Chemicals in the Home
Do you realise that by simply sitting on your sofa, watching TV and eating an apple you are exposing yourself to a dose of toxic chemicals? That carefully wrapping food in cling film or brushing your teeth can be hazardous?
Recent research by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) into chemicals in the home has turned up disturbing results as to the levels of contamination in the blood found in everyone from grandparents to unborn babies.
The cause is the ubiquitous use of man-made chemicals in everyday items. Of most concern are those chemicals which persist in the environment for many years, such as DDT, or are hormone disrupting and may cause defects, or those which build up in our bodies and can be passed on to future generations. The umbilical cords of new born babies have been found to contain as many as 14 chemicals.
In the home, carpets, furniture, electrical goods, cosmetics, cleaning agents and food all contain chemicals hazardous to us. WWF suggests that we can at least reduce this level of exposure by taking some simple steps, A, B and C, Avoid, Buy and Change.
Things to avoid:
- any plastics marked with a triangle containing the numbers 3 or 7, as both these types contain chemicals which can leach into the food inside. Of particular concern are canned foods lined with those plastics and babies’ bottles.
- triclosan is commonly used in cleaning and anti-bacterial products such as soaps, sponges, washing-up cloths and disinfectants as well as toothpaste.
- pthalates are found in many cosmetics and toiletries, disguised by the use of the word parfum.
- dioxins are used in the bleaching of paper products such as toilet tissue, sanitary products and paper towels.
- volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) can be carcinogenic or cause asthma and are used in synthetic carpets and upholstery. Stain repellents, flame retardants and dry cleaning solvents all emit chemicals into the home.
The WWF suggests various tactics to reduce these levels:
- buying organic, fresh, frozen or dried food rather than tinned
- using natural fibres such as wool, cotton, jute, cork or wood when replacing carpets and furnishings
- opening windows instead of using air fresheners
- using unbleached toilet paper and fragrance-free toiletries or those made from natural ingredients
- using water based paints or those with a label stating a low VOC content
- avoiding anti-bacterial cleaners containing triclosan
- gardening organically
- changing cars as infrequently as possible (that ‘new car smell’ is given off by the chemicals used in its manufacture.)
The European Union has proposed new legislation to limit the use of certain chemicals in manufacturing and has introduced the EU Ecolabel. This is an award given to those products which have met high environmental standards and can be found on a range of household items.
The WWF website (www.wwf.org.uk) has a section on safer shopping and suggests alternatives to buy to reduce the chemical mix which we daily ingest.