By Mila McManus, MD
Our home environment is a significant source for cancer causing toxins. Here’s some advice:
- Clean regularly. Dust is a magnet for many toxic chemicals, molds, animal dander, dust mites and cockroaches*. Use dusting methods [microfiber cloths] that truly pick up dust rather than push the dust around [e.g. feather dusters] Routinely clean with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Dirty dust cloths and dusters don’t collect the dust. Use a clean cloth every time.. Water reduces electrostatic cling so it’s not helpful; however a nontoxic household cleaner can be helpful.
- Avoid Pesticides. Bug sprays, powders, and fumigators are linked to many cancers including prostate, leukemia, lymphoma, and childhood cancers. Consider using homemade solutions of vinegar, essential oils, or nontoxic solutions in the home. Many options are now available using neem, eucalyptus, citronella, tea tree, peppermint, cedar oil, or apple cider vinegar. Avoid leaving food out, and clean up crumbs and spills. Also keep your home dry (using a dehumidifier if needed). Check the outdoor perimeter of your home. Mulch and nontoxic weed killers can help reduce the need for pesticides, as can keeping landscaping away from the foundation.
- Check for Radon. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that can seep into your house from the ground. It is a known carcinogen and undetectable without professional testing or a commercial kit.
- Swap out harsh cleaners. Use the following link to identify less toxic household cleaners: https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/
- Avoid Tap Water. This is especially true if you have never had it tested for contaminants. Filter your drinking water. Refrigerator filters are only marginally better than tap water. Common low level contaminants include metals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, nitrates, and byproducts of disinfectants formed when chlorine is used to treat water. Simple carbon filters remove some of these, but reverse osmosis filters and distillation are the best. Before buying expensive filtration systems for the house, have the water tested so that you know what kind of filtration system you need. Different kinds of filtration are needed for different contaminants. If you distill or use reverse osmosis, be sure to return basic electrolytes to the water. Here is an excellent source for tap water information including your local water source contaminants. https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/
- Air Quality Matters, Especially When Renovating. Home improvement and redecorating projects are a time to re-think what toxins you might be introducing into the home. Consider products made without volatile organic compounds such as low-VOC paints. Laminates and other composite wood products contain formaldehyde. Air pollution also emanates from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Carpeting, new mattresses, and fabric furniture have chemical fire-retardants and other toxic chemicals on them. Often times airing them in a well ventilated space first can reduce toxicity. There are also manufacturers who pride themselves on making toxin free, organic, and other natural fabrics without chemical treatment. Lastly, smoking is never a good idea, but certainly avoid doing so inside the home.
- Consider Clean Personal Care Products. Ingredients in personal care products and sunscreens are largely unregulated and often contain known carcinogens such as formaldehyde and endocrine disrupting chemicals such as phthalates and parabens. You can download the Think Dirty app on your cell phone to check products for toxicity ratings so you can make better choices. There are also toxic ingredients in sunscreen products. Here is a list of better options for sun protection lotions: https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/ . You can also learn more about personal care products here: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
- Check for Mold. Mold is toxic to your health and your home. It can be a sign of excessive moisture. In addition to being a cancer hazard, the toxins produced by mold can cause serious acute and chronic health issues. If you live in a hot and humid environment such as the greater Houston area, mold is everywhere. And it can hide while making you sick. Consider having a professional test for mold in your home. And guess what! It can take up residence in your sinuses and continually expose you to its harmful effects. If you’re concerned about possible mold toxins in your body, we have a test available at our facility and can ship the kit to you (urine collection).
- Head for the Kitchen. Scratched and worn cookware can release toxic chemicals into your food and air. Non-stick cookware such as Teflon used at high temperatures releases toxic chemicals. Plastic containers, especially when heated [dishwasher, microwave etc.], release carcinogens into food and air. Even charring meat, especially red meat, can produce cancer-causing chemicals know as heterocyclic amines. Consider glass, silicone, and stainless steel as practical options for kitchenware and utensils.