3 Ways Toxic Chemicals Can Sneak Into Your Home
Your home is your castle, where you and your loved ones feel safe. However, despite your best efforts, you may be unintentionally inviting toxins into your realm as you clean, decorate, and add ambiance.
Maintaining a healthy home environment requires diligence on several fronts. Here are three areas where dangers could lurk.
1. Not-So-Clean Cleaners
There aren’t any federal regulations, per se, on household cleaning products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no jurisdiction.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only requires manufacturers to list, on their labels, active disinfectants and ingredients that are known to be harmful. Other components do not need to be disclosed.
Testing is not required on household cleaning products. The EPA does offer a Safer Choice label for product manufacturers who have applied for and met the criteria. However, it’s important to note that “safer” is not the same as “safe,” so be sure to complete your own evaluations.
To maintain a healthier home, you may decide to use safer single-ingredient or homemade cleaning solutions.
No matter what you decide, read labels, do your research, and make educated choices.
For a comprehensive guide to safer cleaning products and to find ratings on your current products, consult the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
2. Potentially Toxic Textiles
Unfortunately, hazardous chemicals are often used in the textile manufacturing process, which can leave a toxic trail in your home.
According to ChemSec’s textile guide, the most commonly-used hazardous chemicals fall into seven categories:
- Water and stain repellents
- Biocides and pesticides
- Pigments and dyes
- Flame retardants
- Plasticizers and phthalates
Organic fabrics aren’t necessarily safe. The term “organic” only refers to the way a fabric product is grown. Organic cotton, for example, can be treated with a host of unhealthy dyes and chemicals during the manufacturing process.
Want to know if a textile product is safe? Look for OEKO-TEX® certification labels or look up the company, product, or trademark in the OEKO-TEX® Buying Guide.
You may also be interested in learning more about the process manufacturers must complete in order to earn the Standard 100 certification from OEKO-TEX®.
Do your research and understand the processes used on the products you decide to purchase, including carpets, area rugs, drapes, upholstered furnishings, mattresses, towels, sheets, and even the clothing you wear.
3. Candles May Cloud Air Quality
Scented candles can make your home smell nice, but do they hurt the quality of the air you breathe in your home? Perhaps.
Most candles are made with paraffin wax, which is a petroleum-based product. When burned, paraffin emits trace amounts of carcinogens, including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. Numerous candles, burned simultaneously, increases your exposure.
A greater concern may be candle wicks containing a lead core. Metal helps hold a wick upright as wax melts. However, when burned, lead particles are released into the air.
The U.S. candle industry voluntarily suspended its use of lead wicks in 1974, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission officially banned them in 2003. For years, however, lead-wick candles continued appearing on store shelves.
Zinc is considered a safe alternative. If you purchase a candle with a metal core and want to check for lead, rub a small piece of white paper on the new, not-yet-burned wick. If it leaves a grey mark, the core contains lead instead of zinc.
Another potential concern associated with candles is black soot, which floats through the air and deposits itself on home surfaces. Scented candles are much more likely to generate soot.
To reduce soot from accumulating in your home, trim your candle wicks (to 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch), reduce the flame’s exposure to drafts, and burn unscented candles.
To avoid the potential risks of burning paraffin candles, consider purchasing unscented candles made of beeswax or vegetable-based waxes, like soy.
Yes, natural, non-toxic candles are substantially more expensive. But a healthy home may be one of the best gifts you can give your family and yourself.