We have long since replaced incandescent light bulbs with LED ones, plastic bags with organic cotton bags and baskets, and unnatural fibre bedding with natural fabrics. Instead of household chemicals containing at least 10% of substances with an acute effect that cause allergies and irritate the skin and harm the respiratory system, we use more and more natural cleaners, we replaced sponges with loofahs, everything seems to be sparkling clean and orderly. But sometimes the home environment can be as toxic as if you were breathing with a plastic bag over your head, says John Bower, founder of the Healthy House Institute.
Harmful substances are usually divided into substances that disrupt the activity of endocrine glands, substances that remain in the environment for a long time without breaking down, and bio-accumulative substances that accumulate in our body and are passed on from generation to generation.
Some building and finishing materials contain lead and pesticides that affect the central nervous system, can cause asthma attacks and even behavioural problems. J. Bower urges to use as much wood as possible for house decoration and construction (the best tolerated by the human body is maple, beech, birch, poplar wood, mahogany, cedar would be suitable for particularly sensitive people), to choose ceramics, stone, porcelain. These are non-toxic and "breathable" materials.
If we look around the house, we would definitely find home decor details that are painted with paints, varnishes, toxic substances etc. that are completely unfriendly to the environment. Even interior accents such as carpets, curtains, wall stickers and upholstery, even some furniture, can have a negative impact on health. Chemical compounds and toxins such as dioxin, the most toxic compound on the planet, furan or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) enter the bloodstream through the skin. Even synthetic fabrics pollute the air at home, displacing natural ones - cotton, linen, wool.
For the manufacture of various household paper products, up to a hundred thousand various chemicals are used in the industry. Here, such an innocent thing used in everyday life, like toilet paper, can contain chlorine. Scientists have been talking about the enormous damage of chlorine to the human body for a long time. Chlorine is a very aggressive and corrosive substance. Various chlorine compounds not only irritate the skin, they can cause itching and redness. And the whiter the toilet paper is, the more toxic it is, because the more it is treated with chlorine and the more harmful it is, because it comes into direct contact with the most delicate parts of the body. So it can irritate their sensitive skin and unbalance the pH of the most sensitive parts of the body. Chemical compounds with chlorine can even cause cancer. They are especially dangerous for pregnant women, as they can disrupt the natural development of the foetus and lead to malformations. For a healthier and more sustainable alternative, it's worth using recycled and chlorine-free, less white paper, or even better, going without it altogether. How is that possible? Specialists of healthier homes suggest to remember such a good old invention as the bidet. Paper towels, wet baby and cosmetic wipes, and even coffee filters or milk cartons are treated with chlorine and formaldehyde.
According to Mr. Bower, these rules would also help create healthier and non-toxic homes:
Do not walk around the house with shoes on. It's enough to walk outside to get bird or other animal droppings, pesticide-sprayed plants and other pollutants stuck to your shoe, and we bring it all home. A study was conducted at the University of Arizona that a single pair of shoes not only carries us, but is also home for four hundred twenty-one thousand species of various bacteria, including E. coli or Serratia ficaria, which can cause respiratory tract infections. Carcinogens from asphalt, which are very harmful to health and can cause cancer, stick to shoes. Imagine walking the carpet in these shoes...
Use natural cleaners. American researchers have compared the damage to the respiratory tract by doing home cleaning once a week to smoking twenty cigarettes a day (this conclusion was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a publication of the American Thoracic Society). Many industrial chemicals and pollutants are also used in the production of household chemicals, such as perchlorate, used in the production of bleaches, fertilizers (and fireworks), tetrachlorethylene (perchloroethylene), used in dry cleaning of clothes, and in stain and carpet and upholstery cleaners. Window, mirror, kitchen and all-purpose cleaners contain 2-butoxyethanol (ethylene glycol butyl ether), which is recognizable by its frosty smell. Unfortunately, there are no requirements to list this substance on the packaging.
Many aggressive cleaning and disinfecting agents can be replaced with less toxic and inexpensive agents such as baking soda, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, soap, etc. When choosing cleaning products, it is worth remembering that products without chemical additives (paints, fragrances) and chlorine compounds are less harmful to health (better - concentrated). The biological degradation of the product in the environment (this process is called biodegradation) should be at least 90-95 percent.
Stainless steel pans instead of Teflon pans. Non-stick pans contain the chemical compound Teflon, which uses the chemical compound PFOA, which can be harmful to human health. It is much healthier to use stainless steel or iron alloy pans and pots.
By the way, frying in oil is also useless for the environment and the human body. When it is smoked at high temperature, toxic peroxides and trans fatty acids are formed, such oil becomes not only useless, but even harmful. When heated, vegetable oils oxidize and turn into polymers, which are not only difficult to clean from kitchen surfaces, but also difficult to remove from the lungs. A much healthier alternative is unrefined coconut oil, melted butter or lard. In addition, used oil that is poured into household garbage or sewage is extremely polluting for the environment, so it is worth including these toxic cooking residues in our household waste recycling routine.
Use as little plastic as possible. 335 million tons of plastic waste are generated every year, and about 5 trillion different plastic products enter the world's oceans. Among the most dangerous and toxic chemicals in the home is bisphenol (BPA), which is usually found in plastic containers. This synthetic substance bisphenol A affects the human endocrine system, it is especially harmful to the growing body. Therefore, whenever possible, avoid plastic food packaging, cling film and heating food in a glass container in the microwave.
Clean the dust. The more dust, the more toxins. That is the truth. It is best to clean surfaces and floors with a damp cloth - the vacuum cleaner only picks up and spreads the dust around. A vacuum cleaner is also suitable for cleaning the house, just make sure it has a HEPA filter that is cleaned regularly.
Moisture and mould. In order to live a healthier life, it is a good idea to constantly check the air humidity in your home. Public health safety specialists say that air humidity at 40-45 percent is ideal for human well-being. Too dry air weakens the body's resistance to respiratory diseases and even helps them spread. However, too humid weather is much more harmful to health. In addition, excessive humidity helps the spread of various microorganisms - moulds, fungi and bacteria. Mould poses the greatest health risk and releases toxins with genotoxic and carcinogenic effects into the environment.
Clean the air. Proper air quality at home is ensured by frequent ventilation of the premises. Self-contained recuperative ventilation systems help combat the problem of air quality in newly built dwellings. The air entering the premises is constantly filtered, which also reduces the ingress of toxins.
But cleaning the air does not only mean airing the rooms regularly. NASA has found that even houseplants such as tufted chlorophytes, long-leafed kidney ferns, creeping ivies, and others clean indoor air from carcinogenic compounds (for example, benzene or formaldehyde)