GO NATURAL: 5 chemicals to avoid at home, part 2
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Used as a disinfectant in municipal water systems, chlorine is toxic, even at low concentrations. Studies link chlorine exposure through ingestion and showering with an increased risk of heart disease, allergic reactions and miscarriages, as well as increased rates of bladder, colon and rectal cancers. Chlorine irritates the eyes, nose and throat.
To minimize: You can filter chlorine with a whole-house filter or with a chlorine-filtering showerhead and a granular-activated charcoal drinking water filter. Avoid swimming in chlorinated water.
Dioxins and dioxinlike compounds like PCBs and the pesticide DDT are known to cause cancer, but they’re also considered one of the most toxic classes of chemicals known to man. Among their hormone-related effects: decreased fertility, diabetes, endometriosis, immune system problems, lowered testosterone levels, miscarriages, and reduced sperm counts and quality.
Municipal waste incineration produces large quantities, but chemical bleaching of paper and wood pulp accounts for huge quantities in the air and water. Dioxins build up in the fatty tissues of animals and are very widespread in the food supply.
The easiest way to avoid them is to reduce your consumption of fatty meat and dairy products.
Is the convenience of nonstick worth it?. That slick, shiny, enticingly nonstick surface is made from a synthetic material known as perfluoroalkyl acid, a class of chemicals that have been linked to ADHD, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease. They’re also potent sperm killers and are suspected of contributing to female infertility.
Opt for safer cookware like made-in-America cast iron, glass or stainless steel. If you already cook with nonstick pots and pans, replace them with safer choices when you start seeing scratches and chips in the finish.
A type of flame retardant called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) is particularly worrisome. Exposure to even small doses at critical points in development can damage reproductive systems and affect motor skills, learning, memory, and hearing. Flame retardants are nearly ubiquitous in upholstered furniture, including couches, pillows, mattresses, and carpet padding. Because the chemicals are not bonded to the foam, they can be released easily in dust as the furniture ages. PBDEs are most likely to be found in polyurethane foam products manufactured before 2005. They are also present in some electronics, though they were no longer in use starting in 2014.
To avoid exposure, do not let babies and toddlers put electronics like remotes or mobile phones in their mouths. Replace furniture and pillows if the foam is old and breaking down or if the fabric is torn beyond repair. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and/or run HEPA air filters in rooms. Throw out older items such as car seats and mattress pads whose foam is not completely encased in a protective fabric.
Lead poisoning can cause nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development. Lead was a common additive to paint prior to 1978, when federal law banned its use in household paint. At the same time, the use of lead was banned in products marketed to children. It can still be found in older houses and in some imported toys, jewelry and even candy.
To avoid your exposure, if you live in a home that was built before 1978, be sure all paint is in good repair, and frequently mop floors and wipe surfaces with a damp cloth. If you have an older home, use a lead-safe certified contractor if renovating and stay away while renovations take place. Also, avoid painted or metal toys made before 1978, and avoid imported toys and children’s jewelry, as many countries have not banned the use of lead in toys. Do not buy candy made in Mexico.