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6 Tips for Healthier Cleaning

and why it matters

We all want our homes to be a safe, healthy, and clean place for ourselves and the ones we love. Fortunately, there are some simple changes you can make that will make a big difference.


1) Dust with a damp cloth

This lowers allergens and removes dust, which is a common place for toxins to accumulate. Don't forget about the window sills because this is a common place for dust from air pollution to settle - and it often gets overlooked.

2) Make microfiber cloths your new best friend

The microfibers are so powerful that they act like a magnet for even the smallest, most microscopic dirt particles. They work so well that often you don't even need to use a cleaning product with them- just use them dry or with a little water. Bonus - they don't leave streaks on window or glass. If you are looking for something with a little more reach than just your arm span, you can find a variety of microfiber dusters (with a handle) at hardware stores or online.

3) Vacuum often, with a HEPA filter if possible

A HEPA filter basically catches and removes dust and small particles, instead of blowing them back out into the room. It's also much better for people living with allergies or asthma. Pro tip: Make sure the vacuum bag or container is not completely full to make sure you don't lose suction power.

4) Use safe cleaning products.

See our guide to making your own safe and effective cleaners or roundups of safe products you can buy.

5) Open the windows or turn a fan on for ventilation

Cleaning can kick up dust that isn't good for you to inhale and cleaning products can lower indoor air quality.

6) Disinfect only when necessary

You don't need to disinfect everything all the time. It's usually unnecessary and is actually bad for your health (think superbugs!). This doesn't mean you shouldn't disinfect sometimes. The best rule of thumb is to disinfect if there is a particularly yucky mess, especially in the kitchen from things like meat or eggs, or if someone is sick. If someone is sick, be sure to disinfect surfaces that get touched a lot, like doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, and faucets, to prevent others from getting sick. Our favorite disinfectant is just hydrogen peroxide from the store.

We're not trying to get all Martha Stewart on you for no reason. When it comes to cleaning, we want to make sure that we're getting rid of dirt, grease, dust, hair, as well as toxics that we track into our home or that get released from products in our home. But, many household cleaners have chemicals and other ingredients that aren't needed and can make us sick. Scientists know that many chemicals in cleaning products cause cancers, asthma, allergies, birth defects, developmental problems, and fertility problems. In particular, harsh chemicals, including bleach, have well documented negative impacts on air quality in the home. For women who use cleaning products regularly, scientists have shown that it is as damaging as smoking 20 cigarettes a day.(1) That's right, 20, or about a pack a day! A little bit of damage to the airways day after day, year after year really adds up.

Here's a shopping list of basic supplies to get you started!

  • Gloves
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Spray bottles or squeeze bottles
  • Scrub brush
  • Sponge with scrubber
  • Mop
  • Liquid Soap
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Vodka

When it comes to fragrance, we always say that the safest option is to look for products that are completely fragrance free. Choosing to go fragrance-free is a great way to avoid chemicals that may be harmful to your health. Plus, does everything we own really need to smell like cotton candy?! In case you haven't heard why fragrance is so problematic, we break it down below.

What's Actually in Fragrance?

One of the big problems with fragrance is that there are so many different chemicals that can be added to a product. According to the International Fragrance Association's Transparency List, there are approximately 3,000 fragrance ingredients that can be used in consumer goods worldwide (1). And since the FDA does not require approval before a chemical goes onto the market, it's impossible to say that all of these fragrance ingredients are safe to use. The chemical that's making your house smell like clean laundry or a cinnamon apple might also secretly be toxic.

Even though there are a lot of untested chemicals, we do know that some fragrance ingredients are definitely harmful to human health. Many fragrance ingredients can be allergens that cause headaches, runny noses, sneezing, or coughing (2). Allergens are probably the reason you have to stand two feet away from that one coworker who wears a super strong perfume.

Phthalates are widely used in as a solvent or fixative in perfume, shampoo, lotion, and nail polish even though they're endocrine disrupting chemicals. Fragrance found in candles has been shown to contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both of which can cause short-term health effects like irritation, and long-term health effects like cancer (3, 4).

To make matters worse, companies don't even have to tell you all the ingredients they use in their fragrance! Trade secret laws keep companies from disclosing proprietary fragrance blends, but that means we don't actually know what's in our products. There could be 10 ingredients that go into the "fragrance" listed on your body lotion, or there could be 500! And if we don't know what all of these ingredients are, how do we adequately protect our health?

When in Doubt, Go With Fragrance Free

Like we mentioned before, the best bet is to purchase products that are free from all fragrance. Only look for labels that say "contains no added fragrance"... some products labeled as "unscented" may still contain fragrance as a way to hide ingredients that naturally have an unpleasant smell (2). If you really can't live without a fragranced product, go for something that only uses essential oils (although they have their own pros and cons as well).


References
  1. https://ifrafragrance.org/initiatives/transparency/ifra-transparency-list
  2. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304389414010243
  4. https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbons-pahs
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Life

Mardi Gras Beads Don't Belong in Your Mouth (or your kids')

Don't let these harmful chemicals ruin your celebration

Every year, over one million parade goers will fill the streets of New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday as it's also known in the Christian calendar, is a day of feasting before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is known for many things like parades, masks, costumes, and music. But for most people a central part of Mardi Gras is collecting and wearing beads, also known as throws. While collecting throws can be a fun way to celebrate, there is growing concern about the health hazards of the beads and the environmental cost of the beads.

The vast majority of beads that are handed out during Mardi Gras originate from China. Back in the day, the beads were made of glass, but now they are made of plastic. It's estimated that China manufactures 25 million pounds of beads for Mardi Gras alone (1). Despite government regulations to keep hazardous chemicals like lead in children's products to under 100ppm, over two thirds of these beads did not meet the concentration requirement (2). Researchers at the Ecology Center, who tested Mardi Gras beads, estimate that a single year's inventory of Mardi Gras beads may contain up to 900,000 pounds of hazardous flame retardants and 10,000 pounds of lead. Based on the composition of the chemicals found in the plastic beads, the researchers concluded that plastic from electronic waste was likely being recycled into producing Mardi Gras beads (2).

While exposure to lead and flame retardants is harmful to everyone's health, it's particularly dangerous for children. Even though Mardi Gras beads are not a children's product, many children collect and wear them during the parade and often put them in their mouths to chew on. Children also play with them and residues may end up on their hands, which is another way they could be potentially eating these toxic substances. It is recommended to limit the interaction your little ones have with Mardi Gras bead to prevent exposure to these toxic substances. If you have a toddler or baby who is teething, don't let them chew on the beads. And for older children, let them wear them for a short while and then consider donating them to be reused. And for everyone who touches the beads, make sure to wash hands before snacking or eating.

Aside from the health effects, there are also harmful environmental effects from Mardi Gras beads. The plastic beads end up in landfills or down storm drains, and contribute to the problem of plastic waste in our environment. In 2018, the city of New Orleans found 93,000 pounds of Mardi Gras beads in just 5 city blocks that had washed down into storm drains (4). The toxic substances, like lead and flame retardants, then leach from the beads and end up in the waterways, eventually draining into the Gulf of Mexico. These substances accumulate in fish, and in turn, put seafood lovers at risk for lead poisoning (3).

However, all this bad news doesn't mean that your kids (or you for that matter) can't accessorize with beads and have fun this Mardi Gras! A handful of companies are aware of the adverse impacts of traditional beads and have created more sustainable options. ArcGNO collects and reuses the same Mardi Gras beads each year while Atlas Beads creates handmade Mardi Gras beads from paper. Both are much better options than single use beads! Many krewes are recognizing the problem that Mardi Gras beads pose and are coming up with creative and reusable throws, such as aprons, cooking spoons, hats, and t-shirts. Some are even handing out local food items such as red beans, jambalaya mix, and coffee beans. It's great to see such creative alternatives to plastic Mardi Gras beads!

References
  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/toxic-truth-mardi-gras-beads-180962431/
  2. https://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/ho...
  3. https://setac.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/etc.2641
  4. https://www.npr.org/2018/01/26/580933914/new-orleans-finds-93-000-pounds-of-mardi-gras-beads-in-storm-drains
Roundups

9 Non-Toxic Teethers

Your baby will love chewing on these safe materials!

We're all guilty of just letting our teething baby chew anything they can get their hands on. What's the harm as long as it's not a choking hazard? A little dirt is good right? Turns out, there are some common household items that you definitely don't want your kids to chew on because they contain toxic chemicals or substances like lead and flame retardants. Having a safe teether made of silicone or wood is your best bet for your baby's health. Check out our 9 favorite options that will give your little one some relief and will also make for some cute photos!


9 Non-Toxic Teethers

a) Bonbino Teething Rings

b) Itzy Ritzy Cactus Teether

c) Loulou lollipop Llama Teether

d) Chewbeads Elephant Teether

e) Caaocho Sola the Goat

f) Bumkins Gameboy Teether

g) Maple Landmark Ring Teether

h) Oli and Carol Kendall the Kale

i) Kleynimals Toy Keys

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Family

5 Everyday Objects You Shouldn't Let Your Teething Baby Play With

And why we recommend always having a safe teether on hand

We're all guilty of just letting our teething baby chew anything they can get their hands on. What's the harm as long as it's not a choking hazard? A little dirt is good right? Turns out, there are some common household items that you definitely don't want your kids to chew on because they contain toxic chemicals or substances like lead and flame retardants. We recommend always having a safe teether on hand, whether you're at home or on the go. Even though common everyday items may look harmless, there can be unsafe substances that your little one can ingest if they're chewing on them.

Wondering what household items could be harmful to chew on? Here are some common items that you shouldn't let your little one chew on, even though it's so tempting to let them gnaw.

1. Keys

Keys are always in our purses or pockets and babies are fascinated with them. Sometimes they're the perfect distraction to avoiding a meltdown in the grocery story line. But it's actually not a good idea to let your little ones chew on keys or even play with them. The metals used to make keys vary greatly, but many brass keys can contain up to 2.5% lead (1,2). Even keys that don't look like brass might be plated in another metal, which can wear off over time. Not all keys contain lead, but it's impossible to know for sure which ones do and don't. So pick one of our safe teethers, including these Kleynimal Stainless Steel Keys, and make sure to pack it for your next grocery run.

2. Remote Controls

Remotes have colorful buttons and fit perfectly in little hands, so it's no wonder you always see babies chewing on the ends. But remotes contain batteries, which are not safe anywhere near your child's mouth. Additionally, household electronics like remotes contain flame retardants, which can come off into mouths and on hands. Try to limit contact with remotes and definitely don't let them become toys! We like to keep them out of reach on a shelf.

3. Cell Phones

It seems like all babies become obsessed with cell phones... probably because they see us constantly looking at them! But is it safe to let your baby chew or mouth your phone? Definitely not. Cell phones are covered in germs, including some pretty nasty pathogens like E. Coli (3). They also contain a lot of chemicals and substances, like batteries, heavy metals, flame retardants, and plasticizers, which are all toxic. Plus, if your baby is teething or has teeth, they could chip the phone and little pieces could come off that can be a choking hazard. Because of all these hazards, teething babies and cell phones are not a good match. But if your child is old enough to play games on your phone, wash their (and your!) hands after they use it, especially before snacks and meals.

4. Jewelry

Jewelry is sparkly, shiny, and colorful, which basically just screams "please put me in your mouth!" to babies. Unfortunately, metal jewelry can contain toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium while plastic jewelry can contain bisphenols or plasticizers. Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin at any dose, and cadmium can cause kidney, bone, and lung damage. Brass is also a common component in jewelry, which can contain up to 3% lead. And just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's safer; jewelry at all sorts of price points have been found to contain these heavy metals. Research has found that the amount of heavy metals that get ingested while chewing or mouthing jewelry can be dangerous (4). Even jewelry that seems completely harmless, like Mardi Gras beads, has been found to contain toxic substances. So let jewelry be just something nice to look at and let kids chew on a set of silicone teething beads instead.

5. Sunglasses

Sunglasses come in all sorts of sizes and shapes nowadays, but most sunglasses are made of a polycarbonate plastic that contains BPA. While it may not be a big exposure risk for adults who wear them, letting your little one chew on them or suck the ends is not the best idea. BPA is a hormone disruptor and kids are especially vulnerable as they are in a sensitive growth period. Yet another reason to always pack a safe teether in your bag if your little one is an especially mouthy one!

References
  1. https://cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra181/f/leadinkeysen011804.pdf
  2. Kondrashov, Vladislav, et al. "Assessment of lead exposure risk in locksmiths." International journal of environmental research and public health 2.1 (2005): 164-169.
  3. Pal, Shekhar, et al. "Mobile phones: Reservoirs for the transmission of nosocomial pathogens." Advanced biomedical research 4 (2015).
  4. Weidenhamer, Jeffrey D., et al. "Bioavailability of cadmium in inexpensive jewelry." Environmental health perspectives 119.7 (2011): 1029-1033.
Home

Non-Toxic Candle Roundup

They smell even better than they look! Plus no harmful chemicals

Trying to set the perfect mood for Valentine's Day? We've got you covered! Our candle roundup is a great guide to finding the perfect candle. Most candles contain paraffin wax, which is made from petroleum and use fragrance oil. And fragrance can contain a ton of harmful chemicals. Our candles only use natural wax like soy or beeswax, and only contain essential oils! Plus they all smell amazing!



a) Aira Soy Candles
b) Lulu Candles Natura 100% Organic Soy Vegan Wax Candle
c) Big Dipper Beeswax Aromatherapy candle
d) Milk + Honey essential oil candle
e) Pure Plant Home glass candle
f) Edens Garden essential oil candles

Wondering why you need a non-toxic candle? Candles release compounds known as volatile organic compounds whether they are lit or not (1). VOCs can have both short and long term adverse health effects and there are consistently higher concentrations of VOCs indoors than outdoors. The majority of the VOCs released from candles is because they doesn't burn cleanly, which releases acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, phenol, benzene, and toluene, many of which are carcinogenic (3). Phenols (one of the words in that list if you jumped to the end of the sentence when you started seeing a bunch of scary words) are the fragrance chemicals that make candles smell like brown sugar, wild mango, and clean laundry. It makes sense that it would take some pretty weird chemicals to bottle up the smell of a tropical island in a single candle, right?

It's definitely healthier and safer to go with candles scented with essential oils to avoid some of these nasty VOCs. A few of the other VOCs released can cause changes to our DNA (and in some cases, bad changes!). Of all of the VOCs released, formaldehyde and acrolein are the other two biggest worries because they are released in the highest concentrations. Formaldehyde itself can cause cancer (4) while acrolein, which is used to make weapons in high concentrations, can kill you if you breathe in too much of it - Yikes (5). I don't know about you, but those are some things I definitely don't want to invite to my relaxing spa night!

Candles are also traditionally and most commonly made of paraffin, which is obtained from petroleum or shale. We recommend candles made from beeswax or soy because they come from natural sources. Some candles wicks may contain lead, so always make sure to look for a "lead-free" wick made from cotton.


References

1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304389414010243

2. http://candles.org/elements-of-a-candle/wax/

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231010010502

4. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=39

5. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp124-c1-b.pdf


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.







First off, nice! We are super excited for you!

Now that the relationship is serious, have you started thinking a little bit more about what your life might be like together in the future? Maybe you are at the point where you are leaving a toothbrush at the other's place, or maybe it's a little more serious - like talking about moving in together. No matter how serious "serious" is for you, we've got a suggestion for making that step of the relationship a little healthier.

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Roundups

Non-Toxic Safe Sex Brands

Safe sex is good, non-toxic safe sex is better

Updated for 2020!

We are always talking about being careful about what we put on our bodies, but what about things we put in them? Choosing safe condoms and lube, which directly touch one of the most absorbent and sensitive parts of your body is critical.

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