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Avoiding toxins around your home

Cleaning
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There are a slew of every day household items we use that we might not even realize are harming us and the environment. Mothballs, flea and tick products, air fresheners, oven cleaners, space heaters, extension cords, drain cleaners – these are just a few every day items we take for granted as safe. They all come with their harmful byproducts.

Mothballs contain a chemical by the name of naphthalene. Naphthalene can cause damage to red blood cells if inhaled in high-enough concentrations – rates of anemia can rise in people living in such situations. Encase mothballs in little containers to prevent the release of excessive levels of naphthalene.

Flea and tick products for dogs can also be extremely harmful for you and your pet. Recently, a not-for-profit investigative news organization based out of Washington D.C., the Center for Public Integrity, reported that the main ingredient in Frontine, fipronil, can cause nervous system and thyroid damage in animals. The active ingredient in Advantage, another anti-flea pet product, contains Imidacloprid, which has been proven to damage the internal organs of pets.

The alternative to using these toxic products is to watch your pet’s diet intake as carefully as possible. Avoid prepackaged pet food sold in supermarkets that may contain ground-up animal parts unsuitable for consumption. Instead, feed your pet fresh, whole foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients. If your animal still develops a flea problem, you can use a gentle herbal shampoo and a fine-toothed comb to solve the problem.

In a study released in 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that toxins contained in over a dozen common air fresheners contain chemicals that can affect reproductive development and hormones. The tested items – even ones that were labeled “all-natural” – contained chemicals known as phthalates. “Exposure to phthalates can affect testosterone levels and lead to reproductive abnormalities, including abnormal genitalia and reduced sperm production,” according to the study. It is best just to open a window, as opposed to exposing yourself to these harmful chemicals. The FDA does not yet regulate air fresheners.

Extension chords are one of the leading causes of fire in the United States. People tend to plug in as many items as possible, going well over the voltage capacity of the chord. Hazard can be avoided by simply observing the voltage capacity.

Drain cleaners are some of the most corrosive household products to use around the home. They not only will destroy your pipes over time, but the chemicals used are extremely polluting to the environment, eventually making their way into our waterways. Sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient in most drain cleaners, is toxic to inhale, and can linger around the bathroom for a period of time after you clean your pipes.

An alternative to using corrosive drain cleaner is using an all-natural product. A simple mixture of boiling water, baking soda, and vinegar can be extremely effective. Another alternative is using a simple plug to prevent clogs. Using a strainer to catch hair and other objects before they get into your drain uses zero chemicals that can harm your household or the environment.

The Tubshroom is one such plug, made out of non-toxic rubber, it sits inside the drain, collecting hair throughout its use. When it’s time to clean out your drain, you remove the plug and wipe it off with a cloth, before reinserting it to use again. Tubshroom has seen wide success, with over 8,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. It is available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Lowe’s, and Amazon.com. It fits any standard bathtub drain – there is also a Sinkshroom for sinks.

Finding non-harmful alternatives to commonly used household products is essential in this day and age. An age in which it seems that everything we use has the potential to give us cancer; we must replace what we can with natural alternatives. The options above could make our lives more convenient while also minimizing harm to ourselves and the environment.

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James Rosenfield
James Rosenfield is a traveler, writer, and history buff. After obtaining a degree in International Affairs from the University of Colorado in Boulder, he decided to high-tail it from the USA to Colombia in search of adventure. He has a passion for skiing, live music, and speaking Argentinian "castellano" with bemused Colombians.