There are a lot of common household products almost everyone has on hand and probably never thinks much about. Your parents had them and now so do you. But a lot of these common products are toxic, something we know more about now than your family did back in the day. So you might want to avoid some of these items and look for some house-healthier substitutes.
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1. Non-stick cookware may save you some cleaning time, some elbow grease and some scouring pads, but at high temperatures the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) that makes Teflon non-sticky gives off toxic gases that have been linked to reproductive problems, cancers and other health issues. It's best to opt for stainless steel or iron skillets, or if you must use non-stick pans, cook at lower temperatures.
2. We know how bad plastic bottles and other containers are for the environment, especially if you just toss them in the trash after using the contents. But they can also leach chemicals into whatever you're drinking. Watch out especially for the hormone-disrupting, possibly birth defect-causing Bisphenol A (BPA). Many plastic products promote they are now BPA-free, but that isn't the only potentially harmful chemical they can shed. It's safer to use a glass.
3. When you see roaches or ants in your house, it's natural to want to dash out and grab the first high-power pesticide you see on the shelf. Hold that disgust! Try a natural solution: one of many insect repellent herbs, such as mint or tansy, or some vinegar or lemon juice sprinkled along their entrance points and other places where they hide.
4. "Germ-killing" hand soaps and other antibacterial products are full of chemicals but have become widespread due to the public's overblown fears of catching something (ebola! ebola!). In addition, killing off germs indiscriminately can hinder the immune system's own defenses, eliminating good bacteria along with the bad. There's a lot to be said for more environmentally friendly and healthful soap and water.
5. Cleaning supplies often contain substances like bleach or ammonia, which can release toxic fumes that lead to respiratory distress. It's good to be aware of what is in those products; often the more instantly effective they are, the more toxic they are as well. And many common household products such as vinegar and baking powder can also be effective in tackling ordinary household cleaning jobs. And you don't need a specialized product for each separate cleaning task!
6. Air fresheners contain a brew of chemicals such as phthalates, known to cause hormonal abnormalities, reproductive problems and birth defects. They also contain such little-defined ingredients as "preservatives," "propellant" and the ever-popular "fragrance," which could be just about anything. And no, the word "natural" doesn't mean anything when it comes to fragrance. Try a big pot of some fragrant, flowering, house-loving plant like jasmine instead.
7. With so many natural moth repellants available, ranging from cedar blocks to sweet-smelling herbal solutions like lavender, mint, cloves and rosemary, there's little need to resort to those old-fashioned mothballs. Not only do they smell like those old clothes of your grandmother's that have been in the attic for years, but they're little balls of toxic chemicals that can cause dizziness, headaches and nausea.
8. Dryer sheets and other fabric softeners work by coating your clothes with a thin layer of—you guessed it!—potentially toxic chemicals. A common one is quantenary ammonium salts which can cause skin irritation and rashes, respiratory problems, nausea, headaches and even vomiting. Likewise the undisclosed "fragrance" most contain can cause respiratory problems. Try tossing some wool balls or an old sweater in the wash to eliminate wrinkles and static cling.
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