Eliminate Five to Improve your Life: The Top Five Toxins Found in Every Home

by Gail Griswold-Elwyn,
President, Rethink Renovations

The EPA has ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental dangers, stating that allergies, asthma, lung cancer, and heart problems have all been linked to poor air quality. Below are the top 5 toxins most commonly found in your home—and how you can make healthier choices.

Formaldehyde, the same chemical used to embalm the deceased, can be found in trace elements in almost every room of your home. At the most benign level, formaldehyde can cause eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation; at its most malignant it can cause infertility, and lymphoma. Look for all-natural beauty products and cosmetics and make sure compressed wood fibers are not using a formaldehyde-based chemical as a binding agent. Better yet, choose all-natural, reclaimed wood.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) can be found in water bottles, nylon backpacks, vinyl tiles, and almost anything “water proof” (including baby changing mats and mattress covers). The byproducts and off-gasses of PVC have the ability to mimic or block hormones in the body. In addition, they have been linked to serious respiratory problems, immune suppression, and cancer. Look for PVC-free plastics and, when shopping for water-proof items, choose those with coatings made from polyurethane or polyester.

Chlorine is in almost all cleaning products, but is found in large concentrations in bleach. Inhalation of chlorine can irritate the respiratory system; prolonged exposure can lead to lung disease and asthma. Purchase chlorine-free cleaning products, especially chlorine-free bleach to reduce your family’s exposure to this toxin.

Phthalates are the chemicals you inhale each time you spray or plug in that air freshener. Consistent exposure to phthalates can increase your risk of experiencing endocrine, reproductive, and developmental problems. As a healthier alternative, put boxes of baking soda in cabinets to absorb odors and use all-natural scented oils and all-natural potpourri around your home.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases by a wide array of products including paints and paint strippers, carpets, furnishings, office equipment, adhesives, and permanent markers, and are very harmful. Look for VOC-free products (especially paint and finishes), or consider using organic clay paint which has the added benefit of acting as an absorbent for off-gases.

The average person spends about 90% of his/her time indoors. Unfortunately, the quality of indoor air can be two to five times (and even up to 100 times) more polluted than the air we breathe outside. Yes, this information is scary, but it is also empowering. Now that you know what to look for, you are better prepared to purchase healthier alternatives.

About Rethink Renovations
Gail Griswold-Elwyn founded Rethink Renovations in 2007 to offer green construction, design/build, and full lines of cabinetry and furniture that minimize environmental impact. For more, please visit www.rethinkrenovations.com or call 314-323-8845.