Is my house toxic?
These days, we get bombarded with information on what’s good and bad for us and our kids. Everything from food, sunscreen, toys, water bottles, vitamins, medicines and cleaners can make the list. It’s way too much for any average person to keep track of the latest studies and information out there for our consumption. Yet, we all want to be aware of the things around us that could be potentially harmful so that we can keep our families as healthy and safe.
I went through the exercise of “getting my home ready” when I was pregnant with my son. It was daunting and stressful, and I found that once he came home, it was all about survival. There were certain things that stuck and others that fell by the wayside.
Through education and experience, I came up with a list of simple changes that I could easily make to set my mind at ease that our home was as safe as possible (A quick sidebar, I applied the “reasonable person” standard when creating this list. I know that there’s always more we can do. I encourage those with the time and resources to go even further!).
For me, detoxing our lives comes down to three basic categories: what we eat (and drink), what we breathe, and what products we use.
The Foods We Eat and The Water We Drink
- Buy organic whenever possible. Especially when it comes to the “dirty dozen”. (This one is not new, but the obvious must also be stated.) You can check out the current list here: Dirty Dozen.
- Buy free range, hormone and antibiotic-free meats whenever possible. It’s more expensive but it is worth it. A tip: keep meat portions smaller and load up on more veggies.
- Look out for added preservatives, colors and words you can’t pronounce in any packaged food. Don’t forget that artificial sweeteners are chemicals. Read the labels—just because you’re buying it from a health food store, doesn’t mean you can assume everything is actually healthy.
- Drink clean water. No, a Britta filter is not enough in New Orleans. There are heavy metals and other elements in our water supply. Getting a high quality water filtration system, such as a Berkey (Berkey Filter), or one installed at your kitchen sink is a better choice. We use bottled water in our home. We love the glass bottle option offered by Mountain Valley.
The Air We Breathe
- Clean your AC filters and your duct work regularly. They work hard trapping all of that dirt, dust and dander.
- Use air purifiers in the bedrooms—especially if you have a child with allergies or asthma.
- Stay away from synthetic carpets and fibers. Buy non-toxic and chemical-free wool rugs and carpets. Also, if you’re doing some renovations, use zero VOC emission paints.
- Get a high quality vacuum cleaner. Choose a model with a high-efficiency HEPA filter that will pick up dander and small dust particles.
- For the walkers, runners and bikers: Choose back streets and parks for your outdoor activities. Avoid midday workouts and high traffic areas—busy streets in the middle of the day have the poorest air quality. Diesel exhaust is the worst!
The Products We Use
- It’s a myth that you need to use chemicals such as bleach and anti-bacterial products to get your body, home and clothing clean. You can do wonders with simple soaps, white vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. There are a wide range of products available in stores and on Amazon. The simple rule of thumb is keep it simple; if you don’t know what it is and you can’t pronounce, it’s probably not the safest.
- Personal products can be the most elusive of all. Parabens are a synthetic preservative that appear in many cosmetics (including foundation, powder and lipstick), moisturizers, soaps, shampoos and deodorants. They can mimic hormones in our bodies and cause a great deal of disruption. There are many other chemicals, heavy metals and coloring agents that can appear in these products as well. Choose brands that are paraben-free and list out all the product’s ingredients.
Okay, so I know this is a lot of information, especially if you are just beginning your toxic-free home journey. The Environmental Working Group is a robust resource that can give you even more information and tips on all of these topics (EWG). There’s no need to go out and change everything today. Even small changes can make a difference in the long-run. Just start with what makes sense for your family and take one step at a time.
About Robin Rodriguez Montalvo
Robin is a New Orleans native and a certified life and health coach. Robin embraced the wellness movement over a decade ago through her advocacy to get clean and healthy food into underserved neighborhoods. She was instrumental in growing the famers market movement and starting the first Food Policy Council in her then Memphis, Tennessee community.
After many years of living in other places, she headed back to her roots in 2015 with her husband, Marcellus and (at the time) two-year-old son, Jack in tow. Robin’s core philosophy focuses on balance. As a NOLA girl and a self-proclaimed connoisseur of all things delicious, she knows that finding balance between pleasure and wellness is what truly creates lasting change!
Robin has a BS is Psychology from LSU and Master’s in Business Administration from Tulane University. She has practiced organizational facilitation and coaching for thirteen-plus years. Robin holds credentials as a Certified Professional Coach and a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and is an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation.