampoo, makeup, and lotions may contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to reproductive harm, cancer, and skin irritation. Avoid parabens in lotions and antibacterials, like trichlosan, a carcinogen that shows up in toothpaste (yuck). EWG’s Skin Deep website makes it easier for you to find products that are safer for you. Also check out Story of Cosmetics to get the big picture of the problem and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics so you can learn which lipsticks have lead and why it’s always smart to skip fragrances.
6. Just say no to PVC
PVC is the worst of the plastics, made with toxic chemicals, including lead. PVC is identified by the #3 on the bottom and that “vinyl shower curtain smell,” which is the result of toxic chemicals called phthalates off-gassing into your home. Unless you make a point to avoid PVC, you’ll inadvertently fill your house with the toxic stuff, as it is ubiquitous and found in plastic food wrap, soft squeeze toys, wallpaper, flooring, and more. PVC is toxic, can’t be recycled, and is often the material of cheap, disposable toys that you don’t want in your kid sucking on or keeping in his or her toybox. Avoiding PVC is good for workers, your family, and the planet.
7. Ban pesticides from your home and yard
Pesticides are poisons and, in most cases, their negative effects outweigh any short-term gain. Pesticides have been linked to a range of health problems, including asthma, hyperactivity and behavior problems, cancer, learning disabilities, reproductive disorders, and compromised brain development. Food storage solutions and good sanitation is the first step to preventing pests from entering your home. Removing your shoes at the door will prevent you from tracking in pesticides and other dirt from the yard and walkways into your living space. Instead of using herbicides on your lawn, yank weeds early, and use mulch to block weed growth. Use natural fertilizers and plants that bugs don’t like (like marigolds) to help keep pests out of your garden.
8. Commit to buying and using less stuff !
Buy and use less stuff! The simple act of bringing a bag to the grocery store and using a refillable coffee mug or water bottle pays back great dividends and sets a good example for your kids. Do your best to avoid buying “throw-away” or single-use items. Invest in products and materials that will last; it saves trees, water, and money.
Remember: no one expects anyone to do everything on this list every day. My favorite Healthy Child motto is “No one can do everything but everyone can do something.” Take it a step at a time and let us know what works best for you and your family.