Could your home be making you sick? Maybe you’ve done a detox to clear chemicals from your body, but have you ever detoxed your home? The answer to this from most people is a resounding ‘No’.
Do you know the average home contains between 500-1000 chemicals, most of which are undetectable (can’t smell or taste them). Although these chemicals may be tolerated in small doses, problems can arise when you are exposed to a combination of these chemicals. This exposure can even lead to a condition known as “Toxic Home Syndrome” or “Sick Building Syndrome”.
The average person spends 90% of their time indoors. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informs us that indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Everyone’s tolerance level is different depending on genetics, nutritional status and previous contacts with many chemicals, but the negative effects of household toxins are often compounded when a person is on medication(s), or with habitual alcohol use, or when using recreational drugs. This occurs because the liver’s detoxification pathways may already be taxed. Then, when an increased burden from external home chemicals are added, it can often be too large of a burden for the liver to bear.
So, where are all these chemicals inside your home coming from?
Toxins Inside Your Home
There are numerous sources inside our homes or apartments that are outgassing toxic chemicals into the air we breathe. Let’s look at some of the most common sources.
1. Poor air quality
Most air inside homes becomes stagnant and stale. Due to energy efficiency, our houses tend to be sealed tightly, not allowing old air out or fresh air in. The average home-owner rarely changes their air filters, increasing the poor air quality of the house.
2. Cleaning products
Most of the cleaning products commonly used to clean bathrooms, windows, mirrors, furniture, and countertops are full of toxic chemicals which are harmful to your health and the environment. Many of the chemicals don’t even appear on the labels.
3. Laundry detergents
Laundry detergents, fabric softners, dryer sheets and bleach are loaded with toxic and sometimes carcinogenic chemicals. Chemicals commonly found are: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Phosphates, Formaldehyde, Chlorine bleach, Ammonium Sulfate and Dioxane to name a few.
4. Skin care products
Your skin is a sensitive organ capable of absorbing any substances we rub or spray on our bodies. Most commercial skin care products contain harmful chemicals like, sodium lauryl sulfate, 1,4 dioxane, benzophene/benzophenone, BHA & BHT, DEA/TEA, imidazolindinyl urea, Quaternium-15, parabens, phtlalates, fragrance, artificial colors/dyes, petroleum, and triclosan to name just a few. There are far many more chemicals than the ones I’ve just mentioned. The bottom line…if you can’t pronounce it and don’t know what it is…Don’t Put It On Your Skin!
5. Air Fresheners
Americans have a love affair with all things that smell good but numerous research studies have found that air fresheners and heavily scented articles like dryer sheets and laundry detergents have significant deleterious effects on our health. These include irritating air passageways, contributing to allergies and asthma, causing hormone disruption, brain tumors and other cancers.
6. Insect Repellant / Insecticides
Insect repellant used on the skin or in the home can cause serious neurological disorders for both humans and pets, as well as causing cancer.
7. Lawn & Garden Herbicides and Pesticides
Pesticides and herbicides persist in the environment long after the initial application. Even if you don’t use them, you may still be exposed if your neighbor does. The wind can blow them into contact with you or your pets and children may even come into contact with them from your neighbor’s lawn. Pesticides and herbicides have been linked with causing cancer, reproductive problems, ADD/ADHD, preterm births, birth defects and hormone disruption.
Carpets contain many harmful chemicals including VOC’s, flame retardants, stain repellants, glues, binders and adhesives, all of which release toxic fumes into the air for months.
9. Nonstick Cookware
All nonstick cookware like Teflon or Calphalon are made up of PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). PTFE fumes can be released while cooking under high heat and PFOA can actually migrate into food during the cooking process. PFOA can interfere with hormonal balance, reproduction and fetal development and can cause liver damage and certain cancers. According to the Environmental Working Group, nonstick coatings can “reach 700 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as 3-5 minutes, releasing 15 toxic gases and chemicals, including two carcinogens.”
Plastics are loaded with so many chemicals it’s impossible to discuss them all in a blog. The most commonly talked about are Phthalates and BPA (bisphenol A). These chemicals are major hormone mimickers and disrupters and can also cause PCOS, breast and prostate cancers, as well as heart arrythmias. Although some plastics may be labeled as BPA free, the reality is there are far more dangerous bisphenols still in the platics such as BPS and BPF. NEVER place any plastic container in a microwave.
11. Unfiltered water
Typical tap water contains highly toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as chlorine, fluoride, trihalomethanes (THMs), arsenic, aluminum, lead, mercury, barium, copper, cadmium, hormones, pharmaceutical drugs, nitrates and pesticides. Along with chemicals, common tap water also contain bacteria, viruses and parasites.
12. Tobacco Smoke
We’re all aware of the dangers of 1st hand smoke (directly inhaled from smoking) and 2nd hand smoke (inhaled involuntarily from exposure to a smoker), but did you know that 3rd hand smoke carries an equal amount of cancer risk? 3rd hand smoke is residual nicotine and chemicals from tobacco smoke left on indoor surfaces. Non-smokers are exposed to these toxic chemicals by touching contaminated surfaces such as furniture or counters. These chemicals also deposit in drapes, upholstery, carpets, and bedding where they then off-gas and can be breathed in.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) can be 2-5 times higher inside the home than outside. VOC’s are linked with contributing to breathing disorders such as asthma, along with causing cancer including childhood leukemia. Exposures to VOC’s frequently come from aerosol products, household cleaning products, dry cleaned clothing, Shower curtains, vinyl flooring, carpets, paints varnishes, glues and adhesives, stain and spot removers, air fresheners, floor waxes and polishes.
Start by decreasing your chemical exposure in your home by switching to natural cleaning ingredients. We never allow any chemicals into our home or clinic because we never want any harm to come to our 4-legged fur-babies, nor our patients. There’s no need to clean with harsh toxic chemicals that destroy your health and the environment. Using natural alternatives is cheaper, safer and improves indoor air quality.
Here are some of the ingredients we always keep on hand for cleaning our home and our clinic:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- White vinegar
- Liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s)
- Baking soda
- Diatomaceous earth
- Essential oils (tea tree oil, lemon oil, orange oil)
- Spray bottles
How to use:
Hydrogen peroxide is a great household cleaning and disinfecting agent. I always have on hand 2 types of hydrogen peroxide:
- 3% Hydrogen peroxide (brown bottle purchased in any store)
- Place this in a spray bottle, undiluted and use to clean and disinfect household surfaces.
- It’s safe for granite and porous stones (marble, travertine tile)
- Great for use in the bathroom shower. Just add a few drops of tea tree oil (6 drops to a 32 oz spray cleaning bottle)
- Use to disinfect countertops and cutting boards
- 12% hydrogen peroxide (amazon.com)
- Use 12% in place of bleach in the washing machine.
- Pour into the bleach compartment of your washer
- Great for whitening clothes and safe on colors
- Great disinfectant for towels and clothes
- Never mix with vinegar
We keep gallons of this stuff on hand in our home and clinic because it’s so versatile. Here’s how you can use it:
- Mix 1:1 dilution of white vinegar with distilled water and place in spray bottle. Use to clean glass and mirrors
- Replace toxic fabric softener (which decreases the life of your washing machine, by the way) with vinegar. Fill up the fabric softener compartment with white vinegar. Your clothes and towels come out soft and…no, it will not smell like a pickle. Vinegar leaves no scent.
- Great for removing chocolate or coffee stains (apply 1:1 dilution to stain and work in, then rinse)
- Never use vinegar on granite, marble or travertine tile floors because vinegar is acidic. You’ll want to use peroxide for this.
Liquid Castile Soap
We always use Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap for EVERYTHING! What do I mean…everything, well take a look:
- Hand soap
- Dish soap
- Face & body soap
- Hair Shampoo (ours and our fur-babies)
A gallon of Dr. Bronner’s will run about $57 but a little goes a long, long way, so it will last you quite a while. A gallon in our household typically last us 4-6 weeks. Dr. Bronner’s is non-toxic and non-drying. It never dries out your skin or hands, which is why I use it at my kitchen sink.
I go to Costco and by three or more 5 lb bags at a time because baking soda is such a huge staple in our house. Here’s how you can use it:
- Use to remove surface pesticides from vegetables: Place 1 Tbsp baking soda in a sink of water
- Replace laundry detergent with ½ cup baking soda
- Use it for baking
- Brush and polish your teeth
- Mix with water to relieve heartburn
- Relieve insect bites: make a salve by mixing with water
- Clean tile floors: use ½ cup of baking soda in a bucket of warm water
- Cut grease naturally, add a heaping scoop to your dishwater along with Dr. Bronner’s soap and let items soak for a bit
- Use in bathrooms to scrub scum from tubs, showers, toilets
- Neutralize carpet odors: sprinkle and vacuum
- Neuralize fridge and freezer odors
- Unclog drains: Pour 1 box of baking soda down the drain followed by ½ gallon of white vinegar and let sit for a couple of hours before rinsing.
- Put out small kitchen grease fires
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring sand extracted from the earth consisting of microscopic algae skeletons. Always purchase a food grade diatomaceous earth to prevent any toxic by-products, making it safe and suitable for consumption. This is very important to us in case any children or fur-babies come in contact with it. It also works wonders for making your body pH less acidic, when you mix a teaspoon in 8 oz of water and drink it. Here are some great ways to use this stuff:
- Use as an insecticide indoors and out. Great for killing ants, roaches, bed bugs, silver fish…really any bug.
- Use as flea prevention and killer. Sprinkle in furniture, rugs, cat towers, dog beds or in your back yard and later vacuum (well…maybe don’t vacuum your backyard). Mix with water to form a paste and apply to your cats or dogs fur, generously. Leave on for 15 minutes then wash out. This is great for killing fleas and preventing them.
- Can lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol
- Use as a face mask to reduce wrinkles.
- Keep bugs out of food supplies: sprinkle on pantry shelves or add a small amount to grains and beans to prevent infestations.
Some of the worst toxin exposure comes from all of the artificial fragrances we use in our home…air fresheners, plug-ins, scented candles, wax melts, dryer sheets, laundry detergent, lotions, cleaning agents, and the list goes on. Synthetic scents have been proven in the research to cause asthma, to be hormone disruptors and carcinogenic. They are linked with causing brain cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer and more. But, don’t worry. You don’t have to give up your refreshing fragrances, simply switch to a safer one. Have fun with essential oils. They are all natural (distilled from flowers, fruits and herbs) and have many amazing health benefits. Here are some tips for using essential oils.
- Place in a diffuser to add wonderful aromas throughout your home (if you have cats, be cautious as inhaling essential oils can harm them, but inhaling artificial fragrances is far worse)
- Place in white vinegar when you use it as a fabric softener for a great fragrance in your laundry.
- Place a few drops on an old rag and throw into the dryer with your next load. This will leave your clothes smelling great with no toxicity.
- Use as mosquito repellant: mix 6 drops each of cedar, geranium, rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass and citronella into 4 oz of carrier oil (like almond, jojoba, etc.). It smells great and is effective.
- Add 15 drops of lemon essential oil to a box of baking soda and place in the fridge for a month to keep it smelling fresh.
- Create an all-natural air freshener spray. Get 8 oz glass bottle and fill with filtered or distilled water. Add 10 drops each of orange, lemon and lavender essential oil and spray generously throughout your home. Great spray to use to freshen up your car, too.
- Deodorize stinky shoes. Take an 8 oz glass bottle and fill with filtered or distilled water. Add 15 drops of tea tree oil and spray directly into shoes (generously) and allow to dry overnight. (caution: never use tea tree oil around cats or dogs as it is very toxic).
This blog has been provided by Dr. John Coppola, D.C. and Dr. Valerie Monteiro, D.C. Dr. Coppola and Dr. Monteiro are the founders of the San Antonio Neuropathy Center, and Precision Sport & Spine. They are the leading experts in the field of neuropathy and specifically drug free nerve repair. They are the authors of the critically acclaimed book "Defeat Neuropathy Now .... In Spite of Your Doctor. The doctors have over 25 years of clinical experience.
If you would like to reach the doctors regarding a specific health problem, you may email them at [email protected].
- Begley H., White K., Honigfort P., Twaroski M. L., Neches R., Walker R. A. Perfluorochemicals: Potential sources of and migration from food packaging. Food Additives & Contaminants. 2005; 22(10): 1023-1031.
- Shimizu T., Hamada O., Sasaki A., Ikeda M. Polymer fume fever. BMJ Case Reports. 2012. doi:10.1136/bcr-2012-007790
- Environmental Working Group. “Healthy Home tips: Tip 6- Skip the non-stick to avoid the dangers of Teflon” http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-6-skip-non-stick-avoid-dangers-teflon
- EPA website on PFOA and Fluorinated Telomers (aka PFTE and Co.) http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/
- USA Today July 26, 2017Easy
- EWG, State of American Drinking Water
- Lenntech Phosphorus-P
- EPA.gov, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
- Environmental Working Group Phthalates
- WWF Briefing, Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE) (PDF),
- Environment News Service, Lab Tests Find Toxic Chemicals in Popular Perfumes
- National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet, Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk
- The Good Human, What Is Butyl Cellosolve And Why You Should Avoid It
- Tags: air fresheners, air quality, carpeting, cookware, home, nonstick, plastics, repellant, sick, toxicity, unfiltered water
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