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Home Detox Checklist

by Dr. Sarah Cimperman

Harmful chemicals linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes permeate our environment. They’re found in air, water, food, household items and personal products. But they aren’t only in the environment, they’re already inside our bodies. According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, residues of more than 400 environmental chemicals have been identified in human blood and fat tissue. And up to 358 different chemicals have been detected in the cord blood of newborn babies. We can’t escape environmental toxins completely, but we can take precautions to minimize exposure inside our homes.

Take Off Your Shoes

One of the easiest ways to prevent outdoor chemicals from becoming indoor toxins is to leave your shoes at the door. Insist that everyone else does too.

Open the Windows

According to the Environmental Protection Association, indoor air pollution is more dangerous than outdoor air pollution, even in the biggest and most industrialized cities. To help exchange and circulate the air inside your home, open your windows as often as you can. Individuals with indoor allergies or chemical sensitivities should also consider high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) air filters.

Filter Tap Water

Activated carbon filters can remove chlorine, lead, mercury, copper, pesticides, solvents, radon, parasites, some volatile organic compounds, and bad tastes and odors from tap water. In addition, reverse osmosis removes fluoride, cadmium, asbestos, bacteria, arsenic, barium, nitrates, nitrites and perchlorate. Reverse osmosis filters use thin membranes to remove 99.97 percent of contaminants 0.3 microns or larger, while ulta-HEPA filters reportedly remove 99.99 percent. Before you buy, check out the water filter buying guide from the Environmental Working Group, available at www.ewg.org/tap-water/getawaterfilter. After you buy, change the filters regularly.

Get the Plastic Out

Replace plastic food and beverage containers with glass, stainless steel or ceramic containers. Avoid foods and drinks that have been packaged in plastic containers, cans and cartons unless they specify "BPA-Free" and "Phthalate-Free" (look for Vital Choice and Eden Organics). Avoid foods that have been packaged in foam material (polystyrene) like disposable cups, take-out containers and egg cartons. Replace plastic wrap with aluminum foil or parchment paper. And eliminate your need for plastic bags by bringing your own reusable shopping bags to the farmers’ market and grocery store.

Nix Non-Stick

Replace non-stick cookware with cast iron, stainless steel, copper, glass or ceramic cookware. If non-stick pans are your only choice, never preheat them when they are empty, use only low heat, never put them in the oven, and discard them as soon as the surface becomes scratched.

Use Cleaner Cleaners

Replace chemical cleaners with essential oils, baking soda and vinegar. Pure essential oils are naturally anti-bacterial and tea tree essential oil is especially effective at removing mold and mildew (avoid synthetic and perfume oils). Baking soda acts as an abrasive agent to remove stains and residue from glass, ceramic, stainless steel and silver. Add a few drops of water to make a baking soda paste for cleaning the stove, sink, counters, toilet and tub. Use white vinegar to polish mirrors and wash windows and floors.

To make your own non-toxic all-purpose cleaner, add one cup of white vinegar, five drops of pure tea tree essential oil, five drops of pure lavender or eucalyptus essential oil, and a half cup of water to a clean spray bottle. Label it with the ingredients and date. Shake the bottle gently before use to re-distribute the essential oils, then spray the cleaner on dirty surfaces and wipe it off with a wet sponge. For tougher cleaning jobs, omit the water and wait a few minutes before wiping it off. Use this cleaner on counters, sinks, stove tops, appliances and tiles. Do not use it on wooden or delicate surfaces.

Avoid Drycleaned Clothes

Find a cleaner who uses wetcleaning, a water-based alternative to solvent-based drycleaning. Wet cleaning uses bio-degradable detergents and a humidity-controlled drying environment to preserve "dryclean only" clothes. If you can’t avoid drycleaned clothes, store them in a well-ventilated spot away from your living area (like the garage) and each time they’re treated, allow them to air out for at least two days before wearing them.

Avoid Fragrances

Get rid of air fresheners and all fragranced household products. Manufacturers are not required to disclose additives regarded as "fragrance," and a single fragrance can contain several hundred ingredients. Remember that "unscented" doesn’t necessarily mean fragrance-free (chemicals may have been added to cover odors). As an alternative to air fresheners, use pure essential oil diffusers. In the laundry room, replace liquid fabric softener with a half cup of white vinegar (mixed with 5 drops of pure lavender essential oil if you wish to scent your clothes) and substitute wool or silicone dryer balls for fragranced dryer sheets.

Research Your Personal Products

According to the Environmental Working Group, we apply 126 unique ingredients to our skin daily and most of them have not been tested for safety. Use the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database to learn what you’re putting on your skin (www.ewg.org/skindeep/). Search by product, ingredient or company to read safety reviews and make good choices when selecting items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, eye drops, contact lens cleaner, bubble bath, skin creams, hair styling products, makeup, nail polish, sunscreen and baby products.

Use Plants to Clean the Air

One six-inch houseplant per 100 square feet of living area can greatly improve indoor air quality. Several species have been shown to filter harmful chemicals including the Boston fern, English ivy, moth orchid, dendrobium orchid, ficus tree, gerbera daisy, heartleaf philodendron, peace lily, pot mum, snake plant, spider plant and several species of dracaena.

Test and Maintain

Have your home tested for mold, radon and lead. Install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector. Use furnace filters with a MERV 7-9 rating (minimum efficiency reporting value) and change them every six weeks. And don’t forget to clean out your air ducts and vents regularly. If you can’t do it yourself, hire professionals.

References available upon request. Dr. Sarah Cimperman is a naturopathic doctor in private practice in New York City. For more information, call 646-234-2918 or visit www.drsarahcimperman .com. Read her blogs online at adifferentkindofdoctor.blogspot.com and naturopathicgourmet.blogspot.com.

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