With all the information about greening-up, you might wonder, “How can I create a green and healthy home without breaking the bank?” While creating a healthy and environmental-friendly home may seem a bit overwhelming and costly at first, taking it slow, one small step at a time will not only help your bank account but will also keep your stress levels low. Creating a green and healthy home will seem easier if you take the time to create a plan to follow. For example, if you have some major home environment issues, it’s wise to take some time to thoroughly research your options and then address those issues as finances allow. However, before doing anything, it’s smart to take some time to educate yourself about the type of toxins that might be lurking in your home, how to clean up those toxins safely and what preventative steps you should take to help ensure a healthy home environment. And finally, a great time to implement some of these ideas every year is on Earth Day.
Creating a Green and Healthy Home: Toxin Removal
Be aware that indoor air pollution is a serious concern which over time can lead to health concerns. With all the emphasis on the quality of our outdoor air, food, and water over the past few decades, the quality of the environment inside our homes — where we typically spend most of our time — was overlooked. Many studies have proven that the air quality in homes can be much worse than average outdoor air. Scientists have labeled this phenomenon “sick building syndrome” since it also applies to office buildings. Sick building syndrome is largely the result of two major factors. First, most modern homes are overflowing with toxic chemicals from construction materials, cleaning supplies, and the like. Second, with the emphasis on energy conservation, homes are now much more air-tight than in the past, and this lack of ventilation only compounds the problems. Since World War II, over 80,000 new chemicals have been invented and used here in America, many of which are ingredients in multiple consumer products that have found their way into our homes. Some have shown to be very dangerous, but the truth is that only about 5% have ever been tested regarding their effects on human health.
Under the kitchen and bathroom sinks in most homes lurk toxic and harsh chemical cleaners. Ingredients such as bleach, ammonia, phthalates (endocrine disruptors), PERC (neurotoxin), and 2-butoxyethanol, to name a few. These chemicals create indoor air that is toxic to breathe, especially for infants and children and those with asthma. They can also irritate and burn the skin, eyes, and other organs. In industry, these chemicals are restricted under the Federal Hazardous Substance Act, but they are often silently included in products designed for the home. Did you know that mixing bleach and ammonia can produce a deadly form of “mustard gas,” an accident that has occurred numerous times with tragic results?
Toxic Construction Materials.
Construction materials are also a major contributor to poor indoor environmental quality. This is true in both older homes that have been remodeled as well as for new construction. Some items to watch out for are carpeting, processed wood products such as plywood or paneling, paints and stains, chemical-laden adhesives, and insulation products (especially foam). Many of these contain known carcinogens such as formaldehyde or benzene, and many can give off toxic gasses for long periods of time. Often these chemicals, when found in combination, can even worsen the problem.
Remodeling older homes are currently trendy. Remodeling can expose residents to dust containing lead from old paint and mold spores, and other toxins that are stirred up and dispersed in the process. Be sure to wear an appropriate mask if doing the work yourself, and protect the rest of your home from contamination by sealing off the area.
Some types of granite countertops are often overlooked as sources of toxins. They may emit radiation, including radon gas, a major source of lung cancers.
Furniture, including bedding, can also pose significant risks. We spend about a third of our lives in bed, and unfortunately, many mattresses are laden with toxic fire-resistant chemicals called PBDEs. These chemicals are banned in Europe due to their links to cancer and immune system dysfunction. This can also be true for bed covers and pillows. Older beds can be infiltrated with bed bugs. Furniture made of pressed wood is often a source of formaldehyde and other chemicals.
House dust is also a villain. One of its major components is tiny creatures called dust mites (and their dung) that can cause respiratory infections and allergic reactions. Research has proven that in 90% of house dust samples contain harmful chemicals like phthalates and flame retardants. This research comes from a multi-institute team of researchers from Milken Institute School of Public Health, Silent Spring Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program.
Water from municipal systems typically contains fluoride, chlorine, or chlorimide. These are dangerous chemical toxins, especially in a gaseous state (like steam from water coming out of a showerhead).
Lawn and Garden.
Lawn and garden toxic chemicals are some of the worst sources of pollution. Many commercial products contain ingredients that are known as carcinogens and neurotoxins. In fact, some insecticides and pesticides are chemical relatives of lethal substances such as Sarin (used in the 1995 Tokyo Subway attack) and Agent Orange, a defoliant used in the Vietnam War.
15 Tips To Detoxify and Create a Green and Healthy Home
Rid your home of all dangerous cleaning supplies. Good old soap and water cover most jobs safely. Vinegar, baking soda, and some essential oils are also excellent natural cleaners. Several places on the Internet provide recipes for basic non-toxic household cleaning supplies using very inexpensive ingredients.
Lavender in Your Laundry
Most dryer sheets contain synthetic chemicals and fragrances that can add toxicity to your clothes, linens, and towels. You can add 15-20 drops of lavender essential oil to a damp washcloth or a few wool dryer balls and throw them in the dryer with your wet clothes. The lavender essential oil will give your clothes a fresh, natural scent that will even be noticeable throughout your home – think of “calming.” While we are on the laundry subject, check out some of the safe, natural, and organic laundry detergents before buying the chemical-laden laundry detergents. Natural laundry detergents are better for your health and the environment.
Be very choosy about construction materials used to remodel your home. If you are doing the job yourself or using a contractor, look into “green” products available in most local home and lumber stores.
Bedding and Furniture
Choose bedding and furniture that is not toxic. Natural wood furniture is safer and of higher quality. Be extremely careful in choosing linens and mattresses. Organic cotton linens are usually the best choice. And organic mattresses, while expensive, are a favorite among those who truly want a non-toxic mattress.
Dust and Vacuum
Clean your home with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a Hepa filter. Try to dust and vacuum every other day or at least two times per week. It is a proven fact that common household dust can contain many toxins.
Carpeting / Flooring
Don’t wait until you are environmentally ill before you research non-toxic carpets. When replacing carpets or buying new carpets, look for pure wool carpeting. When entering a home with untreated and natural wool carpets, one will not get a headache or burning eyes from the toxic combination of chemicals used to make a regular carpet. With hardwood floors, consider non-toxic wood such as bamboo. If you cannot remove toxic carpeting, SafeChoice Carpet Care and SafeChoice Carpet Seal are unique sealers designed to prevent the out-gassing of harmful chemicals used in carpet backing. These out-gassing chemicals include such known carcinogens as formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, xylene, and styrene. Carpet Seal is odor-free and, when properly applied, effectively blocks out-gassing for up to five cleanings or one year.
Change Your Air Filter Frequently
There are many different types of air filters on the market today. Choose those that are washable or made from eco-friendly materials. Reusable filters not only reduce waste, but they’re also more economical over the long run. Clean filters improve the efficiency of your air conditioner and can actually reduce energy costs.
Replace old paint with non-VOC paints.
Air out your home at least once per week. Open all windows in the early morning for several hours, when the outside air is the freshest.
Use Essential Oils For Home Fragrance
Most candles, scented plugins, and room sprays contain toxic, synthetic fragrances. Instead, add pure essential oils to a diffuser or humidifier to spread a pleasant aroma throughout your home. Or make your own home fragrance using essential oils. The health benefits of essential oils are many and include producing calming effects on mood.
Purchase a high-quality water purification system for the water in your home, both for drinking and bathing. If this is not feasible, place filters on your faucets and shower.
Use Natural Pest Control
Don’t use synthetic pest control methods like toxic powders and sprays. Instead, encourage local insect-eating animals to visit the area around your home by installing a birdhouse or, if you are so inclined, a bat house. Create a welcoming environment for predatory insects like praying mantises and ladybugs to help control pests. If you have concerns with slugs, snails, ticks, or fleas, protect your plants with a sprinkle of diatomaceous earth. Use only “green” organic products in your garden and on your lawn.
Place house plants in your home. Live plants can help to cleanse the air in your home as well as increase oxygen levels.
Use ionic air purification systems and essential oil diffusers in your home and office to help keep the air clean and smelling fresh.
Electromagnetic radiation is often overlooked when creating a healthy home environment. There are many ways in which you can protect your home from harmful radiation. Something as simple as turning off WI-FI when not in use can lesson EMFs greatly. Do your research.
More Information for a Healthy Home Environment
“Pest Management | NRCS.” USDA .gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
“Maintaining Your Air Conditioner.” Energy.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
“Air Sealing Your Home | Department Of Energy.” Energy.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.