How to Create a Greener, Cleaner, Healthier Home
Making a few changes to your routine can improve your breathing, sleep, and overall health.
Household Products and Your Health
Consider the effect on health of products with chlorine that
you use to get rid of the grime on bathroom and kitchen surfaces. Sure,
chlorine is effective at killing germs and mold. But as Toni Bark, MD, points
out, it can also cause
eye and respiratory irritation. Bark has a family practice and is a medical
consultant in Evanston, Illinois. She is also one of the few physicians in the
United States certified as a LEED AP, which stands for Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design accredited professional. LEED is a rating system developed
by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide standards for environmentally
sustainable construction. Bark says that the use of products with chlorine can
allergies, asthma, and even
Cleaners aren't the only product that can cause trouble. While
we all love a sweet-smelling home, household products with fragrance can also
create toxic indoor air. If you do one thing, Bark says, try to get all
perfumed items -- cologne, hair spray, and particularly air fresheners -- out
of your house.
"Air fresheners are just a way of injecting chemicals into the
air," says Ted Schettler, MD, MPH. Schettler is science director of the Science
& Environmental Health Network, a consortium of environmental agencies
concerned with environmental and public health policy.
Christopher Gavigan is chief executive officer of Healthy Child
Healthy World, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping create healthy
environments for kids. Gavigan points out that "fragrance can be loaded with
hundreds of chemicals and that, by law, cleaning manufacturers don't have to
label what's in their fragrance." That means there is no good way for consumers
to know exactly what they are breathing when they use a perfumed product.
Natural Cleaning Products
Experts recommend taking a more natural -- not to mention
cheaper -- approach to dealing with household dirt and grime. "Using 3%
peroxide instead of chlorine bleach is a safe and effective way to clean
surfaces," Schettler says.
Both Bark and Schettler suggest mixing up your own nontoxic
batch of cleaning fluid by combining two cups of white vinegar, two cups of
water, and 25 drops of your favorite essential oil for a pleasant smell. You
can use this highly effective natural solution for cleaning windows, mirrors,
floors, and kitchen and bathroom surfaces and for brightening tiles.