Just like diet and fitness, there are always improvements we can make in our lives, especially when it comes to limiting our exposure to unwanted environmental toxins.
Nowadays, there is an ever-increasing awareness that our health and the environment in which we live are closely linked and that our surroundings influence our physical health and mental wellbeing through a variety of ways – both positive and negative.
Our home is the environment where we spend most of our time, so it’s a great place to start. Many of the toxins that we are exposed to every day at home can accumulate over time and we play a key role in either increasing or reducing these potential risks.
Once you start considering the amount of toxins we’re exposed to everyday, it can quickly become overwhelming, making it hard to know where to even begin.
Here’s a list of simple things you can do around your home to make it a healthier place to live.
The air inside many people's homes often contains contaminants with potentially damaging health effects. These are introduced by simple tasks such as cooking and cleaning, and are often brought in from the outside on shoes and clothes. It’s important to ensure adequate ventilation inside your home and routinely open windows for air exchange. Remember that the air outside is almost always cleaner than the air inside your home. Additionally, add some indoor plants, not only do they look great, but many species actually absorb toxins.
Finally, be careful with CFLs (energy saving light globes) and fluorescent tubes, as these contain mercury and if they break, release it into the air in your home. If this happens, simply follow these important instructions for clean up and disposal.
Just like the quality of the air you breathe, clean water is an essential for good health. It’s important to ensure that the water you are drinking and showering in is free from the heavy metals, chemicals (such as chlorine) and other impurities that are in our tap water. It’s important to know that the quality of the water in your home has a big impact on the quality of your indoor air as well. Consider a whole house water filter, a shower filter and a tap water filter, or a combination of these that makes the most sense for your home and your budget.
3. Pesticides and herbicides
Try to refrain from using pesticides in your home. Any biocide (designed to kill a living organism) is not going to do you any good. The chemicals they contain have been linked to hormone disruption and often worse, with particular impact on children. Often forgotten pesticides include children’s lice shampoo and mothballs.
Outside, limit use of garden chemicals as much as possible. Most weed killers contain glyphosate (Round Up being the most common) that is linked to a multitude of health issues. Boiling water makes a great weed killer – just boil the kettle and pour it directly on the weeds.
Simply taking your shoes off before you enter your home will significantly reduce the dust load inside. Regularly use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter (and a motorised head) otherwise you are simply causing the dust to become airborne again.
Mould-related issues in the home are very common and can develop into numerous respiratory conditions and other health concerns. Children are very susceptible to the adverse health effects of mould as their lungs and immune systems are still developing. Remove visible mould with an 80/20 solution of white vinegar and water (commercial products containing bleach do not get rid of mould). Ensure you find and address the water source that is creating the issue in the first place.
6. Plastic Bottles and Containers
Most plastics contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS) and phthalates. Heat, along with wear and tear (through washing etc.) can increase the amount of chemicals being leached, so don’t reuse the containers for food or water. It’s important to note that even “BPA-free” plastics can leach chemicals, so if possible, try to avoid them altogether and use glass instead.
7. Non-Stick Cookware
If you can, try and replace all your non-stick cookware with 18/10 stainless steel, ceramic, cast iron or glass. Non-stick "Teflon" and other such brand names are made from a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been labelled a “likely” carcinogen. Once you heat the pan, it simply vaporises into the air. A few manufacturers even print warnings in product instructions against using non-stick cookware around pets.
8. Air Fresheners
Room and car deodorisers and air fresheners often contain chemicals that have been linked to many health problems including cancer. Endocrine-disrupting phthalates are also commonly found in them. Instead of masking a smell, deal with the root cause and open your windows. Why not try a bunch of flowers?
9. Cleaning Products
You can avoid many hazardous chemicals by simply throwing away your commercial cleaning products. All of them can be replaced with safe alternatives, such as bi-carb soda and vinegar.
10. Electronic Devices
With all the technology that surrounds you in your home these days, it’s important reduce your exposure to potentially harmful levels of the various types of electromagnetic radiation and frequencies in your home. Here are some useful tips.
If possible - plug in your internet connection to your computer directly - eliminating the need for wifi. If this is not possible, ensure that the wifi is turned off when not in use/during resting hours and is not positioned close to your sleeping quarters. Have your phone switched to airplane mode at night time. If you are required to use your mobile phone for extended periods of time - use speaker phone to ensure maximum distance from your body.
The process of rebalancing your home environment is a gradual and ongoing one. Keep it simple and remember that small changes make a big difference. Why not just start by taking your shoes off at the door? Freeing your feet will also give your mind a chance to unwind and shake off the activity of the day.