Purging these 14 products will make you healthier
You may have several items in your home that are potentially harmful to your health. Read on for a list of 14 items you may want to purge.
In the Kitchen:
Older plastic containers: A chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA, is found in plastic not marked BPA-free and has been linked to high blood pressure. Small amounts of this chemical are transferred to food, and it’s unknown the amount acceptable to be safe for health. Throw away any containers you know not to be BPA-free, and for a tidier house, toss any plastic container without a matching lid.
Unhealthy foods: Your diet is linked to your heart health, brain health, diabetes risk and overall health. Toss anything with too much added sugar, sodium and saturated fats, as well as simple carbohydrate foods like pastries and white bread, deli and processed meats, fried foods, artificial sweeteners and anything with trans fats.
Leftovers: According to the FDA, animal-based leftovers should be tossed after 2-3 days. To keep food at its safest temperature, set your refrigerator to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to prevent growth of harmful bacteria and viruses that can lead to illness, says Dr. Stephen Sokalski, an infectious disease specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. He adds that it’s a good idea to measure the temperature of the fridge to make sure it’s accurate.
Counter-top clutter: As kitchen counters are one of the 10 dirtiest items in the home, according to research by NSF International, a global public health and safety organization, anything you can do to make counters easier to clean is a must. Store away everything you don’t use on a daily basis, and take anything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen – including piles of paperwork – to its proper location.
Around the House:
Cleaning products: Many common cleaning products (and dryer sheets) are full of strong chemicals and artificial fragrances. You can make your own cleaning products with common household supplies like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda. There are also a number of cleaning products on the market now that are made with ingredients safe for use around adults, children and pets. The earth-friendly products use essential oils instead of chemicals for fragrance, and don’t contain the following harmful ingredients the Environmental Working Group (EWG) advises you avoid: ammonia, chlorine, glycol solvents, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, artificial colorants, phosphates and petroleum distillates.
Antibacterial washes: While the product sounds good, the chemical ingredient called triclosan, originally used strictly in hospital settings, has not been found to be more effective for home use, and some studies suggest triclosan may lead to other health problems.
“Antibacterial soaps specifically target bacteria, but not the viruses that cause the majority of seasonal colds and flus.” says Dr. Sokalski. He advises that you skip the antibacterial hand cleaner and wash hands regularly with plain soap (or hand wash) and water.
Air fresheners and scented candles: When you use spray fresheners or burn scented candles, you can inhale chemicals the candles release into the air, including benzene and formaldehyde. Many people are also sensitive to the fragrance in the candles, which can trigger asthma and headaches, says Dr. Uma Gavani, an allergy and asthma specialist at Advocate Christ.
To give your house the fragrance you desire, use essential oils or burn unscented vegetable-based candles.
Paperwork and clutter: Doorways, walkways and hallways should be clear of clutter. Make sure electrical cords and other tripping hazards are not laying in walkways.
“Piles of paper and clutter can trigger allergies from dust, pet dander and mold and increase potential asthma issues,” says Dr. Gavani. To reduce allergy and asthma triggers, try scanning papers and receipts you want to keep and throw away the paper clutter. Tax-related documents should be kept for a minimum of three years and a maximum of seven.
Toxic plants: Azaleas, lily-of-the-valley, peace lilies and daffodils are toxic to children and pets. Keep them out of the home or out of reach of little hands and paws.
Old and improper shoes: “To avoid damage to ligaments in muscles in the legs and feet, it’s important to ditch shoes whose treads show wear and tear,” says Dr. Paul DeFrino, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankles issues at Advocate Christ. “Runners should toss shoes after 350 miles and walkers after 500, even if they don’t look old.”
Dr. DeFrino also advises everyone stop wearing flip flops instead of shoes, as “they provide no support to the majority of the foot and can lead to pulled tendons and other injuries.”
Make-up: Cleaning supplies are not the only products with potentially harmful chemicals. Avoid products with these ingredients as recommended by the EWG: BHA, BHT, parabens, dibutyl phthalate, siloxanes and formaldehyde. Make-up can accumulate bacteria over time; consider using these make-up expiration guidelines: mascara should be thrown out after three to four months, lip gloss after six months, liquid foundation and lipstick after a year and powder-based products after two years.
Nail polish and polish remover: White streaks on nails are often the result of polishes and polish removers with formaldehyde. Avoid nail products with formaldehyde, skip toe nail polish during the winter and give all nails periodic breaks from polish.
Unused exercise equipment: If you have exercise equipment collecting dust and becoming a clothes hanger, let go of the guilt and donate or sell it. “If a past purchase doesn’t work for you, don’t try to force it. The key is to find a type of exercise you like so you are more likely to stick with it,” says Brandon Nemeth, a fitness specialist with Advocate Christ.
Mementos and souvenirs: “If not stored properly, old papers, books, stuffed animals and other keepsakes can harbor bacteria, mold and fungi,” says Dr. Gavani. Favorite items should be displayed. If childhood and inherited items are just boxed up in the back of a cabinet or laying around in a damp basement, it may be time to let them go, or at the very least, take the time to store them properly.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”