The world of green living is vast. After all, green really just means healthy. Most of us come to it from one angle (food?) or another (parenthood?). However you find your way in, at some point you’ll start wondering about the safety of your home, especially if you have young children. Here are eight areas to consider as you give your living space an eco-makeover.
1. Ditch the cans.
Many food and beverage cans are lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical linked to breast cancer and other health concerns. Avoid canned food especially to reduce children’s exposure to BPA; pound for pound they’re more vulnerable to hormone disrupting chemicals than adults.
2. Minimize plastic.
Many chemicals of concern are found in plastic, so it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of it in your home, and in the kids’ toy bin. Vinyl, aka PVC, is especially important to avoid. Often referred to by environmentalists as “the poison plastic,” you can identify it by the #3 in a product’s recycling arrows and by its strong smell (like a new car or a shower curtain). That smell is actually hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates off-gassing into your air.
3. Look under the kitchen sink.
Choose green cleaning products to drastically reduce indoor air pollution. Because cleaning product formulas are currently government protected trade secrets, consumers can’t read ingredient lists in an effort to avoid harmful chemicals. We can look out for danger labels and warnings.
Even better: buy products from companies that voluntarily disclose their ingredients. And don’t be afraid of DIY; there are many effective and safe cleaners that can be made out of non-toxic household staples like baking soda, plant-based dish soap, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide.
4. Remember: cleaning isn’t disinfecting.
The dirtiest thing in any home is your own two hands. Still, many cleaning products, personal care products, and even socks now contain antibacterial agents, added to make consumers feel safe. It’s false safety as these antibacterials can lead to antibiotic resistance. Even the American Medical Association says it’s prudent to avoid antibacterials. Soap and water gets the job done without harming you, your kids, or the environment—or creating super bugs.
5. Don't forget the big guys.
If your house was built before 1978, check for lead paint. If you’re in an area where radon is a concern, test for that as well. Too often, we’re so focused on organic food and, say, non-toxic diaper cream, that we forget just how crucial these larger scale problems are to address.
6. Be a natural beauty.
Personal care products like makeup, lotions, and even baby shampoo may contain chemicals that have been linked to everything from reproductive complications to cancer. Choose natural, clean versions from companies that don’t use things like parabens (preservatives) and a whole host of petroleum-derived ingredients.
7. Just say no to pesticides.
If you eat organic to minimize ingesting pesticide residue, why spray poison in your kitchen or garden? Say goodbye to your exterminator and rely on natural pest solutions combined with preventative measures instead. Pesticides have been linked to a range of health problems, including asthma, hyperactivity and behavior problems, cancer, learning disabilities, reproductive disorders, and compromised brain development. Removing your shoes at the door will decrease the amount of pesticides you track into your home.
8. Buy less stuff.
A bit of common sense: The less you bring into your home, the fewer chances you have for bringing in potentially harmful substances. Monitor what you do buy and invest in durable, reusable items made of tried and true materials—from cookware to toys to furniture. Be especially wary of single use items.
One of Healthy Child Healthy World’s mottos is, “No one can do everything but everyone can do something.” If you’re not able to do all of the above, try something. To learn about more non-toxic solutions—and to share them with friends and family—try hosting a Healthy Child party this May. Sign up here and we’ll send you a kit with all of the materials—including a short DVD to screen—needed to get the conversation started about children’s health.
For more than 20 years Healthy Child Healthy World, a non-profit whose mission is to empower families to make better, safer choices, has been protecting children from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals. Through evidence-based information and up to date resources and programs, they help families, promote solutions, and influence policy.