By: Eric Roston
Excerpt: People buy the nicest homes they can afford. They spend years—sometimes decades—pouring money into nest-feathering by stocking up on creature comforts. It’s no wonder we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. Like George Carlin said, it’s where all our stuff is.
Furniture. Shower curtains. Electronics from TVs to computers to games. Carpeting, cosmetics, and even air-fresheners and soap. It’s all there to make life easier, tasteful, and more playful. And yet, many of those pleasant symbols of your hard-earned income carry a hidden price: They may be slowly killing you.
Nobody ever said plastics and industrial chemicals were good for healthy living. It turns out some are really quite hazardous, which is a shame because they’re all over the place, according to a comprehensive review in Environmental Science and Technology by seven researchers from three universities and two environmental groups. They reviewed the science and identified 45 substances—phthalates, phenols, flame retardants, fragrances, and fluorinated chemicals—that most commonly leach out of products and become a part of household air and dust. Those toxins, when floating inside your home or apartment, are linked to endocrinal, reproductive, developmental, neurological, and immunological hazards. And probably cancer. …
While high tech solutions would be valuable, "green chemistry" has made only limited inroads. Two years ago, California allowed furniture makers to exclude flame retardants from foam. Americans can choose from among hundreds of flame-retardant-free couches today, according to Tasha Stoiber, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. But we're far from living in a non-toxic chemical environment.
"Consumers can't shop their way around chemical exposures," Stoiber warned. "There are too many chemical ingredients used in almost every consumer product."
The easiest things to do are the simplest. A 2014 journal study found that the crud left on hand-wipes after use carried levels of flame-retardant that matched dust levels in each household. In other words, kids, wash your hands. And preferably do it with non-antibiotic soap devoid of fragrance, which may contain chemicals that are part of the problem. The new study1 also recommends keeping dust at bay with damp cloths or mops, and out of the air with HEPA filters. The Silent Spring Institute, which participated in the research, offers a free app to help people detox their homes. Research released in March showed that readingingredient labels on cosmetics can lead to smarter purchasing and reduced exposure.