People used to worry about carbon monoxide and lead in their homes. You may have reduced or eliminated your exposure to these chemicals, but are still unknowingly bringing others into your home. Before you get crazy and pull out the protective bubble, take a breath. Your exposure to the top five toxins lurking in your home can be easily reduced or eliminated.
5 Perfluorooctanoic Acid
The convenience of Teflon coatings on cookware comes at a price. A component of Teflon coatings is perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a toxin that has been found to disrupt hormones and produce reproductive abnormalities. According to the EPA, it is found in low levels in both the environment and in the blood of much of the U.S. population. Yikes, right? The EPA has been encouraging manufacturers to stop using PFOA by 2015. Meanwhile, take steps to reduce your exposure. Avoid heating empty Teflon cookware to high temperatures, or stop using Teflon coatings that use this toxin as a component.
4 Volatile Organic Compounds
You know why paint makes your head hurt? It’s in the smell. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are in the fumes that paints, solvents and many cleaning products give off. VOCs have been linked to a variety of health problems, such as asthma. Use natural cleaners, such as baking soda and vinegar, or select low-VOC paints and cleaners to reduce the levels of these toxins in your home. Open your windows whenever possible to help circulate fresh, VOC-free air into your home.
Because asbestos has been used in a variety of building products, it could be lurking in your home. Vermiculite insulation, vinyl floor tiles, roofing shingles, and heat-resistant coatings and fabrics all may contain asbestos. This toxin has been linked with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer, and asbestosis, a chronic lung disease. While most manufacturers have reduced or eliminated their use of asbestos, it may not appear on labels for products that contain it and it hasn’t yet been banned by the U.S. government for many building products. A trained asbestos professional can inspect your home and confirm its presence, then safely remove and dispose of it. Never try to deal with asbestos yourself.
Pesticides get into your home in fresh produce and pest sprays. The majority of the most toxic pesticides have been banned for use on foods, but some of the “safe” pesticides can still contain dangerous toxins. For example, permethrin, a common “safe” ingredient found in indoor insecticides and bug repellents, is classified by the EPA as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Inhaling this pesticide can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and breathing difficulties. To reduce your exposure to pesticides, rinse fresh produce thoroughly, or consider going organic. Instead of spraying chemicals to kill pests, put away food after meals, seal holes and cracks in your home, and use natural pest control methods in the garden.
Perchloroethylene is a solvent commonly used in dry cleaning. Studies suggest that it may increase the risk of cancer, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been encouraging dry cleaners to voluntarily phase out its use by 2015. If your dry cleaner uses this solvent, consider switching to a cleaner that uses water to clean your “dry-clean only” clothes. If the concept of wet cleaning “dry-clean only” clothes causes your skull to implode, you can still use a dry cleaner. When you bring your clothes home, remove the bags and hang the clothes outside for a while. Don’t bring the clothes inside until that sweet, just-dry-cleaned smell is gone.