These Common Household Items Are Making Your Home Unhealthy
Earbud Headphones Many people prefer the smaller profile of earbud headphones to those that go over the ears. Unfortunately, earbuds are a breeding ground for bacteria… Samantha Davis - September 30, 2022
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.