As parents, as partners, as people, it’s our responsibility to care for those we love, including ourselves. While some harmful items stick out like a sore thumb and go against our baby care regime, others take a bit of detective work to find. Lucky for you, we’ve gotten our hands dirty to provide you with a list of 10 chemicals sneaking their way into your home and endangering your family.
Baby Bottles. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a harmful chemical found in polycarbonate plastics. This chemical acts as a hormone disruptor, interfering with the body’s natural production of hormones, especially in young children. BPA is the most common type of plastic used in the production of baby bottles. If you currently have little ones, or know of friends that do, we recommend checking baby bottles to ensure they’re BPA-free. Better yet, we recommend replacing plastic bottles with glass.
Water. High levels of fluoride are known to alter the body’s growth hormone, metabolism, and sexual development and function, and are found most commonly in running water. It’s important to safely filter all water in your home, not just for consumption. Installing a reverse osmosis system can provide safe, clean water for drinking, showering and dental hygiene.
Furniture. Asthma attacks, allergy-like symptoms and difficulty breathing are just a few reactions caused by formaldehyde exposure. It’s also known to cause cancer in animals. One of the largest sources of formaldehyde emissions indoors may actually be found in your faux wood furniture, more specifically the glue, urea-formaldehyde. Faux wood, or pressed wood, is produced from bits and pieces of logs and wood leftovers with the glue compounding these pieces into one, solid piece. Due to regulations the risk isn’t as severe with newer pressed wood pieces, but we still recommend doing a little research before bringing that vintage coffee table home.
Lead Paint. Lead-based paint exposure can become a severe threat when paint begins to peel and release harmful lead particles into the air. Even small amounts of lead found in household items like pottery can cause problems with your central nervous system, blood cells, and other key organs. Lead is especially dangerous to pregnant women, infants, and children because of the developmental disorders caused by lead toxicity. If you own or rent an older home, we recommend you set up a paint inspection or risk assessment to be certain your family is not at risk. Since trace amounts of lead can be found in running water, we also recommend testing your water, or again installing a reverse osmosis system.
Pesticides. There are a wide variety of pesticides that can be found in the produce aisle at your local market or even your own home. Used most commonly to keep insects and rodents from destroying crops or taking up residence in your garage, pesticides can be highly toxic to children who are exposed whether airborne or ingested. We encourage organic produce over nonorganic as this significantly removes your chance of consuming residual pesticides. Even if organic, we suggest washing fruits and vegetables before serving them. Lastly, replace toxic household pesticides with natural pest repellents for around the home and garden.
Toys/Cosmetics. Phthalates, which bind color and fragrance in cosmetic products, can be found in everyday items like hair spray, perfume, deodorant, and shampoo. Also used to increase flexibility and durability in plastics, phthalates are present in some children’s toys. Much like BPA, phthalates are hormone-like chemicals that can cause developmental and reproductive deficiencies. Always check ingredients before purchasing items. The back of the box usually tells more than the front.
Mattresses/Upholstery/Electronics. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) (try saying that five times fast) is commonly found in mattresses, upholstery, flame retardants, and some electronics. Studies have linked memory problems, poor thyroid functioning and lowered sperm counts to the effects of PBDE exposure. The best way to reduce the threat of PBDE exposure is to eliminate dust collection within the home by cleaning on a regular basis.
Fish. Fatty fish, especially bottom feeders like carp or fish caught in contaminated water, are the biggest offenders for Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contamination. While this industrial chemical has been banned in the U.S. for decades, it’s still present in the environment as an organic pollutant and is linked to cause cancer and impaired fetal brain development. Avoiding farm-raised fish like salmon that are often fed ground-up fish will help to reduce your risk of PCB exposure in the home. We encourage you to research where your food is coming from and find quality, locally sourced products when you can.
Dry Cleaners. Tetrachloroethylene PERC is a solvent often used in dry cleaning. High levels of exposure may affect the central nervous system, liver, kidneys, blood, immune system and even the reproductive system. Toxins embed into the body’s fat and slowly release into the bloodstream even weeks after exposure. While going to the dry cleaners is not considered high-frequency exposure, we prefer a safe alternative whenever one exists. So the next time you take your dress shirt or little black dress to the cleaners, we recommend requesting professional wet cleaning or liquid carbon dioxide cleaning as an alternative.
Household Cleaners. A solvent found in a wide variety of fume-producing household products, even mild exposure to Toluene may cause temporary hearing and color vision loss, dizziness, and momentary memory loss. Inhaling high levels of toluene may have a more severe reaction, even death. Commonly found in products like paint thinner, wall paints, adhesives, household cleaners, nail polish, and gasoline, these product’s airborne fumes can be extremely toxic. When using items containing toluene, we recommend wearing a safety mask or respirator while working in a well-ventilated environment.
While the list of harmful chemicals is certainly a mouthful, knowing where they exist is crucial to the health of you and your loved ones. In addition to avoiding these brain-damaging chemicals, we recommend taking a few extra steps to help reduce exposure to these and other toxins in your home.
Leave shoes at the door. Think of all the places your shoes have been. Maybe you walked through a dirty puddle in the street, used the public restroom at the mall, or accidentally stepped in the present Fido left in the lawn. Our shoes collect all kinds of bacteria and contaminated dust and dirt, which we then track into our home. Removing shoes at the door will not only help to eliminate these particles from nesting in your nest, but they’ll help in keeping your floors cleaner. Double win!
Keep a clean house. Sounds like our mother’s advice to a happy home, but keeping a clean house also makes for a healthy home. Dusting and cleaning floors regularly significantly decreases the number of threatening chemicals hiding out in your humble abode. This is because many chemicals cling to dust. The less dust you have, the healthier your home.
Wash hands, repeat. Think of all the places your hands have been. We use them to greet people, make our way up public stairways, open doors, and even wipe a child’s runny nose. Our hands touch everything, which means they’re collecting dust with each interaction. Our little ones tend to have hand-to-mouth behaviors as they develop their senses so hand washing is crucial. Even for us grownups it’s important to wash our hands before we prepare food or eat in effort to avoid ingesting chemicals found in dust.
Taking the extra step to be mindful of what we bring into our home will not only provide a safer environment for you and your family, but will establish healthy habits for your children to practice now. After all, they learn by example – you.
San Diego, CA