COVID-19

Safer Cleaning and Disinfectant Use During Coronavirus at Home

plus DIY disinfectant and cleaning recipes and when and how to wash hands or use hand sanitizer

We've created a one stop shop for all your questions on using safer disinfectant at home to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Please share with your family and friends. We hope they are useful!

You can download the entire PDF with links here with both toolkit and sample email:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at Home During Coronavirus.pdf

safer cleaning and disinfectant use during coronavirus at home


hand washing and hand sanitizer during coronavirus


DIY cleaners, disinfectants, and hand sanitizers during coronavirus

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Easy and Free Ways to Improve Your Health at Home

Who says staying healthy has to be expensive?!

The COVID-19 shelter in place has been tough for our emotions and our budget. With layoffs and furloughs, we've had to make our money go further than ever before. But how do you keep good environmental health practices when money is tight? It seems like a lot of ways to improve health around the home include purchasing something new. That's why we're highlighting three things you can do that are good for your health but that are totally free! Each tip is easy to implement, will benefit your health now, and helps prevent future diseases. Try some out today!



Tip 1: Open your windows. Letting in fresh air can do wonders for your health! Surprisingly, indoor air quality can be worse than outdoor air quality (1). And since we're spending so much time indoors, the quality of our air matters more than ever! There are many everyday items in the home that can negatively impact your indoor air quality. Home furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners can all give off harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Stovetops and kitchen appliances can give off particulate matter (PM) as well as VOCs while they're in use (1). VOCs and PM can cause headaches, trigger asthma, and even cause cancer after long-term exposure (2). Opening your windows can help circulate air and help remove any harmful pollutants from your indoor air.

Tip 2: Leave shoes at the door. Wearing outdoor shoes around the house may seem innocent enough, but shoes can actually track residue around your house. Scientists have found that a big source of lead and pesticide residues in the home come from wearing shoes indoors. These harmful chemicals and other gross debris can later end up in household dust, which you or your kids can accidentally ingest (3). Yuck! Taking off your shoes before you walk around indoors is an easy way to limit your exposure to harmful materials.

Tip 3: Turn off lights when you go to sleep. You may be thinking "of course I turn the lights off when I go to sleep!", but we're talking about all lights! Even those tiny lights on your electronics. Any source of light, big or small, can impact the quality of your sleep, which impacts your health. Exposure to artificial light at night can suppress melatonin secretion, make it harder to fall asleep, and disturb your circadian rhythm. There is even research showing that prolonged nighttime exposure may contribute to breast cancer risk, and negatively impact psychological, cardiovascular, and metabolic function (4). Try turning off all electronics in your room, including power strips, before you get into bed. If you can't turn them off, you can use some black electrical or duct tape to cover the light.

  1. https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality
  2. https://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/voc/
  3. 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
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/07420528.2015.1073158
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Home

Victory Garden Revival!

Easily grow produce at your home

We've got some free time on our hands now that we're staying at home all the time and going to the grocery store can be really stressful. Plus, many grocery stores have had trouble keeping fresh produce in stock during the pandemic. Why not start growing your own produce?!

We've seen a revival of "victory gardens" in recent months as a way to reliably get fruit and veggies. Growing your own produce is rewarding, fun, and a great educational tool for kids! Plus, a backyard garden is organic! You also don't have to have a large backyard to create your own victory garden. Many plants can be grown in containers. A lot of nurseries and gardening stores are still open during the pandemic. Make sure to call ahead to confirm store hours and see if you can do curbside delivery.

The Farmer's Almanac is a great, in-depth resource for all of your gardening needs. It's recent article on the revival of victory gardens in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic provides a lot of important information.

Below are some fruit and vegetables we wanted to highlight that are great for beginners. If you feel like you need some extra help, you can always contact your state's master gardener! Master gardeners are especially knowledgeable about what will grow in your area, how to keep your plants alive, and unique gardening challenges your area might face.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a hardy vegetable that love full sun. They're a super versatile ingredient used in so many different recipes. You can't go wrong with tomatoes! They're easy to grow in a container or in a sunny spot in your backyard with loamy soil. Tomatoes take about 60-80 days to mature, so plant in early spring! Read more about growing tomatoes here.

Herbs

A great option for apartment dwellers. You can grow herbs in small pots in a sunny windowsill. You can also plant herbs in containers and keep them on your porch. Growing your own herbs is super convenient when a recipe only calls for a few leaves or a small amount of an ingredient. You can just snip off what you need from your own plants instead of bulk buying at the grocery store! We love mint, chive, rosemary, or thyme. Check out more tips on growing herbs here.


Cucumbers

Another great container plant! We recommend getting a vining cucumber to plant in a container, just remember to also include a trellis! Cucumbers love hot weather and lots of water, and they'll grow quickly as long as they're receiving plenty of both! Cucumbers make a great addition to any salad or even as a cocktail garnish (we won't judge!). More info can be found here.


Green Beans

Like cucumbers, green beans are compact, productive, and easy to grow! Pole beans will need a trellis, but bush beans don't need extra support. Beans love full sun and will reach maturity in 50-65 days. Try green beans in a stir fry or as a tasty side dish! Get started growing green beans with this helpful guide.


Raspberries

Unlike many other plants, raspberries will do well in a partially-shady location. They need well-drained soil and protection from the elements to thrive. Water regularly and be prepared to eat some very tasty berries! We think home-grown berries taste exceptionally better than store bought berries. Learn more about growing raspberries here.


Strawberries

You'll be amazed by how much better home-grown strawberries taste than store bought. Strawberries are a little more finicky than other plants, but they'll thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. Check out this comprehensive guide to growing strawberries before your next gardening session!

Roundups

Air Purifier Roundup

Keep your air quality healthy while staying indoors!

Being inside our house for days on end has us thinking a lot about indoor air quality. How do I keep myself healthy while sheltering in place? If you're also worried about indoor air pollutants, it might be a good time to consider buying an air purifier! But there are so many choices out there, how do you know which is best for your house? We did some research and picked our top 6 air purifier choices.

Air purifiers are an easy way to help maintain a healthy indoor air quality. If you experience seasonal allergies or asthma, live in the middle of a big city, are exposed to wildfire smoke, or cook at home a lot, an air purifier might be right for you! Air purifiers are a great tool at protecting your indoor air quality against small particles you can't remove with vacuuming and dusting alone like smoke particles, pet dander, dust, and pollen. Purifiers with a HEPA filter provide even more protection- they're "99.97% efficient for removing particles less than 0.3 microns" (1). Some air purifiers even have a substrate that absorbs VOCs (volatile organic compounds) too! VOCs are released when your gas range is turned on and can also be released from consumer products and furniture. Some VOCs are harmful to your health causing irritation, headaches, damage to organs, and some are carcinogenic.

There are a few things to consider before choosing an air filter, including:

- Make sure the air purifier doesn't generate ozone. While these machines were thought to be effective, they actually cause more indoor air pollution.

- Determine the number of air purifiers and size you need. The product description of an air purifier should say the square footage one purifier can cover. Some larger rooms may need more than one purifier or a purifier with a larger capacity. Many of our picks are offered in models that cover a larger or smaller square footage.

- Check how long one filter lasts. Every air purifier is different, and some filters may last longer than others! It's also a good idea to check filter prices before committing to a specific model.

- Follow manufacturer instructions to clean or buy new air filters when necessary to ensure that your air purifier continues to work properly.

Below are our top air purifier picks:



a) Austin Air Healthmate

b) Coway AP 1512 Mighty

c) Blueair Blue Pure 411

d) Alen Breathesmart Classic

e) Honeywell HPA300

f) AirDoctor

*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.

References:

1. https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/acdsumm.pdf

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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.







Life

Is Washing Your Favorite Sweater Contributing to Plastic Pollution?

Machine washing your clothes is an unexpected culprit of microplastic pollution

Each year, around 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean from coastal countries. That amount of plastic is the equivalent of about 40,000 blue whales (1)! Microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5mm in length) are a big part of the plastic pollution problem (2). It's estimated that approximately 50 trillion pieces of microplastics are currently polluting the ocean (3). These tiny particles also make up roughly 94% of the Great Pacific Trash vortex, which is the largest collection of floating trash in the world (4). And surprisingly, laundry is a significant contributor to ocean microplastics.

How is washing your clothes polluting the ocean and what can you do to stop it? Keep reading for everything you need to know about microplastics and how doing your laundry may impact the planet.

What Are Microplastics?

Microplastics are either manufactured for primary use as exfoliating beads used in skincare or small machinery parts, or can be a result of the breakdown of other materials like large plastic water bottles or synthetic textiles (2). Microfibers, the microplastics that are in synthetic materials, are a big part of the problem. They make up roughly 35% of the microplastic found in marine ecosystems (5). Machine washing synthetic materials is one of the biggest ways microfibers get into the water supply (6). Washing machines and synthetic materials are a bad combination because friction from the spinning laundry drum causes synthetic materials to shed microfibers into the water, which are eventually drained back into the pipes. Since the fibers are so small, up to 40% pass through sewage treatment plants unfiltered and end up draining into the rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans that are connected to our water supply (7).

Even though synthetic materials are a big problem, they're almost impossible to avoid. Today, about two-thirds of textiles used in clothing are synthetic because it makes clothing cheaper to manufacture. If you check the tag on your shirt right now, you'd probably see a popular synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, or nylon. A study in the UK found that nearly half a million microfibers are released in just one load of polyester clothing (8).

Environmental Impact of Microplastics

One of the biggest problems with plastic pollution is that it basically never goes away. Rather than chemically degrading, plastic tends to physically break up into smaller and smaller pieces. These microplastics continuously accumulate in the environments all over the world, from the peaks of the Pyrenees to the intestines of fish caught in the Great Lakes (9, 10). These materials are not only extremely harmful to the wildlife and ecosystems they are invading, but have potentially dangerous consequences for human health as well. Microplastics can get into drinking water, and are also often accidentally ingested by fish which pollutes our food supply. When ingested, microplastics can cause inflammation, gut blockages, growth and hormone disruption (11). Additionally, microplastics absorb other toxic chemicals and assist in their distribution.

What You Can Do

The impacts microplastics are having on marine and human health seem to grow by the day. Luckily, there are easy ways to limit microfiber shedding from your laundry!

  1. Adjust your laundry settings - avoiding delicate cycles that use high water volumes and washing with colder water are not only more water and cost efficient but help release fewer microfibers per wash!
  2. Use less detergent, and do not use bleach! The soapy liquid causes more fibers to be leached out.
  3. Fill up your machine and avoid washing things bulky items like shoes with synthetic fabrics - anything that increases friction will increase microfiber release
  4. If you have the option, use a front loading washing machine! They require less water and less vigorous washing for the same cleanliness.
  5. Consider getting a laundry bag. These bags are designed to catch microfibers so they cannot get into the water supply.
  6. Purchase clothing made of natural materials like cotton or linen - these materials don't shed any microfibers and are often softer, more breathable, and last longer!


References

  1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/plastic-pollution/
  2. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html
  3. https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/plastic-pollution/plastic-pollution-facts-figures/
  4. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30368178
  6. https://www.plasticoceanproject.org/microfiber-pollution-project.html
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27689236
  8. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40498292
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/20/microfibers-plastic-pollution-oceans-patagonia-synthetic-clothes-microbeads
  10. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2199455-pristine-mountains-are-being-littered-with-microplastics-from-the-air/
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971834049X?via%3Dihub
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31460752
  13. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.est.7b01750
  14. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.6b03045
  15. https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/bills-and-best-practices-for-microfiber-pollution-solutions
Home

Why You Should Make the Switch to LED Light Bulbs

Better for the environment and your wallet

No one likes home maintenance and high electricity bills. Lucky for you, replacing your light bulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs can shorten your to-do list and save you money on your next energy bill!

Technology has advanced a lot since Thomas Edison created the first light bulb in 1878. The latest and greatest is called the LED bulb. The light emitting diode in the bulb are small (about the size of a fleck of pepper), don't need reflectors or diffusers, and emit very little heat (1). Here are a couple reasons why you should make the switch to LEDs.

1. Traditional Light Bulbs Contain Dangerous Chemicals

Traditional light bulbs like compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs use mercury and other nobles gases such as argon to create light (3). These chemicals are a hazard if the bulb breaks and can be detrimental to your health. LEDs on the other hand do not contain any mercury. Making the switch to LED bulbs is a good option to reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals.

2. LED Bulbs Last Longer Than Traditional Light Bulbs

One LED bulb can last for years. It is estimated that LEDs last between 20,000 to 50,000 hours (2). That means that LEDs last 3 to 25 times as long as old-school incandescent bulbs and 10 times as long as CFLs. Imagine only having to buy one light bulb when you would otherwise have to buy 25. That's a significant cost saving and a large reduction in waste!

3. LED Bulbs Are More Energy Efficient

LEDs use 25-80% less energy compared to similarly bright incandescent and CFL bulbs (1). This is because they more efficiently transfer energy into light, whereas traditional bulbs lose a lot of energy in the form of heat. That's why traditional bulbs get so hot while LED bulbs remain cool to the touch. Replacing old holiday lights with LED lights can actually reduce the risk of combustion, burns, or Christmas tree fires.

Being more energy efficient means a lower energy bill! It is estimated that replacing one incandescent bulb with an LED bulb will save you $5 per year (4). This is a large reduction in your bill if you replace all the bulbs in your home!

4. LED Bulbs are Better for the Environment

When you switch to LED bulbs, you not only save money, but you also help improve the environment. How? Since LEDs last longer, you reduce the amount of waste you produce. If you're using fewer light bulbs, you have less to throw away! Other light bulbs contain hazardous chemicals, which can also create a challenge for safe waste disposal. LEDs are also an easy way to combat climate change because they use less energy, which means that you aren't using as much fossil fuel. It's a win-win situation!

Getting Started

If we have convinced you to make the switch to LEDs, make sure you purchase bulbs that are marked "Energy Star" on the box. This means that the bulb is approved by ENERGY STAR, a program run by the EPA and Department of Energy that promotes energy efficiency. While the cost of LED bulbs are slightly higher than incandescent and CFL bulbs, they do not contain any harmful chemicals and will save you money in the long run. Think of it as a small upfront investment in your family's (and the planet's) health and long-term savings!


References

  1. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/save-electricity-and-fuel/lighting-choices-save-you-money/how-energy-efficient-light
  2. https://www.thesimpledollar.com/the-light-bulb-showdown-leds-vs-cfls-vs-incandescent-bulbs-whats-the-best-deal-now-and-in-the-future/
  3. https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/q-and-a-mercury-in-energy-saving-light-bulbs/3003352.article
  4. https://ledlightguides.com/how-much-do-led-lights-save/
Procrast-cleaning, spring-cleaning or regular ole-cleaning. Whatever it is, you're determined to clean every nook and cranny and you might just do so by scouring the grocery aisle for the strongest cleaners you can find. If you're on a roll, you might not stop until your house smells spick and span. And safe...right? When it comes to household cleaners, this is a case of stronger isn't necessarily better. The "clean" smell often associated with traditional cleaners are the result of A LOT chemicals that haven't been proven to actually clean any better. Plus, they come with their own set of health risks.
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