Fall has arrived, and most parts of the country are spending more time indoors. Keeping our personal wellness in mind, we might adjust our exercise regime and spend more time in the gym as opposed to outside, and we may turn our nutritional focus to cold-hearty fresh greens and long-lasting winter squashes…
But what about our homes? Unfortunately, there are a lot of potentially dangerous chemicals that could be hanging out in the places where many of us now spend more of our resting and sleeping hours. While the recent TSCA Reform Act passed by Congress was a small step in the right direction, there are still plenty of household chemicals of concern. MadeSafe.org is a group looking to make our vigilance a whole lot easier.
MadeSafe provides a safety seal reassuring consumers that products are made without known behavioral toxins, carcinogens, developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, fire retardants, GMOs, heavy metals, neurotoxins, pesticides, reproductive toxins, toxic solvents, or harmful VOCs. They also examine ingredients for the dangers of bioaccumulation and environmental impact. In short, they are one of the most comprehensive consumer product safety seals out there.
In the coming weeks, we’ll have an interview with Amy ZIff, Founder and Director of MadeSafe. In the meantime, keep an eye out for this seal when shopping for products for your personal care or home, and check outt these 10 helpful tips to make your time indoors as healthy and well as possible from our friends at MadeSafe.org.
Flame retardants are commonly added to the polyurethane foam in conventional bedding. When it’s time to change the mattress, switch to bedding made from natural fibers like cotton or wool. While “flame retardants” may sound good, they’re not good for you. Make sure your pillow isn’t made from synthetic materials as well.
2. Rug pads
Rug pads also contain foam filled with flame retardants. If you have a carpet with a rug pad, have the pad removed. Flame retardants are among some of the most persistent and toxic chemicals found in homes. Use non-toxic double-sided tape to prevent sliding instead.
3. New furniture purchases
Many sofas, recliners, and children’s furniture items can also contain foam that contains flame retardants. Make a note for all future furniture purchases to shop flame retardant-free items made from natural fabrics.
4. Non-stick cookware
The coating in non-stick cookware like Teflon contains perfluorinated compounds, including Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been linked to cancer and is released when Teflon is heated. Opt instead for stainless steel or cast iron cookware.
5. Dry cleaning
Perchloroethylene (PERC), the most common cleaning solvent used for dry cleaning, gets trapped in clothing once “cleaned” and slowly off-gases into your home. It can harm the brain and central nervous system, damage the liver and kidneys, and is likely to cause cancer, according to the NRDC. Instead, use the traditional laundry wash/dry/fold option, using fragrance-free detergent if possible. Which brings us to…
Some of the scents we’ve grown to love, like freshly folded laundry, that lemony clean smell, or cinnamon-scented room fresheners are loaded with allergens and harmful chemicals like phthalates and synthetic musks. Common chemicals in fragrance have been linked to longer-term damage like obesity, diabetes, infertility, ADD, and ADHD. Fragrance chemicals are rarely disclosed on product labels, hidden instead under the umbrella term “fragrance.” Reduce your use of fragranced products where you can. Learn more about fragrance here.
The cancer rates in children are up 25% since 1975. The Pesticide Action Network has taken a very clear stand relating this to the increase in use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. The American Academy of Pediatrics points to pesticide residue in food as the most critical route of exposure, which luckily, is one we have some control over. Buy organic food where possible, and refer to resources like the Pesticide Action Network to find foods grown with less pesticides. Did you know that active ingredients in bug repellents are usually high-risk pesticides?
Between phthalates, BPA, biodegradability issues, and more, there may not actually be any “safe” plastics. But we live in a world where plastics are abundant, and frankly, hard to avoid. Try to reduce plastic use where you can, and opt for better plastics like polyethylene #1, #2, #4 as well as polypropylene #5. All the others are to be avoided. Don’t expose them to high heat: never microwave with them and don’t put them in the dishwasher. Switch out for an alternative whenever possible.
9. Cleaning products
Products for cleaning your home can contain harmful chemicals, from phthalates (endocrine disrupting chemicals) to make them smell good, to pesticides (see above, for killing germs and mold) and more. They’re associated with asthma, cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies, burns and poisonings, according to Women’s Voices for the Earth. Disinfectants and antibacterial cleaners usually contain registered pesticides that represent unnecessary exposures for everyday household use. Reduce your use of disinfectants and consider making your own.
10. Personal Care & Salon Products
Chemical hair straighteners can contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Most conventional hair dyes contain ammonia, parabens, sulfates, and 1,4-dioxane, among other known cancer-causing chemicals. Many nail polishes contain something known as the “toxic trio,” a blend of toluene (linked to neurological damage and reproductive harm), DBP (linked to hormone disruption), and formaldehyde (known carcinogen), which even on their own are bad. Learn more about toxic chemicals in salon products and cosmetics. Make a point to replace what you have with less toxic brands.
- Visit MadeSafe.com for a full list of safe products to purchase