Detoxifying Your Home

Did you know that only less than five percent of more than 80,000 chemicals that were introduced in the United States since World War II have been tested for their effects on human health? This means that we may never know whether the items we put in our homes are safe enough for your children, your pet, and even your own. Even the seemingly safe items like plastic water bottles have a certain level of toxicity that may affect the body. In fact, your entire home may actually be toxic.

Do not panic, however. It is best to take one baby step over the other as you gradually detoxify your home, and here are some steps that you can do.

Avoid the use of any pesticides or herbicides

The grass on your front lawn may be green, but your home could be better off without them if you use pesticides or herbicides to keep them green. Running barefoot on toxic grass may put you and your child at risk of cancer, leukemia, and even neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease.

If you hire a gardener to tend your lawn, tell him not to use any chemicals or, better yet, do the gardening yourself and do it organically such as spreading ladybugs to combat aphids to pouring hot water over termite hills.

If your neighbor sprays pesticides on his front lawn, ask him to let you know when they are spraying (and what they are using) so you could shut your windows and doors while keeping your child inside the home.

Replace harmful cleaners with milder alternatives

Check under your sink and you may see different cleaning products like bleach, ammonia, tile scrubbers among others. They are not only potent, they are dangerous as well. Ammonia and chlorine can cause headaches, skin burns, as well as eye and respiratory irritations.

Replace these harmful cleaners and replace them with safer varieties. Better yet, you could clean the house using the old-fashion soap and water, plus elbow grease of course.

Check your child’s toy box for lead-coated toys

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued 21 recalls of toys tainted with lead paint, including learning toys and train sets, most of which were made in China. Lead, when swallowed in high doses, can cause convulsions and brain damage in young children. And even in small amounts of lead, children are likely to have loss of IQ, shortening of attention span, and behavioral problems.

They are most likely to swallow lead by chewing on the toys. To make sure that your child’s toys are safe, throw away any toy that is either painted or brightly-colored plastic. Instead, replace them with books and unpainted hardwood toys. Teach your kids to wash their hands after playing with their toys and before eating.

Detoxify your closet

Your closet may seem innocent from toxins, but air kept within the closet may not be ventilated enough to reduce the fumes from dry-cleaning chemicals and mothballs. These vapors are carcinogenic and are also irritating to the nervous system.

Use safer moth-repelling alternatives like dried lavender and cedar. Meanwhile, you also need to minimize your dry cleaning by checking if each of those "dry clean only" clothes can actually be put into the washer under a delicate cycle, or find a professional cleaner who uses less-toxic solutions. If all options fail, simply remove the newly-dry-cleaned clothing item from the cleaner bag and air it outside for several hours before hanging it in the closet.

Vacate the house when renovating

Having your walls repainted? Do not do it as a weekend hobby and hire a professional eco-friendly contractor, as doing the painting and the sanding all by yourself (without any protective tools) would put you and your family at risk of lead poisoning as well as inhaling mold, mildew, and dust. If possible, vacate the house during renovation.

If you cannot leave the house the whole time, get out during the initial demolition and in the final phase (when paint and wood finish are being applied). Once the room, or the whole house, is fully renovated, leave the windows open and turn on the vacuum with a HEPA filter, trapping very fine particles of toxins along with it.

Consider an organic mattress

Your bed’s mattress set may contain several chemicals such as polybrominated diphenyl ehters, which are banned in most of Europe since 2004), which may put you at risk of cancer and problems in the immune system; formaldehyde; and benzene.

You may want to switch your mattress and use an organic mattress made of organic cotton or wool futon. If you find organic mattress to be a little too expensive, avoid buying those that have vinyl covers and stain-resistant treatments. Meanwhile, natural mattresses are a must for cribs because babies sleep up to 18 hours a day and have more vulnerable systems.

Use greener kitty litter

If you have a cat that uses a litter box, and changing them make you cough, it more likely contains crystalline silica, a type of carcinogen. If the warning says that you should go to the emergency room if you swallow the kitty litter, it is safe to assume that it is toxic. Instead, use greener versions made of corn, wheat, alfalfa, cedar, and even pine. To beat out the oder, mix in a little baking soda, and keep the boxes in ventilated spots.

Detoxify your home office

If you have your own office in the house, keep in mind that it should be well-ventilated to avoid the fumes from the permanent markers, pesticides, particleboard furniture, printers, and copiers from lingering around.

Also, avoid putting your printers, fax machines, and copiers in your bedroom and take a 10-minute walk outside during the day to get your daily fresh air. You could also install chemical-removing plants like areca palm, Boston fern, and English ivy, or replace pressed-wood furniture for real wooden counterparts (it’s more expensive, but worth it).