We live in a world vastly different from the one our grandparents grew up in, and I’m not referring to cell phones and air travel. The world we live in, especially our homes, is filled with industrial chemicals, most of which did not exist fifty years ago. Over 80,000 are registered for use in commercial products in the United States, and hundreds of new ones are introduced every year. Shockingly, many reach the marketplace and our dinner plates with little or no safety testing. These chemicals are used in everyday items such as foods, shampoos, toys, furniture, carpeting, air fresheners, electronics, cleaners, and lawn care products, just to name a few.
The effects of most of these chemicals on human health are unknown. Yet, a growing body of research is discovering that many of these chemicals we are regularly exposed to from everyday products are directly linked to chronic health conditions that are rising to epidemic levels; like asthma, reproductive disorders, cancer, allergies, learning and behavior disorders, allergies, obesity, and more. Like I said, a world vastly different than your Grandma and Grandpa.
Luckily, the more we learn, the more we find that there are many easy ways to reduce our exposure to chemicals and protect our health, especially for our children.
5 Easy Steps
Step 1: Manage Pests Safely. Exposure to common lawn care and indoor pesticides is linked to a range of health problems, including asthma, hyperactivity and behavior problems, cancer, learning disabilities, reproductive disorders, and compromised brain development. Use non-toxic or least toxic pest remedies like using soapy water to kill ants or boiling water to kill weeds. Prevent pests through good sanitation and food storage habits. Visit BeyondPesticides.org for details on the potential health impacts of pesticides and non-toxic remedies for almost every pest problem.
Step 2: Use Non-Toxic Products. We bring home a wide variety of products that contain potentially harmful toxicants. Cleaners are an obvious one; they often have warning labels on them because of their toxic make-up. You may be more surprised that body care items and even home furnishings can contain harmful chemicals like phthalates and formaldehyde. Buy cleaners that don’t contain harsh chemicals or fumes or make your own. When selecting body care products, avoid parabens, synthetic fragrances, and sodium lauryl or laureth sulfates. Visit CosmeticsDatabase.com for detailed information about the ingredients of personal care products and to find safer alternatives. Opt for solid woods instead of pressed. Overall, trust your nose. If something has a chemically, perfume-y, or “new” smell, it likely contains volatile organic chemicals that can potentially have health impacts.
Step 3: Clean Up Indoor Air. Did you know that people in America spend 90 percent of their time indoors? It might seem safer and cleaner, but indoor air pollution is typically 2-5 times worse than outdoor air. Common indoor air pollutants include formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, secondhand smoke, asbestos, lead, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Not to worry, it’s easy to reduce the risk. Start by replacing products that contribute to the problem, then try some other simple steps. Ventilate your home by opening windows. Regularly change the filters in your air conditioning and heating units. Naturally cleanse air with indoor plants. Vacuum weekly using a HEPA filtered vacuum.
Step 4: Eat Healthy. Opt for organic foods as much as possible to reduce your exposure to pesticides, hormones, and genetically modified organisms. Select fresh, dried, or frozen foods as most cans are lined with a resin containing bisphenol-A. Make foods from scratch when you can to avoid synthetic additives and preservatives.
Step 5: Be Wise with Plastics. Plastics are affordable and convenient, but we are increasingly finding that a hidden cost may be our health. Some plastics leach harmful chemicals, especially when they comes in contact with oily or fatty foods, during heating and microwaving, as a result of harsh cleaners, and when exposed to excessive moisture. Luckily, we can make safer choices. Avoid using plastic in the microwave or with warm foods and beverages. Avoid PVC/vinyl (#3), Polystyrene/styrofoam (#6), and polycarbonate/PC (#7). Choose safer plastics or opt for natural materials like glass, steel, solid wood, or cotton.
Learn more at Healthy Child Healthy World: 5 Easy Steps.
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