10 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Safer and Healthier
7. Temper the Teflon.
If you've got pots and pans with Teflon coating -- or other nonstick
cookware – make sure you use them wisely. Perfluorinated (PFCs) chemicals are
used to make these nonstick coatings, and the chemicals can accumulate in the
body. The EPA lists PFOA (one type of PFCs used in Teflon) as a "likely human
carcinogen," although there’s no evidence that Teflon-coated pans cause
DuPont and other companies have agreed, in response to government pressure,
to eliminate use of PFOA by 2015. In the meantime, you can switch to other
cookware now: stainless steel, anodized aluminum, copper-coated pans, cast
iron, or enamel-coated iron. Silicone baking molds are also safe to use.
If you can’t do without your nonstick cookware – or if it’s too expensive to
replace right away -- then follow safe cooking practices. Don’t preheat pans on
high, and use the lowest temperature you can to cook food.
Two other places you'll find PFCs – in grease-resistant food packaging and
as a stain-protection treatment. Reducing greasy packaged foods and fast foods
in your diet (like microwave popcorn, French fries, and pizza) not only lowers
your exposure, it’s also good for your heart.
If it's time to replace a big-ticket item like a sofa, say no to
stain-protection treatments, advises Baker. "These add-ons cost money, and the
health implications are not really known."
8. Wash your hands.
We hear this during cold and flu season -- frequent hand-washing keeps germs
from getting passed around. But for young children, hand-washing is a good
habit that can keep them from ingesting toxins like fire retardants in house
dust. What your vacuum doesn't pick up, a toddler's hands will.
"Hand-washing may be boring, but it's really key to keeping stuff on a
child's hands from getting into their mouths," says Lunder.
Another tip: Skip antibacterial soap, because some researchers believe that
the quest for hyper-cleanliness may have led to weakened immune systems, and
possibly to more cases of asthma and allergies. It’s also been speculated that
these products may contribute to bacteria-resistant "super germs."
In fact, new research has also shown that triclosan -- the main ingredient
in antibacterial soap, deodorants, toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics, fabrics
and plastic kitchenware -- has the potential to affect sex hormones and
interfere with the nervous system.
And studies show regular soap and water works just as well for killing
germs. It’s about the process, not the product. Moisten hands, rub thoroughly
with soap (getting backs of hands, between fingers, and around nail beds), and
rinse. Singing the ABC’s while you do it will ensure you do it for an adequate
amount of time (20 seconds). Be sure adults in your house wash their hands
frequently, especially after coming indoors. Ask visitors to do the same.