While most people realize that their homes are full of chemicals that could be toxic, the majority take great pains to keep these items safely locked away. For example, pharmaceuticals are often kept in medicine cabinets, out of the reach of kids and pets, while substances like motor oil and pesticides are stored in the garage or shed where they are unlikely to contaminate the home. And yet, it turns out that there are a lot more toxins in the average household than people probably suspect. This is because they can be hidden, infiltrating your breathable air and causing respiratory problems, skin irritation, and more serious health issues that seem to have no clear cause. So here are just a few common toxins in the home that could be harming your health.
- VOCs. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may be found in many places in the home, but they are most commonly associated with paint, stain, lacquer, and other such finishes. VOCs have been known to cause nausea and headaches, but they have also been linked to far more frightening health issues like cancer and neurological disorders, and they can be especially harmful to children. If you think they have a short shelf life, think again; these compounds can linger in the air for months or even years after initial use of the product. Luckily, there is a good solution. Simply use non-VOC products any time you paint or stain around the house. With more people demanding these toxin-free options, you’ll find that there is no shortage of choices on the market these days.
- Cleaning solvents. Most people are unaware of the fact that average household cleansers can be responsible for the onset of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory disorders, in addition to skin irritation and other health problems over time. But you can easily ditch them and still keep a clean home with green solvents instead. Whether you buy them at the store or make them at home with recipes found online and a few kitchen staples (vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, olive oil, etc.), you can clean the house and your interior air at the same time.
- Smoke. Even if nobody living in your home currently smokes, previous tenants with a bad habit could have left harmful toxins behind. Not only can smoke get into plush surfaces like carpeting and even stick to the walls, but it can definitely infiltrate your HVAC system, spewing toxins into the air each time you fire up the furnace or AC. While you can replace the carpet and scrub the walls, you might have to hire a professional to clean your air ducts.
- Antibacterial soap. You might be surprised to learn that this popular soap option can actually do more harm than good. In addition to killing useful bacteria along with the bad stuff, potentially creating a larger threat to the immune system, many such products contain triclosan, an antimicrobial substance that has been linked to problems with hormones, and the thyroid in particular. So stick to regular soap and warm water, a combo that has been keeping hands clean a lot longer than antibacterial products.
- Mold. There seem to be more than a few misconceptions about mold, mainly that it is always bad news. It turns out that mold is everywhere, in every home. And in nature it is actually beneficial, thanks to its ability to decompose dead organic material, turning it into useful fodder. That said, it can become a problem under certain conditions, namely a range of heat and humidity that causes it to flourish. And certain types of mold can definitely be harmful to your health. However, you can hire professionals to clear visible mold colonies out of your home, and a combination of proper ventilation, a good air conditioner, and dehumidifiers in your space can keep mold at bay. So upgrade your AC, check your temperature transducers, and get good fans in moist areas. You can coexist with mold so long as you discourage growth.