Improving the health of your home offers major benefits to your family. Reduce waste, minimize exposure to chemicals & toxins, breathe healthier, lower your risk for sickness, and improve the overall health of your environment with these 10 healthy home tips.
1. Choose Safer Plastics
Most plastics contain chemicals that are added for functionality. Some of these chemicals have been proven to be toxic. It has also been proven that some of these chemicals can leach into food and liquids that are contained in the plastic. While it is unlikely that one can completely avoid plastic altogether, it is important to limit its use with items that are likely to come in contact with the mouth. Most plastics are marked with numbers which indicate the type of plastic used to make the item. Plastics marked with #3 (or “PVC”) contain a toxic chemical that was recently banned in 2009. Plastics marked with #7 (or “PC”) are usually clear and rigid (e.g. food containers and water bottles). These containers have BPA which can leach into food and water that is in the containers. It is best to avoid plastics with these numbers if at all possible. Glass and ceramic containers are a much healthier option than plastic. However, if glass or ceramic are not available, plastics marked with a #1, 2, 4, or 5 do not contain BPA and are much safer choices than the other plastics mentioned above. Don’t heat plastic containers in the microwave as this releases the chemicals in the plastic. If you can, wash them by hand; if you do put them in the dishwasher, put them on the top shelf as the water is cooler there.
2. Watch What You Eat
Most canned foods are lined with the same chemical, BPA, that was mentioned in tip #1. Try using fresh or frozen foods instead of canned when possible. When buying fresh foods, especially vegetables, try to buy organic as these foods are grown with less pesticides. Check to make sure your salt is iodized; it helps to maintain thyroid function. Check the mercury content of fish; some fish are considered mercury-rich. It is best to avoid these fish as much as possible, especially if you are pregnant. Use a filter when drinking tap water to remove contaminants and use a stainless steel, reusable water bottle.
3. Check Your Cookware
Avoid non-stick cookware and kitchen utensils if at all possible. If you must use them, try not to overheat them as this converts the toxic particles into gas form and allows them to release into your food. Try to use stainless steel or cast iron cookware and wooden or stainless steel utensils instead.
4. Go Green
Many cleaning products contain chemicals that have been proven to lead to asthma, cancer, and other health issues. Check the ingredients on your cleaning products and opt for “green” products instead as these contain less chemicals than traditional cleaners. Most of these cleaners are marked with a label indicating they are “green certified.” If you must use traditional cleaners, check the label for diluting instructions and use the least amount as necessary to do the job. Consider using natural alternatives to cleaners, like vinegar diluted with water and baking soda, which is a great alternative to window cleaner. Mix baking soda and water to form a paste which can be used to clean ovens and toilets. Dilute vinegar in a bucket of water to mop floors. Green is the way to go when it comes to pesticides, as well. The saliva, feces, and shedding body parts of cockroaches have been proven to trigger both allergies and asthma. A green pest control program gets rid of pests while maintaining the lowest environmental impact possible, and it’s pet and family-friendly! Mosquitoes transmit a multitude of diseases like Zika, West Nile, malaria, dengue and more. Reduce mosquito bites and lower your risk with mosquito bite prevention and a green mosquito control program – guaranteed to reduce the number of mosquitoes and mosquito breeding sites around your home without harsh chemicals.
5. Clean The Air
Allergies and asthma can also be triggered by pet dander, dust, and other irritants commonly found in your home. Think of your home as an organism and your heating & cooling systems as the breathing mechanisms. The system supplies conditioned air but at the same time it pulls that same air back into the return. This means that the air is being constantly recycled and is picking up particulates from pets, cleaning products and what you cooked for dinner. It’s no wonder it’s polluted. The first step to getting rid of the dust in your home is to dust and vacuum often. Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters are now available that trap and collect more dust and irritants than a regular vacuum cleaner. Follow this up with wet mopping your floors often, as well. Consider investing in an air purifier for your home that’s installed directly onto your current heating and cooling system, making the air inside your home cleaner, fresher and healthier for the whole family.
6. Modify Your Home
Check the age of your home. If it was built prior to 1978 there is a good chance the paint contains lead. Repainting with low VOC paints can reduce your exposure to toxic lead. Does your furniture contain foam? Many foam stuffed items such as mattresses are treated with toxic flame retardants. Check the items carefully to make sure the foam is not exposed and repair or replace if they are. Check your light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain toxic mercury which can be harmful to you and your family. Handle them with care, especially when disposing of them. Wooden furniture such as picnic tables and swing sets, as well as wooden decking on the exterior of your home can contain arsenic if built before 2005. Replace with items built after 2005 or seal them to reduce your exposure. Check your crawl spaces in your home. One of the best ways to increase energy efficiency, prevent mold growth, and control pests is to enclose your crawl space. This could save you up to 18% on utility bills! In addition to the crawl space, you should also check the insulation in your attic to see if it’s adequate. If not, consider adding a green insulation product like TAP Insulation which can reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool your home, conserving energy while significantly reducing energy bills.
7. Take Personal Care
Since we don’t always know what makes up the fragrances of our personal products, consider buying fragrance-free. Does your toothpaste contain fluoride? Fluoride is toxic to children under the age of 2. Use fluoride-free toothpaste for your kids. Check your shower curtain; if it’s vinyl, throw it out. And regardless of the material it’s made of, shower curtains should be left outside for several days before installing in your home. Avoid using products that aren’t absolutely necessary such as hair spray, detanglers, dryer sheets, and fabric softener. Save money while reducing your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals!
8. Maintenance Is Key
Many pests can enter your home in ways that you would never think of. Seal any openings that could be potential pest entry points – utility openings where wires or pipes come into the foundation and areas around gas meters, dryer vents, and outdoor faucets. You can use caulk, expandable foam, copper mesh, or cement to seal these openings. Examine doors and windows. Be sure to seal any gaps and cracks around windows and doors that would allow pests to enter the home. You can use weather stripping or caulk to seal these problem areas. You can also fit the bottoms of your doors, including your garage doors, with rubber seals. Weather stripping can also be used to seal the bottoms of sliding glass doors. Be sure to examine your screens on doors and windows, as well. Repair any rips/tears that can be fixed and replace the screens that can’t be fixed. If you have a chimney, make sure you install a chimney cap to keep out birds, bats, and other wildlife. You can also install wire mesh over attic vents to keep out bats, squirrels, and rodents. If you have a woodpile outside, make sure to keep it at least 20 feet from the exterior of your home and elevate the woodpile if possible. Cut back overgrown landscaping 1-2 feet so they are not touching the exterior of your home. You should be able to walk the entire perimeter of your house without touching any landscaping. Lighting also attracts pests, especially around windows and doors; using sodium vapor lighting can help.
9. Wash Your Hands
Hand washing is easy to do and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness. Help stop the spread of germs by washing your hands often, especially during key times, such as before, during, and after preparing food; before eating food; before and after caring for someone who is sick; before and after treating a cut or wound; after using the bathroom; after changing diapers; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after touching an animal, animal food, or animal waste; and after touching garbage. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
10. Be Safety Conscious
Keep a distance between flammable objects (papers, curtains, plastics, etc.) and fire sources (oven, stove top, portable heater, etc.). Keep electrical appliances wrapped and away from water. Install smoke detectors, check them regularly, and replace the batteries at least once a year. Avoid overloading outlets and extension cords. Keep fire extinguishers handy and know how to use them.