These Common Household Items Are Making Your Home Unhealthy
Plastic Containers Plastic is popular for everything from single-use drink containers to hard, lightweight dishes and food storage containers. Unfortunately, many plastics contain BPA and it… Samantha Davis - September 30, 2022
Plastic is popular for everything from single-use drink containers to hard, lightweight dishes and food storage containers. Unfortunately, many plastics contain BPA and it has widely contaminated the U.S. population, with most people having traces of it in urine. Current research shows it affects hormones and may even harm reproductive health.
Fortunately, plastic containers are labeled, so it’s pretty easy to know whether they are safe for reuse. Containers labeled with #2, #4, or #5 on the bottom are food safe and able to be reused. By contrast, containers labeled #1 are safe to use once before they break down and containers with #7 should never be used for food storage.
Scientists have been researching the harmful effects that plastics have on humans and the environment for decades. Like when heating plastic containers, heating plastic cookware also releases BPA, benzene, and other harmful toxins into your food. Some studies even show silicone leaches toxins into food if it’s used before being properly cleaned.
Exposure to toxins from silicones and plastic pose a real threat, with most humans and more than 180 species of animals testing positive for related toxins. They cause everything from respiratory illnesses to a greater risk of certain cancers. Instead, swap out bakeware for glass or metal (non-coated) options and choose natural utensils made from food-grade metals, wood, or bamboo.
Most people don’t overthink their choice of laundry detergent, going with whatever option smells best or is on sale that week. While this might work fine for some people, certain detergents worsen symptoms of psoriasis and eczema in others. This comes from harsh chemicals, artificial scents, and dyes in certain brands.
Laundry detergents do a lot more than just clean. Manufacturers add extra ingredients so clothing is brighter and smells better longer. Avoiding brands with allergens, added fragrances, and dyes is a great place to start. You could also consider homemade laundry soap options like soap nuts or try plant-based or hypoallergenic commercial laundry detergents.
Most people are surprised to learn that their kitchen sink has somewhere around 1,000 times the bacteria found on most toilets. With this fact in mind, it’s no surprise that garbage disposals harbor all types of bacteria. It comes into contact with salmonella from raw meats, E. coli from raw spinach, and more.
Most garbage disposals have ions on the metal blades that kill bacteria. However, the rubber seal around the blades have deep crevices where water and bacteria get trapped. To clean it, run ice through the drain with a small stream of water. Then, pour baking soda and vinegar to clean and disinfect. Last, use a brush to scrub the crevices around the rubber parts.
Carpets can be toxic and not just because they trap dirt, debris, pet hair, and germs in their fibers. Most carpets are toxic even before you get them home. Older rugs may emit VOCs, endocrine disruptors, and phthalates. Additionally, the Styrene Butadien rubber backing found on 95% of newer rugs emits carcinogens linked to cancer.
While carpeting does have some benefits, tile or wood don’t emit as many VOCs during install. Another alternative is non-toxic carpet brands and materials like wool or seagrass. Finally, if you do opt for carpet, try to choose materials like wool (which improves indoor air quality) and rubber. Installing wall-to-wall so you aren’t exposed to the chemicals in capet adhesives also helps.
Plants take in carbon dioxide from the air around them and then release it as oxygen, helping lower carbon dioxide levels and improve air quality in your home. Unfortunately, for people with sensitivities to pollen or certain plants, they can also worsen the quality of the air and cause symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and inflammation.
When it comes to choosing plants for your home, select plants with leaves rather than those with flowers. Flowered plants produce more pollen, which aggravates allergies in people with sensitivities. Monitoring wetness levels of plant soil and avoiding overwatering also helps, since plant soil grows mold if it doesn’t dry out at all between watering cycles.
Even though we store food in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage, that does not mean bacteria and germs can’t grow inside of it. Most of us have seen spoilage in old produce or leftovers- it’s something that happens when you forget something in the back of the fridge. Plus, if you aren’t wiping your shelves often enough or you do things like leave the refrigerator door open too often, it causes bacteria build up.
Developing an organization system for your fridge really helps. You should also store food in the best areas of the fridge. For example, the door of the fridge should be used for foods like condiments that can tolerate warmer temperatures while the lower shelves should be reserved for eggs and meats. Clean up spills as they happen to prevent the spread of bacteria and deep clean the fridge by removing everything and sanitizing it at least 3-4 times per year.
Many of us are guilty of washing our knives and storing them right away. Even when we make an effort to dry them all the way, any leftover water droplets seep into the block. This creates the perfect environment for bacteria. While this bacteria isn’t too dangerous at first, it multiples over time– especially if you aren’t cleaning your knife block regularly.
As a general rule, you should do a deep clean of your knife block at least once a month. Take the knives out, flip it over, and shake the block so any loose debris falls out. You can submerge it in hot, soapy water to clean the bacteria or add one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water. Use a straw brush or pipe cleaner to wash inside the knife slots and let the block dry completely before reinserting the knives.
A 2012 study researched office environments and germs. Surprisingly, one of the worst places for germs was the office microwave. This doesn’t only apply to offices, but also the microwave in your home. Most people in your family probably aren’t concerned with washing their hands before throwing some food in the microwave. Plus, microwave door handles often aren’t given as much attention as the interior of the microwave.
While the original study focused on microwave door handles, chances are the handles of your refrigerator and freezer, oven, and other appliances aren’t getting as much attention as they need either. Regularly sanitizing these areas stops the spread of germs, especially when you consider how easily kitchen mistakes like touching a handle when you have raw chicken on your hands can spread the dangerous bacteria salmonella.
There are obvious benefits of using a hair dryer like less downtime while you’re waiting for your hair to dry. However, research shows that using a hair dryer damages the hair shaft. This causes dryness, brittleness, and loss of hair color. It can even cause split ends. Using a thermal protectant protects the hair shaft and reduces damage from the heat of the hair dryer.
Even though thermal protectants can do a lot as far as protecting your hair, however, they don’t necessarily protect your scalp. Blow drying is okay for some people occasionally, but doing it too often can cause redness, irritation, dryness, or even dandruff. This is especially true for people with thin hair or sensitive scalps.
Bathrooms are filled with bacteria, from mold and mildew in those high-moisture areas to hidden germs and bacteria. Even though you’d think bacteria would be the concern with toilet paper, it’s actually the dangerous ingredients that manufacturers add to those squares. Toilet paper contains everything from chemicals that cause irritation and burning to BPA found in plastic.
Some things you might find hidden in your toilet paper include formaldehyde, petroleum-based moisturizers, BPA, and bleach derivatives. BPA is found in many recycled toilet papers, while bleach derivatives are often listed as PCF or ECF on the label. Other dangerous ingredients include formaldehyde which has been linked to vulvar irritation and cancer and moisturizers, fragrances, and dyes that cause irritation.
Even when they are properly maintained, natural gas appliances like stoves and furnaces give off dangerous pollutants. The problem isn’t necessary a leak of the gas itself, but rather the pollutants that it gives off. According to research by the Rocky Mountain Institute, using gas stoves to cook bacon or bake a cake causes levels of nitrogen oxide that exceed recommended levels.
The obvious solution is to opt for electric stoves, ovens, and other appliances whenever it’s an option. If that isn’t something you can do, then try using your gas stove in a well-ventilated area. Use an exhaust fan or open a window to help eliminate exposure. This also reduces exposure to other byproducts of gas stoves, including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter.
It’s surprising that people still smoke, even knowing that smoking comes with several risks from inhaling all the cancer-causing carcinogens. If you are smoking at home, in your vehicle, or around the people you love, however, you are putting them at even greater risk. Research shows that secondhand smoke is far more dangerous than smoking it firsthand, likely because firsthand smoke at least passes through a filter.
Secondhand smoke comes with many short-term and long-term risks, especially in children. This includes a higher risk of ear infections, asthma, chronic coughing and lung infections, and respiratory illness like bronchitis. Secondhand smoke is also a major risk factor in infant death from SIDS and it’s so dangerous that courts may even consider a parent’s smoking habits before deciding who to award custody in custody battles.
At first glance, your office might seem tidy, organized, and clean. Unfortunately, germs aren’t always visible to the naked eye and if you don’t disinfect it regularly, then your computer keyboard may be covered in them. We’ve already mentioned how door knobs and microwave handles harbor tons of germs in the office and in most cases, people handle their keyboard right after they walk in the door from lunch.
While your office keyboard likely doesn’t have as many microbes per square inch as the office phone (they have 25,127 and 3,295 microbes per square inch, respectively), it does still carry more germs than the toilet. Wiping down your desk and keyboard every day with a disinefectant can help. You should also keep hand sanitizer nearby for those times you need to clean your hands in between trips to the bathroom.
A lot of people share that common childhood memory of drinking cold water straight from the garden hose on a hot summer day. After all, it was a lot more convenient than running inside when you’re busy having fun. The problem is that drinking from the garden hose comes with a risk of exposure to certain chemicals, starting with phthalates and BPA found in the material used to make some hoses.
There’s also a risk of exposure to metal from the fittings, including lead, bromine, and antimony. Opting for safer materials could prevent exposure to these toxins since manufactures have started manufacturing healthier hoses. You should also store your hose in the shade to prevent breakdown of materials and run the hose for at least 5-10 seconds before you take a drink.
Many people prefer the smaller profile of earbud headphones to those that go over the ears. Unfortunately, earbuds are a breeding ground for bacteria and they have even been linked to a greater risk of hearing loss. Think of how warm and damp the space in your ear is. Bacteria loves dark, moist areas where it can thrive like the ears, nose, and mouth.
Earbuds (like anything you stick in your ear) introduce bacteria into that warm environment. They also increase the risk of Swimmer’s Ear, particularly in the summer months when even your ears sweat. If you are going to use earbuds, be sure to disinfect them first. Also, clean ears regularly in the shower instead of using cotton swabs, which introduce germs into the self-cleaning ear canal.
Dishwashers are one of those things that make our lives easier. Plus, they have the major benefit of cutting back on water usage when doing dishes. Bacteria also love the dishwasher. There are food scraps that they can feed on, plus plenty of heat and moisture that nurtures bacteria and lets it grows. In addition to your average bacteria, dishwashers are often full of slimy, black mold that is dangerous to your health.
Microorganisms in the dishwasher often hide in cracks and crevices, including in the seals around the door. The best way to disinfect your dishwasher is to place 1 cup of white vinegar in a bowl on the bottom shelf. Then, run a dishwasher cycle using hot water to kill bacteria and break down soap scum and left behind food scraps.
For a lot of people, their bed is a source of comfort after a long day. If you aren’t washing your sheets as often as necessary, however, it’s also likely that your bed sheets are a petri dish full of dead skin cells, sweat, and bacteria that accumulates on your skin over the course of the day. Dead skin cells also attract critters like microscopic dust mites that trigger allergies and even bed bugs.
The best defense against this is washing your bed sheets at least once a week in hot water, which helps kill germs. Airing your sheets out by pulling the blanket back for a few hours in the morning can also be helpful since it gives any trapped moisture from sweating at night a chance to evaporate. Finally, be sure to shower before bed to reduce the dead skin cells and oil that are coming to bed with you.
According to research, if you’re sleeping on a pillow that is just a few years old, then there’s a good chance that around one-third of its total weight comes from dead skin, dust mites, and even bugs living inside. To make matters worse, research also shows that bacteria and germs creep into pillows with micro-tears in them and breed. This is a problem since some dangerous germs can live on cotton for periods up to a week.
As a general rule, you should be washing your pillow at least once every 3-6 months. Keep it protected with a pillowcase and wash your pillowcase weekly. Additionally, avoid sleeping on your pillow when it isn’t covered in a case. The oils from your hair, sweat, and dead skin cells accumulate in pillows and they aren’t as easy to run through the laundry as your pillowcase.
Having cloth towels in the kitchen might seem like the best way to dry your hands after washing them or wipe away excess food when you’re cooking. Unfortunately, the cloth fibers of your kitchen towel trap germs and bacteria. With all the surfaces they might come into contact with like mold spores from your sponge or foodborne illness bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli, they are also a breeding ground for germs.
Paper towels aren’t as eco-friendly, but they are single-use and that’s really what you want in high-germ environments like the kitchen. After all, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to wash your hands and then dry with a kitchen towel that has been touching other germy surfaces in your kitchen. Alternatively, stop using your kitchen towels for anything but drying your hands, and be sure to switch them out every few days.
Recent years have brought all the germs on our cell phones into light, especially when you consider how frequently they are handled and how often people bring them into germ-infested areas like work, the bathroom, and the kitchen. The risks of cell phones do not stop there, as recent research shows that the blue light from your phone could also be damaging to your skin.
Blue light is a form of highly visible light that’s typically emitted from screens like our laptop, tablet, or phone. In addition to straining your eyes and causing worsening eyesight, research shows blue light also damages the skin over time. Like sun exposure, blue light advances signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles and also causes dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
At one time, researchers discouraged sleeping with pets simply because it could cause bad habits like possessiveness or even aggressiveness in some breeds. While this has been disproven and veterinarians no longer dissuade people from sleeping with pets for this reason, having your pet sleep with you at night can also cause problems for your health.
The big problem isn’t your pet themselves, but rather, their fur and everything in it that they bring into bed with you. Even people who are not allergic to pets may notice allergies because of dirt, dust, or even mites in their pet’s fur. Fleas, ticks, and other pests that much on housepets are also a concern. If you are going to sleep with your pet, make it a habit to brush them before climbing into bed and keep up on their flea and tick treatments.
A recent study conducted by SafeHome tested various shower curtains and surveyed people about showering habits, and the results may surprise you. The shower curtain is one of the most bacteria-contaminated surfaces in your bathroom, having upwards of 16,000 microbes per square inch. This is far more bacteria than you’d find even on your bathroom toilet.
While most of these bacteria aren’t harmful, shower curtain fibers can trap fecal matter from toilet plumes. Mold and mildew also grow pretty easily on shower curtains, especially if you have a lot of people using the shower and they don’t dry out all the way very often. The best defense is washing your shower curtains at least once a month. For most, just toss them in the laundry to clean.
It’s pretty tempting to use air fresheners to give your home that extra boost of freshness between cleans, particularly in areas like the bathroom or kitchen that might have odors. While this sounds like a good idea, it’s actually dangerous in practice. Recent research from the University of Melbourne shows that around one-fourth of the ingredients in most air fresheners are toxic.
Air fresheners even contain VOCs that are hazardous. While they may not aggravate the average person with healthy lungs, air fresheners could aggravate symptoms in people with asthma, respiratory illness, bronchitis, or other chronic lung or breathing conditions. For that same smell without as much risk, consider wax melts or all-natural air fresheners that don’t contain hazardous ingredients.
Canned foods are always good to have on hand in case of emergency. While it’s well known that improperly stored or sealed canned foods can cause botulism, the Center for Environmental Health recently tested a large sample of canned goods and found that around 40% contained BPA. BPA is the same toxin found in a lot of plastics.
In addition to certain canned foods containing BPA or PVC plastic, there is BPA in the lining of aluminum soda cans. One study linked BPA in soda can liners to heightened blood pressure levels. Participants who drank soda out of a can had BPA levels measured in their urine before and after drinking. A single can increased BPA levels by 1600%.
Regularly checking the chlorine and pH levels of your pool will create an environment that kills bacteria. While this is a good line of defense, you should also encourage people not to swim in your pool or hot tub if they are sick. Any type of illness can be spread, but those with diarrhea symptoms like E. coli are hard to kill in the pool.
Air conditioners have their purpose, particularly if you live somewhere hot where it gets 90-100 degrees or hotter in the summer. They work by pulling the humidity out of the room, cooling it, then releasing cold air back out of the air conditioner. Unfortunately, it also dries the air out in the room which can make dry eyes, dry skin, and dehydration worse.
Air conditioners also irritate the mucus membranes and can make allergies, respiratory illnesses, and asthma worse. Additionally, if they are not well maintained, then air conditioners can blow dust, debris, and mold spores into the air of your home. Cleaning your air conditioner regularly and only using it when necessary reduces some of these risks.
As a general rule, any time that you burn something, there’s a risk of particulate matter being released into the air. While a lot of the myths about why candles are dangerous have been debunked, burning the wick does usually release particulate matter and VOCs. There can also be byproducts from burning the types of wax used to make a candle, though there are also a lot of eco-friendly options out there.
While there is some risk, burning candles doesn’t produce a lot of VOCs or particulate matter as soon as it is burned. A better alternative might be limiting how long you burn candles to an hour or two and avoiding them if you have allergies or asthma that might be aggravated by the smell. Also, be wary of burning any old candles that you have lying around. The CSPC did not ban lead-core wicks until 2003.
The dangers of your living room couch go beyond living a sedentary lifestyle. To begin with, most couches are sprayed with flame-retardant chemicals and made from chemical-laden fabrics. Polyurethane foam used in some fillings can release toxins over time while adhesives used to bind wood together contain formaldehyde. Plus, if you spend a lot of time on your couch, sweat, dead skin cells, and dust all build up on the fabric over time.
Cleaning your couch regularly by washing or vacuuming the cushions will get rid of that build up. You should also avoid sitting on ripped upholstery that exposes you to polyurethane and formaldehyde or use a couch cover to keep your furniture in good shape. Finally, eliminating toxic chemicals by buying food made from natural materials like wool, feathers, leather, or wood also reduces exposure.
Crystal decanters have a beautiful appearance and it’s no surprise that people love using them for storing liquor or decorating their home. Unfortunately, many of these decanters reflect light so well because they are made from lead crystal, a material that contains about 24% lead oxide when it’s produced according to the restrictions in place by the European Union, which are also followed in the United States.
In recent years, the FDA issued a warning on lead crystal after a study found that after four months in a lead decanter, a sample of wine far exceeded the standards set for lead. Additionally, while lead does have a half-life around 36 days, consuming it too often at high levels causes weakness, anemia, and even kidney and brain damage. It’s also very dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children.
According to a report issued in 2017, approximately 77 million Americans lived in an area where the entity in charge of their water supply violated at least one safety regulation. They came to this conclusion after investigating different facilities and water supply systems, finding the most violations in New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
For people who drink tap water, testing your water supply for contaminants can give you peace of mind about what you are putting into your body. Additionally, while buying bottled water isn’t the most eco-friendly choice, there are other alternatives. Using a water filtration system, whether it’s a pitcher in your fridge or a filter that attaches to your tap, cleans your water before you drink it.
Hot tubs are great for relaxing your muscles and can be even used for pain relief. Unfortunately, when hot tubs are not properly cleaned or maintained, they can harbor bacteria and make you sick. Hot tubs can also aggravate skin conditions for some people, especially if they stay in the hot tub for long periods of time. Surprisingly, this dries the skin out and causes itchiness.
The best indicator that a hot tub is properly cleaned is the water. It should be clear in color and free of debris and should not have an odor. The tub itself should also appear clean and feel smooth. Additionally, it also shouldn’t have a strong chlorine smell since adding too much chlorine at once indicates imbalanced levels or the presence of bacteria that needs high levels of chlorine.
Razor burn is characterized by a red rash that appears when you’re done shaving. It can be caused by an old razor, cool temperatures, not enough lubricant, a clogged razor, irritation of the skin or hair follicles, or any other number of problems. Razor burn may be painful, but it can also lead to infection if you have razor bumps that result. These are often ingrown hairs that could become infected with time or cause scarring.
The best way to prevent razor burn is to use good shaving practices, like using a sharp razor, exfoliating beforehand, and avoiding pulling the skin. You can treat razor burn using products like aloe vera gel to reduce redness and burning. Some other home remedies include apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, or a dilution of tea tree oil in water. Using a moisturizer on skin that isn’t broken can also help with itchiness after shaving.
Did you know that your choice in light bulb could be damaging your skin? Certain types of energy-saving bulbs called CFL (compact fluorescent lights) slowly leak UV radiation over time. While this radiation isn’t a large, measurable amount, it is enough that it could damage your skin the same way as UV rays from the sun.
This means that spending a long time under energy-saving lightbulbs could have similar effects in the way it advances the aging process and the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. Applying a moisturizer with SPF protection in the morning could reduce the effects of any types of UV rays, including light bulbs.
You’d be surprised how many dangerous items are in your pantry. Easy breakfasts like cereal are full of processed ingredients and sugars, while comfort foods like soup have unprecedented levels of sodium. Another common pantry item is soybean oil, which is highly processed and much more dangerous than other oils. Artificially flavored pancake syrup is also full of high fructose corn syrup and caramel color, two additives that have been linked to health issues.
The snacks in your pantry are also dangerous. While most of us know that snacking isn’t healthy, there really isn’t anything wrong with eating foods you love in moderation. The problem is that when snacks are easily accessible and you sit down with chips, cookies, or ice cream in front of the TV, you’re likely to eat more. The condiments and dressings you add to otherwise healthy foods could also be adding calories.
Many dog breeds are energetic, particularly when they are young. One of the best ways to ensure your dog lives a long and healthy life is making time to play with them. While it might seem like your pup is ready and willing to play with anything, however, it’s important that you be sure you are choosing toys that are healthy for them to play with, too.
Some things that you should avoid are laser pointers, kid (or adult) toys or stuffed animals that have been repurposed, plastic dog bones, and other dangerous toys that have pieces that might break off. Laser pointers teach your dog to chase light, while other toys are choking hazards. You should also avoid cheaper toys made from plastic that might contain BPA or other toxins.
Nonstick cookware is fairly popular, especially for cooking foods like eggs or cheese that seem to stick to almost everything. Unfortunately, Teflon manufacturers are also in hot water in recent years because of the contents of their non-stick coating. Even if it isn’t breaking away in flakes, the real danger comes from heating Teflon to high temperatures, which causes it to release fumes.
Teflon fumes are dangerous to everyone in the immediate area. They can cause Teflon flu in people, as well as symptoms like headache, fever, diarrhea, and more. Teflon fumes are also toxic to small animals, especially pet birds. It’s best to opt for a safer nonstick alternative like copper or ceramic, or at the very least avoid heating your nonstick pans to high temps.