5 Common Household Toxins to be Aware Of

The last few posts have been about toxins in our body care products and toxins in our kitchens. Today, we are going to tackle a list of five other toxic sources that you may never have thought about, that are lurking around in our homes!

1. Candles and Fragrances

I love the smell of a nice candle in burning in my home! It makes everything feel so clean and fresh and homey. Unfortunately though, most candles and other fragrances (air freshener, some potpourri, etc.) have harmful fragrances in them. When these fragrances get into the air, they are breathed by us and our families, resulting in their entering the body where they can cause harm.

(We went a little deeper into fragrances in this post on body care products, if you want to check it out.)

Some candles also have lead (as opposed to cotton) wicks, which is an obvious health hazard!

And, most candles are made from paraffin wax, which is made from coal, petroleum, or shale oil. Safer to not be breathing that stuff!

Air fresheners have dangerous chemical makeup as well, including phthalates (which we also touched on in this post).

So, what’s the solution? Look for beeswax or soy candles that are made without synthetic fragrances, and be sure they have cotton wicks. You can make your own nice-smelling scents from essential oils and other all-natural ingredients (or diffuse the oil to make your whole house smell good!).

2. Flame Retardants

These are found in our furniture (couches, mattresses, etc.) as well as carpets. While we all would love to have a couch not catch fire when exposed to flames, I think we should also be aware of the dangers of these chemicals (which are released over time into the air) cause when we breathe them into our bodies.

Flame retardants have been linked to infertility and other health problems. Check out this article for a more in-depth look at flame retardants.

How do we avoid flame retardants? Well, it’s definitely easier said than done! One way is to buy older (but in good condition) furniture, because over the years, the off-gassing of the item causes many of the chemicals to escape into the air. So if you buy an older, used piece, it is likely to be much lower in flame retardants than a new one.

Obviously, you don’t always necessarily want to buy used furniture! Here is a list of couches that are made without flame retardants; and this article goes over some reasons why you should be careful which mattress you buy, as well as recommendations for a safer one.

And, be sure to dust regularly! As the chemicals escape, they collect in the dust that sits around the house. Keep up with that dusting and vacuuming!

Of course, it is neither cost- not time-effective to replace your mattress and furniture, nor to tear out all your carpet and replace with hardwood! So don’t worry too much about it, but keep your safer options in mind for when the time comes to replace these things.

3. Cleaning Supplies

I don’t think it’s even necessary to go too deeply into why bleach and other cleaning chemicals are harmful to our health! ( I’m not a scientist, so I can’t prove the veracity of this, but I have heard that using standard cleaning products on a daily basis is worse for our health than smoking cigarettes!)

Strong cleaning chemicals can cause headaches and lung problems, besides the more subtle, long-term effects.

Thankfully, we have loads of options when it comes to safe (and effective!) cleaning products! Read this post for some easy and very cost-effective cleaning methods that won’t give you asthma or cancer. And of course, do your research and find companies that make safe products (or be like me and make your own!).

4. Mold

Many old homes have mold lurking around in the walls and other deep, dark places. But even those of you with nice, new houses might have mold… in your shower or elsewhere.

Mold can cause a variety of health issues, including respiratory problems, trouble concentrating, and skin irritations, to name a few.

It’s pretty easy to keep mold out of the shower: keep everything exposed to the air as much as possible (leave the shower curtain fully drawn so it can dry after a shower); use the ceiling fan whenever you are bathing; and clean regularly.

Oregano essential oil can be useful for tackling built-up mold, as well as cinnamon, thyme, clove, and tea tree oils.

5. Paints and Stains

It goes without saying that paints and stains and lacquers have harmful chemicals in them. These toxins can cause harm not only to the body by breathing them, but also to the body by getting them on your skin. I have mentioned before that our skin absorbs much of what it comes into contact with; but even if it weren’t being absorbed, it can cause external problems on your skin.

Again, most of us can’t just re-paint our whole house tomorrow with safer options. But as the need arises, look for paints, stains, lacquers, and finishes with the safest ingredients list possible; and always be sure to wear a respirator mask and gloves, and have the area well-ventilated when applying these products.

And remember, a little change here and a little change there will add up over time! So don’t stress about it too much (because stress probably causes more problems than these chemicals do, anyway!) Slow and steady is the key!