Apr 3, 2013

Kid Friendly Homes

There is so much information today about products that make your home safe for you and your family. More children are sensitive to interior products and suffer from allergies and illnesses that may be preventable.  No VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints, flooring and non-toxic cleaners more are available than ever before. But what about daily tasks and living? Take a look at my room-by-room guide:

1. Remove toxins from food storage.  Start with your containers.  Be sure to get BPA free plastics and avoid using heat-sensitive plastics that leak toxins into food.  Stick with PETE (#1), HDPE (#2), LDPE (#4) and PP (#5) or opt for glass or stainless which is best. Don't microwave in plastic at all. Use microwave safe ceramics.

2. Use natural cleaners rather than conventional ones.  Many companies offer "green" versions that are less toxic. I mix natural ones from baking soda, vinegar and they are anti-bacterial and non-toxic. The cost to make your own is very low.

3. Eliminate non-stick pans. These coatings do release toxic fumes at high temperature. Use them at low heat or use alternative pans like ceramics, cast iron or stainless.

4. Vent well. When cooking produces smoke, fumes or gas, be sure to use a ventilation fan or open windows and doors to let out heat, humidity and odor. Open the windows even just for a few minutes in winter.

5. Burn soy candles rather than petroleum-based candles for scent.

1. Use indoor plants as natural air purifiers. Spider plants, ferns, and even African violets are pet and child safe, and help absorb chemical pollutants from the air that are released by synthetic materials used in most homes.  They help to absorb your home's off-gassing (including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and benzene).

2. Be sure your paint is safe.  Some older homes (pre 1978) have lead based paint. Be sure you check with easily available test kits. When re-painting use low odor, no VOC paints. Sherwin Williams has Harmony and Emerald paints and tints.

3. Keep the dust down.  Fabrics, carpets and fibers trap pollen, dust, mites, and mold. Vacuum often and use a HEPA filter when you do. Select wood flooring in lieu of carpets.  Prevent mold growth by properly ventilating  using dehumidifiers in damp spaces, and using a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter vacuum. 

4. Does your TV  have polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)? It's a flame retardant that is released when the TV heats up; it accumulates in the dust.  Keep your TV and wires dust free to avoid spreading to other surfaces and into the air.  For that matter, be sure that you recycle all of your electronic waste since many of their parts contain PBDEs and lead.

5. Change the filter on your heater and air cooling systems at least every 3 months.
6. Don't wear shoes in the house. They can drag in a lot of nasty particles from the street.
7. Air out new furniture and fabrics before bringing them into your home. Most contain formaldehyde that off-gasses at high levels for a few days. Even better...buy green furniture.

1. Adequate ventilation will prevent humidity and reduce the formation of mold. There are a number of very quiet ventilation fans that work well for these applications.

2. Some basements trap radon gas, and it will flow upstairs. The National Safety Council sells discounted radon kits and you should test and eliminate the gas.

3. Start with good products for cleaning clothes. Bio-degradable, fragrance free detergents, softeners are safer and healthier. 

4. Wash new clothes before wearing to eliminate chemicals used to treat the fabrics. Natural fiber alternatives in clothing, blankets, towels and bedding is the right choice. Need a stain cycle?  Give the clothes an extra rinse to wash out any detergent residue.

1. If you use treated wood for decks or storage, seal it annually prevent chromium copper arsenate (linked to cancer) from contacting skin.

2. Take off shoes at the door. Can't walk inside without them? Get a mat to wipe off lawn products, bug sprays, pesticides and more. Better yet, don't use poison for pest and weed control. Try corn gluten on weeds and vinegar spray on bugs.

3.Switch to DEET free bug sprays. Soybean oil products work as well as 15% DEET without toxicity. 

4. Have a sandbox? Cover it to prevent use by critters. Get sand that is silica free - like river and beach sand.

5. Remove chemicals like paint, cleaners, batteries and more, from areas people work and play and store safely.

6. Keep trash containers and empty product containers that may contain volatile or toxic materials out of children's play areas and access.

7. Install CO2 or smoke detectors in your garage especially if your water heater is located there. Don't let your car idle in the garage, especially not when children are present.

8. Be sure you know your soil and what was there before....people often throw paints, auto products and more into the yard and exposure from skin and breathing in fumes is hazardous.