Certain products in your home may come with unwanted health side effects.
Often, we take for granted the myriad of products found in our homes that make our lives easier and more efficient. Taking these things for granted, however, may come with some unintended health consequences.
We like to think that the products we use in our homes are both safe and effective. While many of them are effective, their safety has been woefully under tested and far from confirmed. Sure, we know that we are not supposed to ingest many of the chemical products in our home, but much research has shown that simply using many products exactly as they are intended might have health implications, especially in children and over a long period of time.
It can be easy to become overwhelmed at the thought that the products in your home that you use every day might be contributing to poor health, but it is important to remember that awareness is what you should try to cultivate. In the same way that we should be developing mindfulness about what we eat, it is important to develop a keen awareness about what we let into our environment––particularly our homes or place of work––and how those things may affect out health. Over time, and as part of The Kaufmann Lifestyle, making sure the products you use in your home are safe will become second nature.
1. Toxic Cleaning Products
Many of us know that the chemicals we use to clean our homes can be toxic, particularly if ingested. Many of these, however, have health implications even if they are used exactly as they are intended. One study showed that the effects cleaning products had on the lung function of janitorial workers was similar to the effects of smoking cigarettes!
Ultimately, when many cleaning products are used even in an appropriate way, they are still inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
It is safe to assume that whatever products you allow into your home wind up in your body. Many of these products are endocrine disruptors (similar to many mycotoxins) and are implicated in cancer. Ingredients to look for on labels (and subsequently avoid) include ammonia (ammonium hydroxide), 2-butoxyethanol (ethylene glycol monobutyl ether), chlorine bleach, ethanolamines (mono-, di- and triethanolamine), ammonium compounds, triclosan and thioure.
Instead of using “traditional” cleaning supplies, opt for more natural cleaners, such as citrus based cleaners. Vinegar and baking soda are both great cleaning products that are good deodorizers. Brands like Ms. Myers and other more natural brands are often good choices for cleaning products.
2. Flame Retardants/Fabric Protection Sprays
For many years, most furniture was constructed under laws that required the use of flame retardant material. Years later, it was found out that those chemicals not only absorbed through the skin and found their way into our bloodstream, but they were implicated in hormone disruption and cancer.
Many of these original chemicals have been phased out, but newer chemicals are equally as concerning and far from being confirmed as safe.
More common are fabric protection products that are applied after the fact to protect against stains etc. These should also be avoided.
When you are buying furniture for your home, make sure it is built using non-toxic materials without added flame retardants. Be mindful of foam products as these are most likely to contain harmful ingredients. Beware of furniture, foam, or mattresses that off-gas a chemical smell, which should be considered a red flag.
3. Most Non-Stick Cookware/Products
Most people are familiar with non-stick cookware, and maybe you are even aware that these products are not always necessarily safe to use. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl products (PFAS) are known to leach into food via scratched, non-stick cookware and are detrimental to health. While some of the original chemicals used in this capacity have been phased out, newer chemicals used in non-stick cookware have not proven to be appreciably better.
Cookware, however, is not the only place you will find PFAS. PFAS are used in carpet, microwave popcorn bags, fast-food wrappers, waterproof and stain proof clothing, shoes and accessories. Brand names such as Teflon, Scotchgard, Gore-Tex, Polartec and Stainmaster all use PFAS. These products are used in many major, name-brand products.
Often, these are hard to avoid, but it is best to be aware and avoid non-stick products as best as you can, particularly when you do have a choice. Stick to stainless steel cookware or cast iron. Be wary of waterproof or resistant products and be mindful of the packaging your food comes in.
4. Scented Products/Air Fresheners
Of course we all want our homes to smell nice, and there are no shortage or products aimed at helping your home smell great. However, anything containing “fragrance”, “perfume” or “scent” should be avoided. These terms can represent any number of chemicals that are not disclosed on a label, including phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors. This likely represents many of the products used towards this end, including air fresheners, sprays, candles and the myriad of other scented products.
If your home has odd smells, try isolating the source––particularly if you suspect that source is is mold. Cleaning is certainly preferred to “covering up” unwanted smells. If you want to give your home a pleasant aroma, opt for something more natural such as essential oils or recipes for simmering citrus and spices.
5. Plastic Products
Plastic has been a revolutionary product in terms what it has allowed societies and economies to accomplish, but we are seeing a darker side to this miracle material. Plastic pollution is certainly a problem, but plastic is also packed with chemicals that can contaminate whatever that plastic is containing; these ultimately wind up polluting our bloodstream and can potentially have health side effects.
The most noteworthy offender is bisphenol A or BPA, but there are other chemicals that plastic can leach. Particularly, plastic products should be avoided in regards to food. This includes avoiding plasticware, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic food containers and storage containers. Other products like canned foods and drinks should be avoided as the lining of cans is often coated in plastic. Try as best you can to opt for glass or stainless steel containers.