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It is unlikely that you’re aware of how many toxins you surround yourself with every single day. Whether you’re like a hermit crab and enjoy staying inside, or you venture out of your home often, there’s toxins all around us. It’s ironic that toxins generally come from products that we use to make our lives better or easier. It is surprising that indoor air can actually have higher concentrations of toxins than outdoor air. There are several reasons why this is the case, from the food you consume, to the shoes you wear, toxins get introduced to our homes daily in many different ways.
What if we told you that wearing shoes inside causes many different toxins to spread in your home? A study undertaken by the environmental protection agency (EPA) found proof that unhealthy herbicides can be brought into your house through wearing shoes inside. Taking a walk outside through grass for example, means that your shoes could potentially have fertilizer or weed killer on them. If you’ve crossed the street, chances are that traces of gasoline on your shoes exist as well. It is nasty toxins such as these that are on the ground we walk on every day, that can be spread throughout your home for your family to breathe.
An herbicide called 2-4-D can easily be tracked into your home via shoes for up to a week after application. 2,4-D is a colourless, odourless powder that is used as an herbicide to control weeds and plants. Most commonly it is used along roadsides, railways, pastures, rangelands and on crops such as wheat and corn. Although long term side effects of the herbicide are unknown, short-term exposure can cause immediate problems such as skin rashes and gastro.
In the U.S. alone, pesticide residue has been detected in 50% - 95% of foods including fruit, vegetables and commercially raised meats. Pesticides can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, damage to CNS and kidney, increased risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, miscarriage, nerve damage, birth defects, blocking the absorption of food nutrients.
Surprisingly, eggs can contain high levels of toxic chemicals. The international pollutants elimination network analysed chicken eggs collected near waste incinerators, cement kilns, waste dumps and chemical production plants. They concluded that “70% of eggs contained dioxins above the EU limit for dioxins in eggs and 60% exceeded the proposed limit for PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) in eggs.”
Dioxins are chemical compounds that are formed through a combustion process from waste incineration, chlorine bleaching or pulp and paper and from burning fuels such as wood, coal or oil. Exposure to dioxins can pose potential health risks such as cancer, reproductive and development disorders, skin rashes and discolouration, chloracne and mild liver damage.
A large amount of dioxin exposure comes from eating commercial animal fats such as beef, fish and pork, as well as dairy, poultry and eggs. Cigarette smoke also contains a small number of dioxins which you can be exposed to if you breathe air containing traces of the toxin.
Many everyday household items contain VOC’s. You may have heard of this toxin before as it’s a group of chemicals with more than 400 different compounds. According to the environmental protection agency (EPA), VOC’s are two – five times more prevalent in indoor air than outdoor air due to its presence in a large number of everyday household products.
It is a good idea to get into the habit of purchasing products that don’t contain VOC’s to limit the toxins in your household. Products that generally contain VOC’s include: New carpets and home furnishings, interior paints, particle board, plywood and pressed wood products, new plastics and electronics, deodorants, cleaning fluids, varnishes, shampoos and cosmetics, dry cleaned clothing, moth repellents, air fresheners, and during the burning of wood stoves and tobacco products.
VOC’s pose many risks including: Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment; chronic exposure increases the risk of cancer, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage. Persons with respiratory problems such as asthma, young children, elderly, and persons with heightened sensitivity to chemicals may be more susceptible to irritation and illness from VOCs.
Phthalates and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is another toxin that is commonly known to be included in products you may use every day inside your house and on your body. PVC contains phthalates and these toxic chemicals have many uses, however the main ones being to lengthen the life of fragrances and to soften plastics.
Phthalates and PVC can be found in Plastic wrap, plastic bottles, plastic food storage containers, which can leach phthalates into our food. PVC in some consumer products such as vinyl flooring, drapes and wallcoverings, baby’s toys, shower curtains, blow-up air mattresses, cosmetics and fixatives. Similar to other chemicals discussed above, when shopping, it’s a good idea to remember this toxin and opt for options that are PVC or phthalate free. This is because these toxins can pose health risks, particularly to pregnant women and children. They can cause endocrine system damage in children and can have effects on the genital development of a pregnant women’s unborn baby.
It is somewhat alarming that we are exposed to numerous toxins whilst completing everyday activities and tasks. It highlights the importance of trying to live a less toxic lifestyle by consuming products that are natural, free of harsh chemicals and also considering the environment we live in. Below are easy changes you can implement into your life to reduce the amount of exposure to toxins inside your home, to live your best, toxin-free life.
Establish a no shoes inside policy
As written above, wearing shoes inside can bring in many toxins from outside your home into your home. Therefore, the easiest way to keep toxins out is to stop them from coming in. Have guests and family remove their shoes before coming into your home and leave them at the door. This way the toxins on the bottom of shoes can stay outside and away from the air you breathe inside.
Buy fresh organic produce
Having fresh organic produce will reduce the chance of exposure to harsh chemicals through these types of foods. It is important to understand the quality of your produce and where it came from. For the healthiest, freshest and most organic produce, you can grow your own simple version if you have a back garden. Alternatively, you can choose foods which are known to have fewer pesticides applied to them during their growing season.
Avoid using chemical-based pest control products in the home and around your garden
This point ties in with the no shoes policy but will help reduce the amount of toxins you use if you put both strategies into place. Use natural lawn care methods to maintain your garden and non-toxic alternatives for controlling insect pests inside your house. Using a natural and safe alternative will eliminate the need for harsh fertilizers and herbicides that contain nasty chemicals.
Follow federal dietary guidelines to reduce consumption of fat, meat and dairy products
As a result of following guidelines such as these, you will be able to reduce your exposure to dioxins. It is not recommended to cut these types of foods out completely, just consider that it is recommended they be consumed in moderation.
Use toxin reducing house plants
NASA conducted a study where they identified 18 house plants that are proven to reduce the levels of toxins inside your home. We compiled a list of these plants and their characteristics so you can identify if they might be suitable for your home and lifestyle. CLICK HERE to read.
Use natural cleaning products in your house
In recent years, there are safer and more natural household products being made available to purchase. Using these can help limit the toxin exposure in your home.
Use natural toiletries and cosmetics
Switch over to using natural toiletries and cosmetics including shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and makeup, to name a few. Not only is it important to reduce harmful chemicals in our home, but it’s also important to ensure that the products we put onto or into our bodies are safe and free from harmful chemicals. And one way of doing this is with natural personal care products.
Avoid products with high VOC content
When shopping for products, look for terms “Low VOC” or “Zero-VOC”.
Ventilate your house and control the temperature
Especially during the winter months, it is important to ventilate your house. Many homes are built to be leak proof meaning that air often can’t escape unless windows or doors are open. By increasing ventilation, you can lower the concentration of VOCs in your house. If you have just installed new flooring or a room has been freshly painted, consider opening the windows and doors as well as using a fan to let the room air out. Keep the temperature and humidity low, this can decrease the amount of some VOC’s.
Look for PVC and phthalates free products
Check the label of products you may purchase including baby products, plastic products and even windows blinds, curtains and shades. Opt for natural fibres such as cotton, linen, wood, bamboo, silk or hemp.
Avoid eating foods stored or microwaved in PVC plastic
To do this, look for the recycling code #3 or V to spot PVC products before they enter your home.
Avoid using air fresheners, drying sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances
These chemicals could potentially pollute the air you’re breathing inside your home.
Breyer, M. (2019). 6 reasons to remove your shoes inside. https://www.treehugger.com/reasons-remove-your-shoes-inside-4858271#:~:text=2.-,Toxins,to%20a%20week%20after%20application
Can.am Wellness. (n.d.). Consumer factsheet on 2, 4-D. https://canamwellness.com/consumer-factsheet-on-24-d/
Cliffe, M, E. (2019). 5 reasons why you should ban shoes in the house. https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/5-reasons-to-ban-shoes-in-the-house/
Earth Easy. (2021). How to reduce exposure to indoor toxins. https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/how-to-reduce-exposure-to-indoor-toxins/
Scola, J. (2005). New research revels alarmingly high levels of toxic chemicals in free-range hens’ eggs. https://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?20554/Toxic-Eggs