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Heal Your Home Center
Top Four Steps to a Healthy Home
1. Get Rid of Conventional Cleaners
The problem: Many household cleaners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, harsh acids, and hormone disrupters, which may be linked to: cancer, endocrine disruption, and eye, throat, and lung irritation.
The solution: Use nontoxic, biodegratdable cleaners free from synthetic fragrances. Or save money and go easy on the earth by making your own.
Check out our article: Ten Steps to Clean Green
2. Use Care with Paints and Stains
The problem: Conventional paints contain three chemicals worth worrying about: VOCs, fungicides, and biocides. Some paints ahve toxic pigments too. VOCs are the primary solvent in oil-based paint and a component in water-based paint. Biocides and fungicides are chemicals designed to extend paint's shelf life and prevent mildew once applied. Problematic ingredients can include mercury, aresenic disulfide, phenol, and formaldehyde. Paint containing lead levels greater than 660 parts per million is no longer legal in the US, but homes painted up to the 1970s may still have lead paint. These toxins may be linked to: reporoductive toxicity, nerotoxicity (lead paint), and developmental damage.
The solution: Use super-low or zero-VOC paints and stains. Look also for "biocide-free" paints with natural pigments. If your home was built before 1970, test your home and your children's blood lead levels. Paint over lead-based paint to minimize dust and chipping.
Check out our article: Nontoxic Paints and Stains
3. Look for Sustainable Furniture
The problem: Some wood furniture can release VOCs from adhesives and finishes. Ureea formaldehyde is used in particle-board furniture. Most upholstered furniture is treated with flame-retardant polybrominated diphenl ethers (PBDEs). These toxins may be linked to: cancer, endocrine disruption, neurtotoxicity, and respiratory irritation.
The solution: Seal exposed edges of particle board and pressed wood with a zero-VOC sealant (like AFM Safecoat's Safe Seal sealant). Consider buying all-natural furniture, made from solid wood or natural, organic ingredients like organic cotton or hemp. Look for furniture made without toxic flame retardants.
Eco-Bonus: Wood furniture certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) supports sustainable forestry practices, preserving old-growth forests throughout the world.
4. Find the Right Flooring
The problem: Wall-to-wall carpets are notorious for harboring allergens and trapping toxins like pesticides that get tracked in from outside. Most synthetic carpets and their adhesives also emit VOCs. Carpeting may be treated with benzyl benzoate or other chemicals for mothproofing or to repel moisture. These toxins may be linked to: cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, and respiratory irritation.
The solution: Don't put down new wall-to-wall carpeting, and consider removing any current carpet, especially if any family members have breathing problems. You can apply AFM's nontoxic Carpet Seal to lock in off-gassing toxins from newer carpets. Use a HEPA vacuum weekly to remove allergens.
Eco-Bonus: Wood flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) supports sustainable forestry practices, preserving old-growth forests throughout the world. If possible, re-finishing current hardwood flooring or re-using flooring from old houses with non-toxic finishes is best.
Check out our article: Eco-flooring Options
Updated April 2015, originally published in the Spring 2008 issue