7 Steps to a Toxin-free Home
Your home should be a safe place, free of toxins and environmental hazards -- but is yours really safe for your family? Because children’s bodies are still developing, they’re especially susceptible to toxins, which could be lurking in your house. Fortunately, you can take these seven easy steps to reduce the risks that lie under your own roof. Here's how:
1. Clean smarter and more often.
"The greatest exposure to toxins children face may be from household dust," says Timonie Hood, the Green Building Coordinator at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Kids get dust on their hands from crawling on the floor or touching the top of the coffee table, exposing themselves to dust mites, mold and pet dander, all of which can trigger allergies and asthma attacks. How can you avoid the risk? "Get a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter and use it twice a week," says Hood. "You should also dust every few days with a slightly damp cloth so you’re not just returning dust to the air." To further reduce the risks of dust, get rid of some of the items in your home that trap it, such as unnecessary drapes, carpeting, throw pillows and stuffed animals.
2. Get rid of cigarettes.
"Stop smoking, even if you only smoke outside," says Dr. Dennis Woo, a physician and assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Kids in households with any level of smoking have been shown to suffer higher rates of respiratory disease." When you smoke, toxins like particulates and nicotine get on your clothes and hands, and when you come inside the house, so do the toxins. Likewise, don't let others smoke in or around your home or car.
3. Take off your shoes when you come inside.
Since your shoes have daily contact with all kinds of toxins (pesticides, lead, mold and more), leave them at the door when you step inside the house. Otherwise, those chemicals will transfer to your floors, where kids are likely to come into contact with them.
4. Switch to natural cleaners.
Commercial cleaners may make cleaning easier, but they could also contain toxic chemicals like carcinogens, respiratory irritants and even pesticides. Instead, try nontoxic, natural cleaners: For example, a mixture of baking soda and vinegar can clean tubs and toilets. Salt is good for scrubbing kitchen sinks, and borax (available at supermarkets) works wonders for laundry.
5. Stop using pesticides.
According to the Children's Health Environmental Coalition, kids who live in households that use pesticides are over six times more likely to have childhood leukemia. But you don't need to spray to keep household pests away. Banish bugs naturally by repairing window screens, keeping trash in closed containers and sprinkling environmentally friendly boric acid (available at hardware stores) in gaps between walls and floors before you seal them. And don't use pesticides on your lawn, either: They not only present risks to kids playing outside but will also inevitably be tracked inside.
6. Get rid of toxic houseplants.
The leading cause of poisoning in children is houseplants, according to the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, so make sure all of yours are nontoxic, and get rid of any that aren't -- including oleander, hyacinth and daffodils, to name a few. Find a list of poisonous plants by searching online.7. Stay safe around lead paint.
If your home was built before 1978, chances are it contains lead paint. By this time, it's probably been covered with layers of lead-free paint and isn't much of a health risk as long as it's not peeling or chipping. But sanding or scraping any walls that were once covered with lead paint can release lead dust throughout your home, which could damage kids’ brain and nervous system. So before you start your project, call a professional and get your paint tested. If it does contain lead, contact a lead abatement specialist or EPA-certified lead professional to help you deal with it.
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