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Your Toxic Home 2

Toxic HomeWith the recent Earth Day celebrations, spring is a good time to refocus on the environment and attempt to find some personal solutions to reduce, recycle and reuse.

Over the years, many environment groups and agencies have sought to clean up pollutants in the environment. Recycling campaigns and carbon footprints are now the norm and most households are at the very least, conscious of a greater environmental problem.

However, while much of the environmental efforts have been focused on improving our outdoor environment, there is a growing amount of evidence that our indoor environment can actually be much more toxic.

This column has previously reported on the dangerous chemicals found within common household cleaners, as on of the main culprits. However, another often-overlooked source of toxicity in the home is the construction materials used to build the home itself.

VOCs or “Volatile Organic Compounds” is the name given to a group of toxic gases that are emitted from items like paints, plastics, glues, and building materials.

One study found levels of VOCs to be 2-5 times higher within the home than outside. This is because these chemicals can persist in the air long after the construction process is complete.

Symptoms of VOC exposure include headaches, nausea, dizziness, allergic skin reactions, loss of concentration, damage to the kidneys and nervous system. They are also suspected in some cancers.

Some of the most toxic, VOC containing items include:

Paints – Paints are the second largest source of VOCs (next to new cars). Choose low or no-VOC paints instead.

Shower Curtains – Vinyl curtains will continue to off-gas over a hundred different chemicals after unpacking. Go with cloth shower curtains instead.

Flooring – All new carpets emit VOCs after installation. Purchase low VOC materials and ensure your home is properly ventilated during and after installation.

Glues and Adhesives – Many of the materials and glues used to construct furniture contain VOCs. Because of their close contact with our skin, these materials can be especially problematic. Some extra research before buying new furniture is highly recommended.

While exposure to VOCs can be quite concerning, it is easy to improve the quality of your indoor environment. Start by making small changes like adding green plants, which naturally filter the air. When renovating, make sure low VOC products are used and the home is well ventilated.

Cleaning up your indoor environment can be easier than you think and will make your home a better place to live.

Spring Cleaning? Watch out for these toxic chemicals.

spring cleaning Many Canadians will use this season as an opportunity to clean up around the house. Unfortunately, while spring cleaning is considered a time to refresh and renew, many of the spring cleaning products used around the house may be polluting your home and making your family sick.

There are thousands of chemicals found in household cleaners, many of which have not been extensively tested for their detrimental health effects. Some of the chemicals have been linked to cancers, respiratory illness, allergic reactions and reproductive difficulties.

Currently, there is no requirement by Health Canada for household cleaning product manufacturers to list their ingredients or disclose known health concerns of their products.

Chemicals such as sodium laurel sulfate, triclosan, mono/di/triethanolamine have been linked to hormone disruptions and certain forms of cancer. These are commonly found in anti-bacterial soaps, detergents and all-purpose cleaners.

This year, 1 in 4 Canadians will die of cancer, many of which can be attributed to toxic chemicals in the environment. Interestingly, after a person is diagnosed with cancer, some doctors and specialists will strongly recommend removing all toxic cleaners and chemicals from the home.

If these cleaners have the potential to make a sick person sicker, it stands to reason that they can make a healthy person sick as well.

In one study, researchers identified 133 unique volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from a small sample of consumer products, including six cleaning products. Each product tested emitted between one and eight chemicals classified as toxic or hazardous.

When these chemicals are used to clean our homes, they vaporize and linger in the air. These same chemicals can also remain on clothes, utensils and surfaces only to enter the body by absorption through the skin.

What can you do to ensure a safer spring-cleaning this year? Here are some tips to follow to reduce and eliminate your exposure to toxic chemicals in the home:

  1. Read the label – Chose products that actually list their ingredients and educate yourself on questionable ingredients.
  2. Go fragrance free – Heavily scented air fresheners contain many toxic chemicals. Even unscented products can contain these same chemicals.
  3. Wash with plain soap – Anti-bacterial soaps contain hormone disruptors and create bacterial resistance. Castile soap is a better option.
  4. Make your own cleaners – There are many recipes online for simple cleaners. A multipurpose cleaner can be made simply out of a diluted vinegar solution. Baking soda and essential oils are also great additions.

Your Toxic Home

Toxic-HomeOver the years, many environmental groups and agencies have sought to clean up the toxic environment with varying results. A depleting ozone layer, carbon footprints and recycling our plastics, have now become part of the culture.

However, there is a growing amount of evidence that our environment within the home, can actually be up to 5x more toxic than our outdoor environment. As a result we are seeing and increase in many health conditions that were previously considered rare.

With conditions ranging from headaches, sinus problems and skin reactions; to the more severe neurological symptoms, joint pain, and some cancers, many of these have been linked to the very same chemicals we use to clean our homes.

In one study, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Health Organization estimate that 80% of these cancers are attributed to environmental, rather than genetic factors, including exposure to carcinogenic chemicals found in household cleaning products.

Unlike processed foods, producers of these cleaning products are not required to list their chemical ingredients on the label, many of which have not been completely studied for their harmful effects.

Some third-party agencies have taken it upon themselves to determine the chemical content of these cleaners, giving the consumer much needed information, however these studies are few and the number of products on the shelves far outnumber the amount of studies.

Current users of conventional household cleaning products may be creating an indoor toxic time bomb.

Here are some of the most toxic household items to watch out for:

  1. Dishwashing detergent – Chlorine and fluoride in tap water, mixed with petrochemicals, benzene and phosphates. When heat is applied, you have created a “toxic soup” which sticks to your dishes.

  2. Oven Cleaner – Ammonia and lye in the cleaner also become dangerous when heat is applied. These chemicals then find their way onto your food.

  3. Laundry Detergent – Contains benzene which has been linked with leukemia.

  4. All-Purpose Cleaners – Contain petroleum surfactants, again linked to cancer.

Fortunately, many natural cleaning companies have sprung up over the years, such as Seventh Generation and Ecover, which have begun creating products that are not only less toxic, but better for the environment.

Also, there are many resources online that can show you how to create your own cleaning supplies out of basic household products like vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda. Consumers should consider these alternative cleaners as a safer option.