Household chemicals: can’t live with ‘em, can’t understand which ones are even harmful or what we can do about them. Hopefully this little guide – we call it Chemicals 101 – can help.
1. Phthalates – Just pronouncing this one (“tha-lāt”) is hard. Once you get that down, all you need to know is that phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics flexible, including PVC and vinyl. When the plastics are heated or worn down they can leach chemicals into whatever they are holding – which is why it’s important to think about it if they’re storing food.
How to avoid phthalates: Only buy plastic containers that are phthalate free for food storage – especially if you might use it in the microwave or dishwasher.
2. BPA – BPA is found in food and beverage containers, including baby bottles. It can also be found in the lining of canned food items. BPA has been linked to serious health issues – so avoid whenever possible. Unfortunately, I only learned about this one right after I purchased all of Z’s baby bottles… which I had to promptly return.
How to avoid BPA: Try storing food in glass and metal containers and definitely seek out BPA-free baby bottles and plasticware for kids. They are usually pretty clearly labeled. Where possible, buy dried, frozen or fresh food instead of canned.
3. Chlorine – Sometimes found in water systems at unsafe levels, chlorine is not something you want to drink. While it’s added to water to disinfect and kill disease-causing bacteria, unsafe levels of chlorine have been linked to certain types of cancer.
How to avoid chlorine: Use a filter for your faucet at home or a pitcher for your fridge. Or, if you’re the patient type, you can just leave an uncovered pitcher full of tap water in the fridge for 24 hours.
4. PFCs – These pollutants are found in all sorts of household goods – stain-resistant clothing and upholstery, Teflon cooking pans and fast food wrappers. They’ve been associated with reduced immune functions – which means you’re less able to fight off colds and flus. Something no Mom can tolerate!
How to avoid PFCs: Try not to use stain treatments on furniture or carpet. And stay clear of non-stick pans – use cast-iron, aluminum or copper.
5. Lead – This one is well-known bad guy, but here’s a refresher: found in paint manufactured before 1978, lead can cause headaches, joint pain and memory problems.
How to avoid lead: Lead paint and young kids don’t mix. If you have both in your home, it’s time for a mini home makeover. Don’t remove the paint yourself, though. Hire a certified lead abatement contractor.
6. Formaldehyde – Toxic and flammable, formaldehyde is found in building materials, pressed-wood products and hard plastics. It can irritate eyes and throat and cause headaches.
How to avoid formaldehyde: Use “exterior-grade” pressed-wood products in your home. And ask manufacturers before you buy plywood, paneling, furniture and cabinets about formaldehyde content.
7. Parabens – Used to preserve cosmetics, parabens have not been directly linked to cancer, but is has been shown they can weakly mimic estrogen which messes with your hormones. (As if pregnancy wasn’t enough.)
How to avoid parabens: A quick look at the ingredients on the back of your products will tell you if parabens are an issue. There are tons of great lines that don’t use it.
8. Pesticides and Fertilizers – If it kills bugs or weeds, it probably isn’t too good for you. Chemicals in pesticides have been linked to tumors in rats and mice.
How to avoid pesticides and fertilizers: In your own garden, try these eco friendly pesticides from Ecosmart and organic fertilizer from Nature Safe. And try to buy organic fruits and veggies when you can. Most grocery stores carry at least some organic produce.
You don’t have to be a Chem major to understand how to reduce chemicals in our homes – but it helps to have the Green Works scientists to explain it!