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We all want our homes to be a safe haven for ourselves and the ones we love.
The single easiest thing you can do for a safer home is to take your shoes off at the door. If you're already doing it, congratulations! If you're not, you can start today and science shows it makes a difference!
Think about all the places you walk in a day. Mostly likely that includes a parking lot somewhere, wherever you work, and the grocery store. Maybe you stopped at a gas station or took your dog on a walk around the block. Now, think about all the different things you step on in those places. While you probably are thinking of things like mud, car oil, or the stray grape someone dropped at lunch, there are many other things that hide in dust that are a little more worrisome for your health.
Chemicals that can cause cancer and other health problems collect on the bottom of your shoes when you are out and about and, if you wear your shoes around the house, these chemicals end up in your household dust. Scientists have shown that the average adult American eats the equivalent of 34 adult aspirin tablets of dust every year. (1) And unsurprisingly, for those of you with kids, you know everything goes in their mouths and they spend so much time on the floor, that they eat about twice the amount of dust, the equivalent of 1 tablet of adult aspirin every 5 days. There are no scientific studies on how much dust your furry loved ones eat, but based on how much time they spend on the floor, and then licking themselves, you can bet that it's a lot too.
Common contaminants that make their way into the dust in your house via your shoes include lead, flame retardants, and pesticides. Small flakes of lead from old lead paint also often end up on sidewalks and soil outside. While the dangers of lead paint have been known for a very long time, people often only think to cover it or remove it from inside their homes, but forget about the outside. That means when old paint from the outside of the homes starts peeling, it often contains flecks of lead that end up settling on the paths outside that we walk along all of the time.
Similarly, pesticides are very good at getting on your shoes. Pesticides are often applied in community areas, like parks, sidewalks, and street medians. These are all typically knee height or lower, perfect for accidentally brushing up against and getting stuck to shoes.
Flame retardants, frequently found in furniture and electronics, like computers and televisions, are key abusers of collecting in dust and then entering your body. Offices with lots of computers and electronics are often choke full of flame retardants and are one of the major ways they end up on your shoes.
Flame retardants, lead, and pesticides are just a few of the main worries that end up in dust that settles on the ground. Others include industrial grade adhesives from things like carpets and exhaust from cars in parking lots and sidewalks. Because dust settles on the ground, we disturb it when we walk and then it gets on our shoes. If we wear those shoes throughout our homes, the dust can then end up settling on the floor of our homes.
One the easiest way to limit the amount of harmful substances we ingest through household dust is by taking our shoes off and using a doormat. Taking off your shoes at the door helps keep all of those chemicals and other dirt remnants out of your home. Studies have found that people who take their shoes off at the door have significantly lower amounts of many different chemicals in their homes and bodies than people who wear their shoes inside all of the time. (2)
But what about my feet? If you prefer to wear shoes around the house for the arch support or because your toes get cold, consider having a pair of shoes or slippers you only wear in the house, then switch shoes when you get home. As if you needed another excuse to get some cozy slippers!
1) U.S. EPA. Update for Chapter 5 of the Exposure Factors Handbook: Soil and Dust Ingestion. US EPA Office of Research and Development, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-17/384F, 2017
Everything you need to make a dorm feel like home!
Starting college is so exciting for so many reasons! A new school, new friends, and new adventures are just a few weeks away. If you're going to be living in a dorm room, you've probably already started thinking about decor and living essentials. That's why we picked out some of our favorite non-toxic dorm room essentials from Target! Our picks are made from safe materials like glass, stainless steel, and organic cotton. Each cotton item is also made with OEKO-TEX guidelines, which means it's been independently tested and certified against a list of over 350 harmful chemicals.
Getting a good night's sleep is a crucial part of any school routine. These 400 thread count cotton sheets will have you catching ZZZs in no time! We love that they're pill and shrink resistant, and made to strict Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX guidelines.
This soft, organic cotton bath towel is Made in Green by OEKO-TEX and will help any dorm shower feel a little more like home.
This chunky knit blanket will add some serious cozy vibes to any dorm room! It's Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® certified and comes in a ton of cute colors.
This ultra-concentrated laundry detergent will keep your clothes fresh and clean without harmful chemicals found in traditional laundry detergents.
If you're a workout aficionado with lots of athletic clothes, or if you just have a neglected pile of dirty clothes in the corner of your room, this stain and odor remover is perfect for you. It gets rid of those tough, lingering odors safely and naturally without the use of harsh chemicals.
Dryer sheets can be full of harsh chemicals, which is why we love wool dryer balls instead! These dryer balls will keep your clothes static free!
Even a dorm room needs some TLC every now and then! Clean hard surfaces with this multi-surface cleaner from Grove Co. This streak-free cleaner will effectively remove dirt, grime, and residue leftover from that late night study session or post-finals party.
Sometimes you needed a heavy-duty cleaner. We get it. That's why this Lysol hydrogen peroxide all-purpose cleaner is perfect for life's bigger messes. This product has an EPS design for environmental certified disinfectant, which means it was reviewed for both human health and environmental health, so you don't have to compromise on safety.
That dorm room mini fridge was basically invented for leftovers. Keep your food fresh in these Ello food storage containers. Since they're made from glass instead of plastic, you can use them in the microwave without having to worry about harmful chemicals leeching into your food. Bonus: they're dishwasher safe!
Students do a lot of walking while on campus, so make sure to stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle! This insulated Brita stainless steel bottle will keep your water cool even on the hottest days. Bonus: It has a built in filter to keep your water pure and delicious.
You don't need a kitchen to enjoy a kettle! This compact glass kettle is perfect for dorm snacks like hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.
This stainless steel travel mug by Klean Kanteen is the perfect mug to toss in your backpack while you're on the go! It's spill and leak proof lid means you can enjoy your beverage on the go in any situation!
Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap is a multi-use concentrate. Great as a body wash or even a shampoo or detergent. Its highly concentrated and made with great ingredients to ensure you get a bang for your buck and peace of mind.
Aluminium-free deodorant is where its at! Stay fresh and free of unnecessary harmful chemicals.
Keep that skin moisturized and toxic-free with this rich cream. Perfect for dry weather.
Great for taking a snack to lecture or for a weekend adventure, these Stasher snack bags are the answer to a useful plastic bags without all the waste and plastic made from harmful materials.
This dish soap will cut through grease and leave your dishes shiny and spotless without all the unnecessary harmful chemicals.
And why natural grass is a safer, eco-friendly, and healthier alternative
Have you ever been at your kid's soccer game and wondered if artificial turf is safe for them to play, snack, and lie on? What about those small black bits of infill that end up in every nook and cranny of your home or car?
Turns out that scientists are studying these same questions and artificial turf poses a number of health and environmental concerns. These include toxic chemicals in the artificial turf infill, artificial grass blades, and shock pad, as well as health concerns due to excessive heat. Environmental impacts of artificial turf include chemical runoff, microplastic pollution, and habitat loss. Is there a good alternative to artificial turf? Yes - just regular natural grass! Studies have shown that natural grass maintained with organic or sustainable practices provides a safer, practical, and affordable alternative for playing fields.
Artificial turf has several components, including the green synthetic grass carpet, usually made with plastic and/ or nylon, and infill that provides cushioning and keeps grass carpet blades standing upright. All of these materials can contain chemicals of concern.
Many artificial turf fields contain infill made from waste tires; this infill is referred to as crumb rubber, or tire crumb. Tire crumb contains a large number of chemicals, many of which are known to be hazardous to human health and the environment. Many of these chemicals are used intentionally in the manufacturing process, while others adhere to tires when they are out on the road. These include polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); volatile organic compounds (VOCs); metals, such as lead and zinc; and other chemicals, including vulcanization compounds, stabilizers and fillers used in tire manufacturing. A literature review by the U.S. EPA identified just over 350 chemicals or chemical categories that appeared in the existing literature on tire crumb. Some of the chemicals found in tire crumb are endocrine disruptors (e.g., phthalates); some are known or suspected carcinogens (e.g., arsenic, cadmium, benzene, styrene); and some are associated with other human health effects.
Recent research has also identified per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in some artificial turf carpet materials. PFAS are a group of chemicals often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are highly persistent in the environment; some can last for hundreds of years. Health effects documented for some PFAS include effects on the endocrine system, including liver and thyroid, as well as metabolic effects, developmental effects, neurotoxicity, and immunotoxicity. PFAS have been found in drinking water in communities across the country. For more information, see TURI’s fact sheet on PFAS in artificial turf.
Artificial turf can become much hotter than natural grass on a warm, sunny day. Experts note that high temperatures can lead to potentially life-threatening heat-related illnesses. Elevated surface temperatures can damage equipment and burn skin, and can increase the risk of heat-related illness, which can be a life-threatening emergency.
Heat guidance is often based on air temperature and other factors, not including the temperature of the play surface, so the risk to athletes may be underestimated in many cases. Some communities, such as Burlington MA, choose to measure artificial turf surface temperatures to help determine conditions under which athletes may use artificial turf fields and the conditions under which their activities must be moved to grass fields. Learn more about this topic in TURI’s overview fact sheet, “Athletic Playing Fields and Artificial Turf: Considerations for Municipalities and Institutions.”
Greenspaces offer cooler refuges in the built environment, especially as climates warm. Natural grass also offers habitat to plants, insects, soil microorganisms and other wildlife. Artificial turf, in contrast, eliminates these areas of habitat. Artificial turf also contributes to microplastic pollution as particles of plastic grass blades and infill migrate into the surrounding environment.
There are also growing concerns about how waste tires affect wildlife. A chemical used in tires, 6PPD-quinone, has been found to be responsible for mortality of coho salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Studies of 6PPD-quinone have not focused specifically on runoff from artificial turf fields made with tire crumb, but this is an important area for additional research, especially when artificial turf is sited close to water resources.
Disposal of artificial turf is also a significant challenge. Fields typically need to be replaced after 8 to 10 years, and recycling options are very limited. Waste artificial turf often ends up in landfills or informal stockpiles, creating new environmental challenges. A number of communities have struggled to find ways to dispose of used artificial turf. In 2020, reuse of turf in a construction project led to the release of a large amount of tire crumb into the Puyallup River in Washington State.
Natural grass can be a safer option for recreational spaces by eliminating many of the concerns noted above. Use of organic and sustainable management practices on playing fields also eliminates the need for toxic insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. The focus of organic and sustainable land care is to build a healthy soil ecosystem and a healthy root system, creating a resilient playing surface.
Communities often have questions about whether natural grass can provide a sufficient number of playable hours to meet their athletic and recreational needs. To help answer these questions, TURI has developed detailed case studies of several communities that are managing their fields using organic and sustainable techniques. In Massachusetts, the City of Springfield, the Town of Marblehead, and communities in Martha’s Vineyard all use organic practices to maintain numerous athletic fields. Field users and those in charge of maintenance are very satisfied with the quality of these grass areas and are able to meet all of their sporting and recreational needs. Learn more about these communities and see a short video on our website.
Elements of sustainable natural grass management programs include frequent aeration and mowing, and careful application of appropriate fertilizers based on site-specific needs. Artificial turf also requires maintenance, often with specialized equipment, such as grooming, disinfecting, and replacing infill.
For communities where artificial turf is already in place, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai has recommendations for reducing your child’s exposure. These include avoiding play on hot days; changing clothes and showering immediately after play; and avoiding passive recreational activities such as picnicking on the field.
Get ready for school with these eco-friendly options
Packing lunches for school is a lot of work! We know from firsthand experience how hard it can be to pack something nutritious that your kids will actually eat. Plus if you're trying to reduce the amount of food packaging or plastic waste in your kid's lunch, it can just seem overwhelming. To make things easier, we rounded up our favorite non-toxic school lunch packing essentials. We included stainless steel lunchboxes, a hot food container, snack containers and bags, reusable food wrap, and a couple of cute and functional lunch bags. All of these items are free of lead, phthalates (commonly found in vinyl), BPA, and PFAS (Teflon-like chemicals). Check out these lunch packing essentials and get inspired to pack the best lunches ever.
Lunchbots is a great stainless steel bento container that will last for years. This one has 5 compartments for every type of lunch and snack combo you can come up with. You can get dip condiment containers that are leak proof that neatly fit inside. Lunchbots also has smaller containers for snacks that you should check out as well.
This stainless steel lunch box is easy for kids to open with a simple latch. The lunchbox comes with containers for wet foods and dips and you can buy extra dividers. The different compartments make it easy to pack a variety of foods. We love how it comes with magnets on the cover so that kids can customize the look. Planetbox also has an insulated carry bag, just make sure to pick one of the patterns that is made without a PFAS durable water repellent. Planetbox also has a smaller sized box for snacks or for little ones.
Bentgo is a favorite bento container that now comes in stainless steel! The silicone lining on the lid makes it leak resistant as and the latches make the container easy to open. It comes with 3 compartments and an extra silicone container.
This container keeps food hot for 5 hours and is perfect for days when soup or mac n cheese are on the menu. The handle make it convenient to carry and helps kids open the top.
e) Stasher bags
Stasher bags are so popular for a reason! Say goodbye to single use plastic bags and say hello to a reusable food packing essential that comes in lots of fun colors. We particularly love the sandwich and snack sizes and use them daily.
These Zip Top container are as convenient to use as they are cute! We love how they sit flat and are easy to open for small hands. They are perfect for some sliced fruit or any loose snack.
These snack containers come with see through lids so that kids know what's inside. The are great for snacks, or use all three to pack a bento style lunch. They also nest for easy storage.
Sometimes you need a disposable sandwich or snack bag. No judgement! These If You Care unbleached sandwich bags are made of greaseproof, nonstick paper which is biodegradable, compostable, and microwave safe. Perfect for a cookie, sandwich, or other dry snack.
Replace plastic wrap with this sustainable alternative. Bee's Wrap is made from GOTS Certified organic cotton, sustainably harvested beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. We love wrapping up snacks, sandwiches, and cut up fruits and veggies in these.
This organic cotton canvas lunch bag is fully machine washable! The interior is lined with a food safe water resistant lining (free of PFAS, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals) and has a pocket for a ice pack. The bag comes in so many cute prints and has a very durable canvas handle.
This well insulated lunch bag is made of durable, waxed fabric that is PFAS free! Bonus that the the fabric is made from recycled plastic. It comes in lots of cute colors and is sure to be a favorite for kids of all ages.
A roomy insulated lunch box that is easy to wipe clean thanks to a biodegradable laminate made from sugar cane. It comes in several cute patterns and comes with a handle or a strap.
This lunch bag is made from recycled plastic bottles and is free of PFAS, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals. It holds ups well to daily use and is roomy enough to pack a lunch plus snacks.
Some no brainer, healthier swaps for you and baby
First off, congrats! Feeling overwhelmed? Excited but nervous? Well, fear not! You have plenty of time to set up your nursery, nest a bit, and even think of some names. But right now, it's time to take care of yourself. At this point, that is the best way to take care of your baby.
We've narrowed it down to the 3 easiest changes you can make that will help you have a non-toxic pregnancy. We promise, they are relatively no brainer swaps that have been shown to impact the health of your growing baby. If you start now, these are all things you will want to do once the baby is born, so you'll have created some healthy habits.
Vacuum often, hopefully with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. What do we mean by often? Well if you vacuum once a month, make it twice a month. And if you do it every other week, do it once a week! Vacuuming is an easy way to get dust out of your home. Besides just looking messy, dust is one of the places we often don't realize that toxic chemical residues collect. As toxic chemicals that can affect hormone levels, like flame retardants, phthalates, and lead, drift out of normal household things and stuff that gets tracked into the house, they often settle into dust all around the house. This can be not so great for health because people often touch the dust and eat and breathe it without realizing it. Anytime you fluff a pillow, you inadvertently breath in some dust. When you pick up that magazine from the coffee table to flip through it with a bowl of popcorn, you get some on our fingers and accidentally eat it. It happens. But if you vacuum, and dust with a wet microfiber cloth more often (think a couple times a week) you can dramatically reduce the amount of dust just hanging out in your home. That makes a huge difference.
There is such a big focus on what women should and shouldn't eat or drink when they are pregnant, but there's not very much talk about how the ways we prepare or store food can be just as important. This is a pretty easy swap, and we did a whole roundup on glass and stainless steel food storage containers, plastic free lunch packing essentials, another on glass and stainless steel water bottles, and another on reusable coffee and tea mugs. You can pick up or order things today and you'll benefit from the changes in as few as two to three days. That's how quickly BPA and chemicals like it that are often found in food storage containers can leave your system. BPA and other endocrine disrupting chemicals like them are often found in plastics to make them hard and clear, and can cause problems for your baby later in life, like early onset of puberty in girls, decreased semen quality in men, and uro-genital abnormalities, which is why you want to limit your exposure as much as possible during pregnancy. Choosing glass (or stainless steel) storage containers is any easy way to do that. Also, just a note here that even if you're using a plastic container that says BPA-free on it, if it's a hard and clear plastic, they've probably just switched out the BPA for another chemical just like it, so it's better to steer clear.
Not only because you start to develop super smelling powers during pregnancy and you might want to give your nose a break, but also because fragrance, when you see it on an ingredient label, has become a term that can cover up to 300 different ingredients. Not all of these ingredients are bad, but some of them are. Studies have linked the chemicals in the term "fragrance" to cancer and other negative health effects. Phthalates are also often added to products that have fragrance to help the fragrance last longer. But, phthalates have been linked to various forms of hormone disruption and even preterm birth. So, look for fragrance free (not unscented, they are different) options for things like lotion, shampoo, deodorant, laundry detergent, and even cleaning supplies. Products with natural essential oils are an alternative and a natural way to smell good, if you do still want a scent. There are also plenty of non-toxic ways to make your home or yourself smell pretty without the ingredient "fragrance."
Baby safe and kid safe paints that are zero VOC and APE free
Painting and decorating a nursery is one of the best parts of waiting for a little one. Or adding a splash of color when making the transition from nursery to little kid room is also super fun. Whether you're painting just one accent wall, the entire room, or an unfinished pieces of furniture in just the perfect shade, it's important to pick a paint that not only looks good, but is baby and kid 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 little ones will sleep.
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.
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:
Our recommendations will take the guesswork out of choosing a non-toxic paint brand, although you'll still have to pick the color! These paints are all zero VOCs and are free of APEs. In addition to the standard latex paints, 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 furniture and decorations. No matter which paint brand you pick, you can feel safe about using them.
a) AFM Safecoat Zero VOC- This paint was designed specifically for those with allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitive. It comes in flat, pearl, eggshell, and semi-gloss finishes. Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, APE free, and contains no mildewcides and fungicides. All ingredients are disclosed and the paint is SCS certified for indoor advantage gold.
b) Benjamin Moore Eco Spec- Benjamin Moore recently stopped making their Natura paint, but their Eco Spec paint is very similar and available nationally. Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, and APE free. It is Green Seal 11 certified. It does contain isothiazolinone compounds to inhibit the growth of mold or mildew on the surface of the paint film.
c) Clare Paint- This paint come in specific designer curated colors, which can really help if you can't pick a color! Zero VOC, zero VOC colorants, and the eggshell and semi-gloss paints are APE free. It is also Greenguard Gold certified. It does contain a mildewcide to inhibit the growth of mildew.
d) Lullaby paints or ECOS paints- ECOS paint, which also makes their Lullaby paint line is a great zero VOC paint, with zero VOC colorants, APE free, and contains no algicides, mildewcides, and rust inhibitors. They have a color catalogue or you they can color match any national brand. They have both a Declare label and a Health Product Declaration in which they disclose all ingredients. Declare labels are issued to products disclosing ingredient inventory, sourcing and end of life options. Health Product Declarations are third party verified and include the health impact of all product ingredients.
e) Sherwin Williams Harmony- A zero VOC paint, zero VOC colorant paint that is available nationally. The primer and flat finishes are APE free. The paints are also Greenguard Gold certified. It does contain anti-microbial agents that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on the paint surface.
f) Real Milk Paint- A natural paint option where the main ingredient is casein (milk protein). It comes as a powder that you mix it with water. The ingredients are casein (milk protein), calcium lime, natural pigment colors, and an edible plant based filler
g) Old Fashioned Milk Paint Farmhouse Finishes Safe Paint- This line of milk paint is formulated especially for painting walls. It comes as a powder that you mix with water. The ingredients are casein(milk protein), calcium hydroxide, chalk, clay, natural pigments, natural salts, and crystalline silica.
Updated for 2022!
Your little one deserves a crib that is both good looking and healthy. While we can't promise they will sleep through the night, we can promise that these cribs aren't covered in harsh chemicals or releasing large amounts of potentially dangerous fumes into your baby's room. We all want a nursery that will be a nurturing and loving place so that our babies can grow up strong and healthy. So we did our research and found all the highest rated cribs and then limited our picks to cribs that are GREENGUARD Gold certified, meaning they have been tested and meet stringent chemical and VOC emissions standards. That means your baby can sleep without fumes damaging their fragile lungs or irritating their eyes. And when your little one starts chewing on the rails, you can be rest assured that these paints and finishes are safe. We also included a non-toxic budget crib, which is a solid-wood choice from Ikea. While you are looking for a safe crib, you might also want to peruse our roundup of safe crib mattresses, to double down on the safest of safe sleeping places for your kiddos.
a) Ikea Sniglar Crib b) DaVinci Kalani 4 in 1 Convertible Crib c) DaVinci Jenny Lind 3 in 1 Convertible Crib d) Babyletto Hudson Crib e) Million Dollar Baby Classic Liberty 3 in 1 Convertible Crib f) Dadada Soho 3 in 1 Convertible Crib g) Pottery Barn Kendall Convertible Crib h) West Elm Mid-Century Convertible Crib i) Oeuf Sparrow Crib
At Because Health, we believe that having safe and non-toxic baby gear shouldn't come at the expense of convenience or great customer reviews. For cribs, we pulled together all of the top rated and recommended ones from Lucie's List, Babylist, Consumer Reports, The Bump, and Wirecutter. Then, we selected cribs that were GREENGUARD Gold certified, which limits the VOCs in the finishes and glues used (read more about what GREENGUARD certification means). While we were at it, we focused on cribs made with solid wood, and ended up including a budget solid wood pick from Ikea. Although the budget pick is not GREENGUARD certified, Ikea has a transparent chemicals policy and we like having an affordable solid wood option. Then, like always, we made sure the products were easily available and had positive consumer reviews before they made it to our final roundup.
*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.