First of all, knowing what chemicals you have in your home is crucial. Also, knowing basics like don’t mix bleach with ammonia will go a long way in protecting you and your family. Know what substances are toxic, flammable, reactive, corrosive, irritants, etc. There are often easy to read symbols that describe these properties. There will also be information on the label if there is a danger associated with the product like ‘use in a well-ventilated area.’ If you do not understand these symbols or warnings, try to find the information on the web or a company hotline. Always use caution if you are in any way unsure of how a chemical will affect your skin, eyes, breathing, health etc.
That being said, never leave chemical products unattended particularly in households with pets and/or especially children. Discard products that are leaking or have broken containers. In case of emergency, have a poison control center number posted near or stored in every phone in the house.
Cleaning products and pesticides aren’t the only sources of toxic chemicals in the home. Carpets, furniture, building materials, paints, mattresses, kitchenware, and even food are all potential sources of chemical poisoning. Though the effects of exposure to these toxins may not be immediately apparent, long-term exposure can have serious health consequences, including cancer, neurological disorders, respiratory conditions and even death. Clearing all of these dangerous sources from your home is extremely challenging, and in many cases impossible, since they’re essentially built in. However, one of the simplest things you can do is keep your windows open. Adequate ventillation is key to reducing the amount of toxins in your home.
Removing items that contain or generate toxic chemicals, and buying safer items, is also a wise move. This requires becoming familiar with the type of toxins present in certain objects and determining the risk the pose to you and your family. Generally, the risk posed to infants and children is greater than that posed to adults, so if you’re trying to prioritize, start in your children’s rooms. Chemicals in infants’ mattresses, for example, have been cited as likely causes of SIDS, so they should be among the first things to go.
In addition to the acute poisoning that may result from harsh cleaners which you may use infrequently, cosmetics may contribute to slower, more chronic poisoning. Lead can be found in lipstick, and other dangerous substances abound in fragranced products. “Unscented” products often contain additional chemicals that cover up the scents produced by their active ingredients. Therefore, “Fragrance free” products are a better option. When in doubt, read the labels!
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