In order to protect our homes and loved ones, we have to know what are toxins in our home. It seems we can’t escape them. They’re everywhere around us in so many common things.
Your home should be a place of safety and restoration from the chaotic stress of the world outside the doors. Yet, we find ourselves, especially in America, becoming physically and psychologically ill from the toxins in our homes. The environment inside your home most probably harbors mold, toxins and other harmful bacteria related to your health.
Did you know the latest findings say indoor air pollutants are up to five times worse for you than outdoor air pollution? This toxic atmosphere is the fourth largest environmental threat in the United States. Even existing diseases are proven to be worsened by our indoor air quality.
If you are experiencing unexplained health problems, why not start investigating your home. Part of self-sufficient farm living is taking on the responsibility for your health and that of your family. Our home is our sanctuary and we alone can make certain it stays that way.
I have a dear friend who is experiencing life-threatening illness. She was blessed with a rare medical doctor who is willing to embrace the reality of natural medicine combined with modern medicine. This doctor told my friend to remove all toxic cleaning products from her home, to look for and remove mold and all sources of it, and to be sure to not have carpet in her home.
Armed with a list, which is pages long, she is working her way through her home. Among them are many things the American Lung Association has already identified as harmful. Things such as carpets, cleaning supplies, dust mites, mold, dampness, pet dander, radon and paint products.
You may feel some of the effects as soon as you walk through the door; dizziness, headaches, scratchy eyes, irritated nose and throat. However, the long-term effects are disabling and often fatal without being diagnosed or discovered. According to WHO (World Health Organization), 4.3 million people are directly dealt death sentences by toxic household air pollutants.
You are your family’s first line of defense. By knowing what are toxins in your home, understanding the risks and how to lessen or eliminate them, we can stand in the gap for our home and those it shelters.
So we know they’re harmful, but what are toxins in our homes?
The first thing most people think of is VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These are the gasses emitted by certain cleaning supplies, paints, disinfectants and even cosmetics! The word volatile says it all. The concentration of these in the average home is up to 10 times that of outdoor air pollution. But what are the other more prominent ones?
BPA (Bisphenol A)
I found this the easiest to remove from our home. BPA has received a great deal of attention over the last few years. It’s found in plastics. Think about that … this is an incredibly wide category: water bottles which get hot and leak BPA into the water; baby bottles; dental fillings and sealants; your eyeglasses; medical prosthesis (internal and external), DVDs, sports equipment … how much plastic do you own? It’s also found in the lining of food and drink cans.
Exposure to BPA
BPA acts in a way similar to hormones in the body so it disrupts the endocrine system. This means it interferes with the natural actions of hormones – their production, secretion, transportation, behaviors and how they carry out their functions. It imitates hormones and the results are hazardous. Young children and babies are especially susceptible to these effects since their formative years are directly related to the health of their endocrine system.
Possible health risks: reproductive disorders in both male and female; heart disease, Type II diabetes, brain function and asthma (just to name a few).
Lessen or Remove the Risk From Your Home
Examine all your plastics and immediately remove those with the numbers 3 and 6, if they are used for anything that will go into or on your body. If you have anything with the numbers 1 or 7 use with caution. Numbers 2, 4, and 5 are said to be “somewhat safe.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not OK with just “somewhat safe” or use with caution.
IF we purchase plastic, we buy “BPA-Free” products. Let’s face it though, the fact is that “BPA-Free” simply means there are only trace amounts in the product. Because it’s plastic it has some BPA in it. It’s the nature of the beast. Making a kitchen tools list is helpful in determining what you need to replace to avoid BPA.
PFCs (Perfluorinated compounds)
PFCs include a whole family of chemicals containing fluorine. Fluorine is what makes things stain resistant. Like most of what are toxins in our homes, these receive little to no testing. The most commonly known forms are PFOAs, used in making Teflon products and PFOSs, used in stain-resistant products.
Exposure to PFCs
From food packaging to carpets, PFCs are all around you. Did you ever wonder about the popcorn not sticking to the inside of the microwave bag or the pizza not sticking to the box? PFCs take care of that.
PFCs (PFOA) are a large component of nonstick cookware. When heated, these gasses are released into the food and air. As PFOAs, you find them in carpet, on furniture and even in clothing, especially gore-tex clothing (it sheds water thanks to PFCs). PFCs are in cleaning products, shampoo, dental floss … too long to list here for sure.
If we were to stop using PFCs today, every production was ceased, the PFC levels would increase in our environments over the coming years because they are so slow to decay. Cancer is the first health risk we associate with PFCs, but there are others. Liver, pancreatic, endocrine, kidney and reproductive disorders are prevalently associated with exposure to PFCs. Here’s a scary fact for you: It is estimated for the human body to expel half a dose of PFCs in PFOA form would take 4 years; a half dose of PFOSs would take 8 years.
Lessen or Remove the Risk From Your Home
Refusing to purchase or at least limit the use of PFC-containing products is the obvious thing to do in order to avoid what are toxins in your home. Consider not buying furniture and carpets with “stain resistance” and don’t add them after purchase. Don’t purchase clothing treated with water or stain resistance. Any outdoor and sportswear which are water or stain resistant are treated with PFCs laden chemicals to achieve it.
Any outdoor and sportswear which are water or stain resistant are treated with PFCs laden chemicals to achieve it.
What if you already have them in your home? The tough choices are to remove them and replace them with a healthier alternative, remove them and live without them, or leave them accepting the reality of them. No one can tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Arm yourself with knowledge and make the best decision you can.
Be sure to check ALL personal care products. Look for any ingredient which includes the prefix or any portion of “fluoro or perfluoro.” These are PFCs. They are prevalent in cosmetics of all kinds.
If you choose to use Teflon-coated cookware, never heat it above 400 degrees F. NEVER use scratched or damaged nonstick cookware.
What a word, huh? This toxic compound is an ester (a compound produced by the reaction between an acid and an alcohol). Their main purpose is to make products more flexible and durable. The chemical leaks into the product itself, no matter what it is: household cleaners, plastic containers, pacifiers, baby care products, cosmetics, PVC, etc.
Since manufacturers don’t have to list phthalates as a separate ingredient, they can be listed in those “invisible” terms like fragrance, natural colors, etc. This makes them almost impossible to identify. The best way to avoid them is to look for conscientious companies who will say “phthalate-free” somewhere on their packaging. Be aware though, like with BPA, this doesn’t mean there are no phthalates in the product; it simply means they’re minuscule.
As with PFCs, our homes are inundated with these. Our main exposure is from inhalation of the particles in the air of our homes. Ingestion closely follows inhalation as the source of contamination.
Knowing what are toxins in your home is scary when you consider the vastness of their use. From hair spray, perfumes and lotions, to medical tubing and equipment which is used in and on the human body, PFCs are everywhere. Avoiding them completely in your home is a monumental task, but is achievable. Depending on how much you want to remove, it can become expensive when you consider how much PVC piping is in our homes today and the expense of the alternatives. All we can do is the best we can, eat as healthy as we can and realize life is fragile at it’s best.
Breast cancer in men, children and women is a major risk. Liver cancer has been established as a high risk. Really, since phthalates have been proven to be a human carcinogen, any cancer can be a result of exposure. Endocrine disruption and all those ailments which follow such a disruption in the body, respiratory conditions, premature birth and birth defects are also listed as effects of exposure to them.
Lesson or Remove the Risk From Your Home
Inhalation Exposure – Use paints and such products in a well-ventilated area and/or purchase products without phthalates. Be sure children are NEVER in the area where products containing these are in use.
Air fresheners are a major culprit. Even if you purchase a “fragrance-free” product, it contains phthalates. Use natural air fresheners.
I use organic witch hazel mixed in water with essential oils. Mix 1 part witch hazel to 3 parts water and add 20-30 drops of any essential oil or blend of oils. My personal favorite is lemon and orange or lavender and rosemary. Put in a spray bottle and mist the air. Refreshing and natural!
If you smell the “new car or vinyl” smell, you’re inhaling phthalates. Keep a clean home. Since phthalates are airborne, they are in dust particles in your home. Wet mop and dust any room with these products in them often.
Ingestion Exposure – The most obvious is to use glass or stainless steel instead of plastic for storing foods, as water bottles, and baby bottles. Remember glass requires extra care because of the risk of breakage. We like stainless steel bottles for water we carry with us.
I haven’t owned a microwave for more than 6 years. If you do use one, don’t heat food in plastic. Also, remember to not put plastic containers in the dishwasher. Exposure to high temperatures causes the chemicals to leach out of the plastics.
Since children are known to put things in their little mouths, it’s especially important to purchase non-vinyl products like pacifiers and toys.
If you purchase processed foods, watch for those wrapped in plastic. I would remove at least a thin layer before eating it.
In the medical setting, it is your right as a patient to ask for non-PVC IV tubing and other equipment. Some pills are coated with “protective” coatings which contain phthalates so you may want to ask for noncoated or for a safer alternative.
These really came into the public view in the early 2000s. They are a part of the flame retardant materials group. PBDEs enter our environment when they begin to decay. They are released into the air, the soil, and of course our water supply as the products which contain them begin to degrade. Sadly, this chemical is found around the world in the human body because of its vast use.
Most of these were voluntarily banned by the EU and a few of them are actually banned here in the U.S. With so many products containing them and what are considered “lower risk” compounds, they are a real danger to us.
Since the early ’70s they have been used as flame retardants in fabrics, foams, electronics, mattresses and more. This means they are all around us. They are emitted from televisions, computers, and even our beds.
PBDEs are considered neurotoxins affecting neurological development and behaviors. They are of course carcinogenic and have been proven to cause significant liver and thyroid damage. Because they are so prevalent in our environment, the continuous exposure influences defects already created by initial exposure to them.
Just by sitting on a cushion made with PBDEs, invisible particles are released into the air. As we do laundry, bathe, as it rains, these chemicals are washed down the drain. Through the process of evaporation and because some places use gray water to water crops, these poisons continue to be in our environment and return to us.
Lessen or Remove the Risk From Your Home
It’s pretty much impossible to avoid all exposure to this highly toxic group of chemicals. We can only hope to avoid them as much as possible and limit our own exposure. There are a few things we can do individually.
Eating a healthy diet, which we should be doing anyway. This means avoiding pesticide, herbicide laden foods, remove processed foods from your diet, and consume non-GMO foods. Avoid farm-raised fish. Research has shown the levels of PBDEs and PCB are high in farm-raised fish. Instead, purchase wild caught fish from the oceans, not ponds or gulfs.
If you have carpets (I don’t) use vacuums with HEPA filters. Sweep and wet mop regularly. Be sure your home is ventilated well.
Don’t allow torn furniture with foam cushions to remain open to air. Seal them up. If your cushion is coming apart, remove it from your home. If your mattress is made with polyurethane, consider replacing it. If replacing it isn’t an option, purchase a mattress cover that’s tightly woven and allergy proof. If you aren’t sure if your mattress has PBDEs in it, you can contact the manufacturer.
Limit your time in front of the computer, television and other electronic devices. Unplug them when not in use to avoid heating their parts which releases the toxins. Sadly, the levels of PBDEs in people has more than doubled every 3 to 5 years for the last 30 years.
This generic term for what are toxins encompasses over 30 different solvents. They are all derived from crude oil and all have different properties. Glycol ethers are used in products from paint to cleaning products. They are hazardous to us especially when they’re absorbed by the skin or inhaled into the lungs.
Cleaning products are the largest market for glycol ethers. They of course clean faster than soap and water or other natural cleaners, but not any better. Even so-called “green” products contain small amounts of glycol ethers. As you use the cleaners, not only is your skin exposed to them, but you are inhaling them. Wearing rubber gloves doesn’t necessarily ensure your protection as ethers pass through them. They don’t discolor or in any other way alter the appearance of the glove.
Reading labels won’t help you avoid glycol ethers as they aren’t labeled. Our country doesn’t require companies to label many dangerous chemicals and especially cleaning products. I’m not saying don’t read the label, I’m just saying don’t expect it to be informative.
Exposure to Glycol Ethers
Ready for a shock? Exposure to Glycol Ethers can cause Central Nervous System (CNS) depression – basically a shutting down of your vital systems, respiratory failure – you can stop breathing, heart attacks, liver changes, lung damage, skin irritation, rash, burns, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, irritation of the eyes and nose. With ingestion, which happens with children because it has a sweet taste, death.
Lessen or Remove the Risk From Your Home
Of the toxins we’ve looked at, this is the easiest to avoid. There are so many natural ways to clean removing chemical cleaners from our home is easy. I clean with five basic things: hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar and/or apple cider vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, and essential oils. This includes my laundry.
As part of our practice of homesteading today, we actively take measures daily to limit our exposure to any and all toxins. These are just a few of the most prevalent in the news right now. Unfortunately, there are many more. Ya know, in the end, we must accept the truth of only being able to do what we can. In our modern, toxic world, we are surrounded with even the unknown. Make the best decisions you can for your health and that of your family. You’ve taken the first step by knowing what toxins are in your home.
Do you have an experience with exposure to these? Do you have a tip to avoid what are toxins in the home? Please share in the comments below.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack