This summer, there are some villains you won't find in the movie theater. They're lurking right beneath your nose and hiding in plain sight everywhere—where you live, where you work, and where you shop. And even Captain America and Jason Bourne are no match for these noxious thugs.
Who are these dangerous troublemakers? Environmental toxins—everything from automobile exhaust, solvents in cleaning products, fumes from freshly painted walls, fragrances, and plain old dust. These toxins can enter the body through the nose, eyes, and skin or be swallowed with food and water.
As I describe in my new book, The Allergy Solution, the cumulative load of these toxins in our body tips the scale toward health problems like allergies and asthma over time.
While you can't completely sanitize the world you live in, you can take steps to reduce and avoid exposure to common toxins that can undermine your health. Here are three toxins you should be avoiding and some tips to get you started:
Dust is everywhere, and it always seems to magically reappear right after you've cleaned and vacuumed. But while it may feel like a losing battle, there's a good reason not to let the dust settle.
Dust creates a haven for airborne toxins and dust mites—tiny little bugs that can cause asthma and dust allergy symptoms. Researchers from London found that an enzyme in the waste products of dust mites may damage the respiratory lining, allowing allergens to cross over.
Here are a few simple ways to decrease dust and dust mites in your home:
1. Take off your shoes before entering your home.
2. Clean often, using a damp cloth or mop to prevent dust from flying around the room.
3. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to catch dust mites.
4. Clear out dust-catching clutter like picture frames, knickknacks, and stuffed animals.
5. Change your clothes if you’ve been outside gardening, mowing the lawn, or just playing in the park.
6. Use mite-proof covers on your mattresses, pillows, and comforter.
7. Wash your sheets in hot water at least once a week.
8. Keep the relative humidity in your home and workplace low, below 50 percent. Dust mites (and mold) like humid places!
Indoor air pollution
When we think of air pollution, we typically think about the air outside, but the air in our homes can be just as polluted. Since we spend so much time inside, this is something you really need to pay attention to.
Here are some simple ways to limit the air pollution in your home:
9. Make your home a smoke-free zone. Not only is secondhand smoke bad for you, but scientists from the University of California found that third-hand smoke (the accumulation of secondhand smoke on surfaces over time) may post a toxic health threat, damaging the lungs and liver.
10. Use unscented laundry products. Researchers from the University of Washington found that fragranced laundry detergents and dryer sheets can be a major source of air pollution.
11. Park your car outside, not in the garage. When you park inside, the fumes from the car's exhaust and tires and dust from the brakes and engine all gather in a confined space. If your garage is attached to your home, the toxins may seep into your living space.
Like dust, chemicals are everywhere and have infiltrated every part of our lives. Want to decrease your chemical load? Here are four ways to start:
12. Detox your cleaning products. We've all grown up using spray cleaners to achieve squeaky-clean countertops and windows, but research has linked these sprays to asthma symptoms.
13. Check your shampoos and soap for sodium laurel sulfate. The same chemical that gives our shampoos the foam and lather we love can cause atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory disease.
14. Choose unscented products. Yes, we all like to smell nice, but fragrances can be made up of up to 3,000 different chemicals, and scientists from Turkey found that air fresheners can cause inflammation and congestion in rats.
15. Wash your new clothes before you wear them. New clothes may contain the residue of chemicals and dyes that could irritate your skin.