5 Easy Changes for a Healthy Home
In these cold winter months, most people focus on sealing up any cracks around the house to conserve energy and heat. But often don’t think about habits and products that can compromise indoor air quality and overall healthy home. The average household is exposed to over 120 chemicals and additives everyday, with growing concern on the overall impact this does on our bodies and ecosystems.
Phthalates, parabens and other plasticizers for example, wreak havoc on your hormones and take residence inside your cells.
In fact, nearly all Americans have phthalates in their urine, with adult women and non-Hispanic blacks being reported with significantly higher levels (CDC).
Why should we be concerned about phthalates and other chemicals?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had an action plan about phthalates since 2012, due to how mass produced and frequency used in most household products. More than 470 million pounds of phthalates were produced in 2006 alone. EPA is concerned about phthalates because of their toxicity and the evidence of pervasive human and environmental exposure to them.
The average household has three times higher air pollution compared to outdoor levels. Over time, this can lead to increase allergies, and skin and respiratory conditions, even disrupting the endocrine system. This can also create complications with pets, who have smaller bodies and are often left indoors most of the day.
A few small household switches can help make a healthy home for you and your loved ones, incuding fur babies. Some changes are easy and can be DIY, some you may need to slowly upgrade as your budget allows.
Here are five easy switches you can do for a healthy home.
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#1- Switch plastic storage containers to glass or silicone
Plastic storage containers have skyrocketed in popularity over the last twenty years. Compared to your parent’s Tupperware, these thinner and flimsy alternatives became a popular option for a grab-and-go or (take-and-toss). Just like fast fashion, these cheap takeaways are made with poorer quality ingredients, such as BPA, harming our bodies and eco-system.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a massively produced chemical used for the production of polycarbonate plastics. It’s become a chemical of concerns 1) because how rampant it is found in human urine and tissue and 2) the studies indicating how it disrupts fetal development. Children under six are at greater risk and have higher exposure, due to its prevalence in baby bottles, liners for bottletops, and canned foods.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recommends to avoid whenever possible heating up or microwaving polycarbonate plastics, and to opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
Thankfully, there has been a rise in conscience consumers, and glass or silicone alternatives are in high demand. Pyrex and similar glass storage companies regaining popularity among younger generations. People want healthy homes and starting to understand the impact daily bombardment of chemical additives has on their bodies. Silicone or PEVA are other good alternatives, especially for plastic food storage bags. Many are available dishwasher-safe.
#2- Scented Candles
Most scented candles are made from paraffin, a petroleum byproducts with environmental implications. Besides carcenogenic chemicals like benzene, some of the greatest concerns about scented candles is the scent itself. Without needing to name names, big candle companies pump their products full of fragrance containing chemicals known to harm you, wildlife, and even aqua life. In the grand scheme of things, everything is connected and ends up in natural water systems.
If you want a healthy house, do yourself a favor and take these outside. You can opt for healthier waxes like beeswax, coconut wax or stearin, made unscented or with pure essential oils. Whenever we are gifted with a questionable scented candle, we save it for the porch where it is more ventaliated and out of our healthy home.
The same goes for artificially scented air fresheners, plugins, and melting waxes. Many of these kind of products contain chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system and irritate the airways. There are more and more natural options becoming available, but be mindful of companies green-washing their products. Look for scents and candles made with essential oils, instead of fragrance.
#3- Artificial colors and sweeteners
Additives, artificial colors and sweeteners do a number on gut-flora health. The gut is the home for health, where many diseases begin with an imbalanced gut microbiome. We are learning more and more about the harm such chemicals do when introduced in the body. Artificial sweeteners for example, do more than trick your tongue. Artificial sweeteners confuses the pancreas, making insulin be released when not needed. Insulin running throughout the bloodstream unchecked is no light matter, causing issues with cellular health and overall metabolism.
The better alternatives to sugar are: coconut sugar, stevia, and monkfruit.
On very rare occasions I use store bough food coloring. I avoid them mainly because they provide color enhancement as the price of flavor and good health. One of my favorite sources of natural colors and flavors is Nature’s Flavors. They derive their colors and flavors from plants, and offer botanical benefits on top of being a natural alternative. That’s a healthy win-win!
One of the biggest culprits that put fragrance on our list, is the ethanol or isopropyl alcohol used to preserve and stabilize the scent. Although isopropyl alcohol mainly causes severe problems when accidentally consumed, small amounts can cause skin irritation, namely allergic contact dermatitis. Other common irritants in perfume include, acetonitrile, styrene oxide, and acetaldehyde. Many fragrance companies aren’t required to disclose all their ingredients, as a way to protect their propteriatery blends. Also, fragrance itself doesn’t degrade for years. Imagine the environmental impact that will cause outside of the home?
Find inspiration from nature. Essential oils diluted with carrier oil are a great alternative to perfume and fragrance. Some of my favorite floral scents include: geranium, jasmine, and honeysuckle. For something more earthy or spicy, try scents such as: cedar, patacholi, and sandalwood.
Get creative and even come up with your own personalized blends!
#5- Cleaning products
As much as I enjoy making my own cleaners with vinegar and essential oils, I know they don’t always get the job done. This is why I do keep some store brought cleaners and concentrates, for a thoroughly healthy home.
That doesn’t mean you have to break out the bleach. More conscious companies keep popping up and even big names are reconsidering their formulas and ingredients. One brand I appreciate, and have no business ties with is Branch Basics. They are third-party certified through MadeSafe.org, which is focused on creating a sustainable future by eliminating harmful chemicals in consumer products. Made Safe Certified means any product with its seal is made without over 5,000 toxic chemicals known to harm human and environmental health. Instead, they focus on plant and mineral cleaning alternatives, such as coco-glucoside (a plant-based cleanser), and sodium citrate (a biodegradable water softener).
Related Reading: 6 Health Hacks for Longevity