The smell of spring is in the air and there are shades of green everywhere you look. We have come to know this time of year to be dedicated to cleaning out clutter, organizing our closets and scrubbing our floors until they shine. But before you reach for your cleaning supplies and start to spray your house from top to bottom, take note that many of the chemicals in your home could be making your family sick.
According to Jane Houlihan, Environmental Working Group senior vice president and co-author of the EWG Cleaners Hall of Shame, “Cleaning your home can come at a high price–cancer-causing chemicals in the air, an asthma attack from fumes or serious skin burns from an accidental spill.” That is because many of the products that we rely on to keep our home clean contain dangerous toxins like VOC’s, anti-bacteria’s, fragrances and other chemicals. Spring cleaning is an opportunity to take inventory of what is healthy and safe for your family and clear out all of the clutter, junk and potentially harmful substances .
So this spring, as we go through the therapeutic motions, let’s add a little color and get to work spring “green-ing.”
Here are a few things to keep in mind to make our homes healthier, safer and greener in the process.
1. Reduce the clutter: For many us, the best part of spring cleaning is getting rid of clutter. It brings a deep sense of satisfaction to know there is less of what we don’t need and more space and organization in our lives. As you take on your own clutter projects, make a pile to donate, a pile to recycle and another for trash. Take inventory of any products in your home that may be harmful to your family like conventional cleaners, body care products that contain phthalates and parabens and laundry detergents that contain fragrances. Instead look for safer products that contain fewer ingredients (most of them you can read) and make sure to buy “fragrance free” because many toxic chemicals are hidden under the word “fragrance” in the label.
2. O pen your windows: Let the fresh spring air circulate throughout your home. During the winter homes are sealed up tight allowing dust and vapors to become trapped inside. This exposes us to higher levels of toxins from cleaning products, furniture, carpets and just about every man made item in our home. Open your windows for a few minutes daily to allow fresh air into the home.
3. Take off your shoes: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, taking off your shoes before entering your home can reduce exposure of lead dust and other harmful chemicals by 60%. This may be the easiest way to cut down the amount of toxins in your home. Consider placing a basket for shoes at the door as helpful reminder for family and guests.
4. Freshen your air naturally: Why do we need to “freshen” our air anyways when there are flowers blooming just outside? These products are dangerous and are a major cause of indoor air pollution. The Natural Resources Defense Council tested 14 of the common air fresheners and 12 of them contained chemicals that cause birth defects and disrupt hormones. Instead consider a few inexpensive, easy options like fragrance from essential oils, fresh cut flowers or citrus fruits.
5. Ditch the Non-Stick: If all this spring cleaning is making you hungry for Easter brunch, move on over to the kitchen to make room for a new set of pans. Non-stick pans release chemicals into the air when they are heated up, thus releasing dangerous toxins into the air and your food. According to the CDC, “In laboratory animals given large amounts, PFOA can affect growth and development, reproduction, and injure the liver.” There are great options like stainless steel or ceramic that still creates the user friendly cooking experience without all of the toxic exposure.
6. Clean out the cans: As you are cleaning out your pantry, keep an eye out for canned food that contains hormone disrupting BPA. BPA can be very dangerous, especially in young children that are still developing. Next time you are at the grocery store tell the manufactures how you feel about BPA by purchasing glass jars of tomato sauce instead of caned and choose fresh or frozen vegetables. Our vote is cast every time we pull out our wallet, let’s demand safer products for our families.
7. Safer yard work: Spring season brings new life to our yards and gardens, and also some unwanted weeds. This year, skip the weed killers and dangerous pesticides. These are dangerous to your health and have been linked to diseases, infertility and cancers. Whether you take care of the yard, or a trusted gardener, consider adding mulch or rock to prevent weeds and reseeding your grass with an organic version. Kids and pets love to play on the lawn this time of year. Make sure it’s not treated with an herbicide; the risks are just not worth it.
8. Green your garage: Garages are notorious for being the best place to store the stuff you don’t or won’t ever need again. It can also be a place where old paints and house supplies pile up year after year. If your garage or storage area contains paints, sealants, caulking or other hazardous materials, these can contain dangerous VOC’s, mercury, lead and pesticides. Contact your local waste company for a household hazardous waste drop off facility. Disposing of them will be good for your family, and the environment and it may also free up some room in your garage. Year after year, spring brings new life. We watch as trees bloom and hillsides turn bright green. It’s time to create that same oasis in our homes and let nature back in. Getting rid of all of the harmful substances is half of the battle but deciding what to let back can be tough. Start small and simple. Clean with vinegar and baking soda, buy only what you need, eat more real food and open your windows to freshen the air. Being “green” doesn’t have to be tough or expensive, just find what works for you and your family
Natalia Lazarus is a certified Eco-Maternity Consultant and Greenproofer and founder of Generation Pure. She is also a regular contributor to many health and wellness websites and has been featured on Healthy Child, Healthy World and Naturally Born. As a mother of two and a holistic health advocate, Natalia has researched and successfully implemented a safer, healthier lifestyle for her family and many of her clients. She hopes to provide a resource for other families to make positive changes in their own lives. www.generationpure.org