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Ways to keep chemicals out of your home

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Modern society experiences time of an unprecedented consumption with the growing industrial activity and explosion of products containing hazardous substances. Almost all, if not all, of us are at risk of toxic exposure. Everyday products can contain multiple harmful chemicals unnoticed by most consumers because information about their adverse health effect reaches only part of our society. Misconceptions about harmful substances in products bring a danger for our health and environment. While it is impossible to completely avoid that risk, there are many things we can do to reduce our exposure. We can make informed choices to simplify our routines and eliminate hazardous synthetics or use alternative products without unhealthy and toxic chemicals (Harley et al., 2016). When we reduce our exposure to toxins, our bodies will actually feel better. But what can we do to prevent toxins-induced health problems?

1. Assess your chemical exposure

It is important to understand the dangers presented by chemicals and toxins both, in your home and workplace. Start by reading about them and making a list of all possible sources of your exposure to hazardous substances. That will make it easier to start identifying solutions for making choices.

2. Choose natural alternatives for popular cleaning products

Advertisements bombard us with more and more chemical products that we are willing to store in a large quantities in our homes. The average home contains about 63 synthetic chemical substances that are dangerous for us. Indoor use of popular cleaning products, paints and air fresheners (including candles) distribute toxic ingredients that are linked to allergies, skin and respiratory diseases (reviewed in Yang et al., 2014; Vincent et al., 2017). Cleaning products are mixed of chemical including fragrances, glycol ethers, surfactants, solvents, phosphates, salts, detergents, pH-stabilizers, acids, and bases. A systematic review performed by scientist from Switzerland revealed that up to 75% of studied cleaning products contained irritant, 64% harmful and 28% corrosive substances that are hazards for eyes, skin, or gastrointestinal system (Gerster et al., 2014). There are natural and organic alternative cleaning products available. Those include baking soda, white vinegar, or essential oils. If you use hazardous chemicals, make sure to store them properly in appropriate containers and location. Use them safely and wear protective equipment.

3. Keep your home clean and comfortable

Studies revealed that trace amounts of highly toxic chemicals are nearly universally present in the dust in our homes. Dust loading and exposures to contaminants residing in dust can be reduced by using a damp cloth to wipe down surfaces and frequently cleaning of floors with damp mops or vacuums with high-efficiency particulate filters (Dixon et al., 1999; Roberts et al., 2009). We should try to keep the temperature and humidity in our home as low as comfortably possible, because increases in heat and moisture can increase levels of volatile organic compound (VOC) emitted from building materials or household goods. It is important to circulate fresh air through our homes with open windows whenever we can. And yes, smoking. It should be avoided, especially indoors. Moreover, adding green plants may provide mild detoxification benefits to the home or office space (Kim et al., 2010).

4. Be aware of used synthetic material

This is especially true for housewares made from synthetic materials, like plastic, non-stick coated cookware and Teflon. Their use is linked to cancer, endocrine and reproductive dysfunctions. Carefully choosing household products and building materials has been shown to be effective in eliminating that risk (Obendorf et al., 2006; Chen et al., 2011). The safest non-plastic and non-stick cookware alternatives are cast iron, stainless steel, ceramic and glass. If you do use plastic cookware, never heat or microwave them. If possible, choose to buy solid hardwood flooring and furniture, rather than particleboard, which can come with a glue that contains formaldehyde and other VOC.

5. Check your beauty products carefully

Chemicals in the beauty products are easily absorbed into your skin and transported to every organ in the body. Moderate of frequent use of makeup, shampoo, skin lotion, nail polish, and other personal care products has been linked to several health problems, including cancer (Taylor et al., 2018), or endocrine disruption (reviewed in Nicolopoulou-Stamati et al., 2015; Wang et al., 2016). Try to use natural products without ‘fragrance’ and free from acrylates, aluminium, formaldehyde, parabens, and phthalates. They are not only present in the product itself but also hidden in the walls of plastic containers. Use those in glass whenever possible.

6. Look what you eat

Food is a crucial contributor to our health and well-being, and food contamination is a matter of serious concern. Luckily, we can affect our eating habits. To reduce exposure to pesticides, wash and scrub all fruits and vegetables, organic or conventional. If possible, purchase mostly organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables, particularly the ones consistently found to have the highest pesticide residues (so called “Dirty Dozen” which include: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes). If you can, grow your own. Limit or eliminate feedlot meats and farmed fish. They contain hormones, antibiotics, etc. Increase your fibre consumption.

It is now evident that synthetic chemicals and toxins have an adverse effect on our health. We have to start looking what is around us and make choices to decrease our personal and household exposure to toxins. Sometimes it can be limited because product’s label information may be inaccurate. In some countries disclosure of chemical ingredients is not required for a wide variety of products that may contain toxic chemicals. Law and regulatory strategies should become more rigorous towards new chemical and food products to reduce population exposure to toxins. Industries should accept the need to be more honest and produce safe commercial products to protect us from chemical contamination.



· Chen, Y.C., Tsai, C.H. and Lee, Y.L. (2011). Early-life indoor environmental exposures increase the risk of childhood asthma. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 215(1):19–25.

· Dixon, S., Tohn, E., Rupp, R. and Clark, S. (1999). Achieving dust lead clearance standards after lead hazard control projects: an evaluation of the HUD-recommended cleaning procedure and an abbreviated alternative. Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 14(5):339–44.

· Gerster, F. M., Vernez, D., Wild, P. P., & Hopf, N. B. (2014). Hazardous substances in frequently used professional cleaning products. International journal of occupational and environmental health. 20(1):46-60.

· Harley, K.G., Kogut, K., Madrigal, D.S., Cardenas, M., Vera, I.A., Meza-Alfaro, G., She, J., Gavin, Q., Zahedi, R., Bradman, A., Eskenazi, B. and Parra, K.L. (2016). Reducing phthalate, paraben, and phenol exposure from personal care products in adolescent girls: findings from the HERMOSA intervention study. Environ Health Perspect. 124(10):1600-1607.

· Hodges, R.E. and Minich, D.M. (2015). Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application. J Nutr Metab. 2015:760689.

· Kim, K.J., Jeong, M.II., Lee, D.W., Song, J.S., Kim, H.D., Yoo, E.H., Jeong, S.J., Han, S.W., Kays, S.J., Lim., Y.W. and Jim, H.H. (2010). Variation in formaldehyde removal efficiency among indoor plant species. HortScience. 45(10):1489-1495.

· Nicolopoulou-Stamati, P., Hens, L. and Sasco, A.J. (2015). Cosmetics as endocrine disruptors: are they a health risk? Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 16(4):373-383.

· Obendorf, S.K., Lemley, A.T., Hedge, A., Kline, A.A., Tan, K. and Dokuchayeva, T. (2006). Distribution of pesticide residues within homes in central New York State. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 50(1):31–44.

· Roberts, J.W., Wallace, L.A., Camann, D.E., Dickey, P., Gilbert, S.G., Lewis, R.G. and Takaro, T.K. (2009). Monitoring and reducing exposure of infants to pollutants in house dust. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 201:1–39.

· Taylor, K.W., Troester, M.A., Herring, A.H., Engel, L.S., Nichols, H.B., Sandler, D.P., and Baird, D.D. (2018). Associations between Personal Care Product Use Patterns and Breast Cancer Risk among White and Black Women in the Sister Study. Environmental health perspectives. 126(2):027011.

· Vincent, M.J., Bernstein, J.A., Basketter, D., LaKind, J.S., Dotson, G.S., and Maier, A. (2017). Chemical-induced asthma and the role of clinical, toxicological, exposure and epidemiological research in regulatory and hazard characterization approaches. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology. 90:126-132.

· Wang, J., Pan, L., Wu, S., Lu, L., Xu, Y., Zhu, Y., Guo, M., and Zhuang, S. (2016). Recent Advances on Endocrine Disrupting Effects of UV Filters. International journal of environmental research and public health. 13(8):782.

· Yang, S.N., Hsieh, C.C., Kuo, H.F., Lee, M.S., Huang, M.Y., Kuo, C.H., and Hung, C. H. (2014). The effects of environmental toxins on allergic inflammation. Allergy, asthma & immunology research. 6(6):478-484.

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1 Comment

Lidia Rychlinska
Lidia Rychlinska
Dec 11, 2020

Sadly this is the truth about the environment we live in but it does not have to be this way. There is always space for improvement. We just have to open our eyes and take appropriate actions. Thanx for the great article!

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