Healthy Home Checklist: A Toxin-Reducing Guide from Me & EWG!

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Hi Sweet Friends,

Can you believe it? We’re already halfway through Prevention Month. Time flies when you’re kickin’ butt and gettin’ healthy! We started our journey with insights from some crazy sexy thought leaders and change makers. Next stop, an in-depth look at organic farming. And today we’re bringing prevention straight to your doorstep—literally.

Here’s something you might not know about me: I love horror movies. Love ‘em, the scarier the better. I’m a sucker for the building of suspense and the gasp when someone sinister looms in the doorway. My blood pumps, my heart leaps, it’s a ride. You know when the college co-ed realizes that the call is coming from inside the house? Eeeek!

So, how does my love of spooky movies translate into prevention? Just like in the movies, sometimes the toxins that do us damage are coming from right inside our own homes! From chemical-laden mattresses to noxious household cleaners to the water coming out of our taps, there are about a million possible sources of scary chemicals in homes.

Don’t worry, even the smallest baby step toward a more natural home helps—you don’t need to throw everything you own away and only buy things made of hemp. Let’s talk about what these chemicals do to your bod, where they might be hiding and how we can avoid them (with a handy, downloadable PDF to take through your casa!).

What are some of the most common household chemicals?

  • Formaldehyde. This known carcinogen is in products from particle board to nail polish. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the acceptable levels of formaldehyde for workplaces, but there aren’t any standards for levels in homes.
  • Benzene. Found in paint, fuel, and tobacco smoke, this Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs are gases that products release over time) has been linked to leukemia.
  • Chlorine Bleach. Nearly ubiquitous in cleaning products (toilet scrubbers, tile cleaners, laundry detergents and straight up bleach itself), this guy causes eye, throat and lung irritation, and if mixed with ammonia, bleach creates poisonous gasses.
  • Phthalates. These sneaky buggers are in everything from plastic food containers to shampoo. They can throw your endocrine system way outta wack.
  • PCBs. Even though the production of PCBs was outlawed in the States in 1979, these chemicals are still in circulation and are considered a likely carcingoen. Most of our exposure comes from the air (when these particles are released through decomposition of older products), and through food. Fish are particularly likely to carry PCBs in their bodies, since the chemicals have seeped into the water supply.

How can we start to get these harmful chemicals out of our homes?

Environmental Working Group is a leader in up-to-the-minute research on toxins, and their experts examine every facet of our lives, looking for the troublemakers. Together, we created this Healthy Home Checklist, which you can download here, print out, stick on your fridge and check off to help cut down on the toxic load your home carries.

You probably do already know how much I love looking under the hood, poking around for the not-so-obvious roots of a problem, and that’s just what this checklist will help you do. Oh, and the toxins in your laundry room are slightly less immediately scary than a chainsaw-wielding maniac. Promise. Let’s get snooping!

The Healthy Home Checklist

    • Filter your tap water. Check EWG’s online tap water quality database for local contaminants and a filter that removes them, if needed. Look up your water.
    • Kick the bottled water habit. For water on-the-go, get a reusable water bottle, like stainless steel (not plastic or aluminum lined with plastic). Learn more.
    • Eat organic. Remember our little chat last week? Check EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce to be sure you buy organic when pesticide residues are highest.
    • Say no to fragrance. We don’t know what’s in “fragrance,” so it’s safer to choose all fragrance-free personal care products. Always check ingredient lists to be sure. Learn more. Switch to essential oils for all your good-smelling needs.
    • Check your toothpaste. Choose fluoride-free for kids younger than 2 and teach older kids to rinse and spit; fluoride is toxic if swallowed. Also, pick a paste without triclosan—you’ll see it on the ingredient list. Learn more about fluoride and triclosan.
    • Ditch extra products. Less is more. Skipping cosmetics like hair spray and detangler (tip: don’t wash out all your conditioner), air fresheners is less toxic—and cheaper! Learn more at EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.
    • Use greener cleaners. It’s hard to know without a full ingredient list, which most products don’t have. Find greener cleaners at EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
    • Ditch compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They contain mercury and should be handled and disposed of with care. Use them where there’s no danger of breaking near children; clean up broken bulbs quickly and safely. Learn more.
    • Are your furnishings frightening? Learn more about what chemicals might be hiding in your sofa or mattress here.
    • Listen to your doctor. Dr. Frank Lipman shared the 20 ways he keeps his home from becoming a hotbed of toxins.

Here’s our handy, printable, downloadable, short ‘n’ sweet version!

Healthy Home Checklist

There’s your homework, folks. It’s certainly frightening to think that there are items in our homes—our refuges from the onslaught of the outside world—that can harm us. The good news is that there are simple, straightforward ways to switch out these nasties for products that are gentle on our bodies and our planet. Download our simple checklist here and start poking around.

So, how did your home check out? Tell me the most surprising thing you found in your home in the comments below.

Peace & healthy homes,

Kris Carr