Caution needed for use of household chemicals

Published 8:30 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

There have been a few interesting articles about healthy living that caught my eye because they involved the safe use of chemicals or plastics. These are things that have been in the news highlights lately and we receive many requests for more information regarding their use.

Chlorine is such a common cleaner that we take it for granted. However, there are some precautions that should be followed because this is a good example of how more is not always better. Chlorine bleach is great for cleaning but some people are not very tolerant of it. According to information published in an Environmental Medicine Journal, studies indicate that young swimmers had high levels of chlorine in their systems that could be the cause of asthma attacks. Children breathe proportionately more air for their size than an adult and they could be overexposed to chlorine and it’s byproducts. Reduce your family exposure to Chlorinated products by using only what is needed in the washing machine, cleaning the floors or bathroom. Using lots of ventilation and keeping chlorine away from children is a good policy.

Shampoos, lotions and makeup can contain a number of toxins that are linked to hormone disruptors or cancer. Avoid any products that include “paraben” or “phthalate” or “diethylhexyl” on the label. If the product does not have an ingredient list it may be wise to check into the company web site for more information about the contents.

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I hate to tell people to stop eating microwave popcorn as I consume a lot of the snack myself. But inside the popcorn bag is a coated perfluorinated chemical “PFC” that lines the bag preventing the oil from leaking. This chemical has been linked to health problems and the EPA’s scientific advisory board has recommended that the chemical be listed as a likely human carcinogen. It is unknown what level of exposure from popcorn bags may be harmful, but less exposure is considered better.

Stain protection treatments are popular and are often put on new furniture, shoes or clothes but you should avoid this whenever possible. Many of these treatments contain perfluorinated chemicals. Again, check the label and find out more about the product before using it and putting unnecessary fumes into the air in your home.

Reducing your intake of canned foods and plastic containers used for beverages and foods is a good thing. Many canned goods are coated with a resin lining derived from Bisphenol-A. This chemical is also found in plastics. Recent studies have linked BPA to certain cancers, fertility and behavioral problems in children. Many people are avoiding the plastic containers, even if they are labeled as microwave safe. It is not the “one time” exposure we need to be concerned with, rather the daily exposure and over-exposure and long time use. Less is better.

Dust and vacuum often. Use soap and water. Many toxins can settle into the dust around the house so to be extra safe, it’s best to keep your house clean through regular dusting and vacuuming. This same theme can be carried to the furnace filtering system and having good ventilation throughout the house. Putting an air freshner in the vacuum or furnace may put more toxins into the air. Be sure to read the label of an air freshner before you use it or you could do more harm than good. Many of the cheap air freshners have a cocktail of chemicals in them. Using lemons, lime or natural pure oils may accomplish the same goal without the toxicity.

In winter months our homes are insulated and sealed to keep them warm. Having a good ventilation system with little or no toxins added will not only provide a healthy atmosphere to live in but also limit the chance for mold growth.

Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Freeborn County solid waste officer.