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Moment for Health: Combatting Toxins in the Home

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home—and home toxins. They’re everywhere, from carpets to furniture. Here are a few ways to combat toxins in the home.

In the living room, carpets are the main cause of air pollution in the home. Since carpets are treated with all types of chemicals such as flame retardants and stain repellants that slowly pollute the air, it may be a better idea to opt for bare wood floors or tile floors. But even having bare floors, the cleaning solutions might contain petrochemicals and other potentially toxic ingredients.

A simple 50/50 mixture of very hot water and white vinegar is an effective stain and odor remover for most floors and carpets. If your floors are untreated, check with your local flooring company for non-toxic green products that are safe for wood.

To freshen up a room when vacuuming or to help deodorize lingering smells in the carpets naturally, use three parts baking soda with one part cornmeal, mix in finely ground lavender, cloves or other herbs and generously sprinkle on the carpet. Let sit overnight, then vacuum entire carpet thoroughly.

Bathrooms themselves generate germs, so bleach products are the choice most people use to disinfect. But toxic chemicals in bleach may cancel out the benefits. These chemicals are highly corrosive to the skin and lungs. The chemical chlorine was part of the ingredients in mustard gas. And if bleach is mixed with ammonia it creates a toxic gas; with wastewater, it forms carcinogenic compounds. Understand that urine has ammonia in it, so scrubbing a toilet with chlorine bleach might not be the answer. Again, use white vinegar, baking soda, even boiling water for disinfecting and a little Bon Ami for more scrubbing power.

The same goes for kitchens. Dishwashing and dishwasher soaps contain phosphates, chlorine bleach and petroleum based ingredients. Most of it goes down the drain, but a slight residue stays on the dishes which in turn holds our food. Though the phosphates help to soften the water, they are horrible for the environment along with the petrochemicals. Look for no chlorine or phosphate free on the label. Dr. Bonner’s Sal Suds has superior grease cutting properties, is non-toxic and can be used for all other types of cleaning purposes.

Oven cleaner products hold many toxins including lye, ethers, ethylene glycol, methylene chloride and petroleum distillates. And when sprayed, the cleaners release butane which is a neurotoxin. A simple paste of baking soda or Bon Ami and water and a little bit of elbow grease with a steel wool pad will do the trick. You might get a bit of a workout, but consider the consequences of breathing in poisons. Line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil for easier cleanups.

It doesn’t occur to many people that furniture is part of the toxic gases floating around the home. So much of it is made with particle board or pressed wood that usually contain formaldehyde or isocyanate glues that often give off fumes for years.

Then there is the polyurethane foam in upholstered furniture that can also contain brominated and chlorinated flame retardants which too off-gas toxic vapors. Solid wood furniture is best. Even expensive furniture stores have items that might contain pressed wood in the backing or inside the drawers.

To clean most furniture, use a simple mixture of 2 Tbsp of olive oil, ¼ cup distilled white vinegar and ¼ tsp lemon or orange oil. Combine together in a bottle, shake well to emulsify and squirt into a microfiber cloth. Always rub with the grain and evenly distribute the polish for wood items.

If there is any place that you can certainly reduce toxins, it is in the yard and garden. It’s appalling to see the amount of chemicals at the leading garden stores when there are many other alternatives. Monsanto is a big contributor to not only killing weeds but providing toxins that are killing our wildlife, including bees. Simply spraying RoundUp because weeds are ugly is blindly ignoring the fact that it taints the groundwater, kills pollinators and waits innocuously or our pets and children to roll around on it. Neem oil is a great way for deterring bugs, and diatomaceous earth gets rid of pests such as fleas, ants and bed bugs, all insects with exoskeletons.

When shopping for any chemical, whether it’s for cleaning or killing insects, read the label, ask questions and learn to keep your environment as toxic free as possible.

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