As you start spring cleaning this season, consider more than just scrubbing away dirt and dust. For a healthier—and cleaner—home, rid your home of toxic chemicals. We’re talking more than just nixing the bleach or pesticides. Really, deep clean your home of chemicals. These five toxic chemicals don’t do your home any good—and they’re probably the ones you don’t even know are already there.
You’ve likely heard about the dangers of antibacterial soaps. Antibacterial agents added to soaps may rid products of nasty germs, but bacteria have now started to mutate and create super bacteria that resist these microbe-killing agents. Besides that, those chemical additives aren’t so great themselves. Triclosan, one such chemical commonly used to reduce or prevent bacteria in products, has a slew of health dangers.
According to the FDA, triclosan has proven to alter hormone regulation in animal studies. As well, other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Eesh. Want a safer alternative? Avoid anything “antibacterial”, or better yet choose soaps made with natural and organic ingredients for your home.
2. Flame retardants
Did you know that your couch’s cushions were likely sprayed with flame retardant chemicals? The theory is that it gives people more time to get out of their homes in the event of a fire. While the idea of spraying large pieces of furniture with flame retardants to slow the spread of fire may be noble, you have to ask: at what costs?
The toxic chemicals sprayed onto our favorite pieces of furniture are extremely concerning for our health. Flame retardants found in couches and other furniture off-gas into the air and can linger in household dust, allowing us to breathe in toxins for years. A study by researchers at the Silent Spring Institute found 44 flame retardant chemicals at concerning levels in household dust in California homes. Of those chemicals, many were now banned chemicals that remained in household dust over the years.
Couches made out of natural fibers like wool, cotton and hemp are better options. If you’re not able to invest in a new couch, reduce your exposure by removing dust regularly from your home using a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
You’ve heard of formaldehyde, right? Well, besides preserving dead bodies, this chemical is also commonly found in cosmetics, building materials, glues, air fresheners and household cleaning products. For such a common ingredient, it’s frighteningly bad for your health. The U.S. National Toxicology Program labeled formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen. Avoid exposure in your home by only using natural and organic cleaning products and cosmetics. Also, be sure to choose solid wood furniture for your home instead of pressed wood products, which usually contain formaldehyde resins.
4. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
Everything from backpacks to shower curtains to art supplies and vinyl flooring are made out of PVC, a known volatile organic compound. As a volatile organic compound, the toxic chemicals in this substance can evaporate out of the product and into your home’s air, causing irritation, allergies or worse. Whenever you smell that new plastic smell, it’s likely from PVC. This chemical is also terrible for the environment. It’s not easily recycled so PVC products either end up in the landfill, where they leach chemicals into the environment, or are incinerated, releasing dioxins and heavy metals into the air. Avoid anything with the #3 recycling symbol, as it’s made out of PVC plastic.
5. Bisphenol A (BPA)
Made famous by its recent banishment from plastic baby bottles, Bisphenol A or BPA is an industrial chemical that’s commonly used in domestic products. BPA typically has two uses: to create rigid plastic used for food and beverage containers and to make an adhesive that lines many canned foods and beverages, typically acidic foods like tomatoes, chili and soups.
As a chemical that goes so near our food—whether in the lining of metal cans or in the plastic containers we store food in—its health hazards are downright scary. BPA mimics estrogen in the body and can disrupt the endocrine system. It’s been linked to infertility, breast and reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty and more.
To minimize your exposure to BPA, avoid all plastic bottles, plastic food containers and canned food unless they’re explicitly BPA-free. Oh, and one more thing. BPA is also used to coat many paper receipts. Yes, receipts. Avoid handling them if you can.