Green Your Space

These five eco-friendly habits can make your home a healthier haven

If the dawn of the 1900s brought about the Industrial revolution, you could say that the 1950s gave birth to the “Chemical Age.” From pesticides to plastics, science brought us new, innovative products designed to make our lives easier and better. Even the tagline, “Better living through chemistry” suggested that this new chemical culture was for the betterment of mankind. Today, however, we know that the convenience of the Chemical Age came at a steep price and we find ourselves living with the toxic consequences.

Toxic compounds are found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat, the products we use, and even the homes we live in. In fact, there are more than 80,000 chemicals permitted in the U.S., yet the Environmental Protection Agency requires testing of only 500 of them. These chemicals are consumed, inhaled, or absorbed by the body, wreaking havoc on our cells and often being stored in our fatty (adipose) tissue for decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average person in the U.S. has at least 212 chemicals in their blood or urine. These include hormone-disrupting chemicals, neurotoxins, and carcinogens used in building materials, pesticides, flame retardants, personal care products, household cleaners, and the plastics we encounter every day.

While it’s impossible to avoid all the chemicals in the environment, you can reduce your exposure—and lower the risk of accumulating chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, fertility issues, reproductive cancers (breast, ovarian, prostate), lung cancer, thyroid cancer, behavioral issues, nerve damage, asthma, and more. Instead of simply reaching for chemical convenience, here are five things you can do to dramatically reduce your exposure to everyday chemicals and help your body achieve a healthier personal environment.

  1. Eat organic. Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without pesticides or herbicides. Organic meat, fish, and poultry are raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. And since you end up eating whatever your dinner ate, it’s smart to opt for wild-caught fish and pasture-raised meats.
  2. Opt for non-toxic cleaning products. Conventional household cleaners are a source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can linger in the air for days. VOCs can trigger migraines, respiratory issues, and memory problems. Long-term exposure has been tied to liver and kidney issues, nervous system disorders, and cancer. Choose natural “green certified” cleaners or make your own with good-for-you ingredients like vinegar, lemon, and baking soda.
  3. Give your cosmetics a makeover. Cosmetics and personal care products don’t need to undergo safety testing before hitting store shelves—yet conventional cosmetics can harbor an alphabet soup’s worth of dubious chemicals. Read labels and opt for non-toxic brands that rely on nourishing oils, botanicals, and essential oils instead of industrial chemicals.
  4. Pitch the plastic. Avoid hormone-disrupting chemical plasticizers like BPA or phthalates by storing food in glass or metal containers whenever possible. Rethink your plastic water bottle. And buy fresh or frozen foods to avoid using BPA-lined cans.
  5. Clear the air. Synthetic fragrances harbor a host of neurotoxins and hormone-disrupting chemicals, yet they are found in everything from air fresheners to laundry detergents. Ditch scented products and check labels for “fragrance-free.” Be aware that products claiming to be merely unscented often use chemicals to mask the smell of their ingredients. Instead, freshen your space by opening windows when possible and introducing natural scent with an essential oil diffuser.
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