Cleaning is essential to protecting our health in our homes, schools and workplaces. However, household cleaning products—including soaps, polishes and grooming supplies—often include harmful chemicals. Some cleaning supplies can even
be flammable or corrosive. We have known for decades that certain chemicals, like lead based paint, asbestos, and DDT, can be dangerous to our health and the environment.
Health effects from these hidden toxins and indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. Many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems, including cancer. Some products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Studies have linked overexposure to lead and pesticides with brain and central nervous system damage, behavior problems, asthma, cancer, and more. These everyday chemicals, including organophosphates, flame retardants and phthalates, can be found in food, plastics, furniture, food wrap, cookware, cans, carpets, shower curtains, electronics and even shampoo. They are pretty much everywhere around us.
Another silent home toxin is radon gas. Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. Colorless and odorless, radon gas comes from the natural breakdown of the soil and rock underneath your home. Any home can have a radon gas problem -- whether it's old or new, well-sealed or drafty, whether it has a basement or not. Breathing air containing radon gas can cause lung cancer. In fact, it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking.
While the effects of these chemicals may not have a great impact on healthy adults, children and people with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of developing chronic health issues in response to having frequent or ongoing exposure to these chemicals.
The good thing is that there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals in your home. Making your home healthier doesn’t have to be expensive, or overwhelming. Just a few changes can improve the health of your home, your family and the environment.
Have your home tested. Many companies, including Ultimate Environmental Services, offer in home testing for volatile organic compounds, radon, mold and more. While testing can be expensive, it is a small cost compared to the costs of lifelong health problems that could be exacerbated or caused by these hidden toxins in your home.
Get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting and replace it with tile, laminate, or hardwood flooring. If this isn’t possible, vacuum at least twice a week, and change the vacuum cleaner bag each time to prevent dust from getting blown back into your air.
Filter your tap water. Filtered tap water may be a better choice of drinking water than bottled water. In a recent study, the Environmental Working Group tested 10 best-selling brands of bottled water. Researchers found mixtures of 38 contaminants, including bacteria, fertilizer, and industrial chemicals -- all at levels similar to those found in tap water.
Install a HEPA filtration system and have your HVAC system cleaned.
Switch to non-toxic cleaners. Look for "green" cleaners that don't contain chlorine or ammonia. Choose ones that say "petroleum-free," "biodegradable," or "phosphate-free."
For more information about the chemical toxins that may be in your home, visit the Cleveland Clinic’s website, linked below, for a room by room walk through of the possible dangers in your home.