Hidden toxins in homes? We’ve already eliminated the lead paint and asbestos… are there still more toxins? Sadly, yes! Over the last several decades there has been an increasing awareness of them. These toxins in homes reside in our everyday products, in everything from our food containers, pillows, toys, cleaning products, furniture, and more.
With so many of our everyday products being manufactured overseas, there is often less quality control. However, with information now so readily available, it is important to seek out the research done by the experts. There can be safer and healthier alternatives to some of our beloved products. We’ve done the work for you… read on!
What are the hidden toxins in homes?
Top toxins in our homes and safer replacements
1. Bottled Water & Water Bottles
The situation: We can find disposable water bottles everywhere because they are so convenient and affordable. We often select bottled water thinking it is the healthiest choice. Some consumers buy caseloads of single-serve bottles, and use them exclusively. Others use them as an easy to-go source when they are out and about. Still others may buy them for guests, parties, and kids’ lunches. Then of course, water bottles, the second type, may be used by the more environmentally-friendly consumer. He or she is trying to do well by the earth and uses a plastic refillable bottle.
The threat: Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in some plastic water bottles and can leach into your water. This includes bottled water you purchase as well as reusable plastic water bottles that you refill. BPA is an endocrine disruptor linked to early puberty and cancer.
The fix: Drink water from the tap (see below) and drink it from a glass, not a plastic cup. Buy a reusable glass water bottle or stainless steel water bottle. Both are always free of BPA.
- Stainless Steel Water Bottles Smackdown
- Best Fruit Infused Water Bottles Guide Review
- Are BPA Water Bottles Dead
2. Food Storage Containers
The situation: So many people are happily and proudly forgoing plastic bags, especially in their children’s and their own lunches; however, they are replacing them with plastic food containers. Yes, that saves on thousands of plastic bags filling our landfills, but the reusable plastic can harbor toxic chemicals. There are also plastic storage containers used for leftovers, etc. in the home. In addition, remember the plastic food containers that prepared food often comes in, as in frozen meals.
The threat: As with plastic water bottles, plastic food storage containers often contain the endocrine disruptor BPA.
The fix: For lunches, opt for stainless steel containers, like the LunchBots Quad Stainless. They are dishwasher safe so you can safely clean them without toxins leaching out. For left-overs at home, choose glass storage containers, like those made by Pyrex, instead of plastic. If you do use plastic, never microwave it or use it to store hot food. BUY LunchBots stainless steel bento box HERE
3. Nonstick Pans
The situation: Nonstick pans are wonderful in that you don’t need to add extra oil or use chemically-derived, non-stick sprays when cooking.
The threat: Nonstick cookware contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical linked to cancer and liver disease.
The fix: Opt for stainless steel or cast iron cookware instead. More info: Best Stainless Steel Cookware Set Showdown
4. Vacuum Cleaners
The situation: We know vacuums are wonderful at removing dirt, lint, pet hair, and dust. Their job is to make your home cleaner. It is so important though, to be using the right kind of vacuum cleaner.
The threat: Rather than removing dust and toxins from your home, your vacuum cleaner may be stirring them up so you breathe them in.
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5. Personal Care Products
The situation: Most of us use personal care products everyday. Most of the time, the products we use are ones we have bought for years, routinely — never questioning, much less thinking about — the hidden toxins and ingredients in them. We go to the store, and we put them in our cart without ever thinking about their chemical makeup.
The threat: Personal care products like deodorant, toothpaste, makeup, and shampoo are very loosely regulated in the US, which means they often contain harmful chemicals.
The fix: Do your research with Good Guide and Skin Deep and buy products with fewer (or even better, no) harmful ingredients. Or, if you have the time or interest, make your own personal care products.
A side note: Two surprises for me were two of my favorite products: Dove bar soap and Off! insect repellent. I love the white, unscented Dove bar soap. I like that it doesn’t contain perfumes and dyes, and it always seemed hypo-allergenic as I never experienced any symptoms after using it. I fully expected it to score at least an 8 or a 9 out of a possible 10 points for health/safety on Good Guide and was surprised to discover it scored a meager 4 points for the health concern of the ingredients. It contains butylated hydroxytoluene, which they consider to be a “medium health concern.”
I usually buy Off! insect repellent and was surprised to learn that within the same product line there so many differences when it comes to the “Health” of the ingredients. Surprisingly, this was true of most brands of products I use. For example, Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent Towelettes scored an 8/10 in Health.
However, the Off! Family Care Insect Repellent Towelettes with Aloe Vera, Light & Fresh scored a frightening 0/10 in the Health category for the following reason: “This product contains problematic, banned, or contaminated ingredients.” I would have assumed the “family” version was safest choice. Going forward, I plan to check Good Guide for all of the healthcare products my family uses. I want to find out which ones score “10.” If they don’t, I will look for alternative products.
More about looking up products on Good Guide
What is also very helpful in the Good Guide site is that they rank the health and safety of the products’ ingredients. They also take it steps further by giving each company an overall grade to include the company’s environment and society rankings. As stated above, it is remarkable how many differences there are in ingredients within the same brand and same type of product. Do your research!
The situation: Have you ever considered what you may be drinking and cooking with every single day? Another everyday toxin in homes may be your water.
The threat: Your tap water might be contaminated with dangerous pollutants. Note that bottled water is not the answer; it’s often just tap water put into a wasteful plastic bottle containing BPA. Bottled water makers don’t fully disclose the source or purity of their water.
The fix: Filter your water, either with a simple filter like a Brita pitcher, or with a reverse osmosis system.
How to Choose Healthy Water Bottle – 34 Resources
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Filtered Water Bottle Review
Green Guide Plastics Cheat Sheet
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Plastics Cheat Sheet:
7. Baby Toys, Bottles & Personal Care
The situation: Chances are when it comes to baby, most of the things you are buying you have purchased new. Many, if not most of them, are probably made from plastic. Even more alarming, most of these newly purchased, plastic items are made in China and other countries with less-strict regulations. When it comes to babies and children, it is so important to eliminate toxins in homes.
The threat: Teething toys and bottle nipples can contain endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Bottles are often made with BPA. Baby shampoos, diaper rash ointment and lotion can be chock full of harmful chemicals. Formula cans can be lined with BPA.
The fix: Do your research. Buy products made in the United States. Buy natural baby toys made of wood, silicone, and rubber. Use glass, stainless steel, or BPA-free baby bottles with silicone nipples. Seek out options other than the standards sippy cups and plastic straws. Look up your baby’s lotion, shampoo, and other personal care products on Skin Deep or Good Guide.
Another side note that cannot be overlooked: It is important to realize there can be BIG differences in the products you choose. When I looked up Vaseline Pure Petroleum Jelly Jar for Baby, Creamy Formula, Enriched with Vitamin E, it scored a 10/10 in the “Health” category. Yet Vaseline Baby Pure Petroleum Jelly Jar, Fresh Scent, scored a 6/10 for Health because of “insufficient ingredient information.”
More info: Best Natural and Green Baby ProductsEco Friendly Baby Toys
8. Pillows & Mattresses and Carpeting
The situation: When considering this category, I would have thought the hidden toxins in home pillows and mattresses would be the fact that I’ve kept them for too long, and that they would be filled with dust and dust mites. Little did I know….Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and other toxic chemicals are widely used to prevent the spread of fire and are likely to be found in dozens of products in the home. They have been used in products since the 1970’s in plastics; fabrics; foam in cushions, couches, beds and pillows, padding under the carpet, etc.; and electronics, including TV screens. Since 2005, the PBDEs in foam furniture is no longer legal in the US; however, if you have products from before then — and most everyone does — you could be at risk. Again, these would include everyday items that aren’t generally replaced, including mattresses, mattress pads, couches, easy chairs, pillows, car seats, carpet padding, and more. PBDEs were also used in vehicle seating, car seats, and office furniture.
The threat: Not many of us have replaced our mattresses and couches since 2005. These, and our pillows too, all can contain PBDEs, which are chemical flame retardants linked to thyroid problems. Exposure can be especially bad for babies and kids. PBDE can be passed to a baby through breast milk.
The fix: Buy and use pillows made from natural foam, wool, natural latex, buckwheat, organic cotton, or another natural material. Buy an organic mattress. Buy a new crib mattress. Research the materials used before purchasing new couches and upholstered furniture. Look for carpet pads that are certified for low VOC emissions and made with 100% new materials. Ask about PBDEs and other hazardous materials. Many carpet pads are made with waste and scrap materials so it is important to get information from a reputable source. Natural fibers such as jute, horsehair, and felt and 100% sheep wool are generally safe. Use caution when removing old carpet, and clean afterwards with a mop and quality vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
More info: Shopping Tips for Green Products
9. Household Cleaning Products
The situation: We use them to make our home and living environment cleaner and healthier. How can it be that this is another area that we have to wonder about and even worry about? Have you ever thought about what you are spraying? What are you and your family breathing in when you clean?
The threat: Cleaning products from dishwasher and laundry detergents to all-purpose cleaners are virtually unregulated. And companies that make those products aren’t required to disclose their ingredients – which means that many contain harmful chemicals.
The fix: Buy natural cleaning products from eco-minded brands you trust. Use the Guide to Healthy Cleaning and Good Guide to check your products. Or learn to make your own green cleaning products. It is fairly easy to do.
More info: Guide to Health Cleaning
Easy to remove most hidden toxins in homes
The remedy for most of these toxins is education. Research your favorite products, buy glass storage containers, buy a water filter and a stainless steel water bottle, make your own cleaning products. When you are armed with information, it will become easier to almost permanently remove the harmful toxins.
Overhaul your home with simple changes
Make a list of what you can change and start to remove hidden toxins in homes. Others you may not be able to change as easily, like the carpet padding. However, perhaps you can purchase a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Overall, the goal is to live healthier. Make simple changes like using a stainless steel or glass water bottle instead of buying plastic throwaway bottles; buying safer and more environmentally-friendly health care products, like toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo; and using glass storage containers instead of plastic for leftovers. Remember that many hidden toxins in homes can be easily replaced with safer alternatives.
About Go Green Travel Green
Go Green Travel Green is for moms who want to live green, save money, and continue to travel after they have kids. We cover everything from green travel, travel destinations, safe products, saving money while traveling, and all around ways to live more environmentally friendly. We offer advice and expert tips for busy moms on the go.