January 10, 2011 in Features

Do Your Part: Reduce exposure by seeking green solutions

Terri Bennett McClatchy
 

If your New Year’s resolution is for a healthier lifestyle, then reducing your exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals should be at the top of the list.

Every day we are bombarded with chemicals that we unknowingly bring into our lives. The result is poor air quality both inside and outside our homes and more pollutants entering our water supply.

Do your part to reduce your exposure to chemicals for a healthier you and a healthier planet.

Start by picking better personal care products. Think of all the things you put on your skin and hair each day. Most of these are absorbed by our skin or rinse off and down the drain with water.

Few of us really know what’s in the products we use and we can’t pronounce half of the items in the ingredient list – that’s when we can actually find a list of ingredients.

The Cosmetic Safety Database provided by the Environmental Working Group makes it easy to find out. Simply type in the product or brand name to learn how your items rate on a safety scale.

Incorporating more organic foods into your diet is an obvious choice because they’re grown and processed without synthetic chemicals. What you might not know is that organic foods are also never treated with sewage sludge or radiation.

If you want to stretch your organic dollars, familiarize yourself with the so-called “Dirty Dozen”: celery; peaches; strawberries; apples; domestic blueberries; nectarines; sweet bell peppers; spinach, kale and collard greens; cherries; potatoes; imported grapes; and lettuce.

These produce items naturally retain higher amounts of pesticides, giving the organic versions the biggest bang for the buck.

Cleaners are another place to reduce your exposure to chemicals. Just because you can buy it off the shelf doesn’t mean it’s safe for you.

Manufacturers of these products aren’t even required to tell us what’s in the product. When they do, some hide dangerous chemicals under the term “fragrance.”

Safer choices are natural and low-cost alternatives that work just as well such as vinegar, baking soda, borax and hydrogen peroxide. (Check DoYourPart.com/columns for recipes to help clean your entire home as well as links to other resources mentioned here.)

You may not think of the carpet under your feet as a source of indoor air pollution but it is. Many carpet materials release harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) for years.

When picking new carpet, cushion and adhesives look for ones with the Green Label logo from the Carpet and Rug Institute, which ensures low-VOC emissions.

Paints and furniture can be another source of VOCs in your home. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to get your hands on low- or no-VOC paint from nearly any manufacturer without busting your budget.

You should also seek out furniture items made with formaldehyde-free adhesives. Formaldehyde releases gas into the air that can irritate eyes and cause breathing problems. Pressed wood products often release the highest amounts of formaldehyde.

A healthier you is more than just a stronger, lighter you. Do Your Part and reduce your exposure to unnecessary chemicals that can be bad for you and the environment all around.

Terri Bennett is asyndicated columnist and host of DoYourPart.com.


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