While we may be burning the greenie candle at both ends, blending up organic smoothies, stocking up on superfoods, filtering our water, being mindful with our non-toxic detergents, there are other sources of toxins that are hiding in plain sight in our everyday lives. What areas of your home may not cut the mustard when it comes to healthy, non-toxic living, and what can you do about it? It’s so important that we keep our lifestyle as clean and green as we can on all levels. That includes a non-toxic home environment.
In the bedroom
Our bed is where we retreat to slumber, dream and renew ourselves. We spend a huge amount of our lives asleep. But are you aware that your bedding and even your bed itself even can be the source of toxins that have been found to have a potential to cause poor health?
The materials our bedding is made from have been treated with many chemicals in their processing. Detergents, petrochemical dyes, formaldehyde to prevent shrinkage and creasing, dioxin bleaches and chemical fabric softeners. Quite a list! Even organic materials need some level of processing, but the idea is to find options that are as clean as possible.
Synthetic fibres such as polyester, apart from containing petrochemicals and toxins, don’t breathe as naturally and are more prone to trapping moisture that can create a breeding ground for bacteria. These toxins also build up in our system over time in a cumulative effect and on top of that, the cocktail of all the different chemicals combined can trigger even more of a reaction than the individual chemicals themselves.
What about cotton?
That synthetic fabrics such as polyester give off toxins that have been found to disrupt hormones in the body and have been linked to cancer may seem obvious, but even if you opt for cotton because it seems to be the more natural option, cotton is in fact one of the most pesticide and chemical laden crops in the world. This favourite natural fabric has usually been heavily doused with hazardous herbicides and fungicides that have been associated with cancer, birth defects and nervous system disorders. The danger extends all the way from the damage it does to the environment, to your snug bed where you rest every night.
And it’s not only your bedding covers that hide toxins, your mattress and bedding inners can too. Because these are flammable materials they are often treated with flame retardants that are semi -olatile organic compounds that we can inhale and accumulate in our bodies. They can also be absorbed through our skin if we lie on a mattress that has been treated.
Sound unappealing? Luckily you have the power to choose natural, organic options!
Organic Cotton has been grown without the use of harmful toxins and pesticides and chemicals. The natural methods used also mean that less water is used, saving on this precious resource. The resulting fabric is a breathable natural fabric that is gentle and hypoallergenic minus the toxins.
Organic Hemp is one of the most sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics around. It’s naturally moisture resistant, antibacterial, hypoallergenic and breathable and while being very durable, gets softer with each use. It’s good for humid climates as it is naturally mould and mildew resistant. South Africa is just in the beginning stages of exploring hemp as a crop and we still have laws that make industrial hemp illegal to grow without a special permit due to its association with its narcotic cousin marijuana.
Bamboo is also a very popular up and coming fabric as it has so many points in its favour. It grows fast, needs less water and pesticides and the resultant fabric is durable, antibacterial and very breathable and hypoallergenic.
Organic Mulberry Silk this is a more delicate fibre that makes an amazing stuffing for your duvet and pillow inners. This is important as this is where moisture and pathogens such as dust mites accumulate and cause problems with allergies. Organic mulberry silk is breathable and the special proteins in the silk create an inhospitable environment for dust mites, making it very hypoallergenic and great for people who struggle with eczema and skin allergies.
And remember that the good old-fashioned tradition of airing your bedding out in the sunlight now and again can also work wonders for keeping your sleeping space clean, fresh and healthy so you can have sweet dreams.
In the kitchen
You can cook the healthiest organic food around, read your ingredients labels, conscientiously cleanse your kitchen goodies with organic detergents and sprays, but what about the cookware you use? When you heat up your favourite non-stick frying pan, did you know that non-stick materials have been found to contain toxins that can actually leach into your food? Especially non-stick Teflon.
Teflon contains chemicals such as PFTE (polytetrafluoroethylene) and PFOA, synthetic compounds that when heated release toxic fumes that get into your food and the air you breathe. The developers of Teflon have even admitted that Teflon heated to high temperatures can kill a bird within a few minutes!
Another common material in cookware is aluminium. When it’s heated it reacts and leeches into your food and it especially reacts to acidic foods like tomatoes. It’s been linked to issues like Alzheimer’s disease and neurological disorders. You get a new type of Aluminum called anodized aluminum that uses a special process that locks in the aluminum that is meant to be a better bet. Cooking with tinfoil is also something that exposes you to the dangers of aluminum, something we tend to do without thinking much about it. Quality cookware with an aluminium base is fine, it’s about the actual surface coating that your food comes into contact with.
There has been a growing awareness of the dangers of toxins leeching into our food and many really great cookware options have evolved to meet this need, such as Dr. Green by Risoli, a beautiful range loaded with Italian style that’s certified toxin-free, non-stick cooking at its finest. The superlative quality is not only non-toxic, it cooks the most flavoursome cuisine ever and will up your cooking game exponentially. Investing in non-toxic cookware is definitely worth the higher price-tag in the long run.
Your Four Walls
This one is perhaps something you don’t ever really think much about. You know that when you do a spot of renovation that paint smell is a bit much and it may give you a headache, but once it’s dry and the smell is gone it fades into the background until the next time you want to spruce up your home.
Did you know though that those beautiful shades decorating your walls could contain a cocktail of chemicals that, even once dry, can release into your breathing air over time, for years even, and cause all sorts of problems for your health? Chemicals such as formaldehyde, toxic solvents, acrylic polymers, ethaline glycol and alkyl phenol ethoxylates can exacerbate asthma, cause cancer, affect your kidneys and nervous system and disrupt your hormones. This also applies to applications you use on your furniture such as wood varnishes and polishes.
Never fear, there are companies out there who are aware of this and you can source more natural paints and varnishes from conscientious paint suppliers such as ProNature Paints who are aware that your well-being is as important as a beautiful home, and avoid all of the below baddies in their products.
Be sure to look out of these nasties in paint:
- Acrylic Polymers with TEA and N-Methyl Pyrrolidone: may negatively influence foetal development / pregnancy
- Ethylene Glycol derivatives, sweet smelling poisons found in most water and solvent-based paints
- Alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APES): endocrine disruptors that are a known problem for human and aquatic life worldwide. Found in many water-borne paints
- Isoaliphatics: mineral spirits in disguise. Isopar is an Exxon brand name for petro-chemical based iso-paraffinic solvents
- Oximes (for example 2-Butanonoxim): A common anti-skinning agent in oil based paints that is not necessary to make quality products
Every single thing in your home has a history – it was made somewhere, and of something! As you green your home and your health, gradually replacing toxic materials with healthier ones, each step takes you closer to living in a cleaner, greener environment that not only means your health will benefit, but the earth too.
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