Spring is the perfect time of year to detox, and I’m not just talking about a 3-day juice cleanse or herbal detox kit. While detoxifying our bodies is important for optimal health, so is detoxing the space in which we choose to live our lives – our home.
Did you know that indoor air is two to five times more toxic than outdoor air? And that 3% of global disease is due to indoor air pollution? Being that the majority of us spend 90% of our lives indoors, this is a huge cause for concern.
So just what is causing the air in our homes to become so toxic? Well, let’s break things down by taking a look at the most common spaces in our home.
Non-stick cookware is convenient, but these Teflon coated pots and pans can emit chemicals that are detrimental to our health. The main chemical in Teflon – PFC, is released during cooking/heating and can cause health issues with our thyroid, liver and cholesterol levels, and can contribute to a weakened immune system. In some cases, this chemical has even caused the death of pets; including birds and other small animals. EEEEK, I’ll take my morning egg being a bit stuck to the pan any day over harming my kitty, or my family’s health!
How to avoid it? For a safer option stick to stainless steel or cast iron pots and pans. And always cook in a well-ventilated kitchen by either turning on your hood fan or cracking a window both during and after cooking.
I’m sure most of you have heard of BPA by now ( aka. Bisphenol A). It’s known to leach into the food and/or liquids it comes in contact with, especially when it’s heated up. BPA is known to cause hormone disruption, infertility issues, lower vitamin D levels in our bodies, has links to heart disease, can cause male reproductive dysfunction, and can cause a number of problems that affect both pregnant mothers and their developing babies.
BPA can be found in plastics with the number 7 labelled on the bottom. It’s used in plastic tupperware containers, the plastic coating on the lids of glass jars (like those used for baby food or pasta sauces) and in the plastic lining of many canned foods.
How to avoid it? Switch your kitchen over to being plastic free. Opt for glass food containers in place of plastic tupperware, use silicone or wooden cooking utensils, eat and drink out of ceramic, stainless steel or glass dishes. And remember to never microwave or heat anything in a plastic container.
From toothpaste to deodorant, our daily bathroom routine can contribute to poor health. Chemicals, foaming agents and preservatives are often scrolled on the ingredients list of these (and many other) products on our bathroom shelf. Some of these ingredients can cause allergic reactions, skin irritation and even cancer.
How to avoid it? Read labels. If the list of ingredients is really long and if you don’t know what most of the ingredients are, then put it back on the shelf.
Petroleum products, parabens, toxic chemicals, lead… the list of health threatening ingredients in our make-up, eye cream, soaps, lotions and potions is long… and a bit scary. Just like toiletries, beauty products are not as well regulated as most of us would think. While there are toxic limits and regulations set for products, these limits don’t take into account the fact that many men and women use more than one product on a daily basis. Which means these toxic ingredients add up and accumulate over time, making them anything but safe.
How to avoid it? Again read labels, and do some research. Check out EWG’s Skin Deep database to look up the health rating of your current beauty products.
We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, and it’s crazy to think could be snuggled up on a toxic mattress. That’s right, mattresses are often made from petroleum products that can off-gas into the air emitting dangerous VOC’s. They’re also coated in flame-retardants that are super toxic, causing health problems ranging from infertility and birth defects to lower IQ scores, behavioural problems in children, and even liver, kidney, testicular, and breast cancers. Pregnant and nursing mothers, babies and young children are at particularly high risk when it comes to the effects of flame-retardants.
How to avoid it? Choose an eco- friendly mattress made from wool, silk, hemp, organic cotton or natural latex. It’s also best to stick to eco-friendly or organic pillows and linens.
There are too many toxic chemicals and ingredients in most conventional cleaning products to go into detail about and they’re unfortunately causing us more harm than good. Kitchen and bathroom sprays, tub, tile and window cleaners, and laundry products like detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets all fall into this category. Many are created with chemicals that are known carcinogens and most use synthetic fragrance, both of which can cause skin irritation, respiratory issues, cancer, allergies and environmental concerns.
How to avoid it? EWG’s Guide to a Healthy Cleaning is a great resource for looking up which cleaning products are harmful and which are not. You can also DIY your own cleaning supplies; water and vinegar can go a long way!
Carpet is a breeding ground for bacteria and a magnet for dust bunnies and hair. Not to mention new carpet is one of the leading causes of VOC’s polluting our indoor air. VOC’s can cause headaches, nausea, nerve problems, and may irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. They’re also known to increase the risk of cancer when exposure is long term.
How to avoid it: Where possible use hardwood floors and natural tile. If you do have to be around newly installed carpet, be sure to let it off-gas for at least a few weeks before living in the space. And if your home is currently rocking wall to wall carpeting, your vacuum should be your new best friend, especially if you have pets.
Not unlike beds, many soft furniture pieces (like couches) are doused in flame-retardants. Luckily many Canadian furniture manufacturers are taking consumer health concerns into account and are forgoing the use of flame-retardants.
How to avoid it? Ask the manufacturer of your current furniture (or the of the new pieces you’re considering buying) if they use flame-retardants. I emailed Urban Barn about both my sofas and was happy to find out they never use flame-retardants, yay! I’m also careful to watch out for old pieces from yard sales and hand-me-downs that could harbour toxic chemicals… and dust/mould.
As you can see, our homes, just like our bodies, are in need of a detox from time to time. It may not be realistic to toss all of your hard earned pots, pan, cleaning or beauty products all at once (I know I didn’t), but by slowly replacing one item at a time, you can achieve a truly cleaner, safer and healthier home. You’re health, family, furry friends and the planet will thank you.
Happy detoxing everyone!