Our children are facing an unprecedented rise in chronic disease and illness such as cancer, autism, asthma, birth defects, and learning and developmental disabilities. Credible scientific evidence increasingly points to chemicals used in everyday products, building materials, and furnishings as causing and contributing to many of these diseases.
Yet, when it comes to detoxifying our lives, oftentimes parents feel overwhelmed. To make things more manageable, we’ve developed the 5 Easy Steps. These steps were identified by our scientific advisors as the fundamental actions that will truly help protect your children’s health and development.
Step One: Avoid Pesticides
Weeds, bugs, rodents — we call them pests for a reason. No one wants them around. But the convenience offered by a pesticide’s quick fix has its price. Pesticides are poisons designed to cause harm and in most cases, the negative effects of these poisons far outweigh any positives of being rid of the pests.
What to Do
- Avoid using toxic chemicals inside and out. Even when used according to the directions, pesticides can pose health risks. By federal law, no one can say pesticides are safe — so don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise.
- Prevent pests through good sanitation and food storage habits, and by preventing their entry structurally.
- Take off your shoes at the door to prevent tracking pesticides indoors. Traces of pesticide residues can cling to the bottoms of your shoes and then rub off on your carpet and rugs.
Step Two: Use Non-Toxic Products
Stop for a moment to consider how many different products you come in contact with every day: personal care products, cleaners, computers, carpeting, cabinetry, cushions, cosmetics and much, much more. These are the makings of modern life, but do you know what’s in them? Oftentimes, what’s in them ends up in you.
Protect your health from this constant assault by making sure the products and furnishings you buy are non-toxic. There are an increasing number of safe and healthy alternatives.
What to Do
- Make your own safer cleaning products. Baking soda is a great scouring agent and vinegar mixed with water makes an effective glass cleaner.
- Reduce your use of products altogether by investing in microfiber cloths or hand held steam cleaners, both of which clean effectively with water alone.
- Look for personal care products made with certified organic ingredients and those with the fewest ingredients. Also, use fewer products and smaller amounts.
- Avoid body care products with parabens, phthalates (DEHP, BBP, DBP, DMP, DEP), DMDM hydantoin, fragrance, triclosan, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, DEA (diethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine), formaldehyde, PEGs (polyethylene glycol), and anything with “glycol” or “methyl.”
- Look for home furnishings made with natural materials. Call the manufacturer to find out what a product is made of (be sure to ask about adhesives, coatings and treatments.) Re-invent and re-use furnishings to reduce your exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – often recognized as that “new smell.”
Step Three: Clean Up Indoor Air
People in the U.S. spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. It might seem safer and cleaner, but indoor air is typically more polluted than outdoor air. Common indoor air pollutants include formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, radon, secondhand smoke, and volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds.
What to Do
- After doing your best to eliminate the source of the pollutants by purchasing non-toxic products, you should ensure your home is properly ventilated. Opening windows for even a few minutes a day can significantly improve indoor air quality. For special situations, use an air purifier to capture any lingering risky contaminants.
- When addressing odors, use non-toxic techniques to scent and deodorize the house.
Step Four: Eat Healthy
Today’s modern diet is grown, processed, and packaged using toxic chemicals. From the pesticides used on conventional farms to the bisphenol-A used to line the inside of aluminum cans, our food is heavily tainted before it hits the table. Pesticides, bacteria, industrial chemicals and food additives all find their way into our foods, often at levels that can pose risks.
What to Do
The easiest way to eat healthier is to start making your food instead of buying processed, prepared food and warming it. Buying whole foods reduces your exposure to the many synthetic additives found in processed foods. Many people feel they don’t have the time or the skills to make foods from scratch, but once you start doing it, you’ll see how easy it really is. Also, if you include children in the process, you’ll empower them to eat healthy for a lifetime (and kids are more likely to eat new foods if they are involved in choosing, buying and preparing it.)
Step Five: Be Wise With Plastics
Plastics are everywhere and, in most cases, are very affordable and convenient. But, increasingly scientists are finding that a hidden cost may be our health. Some common plastics release harmful chemicals into our air, foods and drinks. Maybe you can’t see or taste it, but if you’re serving your dinner on plastic, you’re likely eating a little plastic for dinner.
What to Do
- The best thing to do is to reduce your use of plastic. Look for natural alternatives like textiles, solid wood, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, etc. Also, look for items with less (or no) plastic packaging.
- If you do buy plastic, opt for products you can recycle or re-purpose (e.g. a yogurt tub can be re-used to store crayons). And, look for safer plastics, like those numbered 2, 4, or 5 (look for the chasing arrows symbol typically on the bottom of a product).
- Buy and store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers. If using plastic storage containers, make sure hot food items have cooled before placing them in the container. And keep in mind that fatty and acidic foods promote leaching, so you may want to, at the very least, choose glass for those types of foods.
- Do not heat plastics — not even if they say they are microwave safe.
Learn more about the research behind the 5 Easy Steps and additional ways you can integrate them into your life at Healthy Child Healthy World.
What steps are you taking to create a healthy home? Share your tips on the Parenting Community.