Is your home a hotbed of toxins?
From the cleaning products we use right down to the chemicals being given off from new carpets and fresh wall paint, the average home could contain surprising levels of toxins.
Do you have multiple chemical sensitivity or perhaps you simply want to live a cleaner, ‘greener’ lifestyle? The chances are you’ll want to minimise the amount of toxins you and your family are exposed to at home on a daily basis. Here’s a run-down of the common sources of toxins you might encounter, and how to reduce your exposure to them...
1. Be aware of fixtures, fittings and furnishings
Look around your home and take a note of what you see. Do you have a relatively new carpet or vinyl floor? Have you painted any walls recently or installed any new MDF furniture? Perhaps you’ve just invested in a new sofa or memory foam mattress? Many people don’t realise that these items can all be sources of toxic chemicals. They can give off what’s known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This is a term for the variety of gases that can come from certain natural or synthetic sources, and are present almost everywhere. Not all VOCs are bad, but some can cause lung irritation, worsen allergy symptoms and exacerbate MCS symptoms. Some VOCs, such as formaldehyde, benzene and methylene chloride have even been linked to serious diseases like cancer.
To reduce your exposure to VOCs, you need to be aware of where they might come from. Potential sources in the home can be ‘off-gassed’ by wall paint, MDF furniture, vinyl flooring, memory foam mattresses, PVC shower curtains, and carpets (particularly stain-resistant ones). Depending on the material, off-gassing can go on for months, but the VOC exposure will be highest when the item is new. If you can smell a ‘chemical’ odour, the chances are you’re inhaling something that could be unhealthy.
Reduce your exposure to these chemicals by looking for organic or natural items where possible – it’s easier than you think (and kinder to the environment!) Choose unfinished wood furnishings rather than MDF and particleboard. Opt for organic wall paint – the award-winning Lakeland range comes in a huge range of colours and finishes and is a hit with many of our chemically sensitive customers. If practical and affordable, swap vinyl flooring or carpet for traditional wood flooring. Memory foam mattresses are classic offenders in terms of emitting VOCs – choose a certified organic mattress instead (many people find that the organic latex varieties offer a similar level of support and comfort).
2. De-tox your cleaning cupboard
Cleaning products may make your home look and smell squeaky clean, but actually they can contain a cocktail of carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors. Look for natural or organic alternatives instead – you can view our carefully selected non-toxic cleaning products range here. Bear in mind that some chemically sensitive people may react to even completely natural ingredients such as certain essential oils. For some DIY natural cleaning ‘recipes’, check out this list.
3. Freshen up your indoor air
If you live in a polluted area, you might feel that your home is a ‘refuge’ from pollutants. However, indoor air is actually estimated to contain up to 5 times more contaminants than the air outside!
Keeping your home well ventilated where possible, following a thorough cleaning regime and cutting down on fumes from things like synthetic air fresheners will help. If you want peace of mind that your indoor air is truly clean, an air purifier can come to the rescue.
Here at The Healthy House, we can’t overstate the benefits of using an air purifier at home or work. Tackling a range of allergens, particles and pollutants, air purifiers are ‘unsung heroes’ that take away unwanted impurities, so you can breathe air that’s pure and clean. We believe that everyone can benefit from these appliances, particularly those with allergies and chemical sensitivities.
We’ve carefully selected these air purifiers for their superior performance and quality. You can shop by filtration, filter type, brand and more – click here to view our dedicated air purifier section.
Here’s a top tip – certain houseplants can actually remove small amounts of toxins from the air in small rooms. For example, a study by NASA found that the spider plant is actually able to remove formaldehyde from a sealed chamber.
4. Eat fresh
If you want to reduce your intake of toxins, it’s easy when it comes to food and drink. Many products on the supermarket shelves nowadays are loaded with synthetic additives, preservative and artificial colours. Ditch ready-made foods and choose organic, local produce instead. It tastes better, you’ll avoid ingesting pesticides AND you’ll be supporting local farmers!
5. Clean up your beauty regime
Inspect your make-up bag or bathroom cabinet and you might be surprised at the amount of strange-sounding chemicals they contain. It’s estimated that the average American woman is exposed to 168 chemicals per day from personal care products and cosmetics alone. Parabens, for example, are commonly found in personal care products like antiperspirants, and have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Look for certified organic products, or at least those with natural ingredients, for peace of mind. Even with natural products it’s always sensible to check the ingredients carefully, especially if you have any known sensitivities. Check out our personal care section for a selection of carefully chosen safe and gentle products.
On a tight budget? Don’t forget that organic coconut oil can be used as a substitute for a wide range of cosmetics, from cleansers to eye cream.
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