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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
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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Home

Non-Toxic Candle Roundup

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

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



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

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

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

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


References

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

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

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

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

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


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







Family

Protect Your Crawling Baby From Chemicals With These 3 Tips

Have your baby safely explore their surroundings!

Once a baby starts to crawl, they're always on the move! After you've baby-proofed your outlets and stairs, it's worth considering how to keep your little one safe from harmful chemicals as well. Since babies are low to the ground when moving about and are constantly putting their hands in their mouth, they're especially at risk of exposure. Check out our top three tips on how to keep your baby safe while they're crawling and exploring!


1. Leave Shoes at the Door

Wearing shoes around the house can bring in a lot of nasty chemicals and other contaminants from the outdoors. Picture where you walk in a typical day: busy city streets, public restrooms, the back of a ride share car. Do you really want whatever is on the bottom of your shoes ending up on your carpets? As soon as you get home, take your shoes off at the door! You can even have a cute shoe storage container in your foyer so you don't forget to take them off. Leaving your shoes at the door is also a great excuse to invest in a pair of cute new slippers.


2. Vacuum More Frequently

Household dust can contain all sorts of things. Along with the usual suspects of pet hair and crumbs from breakfast, dust can contain harmful chemicals like flame retardants. Flame retardants are serious chemicals that can cause cancer and mess with our immune system. These toxic chemicals migrate out of electronics and furniture and end up around your house. Vacuuming more frequently will keep your baby safe from dust accumulating on the floor. If you're in the market for a new vacuum, we have some recommendations!


3. More Hand Washing

Washing your hands and your baby's hands is super important, even if neither of you have left the house! Babies put their hands in their mouth a LOT, especially when they're eating. And as we mentioned above, there could be a lot of gross stuff on your floor you weren't aware of. Before each meal and snack, make sure to make a pitstop at the sink to wash hands! We recommend washing hands for at least 20 seconds. Or, if you're on the go and the nearest bathroom is miles away, we have some awesome hand sanitizer recs.

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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Painting Your Home? Here's What To Look For To Keep Those Paint Fumes From Getting To You

Find out about the surprise ingredients that might be making you feel sick

Whether you're painting your new house, or just giving your home a makeover, the satisfaction of a good paint job is SO real (hello to a new area of the house that is now instagrammable!). However, during the painting process, let's be real, the paint fumes suck and it's really no fun having to run over to the open window to gulp a few lungfuls of fresh air before heading back in to paint. Luckily, there are safer paints on the market and simple things you can do to ward off those headaches and avoid the nasty fumes.
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Home

Shopping For A New Rug? Head Spinning From All The Choices?

Here's an easy breakdown to pick the least-toxic rugs

#home, #interiordesign, #aesthetics, #piningforeverything. Can our homes literally please look like every decor hashtag we've ever followed on Instagram? Hands up if you think rugs are basically an expression of your soul, or if they're a necessity in your home to cushion the fall of little ones. Whatever your reason, I bet you want a rug that's both beautiful inside and out. The world of rugs is ginormous, and even picking a pattern that you want can be daunting, no less trying to figure out which material is the safest and least toxic. We've broken down the most important things to look for in a safe rug, so you can just focus on the design that completes your home.
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