How to Protect Your Family from Toxic Chemicals

by Molly Miller

More advice is at tiny.ucsf.edu/personalcare.

Use nontoxic personal care products. Many such products contain ingredients that can harm reproductive health, but safer options are available.

Choose safer home improvement products. Many paints, glues, and flooring materials release toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) long after you complete a project. Ask for VOC-free and water-based products.

Mop and dust often. Toxic substances like lead, pesticides, and flame retardants are present in household dust. Use a wet mop or wet cloth to regularly clean floors and flat surfaces.

Remove your shoes inside. Outdoor shoes can carry toxic chemicals into your home.

Clean with nontoxic products. It is easy and cheap to make effective, nontoxic cleaners with common ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.

Don’t dry-clean your clothes. Many dry cleaners use toxic chemicals. Hand-wash delicate clothes or ask your dry cleaner to use water instead of chemicals.

Use less plastic. Choose glass, stainless steel, or ceramic containers for food. Don’t use plastic containers for hot foods or drinks and use glass instead of plastic in the microwave, because heat makes plastic release chemicals.

Avoid pesticides and herbicides. Toxic chemicals used to kill insects, rodents, weeds, bacteria, mold, and other noxious animals and plants can also harm your health.

Select flame-retardant-free foam products. Crib mattresses, nap mats, and other upholstered products can contain flame-retardants, which can harm health and affect a child’s brain. Instead, select foam products labeled as “flame-retardant-free” or tagged as compliant with TB-117–2013.

Avoid toxics in your food and water. Whenever possible, eat organic food to reduce your exposure to pesticides. If you can’t buy organic produce, choose the fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residue and avoid the most contaminated ones.

Keep mercury out of your diet, home, and garbage. Eat fish with lower levels of mercury. Replace your mercury thermometer with a digital one. Don’t throw items containing mercury (such as old thermometers or compact fluorescent bulbs) in the trash.

Avoid canned foods and beverages. Eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. This limits your exposure to BPA, a toxic substance used in the lining of most cans.

Limit foods high in animal fat. Many toxic substances build up in animal fat.

Avoid lead exposure. Any home built before 1978 may have lead paint. There may also be lead in household dust and garden soil.


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