11 Tips to Avoid Toxics in the Home

Collin Anderson / Flickr


Federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency make laws that are meant to keep harmful chemicals out of our homes and the environment, but these laws aren’t always complete or enforced properly. Unfortunately, people have to be discerning when they shop to make sure they’re not exposing their families to toxics and other dangerous pollutants.

Here are some tips for reducing your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals:

Reduce plastic use. Many kinds of plastics contain endocrine disrupters that can cause all sorts of health issues from obesity to liver problems. Read the blog My Plastic-Free Life for practical ideas on cutting back.

Make friends with the ingredients list. Environmental Working Group has a large database of products ranging from cosmetics to cleaning materials, ranked by toxicity. Before you buy, plug the product into their database to make sure it’s safe for your family. Better yet, make your own cleaning and personal care products at home!

Ditch triclosan. While Johnson & Johnson recently decided to remove the antibacterial chemical triclosan from its line, it’s still used in a wide variety of American products. Check that your hand soap, toothpaste and other personal care products don’t contain this ingredient known to cause antibiotic resistance, allergies and other side effects.

Avoid food treated with antibiotics. Widespread use of antibiotics for livestock has led to the growth of superbugs that cause illness in humans and decrease the effectiveness of certain drugs. Buy organic meat and dairy products or switch to a vegetarian/vegan diet.

Don't smoke or allow others to smoke in your home. From ear infections to cancer, cigarette smoke can cause serious health problems.

Check your basement for radon, particularly if you or your kids spend a lot of time there. You can buy an EPA approved radon test kit from most hardware stores.

Use non-chemical methods of rodent control such as rat traps and make sure the pest control companies you hire don’t use unsafe products. Up to 15,000 children under age six are exposed to dangerous levels of rat poison every year.

Choose healthy furnishings. From VOCs in paint and fiberboard laced with formaldehyde to flame retardant chemicals in sofas, it’s no wonder indoor air pollution is often worse than what you’ll find outside. Inhabitat offers some advice for ensuring your furniture is free of toxic chemicals.

Have an expert check your home for lead paint. If your house is more than 25 years old and hasn't been checked, lead paint could still be a problem. Also get expert help if you are planning any home repairs or improvements where old layers of lead paint will be uncovered.

Test your water. Old pipes can leach lead into your water. Have your water tested and apply a filter if you have lead in your water. If you are worried about your child's lead levels ask their doctor to have it analyzed the next time they get a blood test.

Support a stronger TSCA. The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed in 1976 and renewed in 2016, isn't strong enough to protect people from exposure to tens of thousands of new and untested chemicals. Tell Congress to enforce the chemical laws we do have and work to pass better ones.



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