While there’s no way to get an exact count of all the different harmful chemicals lurking in any given home, one thing is sure: in today’s world, unsafe chemicals are all but impossible to avoid.
They’re sneaky. Chemicals cling to the bottoms of our shoes on the stuff we track inside. They float in on our water. They catch a ride in the form of air pollution we can’t always see. They off-gas into the air when we repaint or bring home new carpet, mattresses and electronics. Chemicals are good at finding their way into our havens.
And we certainly don’t help matters by welcoming harmful chemicals into our homes. Toxic compounds are prevalent in household cleaners, furniture polish, “fragranced” items, non-stick pots and pans, plastic containers, vinyl shower curtains, air fresheners, dryer sheets, pest control products, dry cleaning—the list goes on and on.
While an estimated 62 toxic chemicals typically reside in the average home, there are things we can do to get that number down. Here are a few tips for dealing with some of the worst offenders:
Flame Retardant Chemicals — These could be in your couch, carpet, mattresses or even your baby’s car seat. These types of chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and they’re associated with reduced fertility as well as cancer. Dust, mop and/or vacuum often, and read furniture and upholstery labels before purchasing.
Phthalates — “Fragrance” on a product label usually means phthalates are present. Phthalates are also known endocrine disruptors, and exposure to them occurs mainly through inhalation or via the skin. Use essential oils, plants or good candles to freshen the air. And if you notice “fragrance” on a label, put the product back on the shelf and walk away.
Glycol Ethers — Associated with various health problems as well as low sperm motility, these grease-cutting endocrine-disruptors show up in personal care products, multi-purpose household cleaners and dry-cleaning solutions. Since labels aren’t required to list them, you may not even be aware they’re in your home. Use microfiber and water for cleaning, and save money by hand-washing delicate clothing rather than having it dry-cleaned.
Lead — Entering our bodies as a result of lead-based paint and old water pipes in our homes, this endocrine-disruptor has been linked to brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage and nervous system problems. Avoid lead-based paints and help ensure your family stays safer by investing in a lead-removing water filter.
Disinfecting Ingredients — Also known as antibacterials, these chemicals are often found in cleaning wipes, hand cleaners, food storage containers, exercise mats and even some school supplies. They are designed to kill or inhibit the growth of microbes, but certain ingredients like triclosan have also been shown to disrupt thyroid hormone function in animals and may weaken heart and skeletal muscle. Choose high-quality microfiber cloths for household cleaning; all you need is water to lift up dirt, bacteria, grime and stains. For personal care, avoid “antibacterial” soaps and liquids.
Chemicals can settle in household dust, so it’s important to clean often and air out your home occasionally, especially if you have young children or pets, who are more likely to be on or near the floor.
Blog updated February 11, 2021
My family is not good at this-but we should take our shoes off at the door to prevent tracking poisons throughout the home
I’m just blown away by what is being held in household dust. I never ever thought of dust like that.
I’m trying my best to make our home environmentally safer by using Norwex microfiber and enzyme products.
SO scary to read about the different ways these chemicals are sneaking into the house!
I’ve been purchasing more eco-friendly and safe cleaning products and try to clean more often.
Way to go, Stephanie! You’re making an important difference for your family. Keep up the good work!
I vacuum every other day, ONLY use Norwex to clean, use reusable water bottles instead of plastic/packaged water, use clay laundry balls (insured of laundry detergent), use rubber balls instead of dryer sheets, don’t use body wash, diffuse essential oils, don’t use deodorsnt except my crystal deodorant from Norwex and lots more!
Never thought about the chemicals settling in dust… eye opening…
Did not know there are about 62 toxic chemicals in the average home, or that some school supplies contain them.
That is why I joined Norwex after my first party. I want to make the largest impact possible as soon as I can!
It’s scary how many seemingly harmless things bring chemicals into our homes! Scary!!!
This is scary! We are getting better, but there are great reminders in this post!
The link in point 4 doesn’t work anymore. Is it possible to update this, please?
Maria, thank you for letting us know about the dead link. It’s now been updated.