Part 2: Avoiding dangerous chemicals
Avoiding some of the most dangerous chemicals is something we need to pay attention to in this chemical-laden day and age. Last week, I wrote about the first five of the 10 most dangerous chemicals in and around our homes (Phthalates, BPA, Chlorine, Radon, and PFCs) which I learned about in a recent article called “Chemical Warfare” in Natural Home and Garden Magazine (July/August 2011). Here is the scoop on the next five:
6. Lead: Found in paint manufactured before 1978 and old plumbing, lead is a neurotoxin that can cause all kinds of problems for our bodies. To minimize: If your house was painted before 1978, clean up any peeling paint chips immediately and hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Don’t try and remove lead paint yourself. Prevent chipping by sealing old paint with a clear, nontoxic sealant. If you suspect high lead levels, contact your doctor about lead testing for your family.
7. Pesticides & Fertilizers: If it kills insects and weeds, it likely isn’t good for human health. Many common pesticides are known carcinogens. To minimize: Don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers on your lawn — it’s that simple. Look for natural solutions. Buy organic fruits and veggies (at least the most contaminated produce) or grow your own when possible.
8. Formaldehyde: This chemical is a flammable, pungent compound found in building materials, pressed-wood products, melamine (hard plastic) dishes and cigarette smoke. To minimize: Use “exterior-grade” pressed-wood products to limit exposure in the home. Before purchasing these products such as plywood, paneling, particleboard, fiberboard and furniture and cabinets, ask retailers or manufacturers about formaldehyde content. Don’t smoke.
9. Parabens: These chemicals are used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. To minimize: Avoid cosmetics that list parabens or words ending in “-paraben” among the ingredients.
10. PBDEs & PBBS: Used as flame retardants in building materials, electronics, foam cushions and textiles, polybrominated diphenyl ethers and polybrominated biphenyls) accumulate in blood and fat tissues. To minimize: Cover or replace cushions or car seats where foam pads are exposed. Avoid rigid polystyrene (Styrofoam) insulation.
Use resources on the web to help you find safe alternatives like the Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov/radon/index.html); Environmental Working Group (ewg./health-tips); Pure bond Fabricator Network (for searchable list of formaldehyde-free cabinetry and furniture) columbiaforestproducts.com/PFN.aspx; and Skin Deep cosmetic safety database (cosmeticdatabase.com).
Tuesday Trippier lives in Delaware, is a writer and mother of three, soon to be four, with a special interest in green living.