Your Healthy Home: Reduce your exposure to hidden chemicals

Do you shop for non-toxic cosmetics and other personal care products? Choose only water bottles and food storage containers free of BPA? If you do, you’re wisely avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals, and protecting yourself and your family from potential health issues. But have you thought about other chemical dangers in your home? You may be surprised to learn that the materials in our buildings and
furniture may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – chemicals that enter the air as gases from some solids or liquids – or other harmful chemicals. Home products that can contain such chemicals include paints and varnishes, furniture upholstery, carpets and vinyl flooring, and pesticides. VOCs can accumulate in the air and settle in household dust, leading to absorption through inhalation and by touching contaminated surfaces. Although not all VOCs are harmful, there are a host of potential health issues associated with different VOCs, including eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches, dizziness and nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system; and possibly increased cancer risk. To help protect yourself and your family from VOCs:

• Wash hands often, especially before eating.
• Reduce dust by cleaning floors and surfaces often with a damp cloth, damp mop, or vacuum with high-efficiency particulate filter.
• Look for low-VOC paints and furniture. If you can’t tell, ask the manufacturer. And consider choosing models that have already off-gassed (emitted chemicals).
• Control the temperature and humidity in your home—the higher the temperature and humidity, the more a product will off-gas.
• If you’re laying new carpet, in addition to looking for carpeting with low VOCs, air out the space for a minimum of 72 hours afterward.
• Increase ventilation when using pesticides indoors, and remove personal items from the area.
• For indoor use, opt for water-based over oil-based paint whenever possible.