The start of a new year can be overwhelming. Most of us have a long list of all we want to accomplish in the next 12 months. If having a healthier home and healthier family tops yours, there are many ways to get started. Here are five simple swaps that may have you living healthier and more environmentally conscious at the same time.
1. Make a shower curtain switch: Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is a soft plastic used to make household items such as vinyl shower curtains. The plasticizers in PVC are suspected of causing developmental delays, liver damage and respiratory problems. Your best bet is to replace your vinyl shower curtains with ones labeled PVC-Free, made with a safer plastic known as EVA, or use a cotton or polyester shower curtain as a liner.
2. Swap out the soap: Triclosan is the main ingredient found in many antibacterial hand soaps, gels and body washes. It is believed to interfere with thyroid function and also linked to the creation of “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics. So what’s the smart alternative? Soap and water. Even the FDA says it “does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”
3. Replace certain pots and pans: Not all cookware is created equal. Many coated nonstick pans can leach a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, especially if scratched. PFOA is linked to cancer and birth defects. Safer cookware choices include cast iron, ceramic and stainless steel pots and pans.
4. Find green dry-cleaners: Conventional dry-cleaners commonly use toxic chemicals to “clean” clothes. One of those chemicals is perchloroethylene or Perc, which is linked to everything from headaches to organ damage. Safer solutions include choosing items that don’t require dry-cleaning, switching to a green dry cleaner or letting your traditionally cleaned clothes air out before you hang them in your closet.
5. Select safer cleaners: The scary thing about some is that their ingredients are not even required to be on the label. And those ingredients are some of the main sources of air pollution inside our own homes. Swap out chemical-based cleaners for nontoxic ones that are also dirt cheap. Baking soda is a powerful nonabrasive cleanser. White vinegar is an all-natural disinfectant and effective at killing viruses like the flu on most surfaces. And hydrogen peroxide works in place of chlorine bleach to kill bacteria.