Air freshenersThe problem: Among the most concentrated sources of poison and pollution in the home, air fresheners often contain benzene (a carcinogen and possible reproductive toxin), toluene (a skin irritant and liver/kidney toxin), terpenes (irritants and sensitizers) and phthalates (known hormone disruptors). Regular use of these products has been associated with earaches, diarrhoea and vomiting in infants, as well as headaches and depression in their mothers.
The solution: Eliminate bad smells at the source and keep your home well ventilated. Houseplants like English ivy, spider plants a nd peace lilies can help remove unpleasant odours, or try a non-toxic, natural, home-fragrance product from brands like AromaWorks and Neom.
PaintThe problem: Paint contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can 'outgas' for months or even years after painting, which means you are constantly breathing them in. Besides headaches and dizziness, VOCs have also been linked to asthma, fertility problems and cancer-even at low levels.1
The solution: Choose paint with the lowest VOC levels you can find or paint that's VOC-free. Auro, Earthborn, Ecos Organic and Nutshell are some of the brands offering non-toxic, VOC-free paints.
SofasThe problem: Your sofa, TV, computer and a vast array of other household goods could be exposing you to dangerous levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are toxic flame-retardant chemicals. They've been found in samples of human blood, fat and breast milk, and are associated with attention deficits as well as thyroid and sexual/reproductive damage in animals.
The solution: House dust is a major source of PBDE exposure, so clean and vacuum regularly. Avoid crumbling foam that may contain fire retardants and be careful when replacing foam padding. Try to stick to products made from naturally fire-resistant fibres like cotton and wool.
Tap waterThe problem: The water from your tap contains disinfection byproducts (DBPs)-chemicals linked to birth defects and cancer. Prescription and non-prescription drugs, fragrance compounds, flame retardants, cosmetic compounds and detergent metabolites are some of the other nasties that may be lurking in your water.
The solution: Get a tabletop water filter, such as a Brita filter, or an undersink plumbed-in filter, like those offered by Pozzani. Avoid water sold in plastic bottles as the chemicals in the plastic can leach into the water.
Cleaning productsThe problem: These can be packed with known skin irritants, hormone disruptors and chemicals linked to cancer. In one study, women who reported using cleaning products most often had double the risk of breast cancer.
The solution: Swap your regular cleaning products for ones made from safer, natural ingredients, like those in our Healthy Shopping section this month (see page 74). Trustworthy brands include Bentley Organic, Bio-D and Earth Friendly Products.
CarpetThe problem: Carpets typically contain over 100 chemicals in their fibre-bonding materials, dyes, backing glues, latex binders, fungicides, and antistatic, fire-retardant and stain-resistant treatments, including cancer-causing VOCs, which can outgas for years. Carpets also act like sinks for heavy metals, pesticides and other pollutants, all of which are easily inhaled. Synthetic carpets can be a significant problem for people with asthma, and are even associated with development of the condition in the first place.
The solution: Go for hard surfaces like wood, linoleum, tile and cork, which can be combined with loose rugs for comfort. Avoid vinyl (PVC), though, as it's another source of toxic substances. If you do want carpet, wool is a good choice. Make sure it's stitched and not glued to its backing, and not treated with an anti-stain treatment or pesticides. Vacuum carpets and rugs regularly, and don't wear your
Cosmetics and toiletriesThe problem: These are chock-full of toxic chemicals that can end up in your bloodstream after being inhaled, ingested (as may happen with lipsticks and toothpaste) or absorbed through the skin. Parabens and phthalates-both known hormone disruptors-are among the main chemicals of concern. Parabens have been implicated in breast cancer, while phthalates have been linked to endometriosis and early menopause.
The solution: Check out WDDTY's Healthy Shopping section each month for a selection of safer beauty and personal-care products. Green People, Weleda and Handmade Naturals are some of the companies committed to using only safe and natural ingredients.