Top 10 Tips for Reducing Dust, Toxins, and Chemicals in Your Home

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Making your home healthier and greener doesn’t have to be expensive, or overwhelming. Just a few changes can improve the health of your home, everyone in it — and the planet it sits on.

Some of these are easy fixes. Others challenge us to re-examine a lifetime of habits.

Avoiding or limiting exposure to toxic chemicals is at the top of every parent’s list. “Toxic chemicals are everywhere, so exposure is really difficult to avoid,” says Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior researcher with Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that researches environmental issues. “But there are things people can do to be proactive.”

Among the key toxins are lead and pesticides. Studies have linked overexposure to lead and pesticides with secondhand smoke at home — and it’s the biggest trigger of allergies. It’s also been speculated that these products may contribute to bacteria-resistant “super germs.”

In fact, new research has also shown that triclosan — the main ingredient in antibacterial soap, deodorants, lungs constrict,” says Lunder. “These chemicals have a very powerful effect on kids with asthma. You’re polluting the indoor air when you don’t need to.” When washed down the drain, they also pollute rivers and lakes.

Look for “green” cleaners that don’t contain chlorine or ammonia. Choose ones that say “petroleum-free,” “biodegradable,” or “phosphate-free.”

Or make a cleaner yourself.

Home-brew suggestions:

10. Eat organic, eat healthy.

When you eat organic food, you ingest fewer pesticides. You’re also helping protect the environment.

More pluses: Research shows that some organic food is more nutritious – organic fruits and vegetables have 25% higher levels of many nutrients than conventional produce.

However, organic produce can be 20% more expensive than conventional. Organic meats and dairy products might be three times the cost of conventional items.

Cut the cost of eating organic foods by:

  • Buying in-season produce, which is plentiful and often cheaper at your local farmer’s market.
  • Selectively buy the produce that absorbs the most pesticide if not organic — like berries, which soak up more pesticides than other fruit. You don’t really need organic bananas, since they’re protected by a peel.
  • Buy organic for the foods you eat most often.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, aim for good health in the kitchen:

  • Getting plenty of omega-3 fats – like those from fatty fish and walnuts — when breastfeeding seems to protect the fetus’ brain development from toxins, Lunder says. (Note: Some fish are high in contaminants like mercury or PCBs that can harm child development. Select safer seafoods, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, and salmon.)
  • Iodine also helps offset negative effects from fire retardants, she adds. That’s easy with a prenatal vitamin with iodine.

You could even try the taste of edible flowers — like those that grow in your lawn, when you quit using pesticides. “Dandelions are salad in France,” Landrigan says.