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A Complete Guide to Non-Toxic Cleaning and Disinfecting During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Protect yourself from the novel coronavirus in the most non-toxic way possible

Updated May 21, 2020

We don't know about you, but the outbreak of the new coronavirus this year has us doing a lot of cleaning. And it seems like we're going to be doing this for quite a while. Having cleaning on the brain makes us wonder: What's the best "natural" or "green" way to clean that still gets rid of the coronavirus causing the pandemic? What's the difference between cleaning and disinfecting? What products are safe to use but also effective at preventing transmission and infection? Are there non-toxic disinfectants? We answer all of your novel coronavirus cleaning and disinfecting related questions below.


Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Basics

While it's always good to routinely clean and disinfect, it's especially important during this pandemic. COVID-19 is highly transmissible and can spread quickly through a community. The best and easiest way to keep yourself protected is to up your hand washing game (20 seconds and lots of scrubbing), practice social distancing, and staying home as much as possible. The importance of these three things can't be overemphasized, so we're saying it one more time!

Cleaning household surfaces is also really important, especially if a family member is sick, you're receiving packages or groceries that others touch, or you leave the house for work or errands. The virus SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted in droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or even shouts or breathes. These droplets may fall onto surfaces, and if you touch them, you could then touch your face and then become infected. The new coronavirus has been shown to remain on surfaces for an extended length of time. In general, the smoother the surface the longer the virus will remain active. Additionally, viruses tend to live longer with lower temperatures and when it's dry. There have been two recent studies and they have found that the novel coronavirus could survive on plastic and stainless steel for up to 7 days, wood and cloth for 2 days, cardboard for 24 hours, and paper and tissues for 3 hours (1, 2). That's why as people are leaving their houses more and more after sheltering in place, it's important to increase the amount of times you clean and disinfect household surfaces in order to decrease transmission in every way possible.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

It's really important to know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning gets rid of germs and dirt from surfaces or objects. Cleaning doesn't necessarily kill germs; it reduces their numbers and the risk of infection by just washing germs down the drain. Cleaning can involve washing your hands, using a laundry machine, or using an all purpose cleaner on a surface or object. Soap is a necessary part of cleaning because it helps to carry away the germs. Many people think antimicrobial soap is better for cleaning but that's just not true. There is no evidence that it helps prevent infections over plain old soap and water. In fact, with the new coronavirus, soap and water is very effective at breaking down a fatty layer that surrounds the virus. When you're cleaning, the goal is to remove the germs, not kill them. So when you scrub a surface or your hands with soap, the friction helps lift away any germs and dirt.

Disinfecting, on the other hand, actually kills germs on surfaces or objects by using chemicals. Disinfecting doesn't physically remove germs, but kills them in place. Disinfecting chemicals work by attacking certain parts of the germs and breaking them down. While killing germs sounds appealing, you can't only disinfect. In fact, the CDC recommends cleaning a surface before disinfecting; this combination is the best way to reduce the risk of infection. It's important to note that some disinfecting chemicals can have harmful health effects. Bleach (sodium hypochlorite) and quaternary ammonia (quats) irritate the skin and airways and through prolonged use can cause long term damage like asthma (3, 4). Additionally, new research is showing that quats are linked to reproductive harm, including infertility and birth defects (5, 6). You can check if a cleaning product has a quat in it by looking for ingredients usually say benzalkonium chloride or *fill in the blank* ammonium chloride (like Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride).

If you only have disinfectants like bleach or quats (or can only find those in stores now), then the safer way to use these disinfectants is to make sure to ventilate well and wear gloves when cleaning. Then after the disinfectant has sat for the requisite contact time (info should be on the label) you can go back over the areas with plain water and a washcloth. This will help remove some of the residual chemicals and fragrances. If you have kids, don't let them handle the disinfectants and try to have them in a separate room when disinfecting and make sure to safely store them out of reach. Also, please NEVER mix disinfectants with other cleaning products as some combinations can be really dangerous.

Safer Disinfectants

Fortunately, there are relatively safer disinfecting chemicals that don't have the same harmful health side effects! But remember that even products with safer active ingredients should be used with care and that it's really important to have good ventilation when using them. The EPA has evaluated disinfectant active ingredients and determined that they are unlikely to be carcinogenic or cause hormone disruption. Safe disinfectant ingredients that are effective against COVID-19 include:

  • Alcohol, ethanol, isopropyl
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • L- Lactic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Peroxyacetic acid
  • Sodium Bisulfate

A lot of cleaning products are sold out right now, but as more of them come back in stock, you can look for products with these active ingredients that are on the EPA List of Disinfectants for Use Against COVID-19. We went over the list and pulled together some products that you might find on store shelves (when they are in stock!) or with popular online retailers that use these safer active ingredients. Please make sure to let them sit for the proper amount of contact time listed on the label or on the EPA list.

Citric acid:

  • Arm & Hammer Essentials™ Disinfecting Wipes (5 mins)
  • Lysol Bathroom Cleaner (5 mins)
  • CleanCide Wipes (5 mins)
  • Comet Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner (10 mins)

Hydrogen peroxide:

  • Bona STL Disinfecting Cleaner (10 mins)
  • Proxi Home General Disinfectant Cleaner Spray (10 mins)
  • Clorox Pet Solutions Advanced Formula Disinfecting Stain & Odor Remover (5 mins)
  • Clorox Commercial Solutions® Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant (1 min)
  • Clorox Commercial Solutions® Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant Wipes (2 mins)
  • Clorox Commercial Solutions® Clorox® Disinfecting Biostain & Odor Remover (5 mins)
  • Oxivir™ Wipes (1 min)
  • Oxivir™ HC Disinfectant Cleaner (1 min)

Ethanol:

  • PURELL Professional Surface Disinfectant Wipes (5 mins)
  • PURELL Multi-Surface Disinfectant and Professional Surface Disinfectant, registered under Urthpro (1 min)
  • Lysol Neutra Air® 2 in 1 (30 sec)

L-Lactic Acid:

  • Windex Disinfectant Cleaner (5 mins)

Other:

  • Sodium chloride (contact time 10 minutes)- Force of Nature Activator Capsule
  • Thymol (contact time 10 minutes)- CleanWell Daily Cleaner Disinfectant Spray and Towelettes

DIY Disinfectants

We know that even DIY ingredients are hard to find at the moment, but it's worth checking your medicine cabinet to see if you have any rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide laying around. You can use either of these ingredients to make a DIY disinfectant in a spray bottle! Most trigger spray tops will screw right onto a bottle. Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are effective on hard surfaces with a contact time of at least 30 seconds. This should be safe to use on most surfaces and objects around the home and can be really useful for disinfecting electronics like your cellphone or keyboard. 3% Hydrogen peroxide is effective against other viruses that are harder to kill than coronaviruses, so you can spray and let sit for a 3-5 minutes. In fact there's no need to wipe off. Just spray and let it dry. Hydrogen peroxide can change the color of fabrics and painted surfaces though, so be careful while using it on these materials.

Complete Guide to Cleaning Your Home During COVID-19

  1. Washing your hands is still the #1 thing to do! Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food, eating, or snacking. Wash your hands after using the bathroom. Wash your hands when you're coming back from anywhere outside the house. Wash your hands after touching any object from out of your house, like packages.
  2. Clean surfaces and objects that can get wet with an all purpose cleaner. Here is a roundup of safe and effective all purpose cleaners and you can even DIY an all purpose cleaner with vinegar and water or liquid soap and water. We like to regularly clean floors, counters, tables, cabinet surfaces and handles, doors and door handles, windows, window sills, toilets, vanities, tubs and showers, and appliances. Using a wet cloth and wet mopping are a great way to get rid of germs and dust, as opposed to a feather duster that just spreads them around. If you want a comprehensive cleaning checklist, check out our guide.
  3. Routinely disinfect high touch objects and surfaces. Frequently touched objects in the house include things like door handles or knobs, locks, light switches, tables, cabinet and appliance handles, toilet flushers, faucets, cell phones, laptops and keyboards/mouse, and remote controls.
  4. Wash bedding, towels, and laundry regularly on the warmest possible setting that won't ruin the fabrics and dry in the dryer.
  5. When you leave the home to get groceries or other essentials, try to not bring any unnecessary objects, especially things that are hard to wash like a leather wallet or leather purse. If you need to bring a bag to bring some things in, bring a washable tote bag. When you return home, wash your hands and clean and/or disinfect everything that you brought with you and may have touched (this includes your phone!). You should also wash your reusable face mask after every use. You can also wash your clothes and any bags you may have taken with you.
  6. Groceries and deliveries are mostly likely a low risk source for transmission. But you can clean or disinfect everything coming into the house if you would like. You can now ask for contact-free delivery with most packages, food, and grocery delivery services. Wipe down boxes or bags with a disinfectant, or let them sit in a space where no one will touch them for 3 days if the goods are not perishable. For objects that are in plastic or that can get wet, you can save your disinfectant and wash them with soap and water. Viruses can survive in the freezer and in the refrigerator, so it is still important to wash or disinfect items that are going in the fridge since you might touch them later.

When Someone in the Home is Sick

The CDC has good guidance on what to do when caring for someone who is sick. Since COVID-19 is easily transmissible, it's important to clean when someone is suspected of being sick or is actually sick. You should try to create a separate quarantine area (including a bathroom) within your home that only the sick person will use. If no one else will enter this area, it does not need to be cleaned unless necessary. But we know a separate area is not always possible, so here are some important areas to clean when someone is sick:

    • Wash dishes, cups, and utensils that the sick person uses separately with hot water and soap.
    • Wash bedding, towels, and clothing regularly with the warmest setting possible. Wear disposable gloves when putting in the laundry or wash your hands immediately after.
    • Clean and disinfect the bathroom after the sick person uses it before it is used by another person.
    • Clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that the sick person may have touched, such as counters or appliance handles.
    • Use a lined trash can that is reserved for things that the sick person has used or touched, like tissues.
    • Open windows to let fresh air in.

    References:

    1) van Doremalen, Neeltje, et al. "Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV- 1." New England Journal of Medicine 382.16 (2020): 1564-1567.

    2) Chin, Alex WH, et al. "Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions." The Lancet Microbe 1.1 (2020): e10.

    3) Gonzalez, M., et al. "Asthma among workers in healthcare settings: role of disinfection with quaternary ammonium compounds." Clinical & Experimental Allergy 44.3 (2014): 393-406.

    4) Matulonga, Bobette, et al. "Women using bleach for home cleaning are at increased risk of non-allergic asthma." Respiratory medicine 117 (2016): 264-271.

    5) Melin, Vanessa E., et al. "Quaternary ammonium disinfectants cause subfertility in mice by targeting both male and female reproductive processes." Reproductive Toxicology 59 (2016): 159-166.

    6) Hrubec, Terry C., et al. "Ambient and dosed exposure to quaternary ammonium disinfectants causes neural tube defects in rodents." Birth defects research 109.14 (2017): 1166-1178.

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    3 Healthy Things to Look for When Shopping for a New Couch

    Couches can have a surprisingly big effect on your health

    Whether you're settling down for a cozy night of Netflix with a glass of wine or you're building a cushion fort with your kids, we all want our couches to be comfortable and made of healthy and safe materials. Couches are usually the largest piece of furniture in a living space and thus can have a big effect on how healthy our homes are. But couches can be loaded with flame retardants, forever chemicals, and VOCs, all of which can negatively impact your health. There's already such a dizzying array of fabrics, styles, and other choices you already have to make when shopping for a couch, you shouldn't have to also worry about harmful chemicals! That's why we're making it simple for you to find a healthy one. Whether you're buying a couch online that gets delivered in a box or creating a custom designed one made just to your liking, we have a list of 3 things that you should look for in a healthy couch.

    1. Chemical Flame Retardant Free

    Chemical flame-retardants used to be added to the foam in sofas because they were thought to prevent fires. But it turns out they don't really help stop fires, and the chemicals actually do more harm than good. Flame retardants are linked to negative health impacts like cancer, lowered brain function, and irregularities with the immune system. Basically some yucky unnecessary stuff. Even firefighters agree flame retardants are no good, so you definitely want a couch without any chemical flame retardants.

    Couches made after 2015 have a label underneath the cushions that will let you know if they have added chemical flame retardants. These disclosure labels are required by law in California, but the label is commonly found even outside of California. Another way to find a flame retardant-free couch is to simply ask the retailer or manufacturer. Most big brands don't use chemical flame retardants anymore, but it's a good idea to double check. If they say something like, we don't use bad flame retardants, then just steer clear, because there are none that have been proven safe and there is no reason for the addition of any chemical flame retardants to any upholstery furniture items.

    If you're buying a used couch, it's not as easy to tell whether or not it contains flame retardants. If the couch was made before 2015, it more than likely contains chemical flame retardants. If the couch has a label under the cushions that says TB 117-2003, the only way to know is to ask the manufacturer, which could be kind of hard to do since they might not have information on older couch models. If you see a label that says TB 117 then the couch was made with flame retardants, which means you should keep looking. If you're looking to reupholster a couch, make sure all of the foam and padding will be taken out and replaced with flame retardant free foam.

    2. A Fabric Without Stain Resistant Treatment or Coating

    Many furniture companies now advertise their stain-resistant fabric that will let you spill coffee, have kids eat spaghetti on a couch, and will resist muddy paw prints. But to achieve this magic, fabric companies have to treat or coat the fabric with a chemical that's similar to Teflon. These chemicals are called highly fluorinated chemicals, some of which have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, and decreased immune response in children.

    Over time, these chemicals come off the fabric and end up around your house. And these highly fluorinated chemicals never break down, never leave the environment, and can accumulate in your body for many years. Not good! While stain resistance is so tempting, we suggest getting an untreated fabric. Avoid fabric that has a description that includes words like "performance finish" or "stain repellent." From a health perspective, even a synthetic fabric like polyester or acrylic that is inherently stain resistant and durable is a better option than one that is treated for stain resistance with forever chemicals. Textured or dark color fabric can also hide stains. If your heart is set on a light colored fabric and you, look for couches with washable covers.

    3. Low VOCs

    Your couch can greatly affect the air quality in your home! Furniture, including couches, can emit formaldehyde and other VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that negatively affect indoor air quality. VOCs can cause acute health problems like headaches, eye and throat irritation, dizziness and are associated with long term health effects like cancers and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Look for couches with solid wood frames or engineered hardwood with zero or low VOC resins. Particleboard has much more glue which means higher VOC levels, so you should avoid particleboard when possible. Plus, particleboard is less strong than solid wood or engineered hardwood, so it won't last as long.

    Another way to know that the furniture you're buying doesn't off-gas is by looking for Greenguard or Greenguard Gold certified furniture, which limits the emissions of VOCs. CertiPUR-US is another standard that certifies that the foam used in the furniture meets VOC emissions limits, but doesn't test the entire finished product. You can read more about other furniture certifications to help you determine what's in your furniture.

    With these 3 tips in mind, you should have a couch that is not only stylish, but also healthy. The good news is that many retailers in the furniture industry are moving in this direction, so there are lots of healthy options. Hope this list is helpful and that you find something super comfortable that is perfect for your space. Happy furniture shopping!

    List of Brands With No Chemical Flame Retardants

    These brands state they do not add flame retardants, compiled from our own research, CEH, and Green Science Policy Institute. For other retailers, make sure to ask about the specific couch you're interested in.

    AICO, American Furniture Manufacturing, American Seating Company, Article, Ashley Furniture, Best Home Furnishings, Bernhardt, Benchmade Modern, Bradington Young, Broyhill, Burrow, California Sofa, C.R. Laine, Century, Cisco Home, Coco-Mat, Comfort Design, Compendium, Corinthian, Craftmaster, CB2, Crate & Barrel, Dania, David Edward, Drexel Heritage, Dwell Studio, EcoBalanza, EcoSelect, Eco-Terric, Ekla Home, Endicott Home Furnishings, Eco-Luxury, EQ3, Fairfield Chair, Flexsteel Inds, Furniture, GreenSofas, Gus Design Group, Henredon, Hickory Chair, Hickory White, Highland House, Homeware, Hooker Case Goods, Hooker Upholstery, IKEA, Interior Define, Kevin Charles Fine Upholstery, Kincaid Furniture, Klaussner, Kristin Drohan Collection, Land of Nod, Lane, La-Z-Boy, Lee Industries, Lillian August, Maitland Smith, McCreary Modern, Michael Weiss, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Monarch Sofas, MotionCraft, Mr. and Mrs. Howard for Sherrill Furniture, Pacific West Furniture, Palliser Furniture, Pearson, Plummers, Precedent, Restoration Hardware, Roger + Chris, Room & Board, Sam Moore, Scandinavian Designs, Sherrill Furniture, Soma Ergonomics, Southern Furniture, Southern Motion, Staples, Taylor King, Thom Filicia, Thomasville, The Futon Shop, United Furniture Industries, Vanguard Furniture, Viesso, Whittemore Sherrill Ltd.

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    Don’t Let Old Lead Paint Ruin Your DIY Plans

    Change up your decor while staying safe

    Summer always feels like a great time to tackle a few DIY projects. Long days and warm weather inspire us to be renovation weekend warriors! But if your building was built before the 1980s there's probably a good chance lead paint is somewhere in your home. Whether you're installing shelves, hanging a gallery wall, mounting a new tv, or installing curtain rods, lead paint can complicate renovation projects even if it's under layers of newer paint.

    But don't worry! It's easy to keep yourself protected while giving a room a much needed makeover. We have some tips for how to do a DIY project safely even if you're disturbing hidden lead paint.

    Why Lead Paint and Renovations Can Be a Problem?

    Lead paint was especially popular up until 1978, before stricter paint safety regulations were put into place. The older the house the higher the probability lead paint was used; if your house was built before 1940, there's an 87% chance it contains lead-based paint (1)! There's no way to visually tell if your paint has lead in it; you'll need to buy a special testing kit to know for sure. You can usually pick these up at any hardware store. Many times, lead paint isn't removed- it's simply painted over by layers of newer paint. And this is generally safe, but if the paint is peeling, cracking, or chipping it could be exposing the lead paint layers. Or if you're doing a DIY project that involves drilling into the wall or that disturbs the hidden layers of lead paint in some other way, then it could lead to lead dust in your home.

    Lead is especially problematic for children and babies. There is no known level of exposure that is safe. Lead exposure can lead to developmental issues, brain and nervous system damage, and learning problems (2). Lead paint in a home that is disturbed during a home renovation or DIY project can lead to children being exposed.. In fact, one study looking at home renovation and lead paint found that "children whose housing underwent interior renovation had a 12% higher mean B-Pb (blood lead level) by two years of age compared with children whose housing units were not renovated" (3).

    What To Do

    So what do you do if you suspect your home has lead paint but you have projects you want to complete? We have some tips

    1. Have a dust cloth down for DIY projects. Disturbing the paint by drilling, hammering, etc. will create dust that contains tiny paint particles. Quickly vacuum (using a vacuum with a hepa filter!) up any dust that forms and then go over the area with a damp cloth to pick up any additional dust particles.

    2. If you're doing a big job that will kick up a lot of dust, remove all furnishings from the room. This includes things like rugs, furniture, picture frames, and clothing. That way you can clean everything up afterwards easily. If you can't remove something, make sure it's completely wrapped up and sealed in plastic.

    3. If you're tackling a big project like knocking out walls or a complete room redo, you might want to call in the professionals. Many companies specialize in lead paint abatement and will remove problematic paint in the safest way possible. Lead abatement can get pretty expensive, which is why we recommend it when you're already tackling a big home reno project.

    4. Wash areas with lead paint weekly with an all-purpose cleaner. This includes walls, window sills, door frames, and decorative trim. Also make sure to clean the floors, since dust may accumulate there. Weekly cleaning is especially important if the paint is chipping or peeling, or if children under 6 live in the household.


    References
    1. https://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-exposures-lead
    2. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/leadpoisoning/index.html
    3. https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-069X-12-72
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    What You Need To Know About COVID-19

    A straightforward guide to the novel virus

    Imager header source: CDC

    Updated May 21, 2020

    COVID-19 has jumped from an obscure, local outbreak to a global pandemic in a matter of months. Its novel status and fast transmission rate have left many feeling anxious and worried about what the future holds. We break down everything you know about COVID-19 so far and the best ways to protect yourself.

    What is COVID-19?

    Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a novel coronavirus that was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. There are many different coronaviruses, including the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (2). The virus has since spread worldwide and, as of May 21, 2020, has infected over 5,00,000 people. Estimates put the mortality rate between 1-3%, which is much higher than the mortality rate for the flu.

    Symptoms

    Since this is a new virus, we don't have a complete picture of all of the signs and symptoms of this disease. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include a dry cough, fever, and fatigue; symptoms start appearing on an average of 5-6 days after infection (range is 1-14 days) (1). For most people COVID-19 is a mild illness and they can recover at home without any special treatment. About 1 in 5 COVID-19 cases become serious and require hospitalization (2). Older people and people with underlying health conditions are especially at risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19.

    COVID-19 is thought to spread quickly from people who are in close contact with each other (within 6 feet) (3). The WHO states "the disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets" (1). COVID-19 has also been shown to survive on surfaces. One study found that COVID-19 was able to survive on stainless steel, cardboard, and copper for at least 72 hours (5).

    How to Stay Safe

    If you're in the high-risk category, you should stay home as much as possible and avoid crowds. Everyone else should practice good hygiene techniques, implement social distancing, and wear a face mask when leaving the home.

    Washing your hands frequently throughout the day is one of the best ways to stay protected against COVID-19. Normal soap is just as effective in protecting against COVID-19 as antibacterial soap. Make sure you're scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds every time you wash them and to follow this helpful graph from the WHO:

    Source: WHO

    A guide from the CDC on how to properly wash your hands Part 1

    A guide from the CDC on how to properly wash your hands Part 2

    Use hand sanitizer if you're out and don't have access to a sink. Make sure the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol; a higher alcohol content is better at killing germs. The CDC states: "when using hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount) and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry" (6). But remember that hand sanitizer won't work well if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

    It's important to use whatever soap or sanitizer is available while you're out and about, but we also like to have some non-toxic options at home. Our non-toxic hand soap roundup, non-toxic hand sanitizer roundup, DIY hand sanitizer guide, and non-toxic hand cream roundup will help keep you protected without the use of harmful ingredients .

    Along with person-to-person contact, many counties are also experiencing community spread. Community spread means some people who have gotten COVID-19 aren't sure where or how they were exposed to the virus. During the early stages of the outbreak, it was really important to limit the spread of transmission. By limiting the spread of COVID-19, many places were able to "flatten the curve"... AKA avoid overwhelming healthcare systems to ensure that the sickest patients are able to receive the care they need.


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    Today, many cities and states are easing restrictions and slowly coming out of shelter in place orders. Although the lockdown is easing up, please make sure to still follow all rules and regulations put in place by your local government or public health official. Check your local government's website for updates about the easing of your stage of shelter in place.

    Even if you're not under a shelter in place order, you must practice social distancing. Since this virus is spread through close contact (within 6 feet), putting distance between you and others in your community can stop transmission. You can try social distancing by avoiding supermarkets during peak hours or watching a movie at home instead of going to the theater. Always wear a mask when you're in public.

    Are Children More At Risk?

    Most of the COVID-19 cases have been seen in adults and it doesn't seem that children are at higher risk of catching the virus. (4) Most children that tested positive for COVID-19 have only had mild symptoms, but there have also been some severe cases and fatalities. Any child over the age of 2 should wear a face mask out in public (4).

    What To Do If You're Sick

    If you're feeling mildly sick and you're worried you may have COVID-19, stay home and contact your healthcare provider to ask about next steps. Many testing sites are now available to the public. You may be asked to go to a local testing center before seeing your primary care physician. If you're experiencing serious symptoms like shortness of breath, you might want to head to your local ER. Make sure to always wear a face mask in public if you suspect you're sick- this will protect others around you and stop the spread of your illness.


    While the outbreak of a new virus is scary, knowledge is power. It's important to stay informed and follow all recommendations from your local healthcare officials. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19 and help protect the health of our community.

    COVID-19 Resources

    CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

    WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

    WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports

    WHO: Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)

    Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE)


    References:
    1. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
    2. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
    3. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
    4. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/children-faq.html
    5. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973?query=featured_home
    6. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html
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    How to Properly Wear and Clean Your Face Mask

    An important part of keeping yourself and others protected

    Whether you're on a walk, going to the grocery store, or picking up a prescription, wearing a mark is now a standard part of life. While masks may seem like a hassle to wear, they're an important tool in helping slow the spread of the virus and decrease the number of infections (1). Many countries and local governments now require citizens to wear a mask while outside, and the CDC recommends wearing a mask even if it's not required by law. But how do you wear a mask properly and how do you keep a reusable face mask clean? A mask that isn't properly cleaned may pose a health risk to yourself and others. We have some simple tips that will make wearing and washing your mask a little more straightforward!

    Why You Should Wear a Mask

    Wearing a mask is important when you're in situations where socially distancing isn't possible (2). If you're healthy, a face mask can help protect you from breathing in germs. If you're sick, a face mask can help prevent others from getting sick as well (4). More research is needed on this subject in non-medical settings, but the available evidence suggests they can be a good precautionary practice. , One preprint study found that wearing a mask can be "very slightly protective against primary infection from casual community contact, and modestly protective against household infections when both infected and uninfected members wear facemasks" (3).

    If your state or county requires a face mask, please comply with local ordinances. Many retailers and employers are also requiring masks for when employees return to work or when you enter an establishment. If you're going on a walk or an errand, use your best judgement of when you should wear a mask. It's always a good idea to have one when you leave the house just in case you find yourself in a situation where you're around more people than you had planned,

    How to Wear a Mask

    The most important part of wearing a mask is making sure it fits correctly! All masks should fit snugly around the sides of your face while covering your nose and mouth, but they shouldn't be restrictive or make it hard to breathe. All masks should be secured with ties or with loops that go around your ears (1). If you're using a cloth face mask, you should be able to launder it without changing its size or shape (1).

    Here are the best practices for keeping your mask clean and keeping yourself safe:

    • Although it's tempting to rewear a disposable mask, they were designed to only be used once. If you sanitize or wash a disposable mask, you're most likely damaging it so it won't be as effective.
    • Cloth masks can be reworn, but they have to be washed with laundry soap or detergent after every use. Yes, this includes after your 5 minute walk to the post office or any situation in which you were around others! Make sure to wash your mask in warm water and dry on high heat- warm water and high heat laundry settings have been shown to deactivate the coronavirus. Detergent by itself can also deactivate and wash away the virus.
    • If you're using a filter insert with your mask, make sure to replace it every time you use your mask. Like disposable masks, filter inserts were meant to be single-use.
    • Wash your hands after touching your mask. This will stop you from potentially getting sick or spreading the virus around. Don't forget to wash with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds! The more time you take to wash your hands, the more effective it will be.
    • If you aren't able to wash your mask, you can leave your mask to air out for at least a week. You'll have to wear a different mask in the meantime, but leaving your mask alone for a week will dramatically decrease the amount of coronavirus germs on it (although there are other germs that may persist longer!) Therefore, we recommend washing your mask with detergent and water, even if it's by hand.


    References
    1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
    2. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1422.short
    3. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.01.20049528v1?ijkey=e95fe983345caa5a10c8351be7d05ad10ef5b351&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
    4. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
    Roundups

    Baby Safe, Non-Toxic Paints for Your Nursery

    Cute colors without toxic fumes or chemicals

    Decorating a nursery is one of the best parts of waiting for a little one. Whether you're painting just one accent wall or the entire room in just the perfect shade, it's important to pick a paint that not only looks good, but is baby safe. Paint fumes and chemical additives can linger and baby's systems are especially vulnerable and sensitive. Luckily, there are safer paints on the market so that you can feel good about using them so close to where your baby will sleep (we hope!).

    Best Practices While Painting

    First things first- how to paint. Who paints a room and how the room is painted is super important in protecting your health. If you're currently pregnant, ask your partner or a friend to do the painting for you. You definitely don't need to be exposed to paint fumes while you're still growing a little person. You're doing enough as is! Also make sure there are no toddlers around while painting. Although having a little helper would be really cute, toddlers are in a critical developmental period and are especially susceptible to the negative effects of paint fumes. Plus you probably don't want anything with wet paint on it to become a messy toy!

    It's also critical to ventilate as much as you can while painting. Have all windows and doors open and a fan running if possible. Even a box fan in the corner will help! When you're not using the paint (whether it's a small break or overnight), keep the lid sealed securely on the container. This will prevent emissions from escaping while the paint isn't in use.

    What to Look for in a Nursery Safe Paint

    Now that you know how to paint, which paint should you use? There are a ton of paints on the market right now that all boast different features. Who knew there were so many different paint finishes?! But here's what you really need to be on the lookout for:

    1. Low or Zero VOCs. VOCs are toxic gasses that are released from solids or liquids. Basically they are released when paint dries. You know, the weird new paint smell? Well VOCs can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat but repeated and long term exposure can cause cancer and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system (1). Also, some colors of paint have more VOCs than others, particularly darker pigments, so generally lighter colors have less VOCs.
    2. Look for APE- free paints. Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) are a group of chemicals that are suspected endocrine disruptors (a.k.a these little guys mess up how hormones should normally work in the body) (2). You don't want those around babies or children or when you're breastfeeding. APE-free paint can be found easily, so just ask or look on the label. The ones we recommend are APE-free.
    3. Avoid paints that are advertised as antimicrobial. Many paints contain a preservative, but paints that are advertised as antimicrobial may have other additives that are really just not necessary and there are no standards for efficacy (like does it actually kill harmful germs? And for how long?) It might sound good, but in reality they are also harmful to humans and don't do much (3).

    Our Baby Safe Paint Recommendations

    Our recommendations will take the guesswork out of choosing a nursery-safe paint brand, although you'll still have to pick the color! These paints are all low or zero VOCs and are free of APEs. The Benjamin Moore Natura, ECOS paint, and AFM Safecoat paints are more traditional latex paints that have great user reviews. We also included 2 options for milk paint, which are made from milk proteins and pigments. Milk paints are a bit more work to use, but are easy to use once you get the hang of it and you can create antique or smooth finishes. They are also great for painting nursery furniture. No matter which paint brand you pick, you can feel safe about using these in a nursery. Just think, in a matter of months you'll have a sweet little one in a picture perfect nursery. So exciting! Let the nesting begin!


    Non toxic nursery paints including ECOS, Old Fashioned Milk Paint, Benjamin Moore, AFM, and Real Milk Paint.


    a) ECOS paint

    b) Old Fashioned Milk Paint

    c) Benjamin Moore Natura

    d) AFM SAFECOAT® ZERO VOC

    e) Real Milk Paint


    We've all heard that reducing meat consumption is a great way to combat climate change, but for many people giving up meat completely is just really hard. That's why we're all for meals that reduce meat, but don't give it up completely. Just eating less meat on a consistent basis can have a big impact on carbon emissions and plant rich diets are really good for your heart health too. Adding veggies into ground beef tacos is one of our favorite ways to do that. This recipe is super kid-friendly and doesn't sacrifice on taste; it will definitely become a go-to recipe that everyone will gobble up. It's also budget friendly because it can stretch a pound of ground beef to last two meals. Sounds almost too good to be true, right?!

    This recipe is also great for using up any veggies that are languishing in the fridge. Here we use onion, celery, zucchinis, and kale, but most veggies will work in this recipe. Broccoli stems, wilted leafy greens, leftover bell pepper, and even eggplant and mushrooms will work in this recipe. By using up what you have, you're reducing food waste, which is another way to combat climate change. So give this recipe a try the next time Taco Tuesday rolls around!

    Ground Beef Loaded with Veggies Recipe

    Ingredients

    Ground beef tacos that include veggies like onion, celery, zucchinis, kale, broccoli stems, wilted leafy greens, leftover bell pepper, eggplant and mushrooms

    For the Filling

    • 1 lb Ground Beef
    • ½ onion
    • 1 stalk celery
    • 3 small zucchinis (or 2 medium)
    • 1 bunch kale or other leafy green
    • 2 cloves garlic minced
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • ½ tsp chili powder (or sub taco seasoning mix for all spices)
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • Salt and pepper

    For the Tacos

    • Flour or corn tortillas or hard taco shells
    • Garnishes like avocado, salsa, shredded cheese, sliced radishes, shredded lettuce, sour cream, pickled onions

    Instructions

    1. Finely chop or food process onion, celery, zucchinis, and kale. You can use any other vegetables that you have in the refrigerator. Broccoli, swiss chard, cabbage, mushrooms all work well.
    2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet and add vegetables. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the veggies have lost most of their water content. Depending on the moisture in the veggies you used, this may take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove veggies from the skillet and set aside.
    3. Add ground beef to the skillet and break up with a spatula. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Feel free to change the amount of chili powder so that it's more spicy or less spicy depending on your preference. You can also substitute some taco seasoning mix if you have that on hand. Season with salt and pepper as well.
    4. When the ground beef is browned evenly, add the veggies back into the skillet and mix with your spatula until the mixture is well combined.
    5. Serve in heated tortillas with any garnishes you may have. Leftover filling is also really good in quesadillas, as a side to a big salad, or as part of a scramble.
    Roundups

    Non-Toxic Dry Shampoo Roundup

    You don't have to sacrifice health for convinience!

    If we polled a bunch of people on what the best beauty invention of the last decade was, we bet dry shampoo would come out on top. Dry shampoo has spared us from dreaded second day hair, allowed us to go straight from a sweaty spin class to brunch, and just makes getting ready a lot more convenient. Basically, we can't live without it!

    But most dry shampoo contains some pretty harmful ingredients, including butane, propane, talc, and fragrance. Talc has been linked to cancer and fragrance can contain dozens of mystery chemicals. And why would we want to put gas we use to grill on our hair?! Gross.

    Plus, almost all the dry shampoo you purchase from a big box store is in an aerosol can. Propellants from an aerosol can damage the ozone and can cause some serious environmental damage. And those tiny particles created by aerosol can easily be inhaled while you're applying dry shampoo.

    We know it can be difficult to find a good replacement for traditional dry shampoo in an aerosol bottle. That's why we rounded up our favorite products! These dry shampoos are all made from better-for-you ingredients and come in a non-aerosol container.



    a) Acure Dry Shampoo, Rosemary & Peppermint

    b) Beauty by Earth Dry Shampoo & Volume Powder

    c) Captain Blankenship Mermaid Dry Shampoo

    d) Hair Dance Dry Shampoo Volume Powder

    e) Innersense Organic Beauty Refresh Dry Shampoo

    f) Primally Pure Dry Shampoo Light Locks

    g) Rahua Voluminous Dry shampoo

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