Green Tips: Avoiding Toxics in the Home

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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.

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.

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.

Support a stronger TSCA. The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed in 1976, isn't strong enough to protect people from exposure to tens of thousands of new and untested chemicals. Join groups like NRDC and CHEJ in calling for Congress to update the law.

 

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