When we think of toxins, we might imagine a harmful bacteria, or something that belongs in a factory that you’d need to handle with gloves. But unfortunately, toxins can occur in many areas of our everyday lives, without us actually realising. Our bodies do an amazing job to protect us from them, but unfortunately these toxins can build up in system our over time and prove to be too much for our defenceless bodies to cope with.
According to a World Health Organization report, 4.3 million deaths in 2012 were attributable to household air pollution. I’m not talking about the gunk you see streaming out of factories in the air or the stink of diesel fumes on your local high street (that’s another topic of discussion!), but rather the toxins that occur in your own home.
The WHO warns that “household air pollution can lead to acute lower respiratory infections in children under 5, and ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer in adults.”
A lot of this comes from indoor smoke; cooking using solid fuels on traditional stoves, the fumes released on grilled or burned meat, and second-hand cigarette smoke. But many of the products we innocently use to clean our homes, are also loaded with toxic chemicals which give off harmful fumes.
Many of these common, household sources of chemical exposure are unregulated or understudied. But we do know that they can have lethal consequences when used over time. A 2008 study conducted on women in the area of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, USA, an area with elevated rates of breast cancer, revealed more than 20 toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, neurological problems and birth defects. There were even toxins that had been widely banned years before, such as DDT, proving how long these toxins hang around in our bodies.
The results of this study showed that most homes contain a variety of different chemical compounds, unbeknownst to the majority of us, most of the time.
These toxic compounds can be present in the following commonly-used products, although this list isn’t exhaustive;
- Paint fumes
- Air Fresheners (including scented candles, sadly!)
- Carpet Fresheners
- Fabric Softeners
- Lawn and Garden Chemicals
Thankfully there are some easy ways to limit your exposure to toxic chemicals in your home. The key is just in recognising the sources, there are plenty of natural alternatives out there. A couple of non-toxic cleaning brands I like are Method and Ecover (both also sold at most supermarkets).
How to limit your exposure to toxic chemicals in your home
- Limit (or avoid) using bleach or detergents containing chlorine, chlorine is a common but dangerous toxic chemical used in many homes.
- Avoid store-bought air fresheners and invest in an essential oil diffuser with some gorgeous-smelling essential oils. See here for an introduction to essential oils if you haven’t used them before.
- Avoid carpet fresheners, as these too contain synthetic fragrances that aren’t lung-friendly. See here for a really easy-to-make natural carpet freshenerusing just three ingredients.
- Cut down on, or ban from your home, toxic products that have labels such as ‘danger’, ‘poison’ and even ‘caution’.
- Choose natural, plant-based brands of cleaning products, or make your own (more recipes on this coming soon!)
- If you are painting inside your home, try to limit the amount of time you are exposed to the fumes, take regular breaks, ventilate the area well and consider wearing a mask.
- Grow fresh air. You can literally grow fresh air in your home, there are many plants that have amazing qualities at removing everyday toxins from your environment. A great starting place when buying air purifying plants are the ever-forgiving Peace Lilly, and the Rubber Plant, both very easy to take care of if you’re not great at keeping house plants.
Have you tried any natural cleaning products before? Or any natural ways to freshen up your home? I’d love to hear about it, please do leave a comment!