It’s hard to believe indoor air is up to five times more polluted than outdoor, but it’s true. So says the EPA. The good news is that while you can’t control your exposure to pollutants when out and about, you certainly have the capacity to minimize them in your own home.
You may not always be able to see and smell potentially harmful and toxic substances lurking in your home, so here’s a primer on where to take action now to get rid of the bad and bring in the good.
1. Dust often.
Household dust carries more toxins than you may think. Vacuum regularly with a HEPA vacuum, damp mop hard floors, wipe furniture and other surfaces with a microfiber cloth or damp rag, and maintain filters on HVAC and other climate-control equipment.
2. Clean the air.
Indoor air pollution creates big risks for public health, but there are small, simple ways to freshen indoor air. Open windows regularly, test for radon, avoid personal care products containing synthetic fragrance, and keep humidity levels between 30 to 50 percent to help VOCs (volatile organic compounds) dissipate.
3. Get the lead out.
Many homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. Even if your home was built after, lead can hide in common places, including dust, drinking water, mini-blinds, imported traditional medicine, and low-quality jewelry. You can buy a swab-based test kit at hardware stores to identify lead, but for bigger jobs, hire workers certified in lead safety for a lead clearance testing.
4. Filter your water.
Water is vital, yet it can contain harmful chemicals. Ask your water supplier if chlorine or fluoride is used in your tap water. If so, filter your water. If you drink well water, it’s likely to be free of chlorine and fluoride, but it may contain agricultural pesticides and more. Test it and filter accordingly.
5. Avoid vinyl.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, such as shower curtains, luggage, soft plastic toys, and flooring contain chemicals that can negatively impact health systems, including testosterone production and reproductive development. Keep away from vinyl or plastic products labeled with a “PVC,” “V,” or “3” recycling symbols and buy PVC-free versions of the above items and more.
6. Don’t get stuck on perfluorochemicals.
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are commonly found in cookware, food packaging, and stain repellents. Like PVC chemicals, PFCs can disrupt the endocrine system and increase risk of cancer. Swap nonstick cookware for naturally nonstick cast iron, don’t apply stain or water-repelling treatments to furniture, and avoid coated paper plates.
Household pollutants are of particular concern for pregnant women and young children. If you're pregnant, check out Healthy Child Healthy World’s new e-book, Easy Steps to a Safer Pregnancy, to help safeguard you and your growing bump. It’s free to download, and addresses everything from personal care products to organic food to setting up a safer nursery.
For more tips on detoxifying your home, watch this video of Christopher Gavigan, co-founder of Honest.com.