26 May, 2023

Creating a healthier and less toxic home doesn’t have to be complicated. You can make a difference in detoxifying your atmosphere by starting with simple swaps. 

In the UK, air pollution is the most significant environmental risk to public health. The Government suggests the average person spends around 80% of their time indoors (especially in winter). Thinking about your exposure to indoor air pollution is essential when caring for your health and well-being.  

What is indoor pollution?

Indoor pollution is a mixture of: 

  • Pollutants generated inside a building from building materials, furniture and furnishings or by cooking, heating, smoking using paints, varnishes, cleaning products, air fresheners, etc.
  • Pollutants generated outside a building (by industrial processes, traffic emissions, etc.) that migrate indoors through windows or other means of ventilation.
  • Natural radon gas (a colourless, odourless radioactive gas produced from naturally occurring uranium underground) enters buildings from the ground. 

Of course, we can’t control natural radon or pollutants from outside traffic or building work. However, we can try to limit our exposure.  We can control the pollutants found inside our homes from our day-to-day living. 

By cutting out harmful chemicals and pollutants in your home, you will feel healthier and reap the long-term benefits, such as reducing your risk of breast cancer and other illnesses. Importantly, exposure to multiple chemicals throughout life has the most significant effect on your health and your breast cancer risk. Many of these chemicals are found in everyday products, which build up in your home and lead to unintentional exposures. 

Two big general tips are to dust regularly and to open your windows.  

Keep reading our top tips for more information on reducing indoor pollution levels in different rooms of your house. As you will see, many chemicals are found in numerous products used in other areas of your home.  

LIVINGROOM  

Could you cut out perfume?

Switch from perfume-scented paraffin candles and synthetic air fresheners to pure beeswax candles with essential oils, plants, or fresh flowers.  

Why?  

Paraffin is a petroleum-based product that is chemically produced; burning paraffin releases toxic chemicals which pollute your air.  

Additionally, synthetically scented products sometimes include phthalates or synthetic musk. Synthetic musks are EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals), which affect the hormones oestrogen and progesterone and may have possible links to breast cancer.  

Current regulation means that manufacturers are not required to list fragrance ingredients on scented products (for example, in perfumes, candles and air fresheners), meaning you do not know what substances are released into your home.  

Look out for the terms parfum or perfume on any scented product ingredient lists, as these will likely contain potentially toxic chemicals that will be released into your home. 

Switching to natural-scented items like plants or beeswax candles will help you practice your non-toxic living and reduce your risk of breast cancer. 

Watch out for VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint.

Buy water-based and solvent-free paints; these may display ecolabels. VOCs are the smelly chemicals in conventional paint, which release VOCs long after the paint is dry. In a recent study, B&Q found that only 13% of people know the impact of low-VOC paint on the environment. However, 66% consider whether the paint is environmentally friendly before they buy.  

B&Q’s advice is to check the label! Paints with minimal levels of VOCs are labelled with a low, minimal or trace VOC sticker such as ‘VOC FREE’. Finding paint without carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or ozone-depleting compounds was a chore. However, increased awareness of the health impacts associated with VOCs has made it easier to identify paints free from toxic chemicals. 

You can invest in an air filter. 

Another option to reduce indoor pollution levels is to invest in an electronic air filter – it can be a game-changer. If you can’t invest in an air filter, ventilating your house by opening windows allows fresh air. Try and do this when the outdoor air quality is good, for example, with little-to-no traffic and no building work nearby. This simple task will help move fresh air through your home and displace any indoor pollutant build-up.  

Choose fewer flammable materials.

A living space should be relaxing and non-toxic. Did you know your sofas, soft furnishings and electronics often contain harmful chemicals such as flame retardants or bisphenols? Choosing less-flammable materials such as wool and cotton (organic if possible) for home furnishings makes them less likely to contain harmful flame retardants. Brominated, chlorinated and organophosphorus flame retardants are suspected of being carcinogenic, toxic and persistent in the environment. Many are also EDCs that have potential links to breast cancer. 

Our tips are to: 

  • Air all newly bought furniture  
  • Dispose of old electronics responsibly  
  • Try Thrift shopping and choosing second-hand furniture 

BATHROOM  

Change your products.

The bathroom may contain numerous chemicals that may be harmful. Cosmetics, deodorants, shampoos, wet wipes, and cleaning products can all contain EDCs. 

Harmful chemicals, such as parabens (found in many cosmetics and beauty products), have been measured in breast tissue, breast milk and placental tissue. High concentrations of parabens mimic the actions of oestrogen and may be linked to breast cancer.  

We recommend using the ‘Yuka’ app, where you scan products, which will be rated on whether they contain harmful chemicals. Healthier alternatives will also be suggested for any product given a poor rating. 

You can also use our handy “Ingredients in Cosmetics we recommend you avoid”-guide to help you identify harmful chemicals in these products. Some examples of these chemicals and where they are found include:  

  • Parabens and siloxanes are found in shampoos, conditioners and creams/moisturisers.
  • Fragrance ingredients such as lilial and synthetic musks found in perfumes, hair products, soaps, lotions and cleaning products (may also be labelled as parfum or perfume) 
  • Phthalates used as plasticisers or solvents are found in nail varnish, perfume, shampoos and shower curtains made from PVC plastics 
  • Aluminium salts found in antiperspirants  
  • UV filters such as benzophenones and octinoxate in skin creams, hair products and sunscreens 
  • Triclosan (or triclocarban) used as a preservative in toothpaste and antibacterial soaps 

We recommend changing to a safer alternative each time a product runs out. Alternatively, you can also have a go at making your own using natural ingredients.  Always look for fragrance-free products, if possible. 

KITCHEN 

Use natural cleaners.

Products like laundry detergent, cleaning wipes, sprays, tumble dryer sheets and washing-up liquid contain harmful chemicals. Natural cleaning products aren’t just toxic-free; they are super effective, can smell tremendous and usually work out cheaper than your typical cleaning brands! Find a list of swaps and ingredients below. For more, visit our non-toxic cleaning blog here: 

  • Baking soda: great for neutralising odours 
  • Vinegar: it can remove grease, grime, and any build-up. If the smell puts you off, try adding in a couple of drops of essential oil (like lemon) to make a surface cleaner 
  • Lemon juice: is excellent for polishing, cleaning up stains and removing limescale on taps and within kettles 
  • Liquid soap: this is the almighty product. The soap is free from fragrance, colours and preservatives, making it ideal for sensitive skin, and it’s suitable to wash even the most delicate fabrics. You can also use it to clean floors, surfaces, dishes and as a hand wash, shower gel and shampoo! 

Don’t throw away all your cleaning products in one go. Consider making the swap the next time you go for a refill – this will help you to maintain a non-toxic home and reduce breast cancer risk. 

Remove ‘nonstick’ cookware.

Your kitchen can contain many potentially harmful chemicals.  From your cleaning products to the containers you put your food in and pans you use to cook your food.  

Per and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) can be found in nonstick cookware (such as Teflon) and takeaway food packaging (e.g., pizza boxes, compostable food boxes, and paper food bags). PFAS are known as ‘forever chemicals’ as they can last in the environment for long periods. They are also EDCs that may adversely affect human health and are possibly linked to breast cancer. We suggest avoiding ‘nonstick’ cookware and finding safe toxic-free alternatives such as stainless steel or cast-iron pans.  

You can just opt for wooden or glass chopping boards.

When preparing food, use wooden or glass chopping boards – they won’t contain synthetic antimicrobial agents such as triclosan and triclocarban.  They prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi and are found in antibacterial chopping boards and cleaning products such as antibacterial sprays. They are also EDCs which interfere with your hormones (including oestrogen) and can also promote antibiotic resistance. So, it’s best to avoid this entirely. 

Be careful how you store your food.

Store and reheat your food in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel. Bisphenols, such as BPA and BPS, are found in certain plastics, canned food linings, and takeaway boxes. EDCs such as bisphenols may leach into the food and may affect your breast cancer risk. Therefore, you should also reduce the consumption of canned and packaged food (such as fast-food boxes and packaging). But if you use plastic, avoid recycling codes 3, 6 and 7, as these contain harmful chemicals. 

Buy organic if you can.

Residues of pesticides, such as fungicides or herbicides, can be found in fruit, vegetables, and other foods we buy. If possible, choose organic fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products. Or, at the very least, wash products before eating to help remove any traces of pesticides. Our FREE Organic Recipe E-book has many recipes to start your organic journey.  

Consider growing your own fruit and vegetables to help with the cost! Here’s a blog to get you started!  

To start your breast cancer prevention and toxic-free journey, look at our Chemical iguide. It’s full of helpful resources to give you a kickstart! Also, download Yuka to see which cosmetics and hygiene products you could start swapping next time you do your shop. 

Ref: A-Z Chemicals of Concern list 



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