Your Home: A Toxic Waste Dump?

You’ll be surprised to discover all the hidden hazards in your home. Here’s your guide to keeping house and tossing the toxins.

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We hear so much about getting rid of pollutants in the environment, but nobody ever talks about the toxins we use in our homes every day. The fact is that many of the cleaners and products we rely on to keep our houses healthy, beautiful and bacteria free are too toxic to be put in landfills or even poured down the drain. So what are we doing keeping them around our loved ones?

The answer is wasting money and putting our health at risk. Commit to getting rid of toxic trouble spots by taking these simple steps.

Toxic Trouble Spot: Granite countertops

Granite, a popular rock used to fabricate kitchen countertops, emits radon, a naturally occurring gas that has radioactive properties. Radon is the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking. Experts recommend you test your granite countertops and at your home's foundation level to see how much radon is being emitted. Testing only on the countertop could provide a false sense of security since radon gas tends to accumulate at floor level.

Detox Tip

You can find easy-to-use radon-detecting tests at your hardware store. Open the box and leave one on the counter and one in your basement (another common place to find radon) for several days. Then simply ship the test to the manufacturer and wait for the results. To learn more about safe levels of radon and when and how you should eliminate it from your home, visit the Environmental Protection Agency .

Toxic Trouble Spot: Nonstick pans

A few years ago, word got out that you should ditch any Teflon pans with coatings that were peeling or chipped, because they leech unhealthy chemicals into your food. Now experts say that even new pans can put your health at risk if you overheat them. Nonstick pans contain perfluorinated chemicals that are released into the air at a certain temperature. These chemicals can block the action of estrogen in our bodies (possibly damaging fertility), harm your lungs and have even been known to kill pet birds whose cages were kept in kitchens.

Detox Tip

Don't preheat nonstick pans, and, if you can, switch to anodized aluminum pans, which will not release toxins and are nonstick.

Toxic Trouble Spot: Household cleaners

Ever read the back of a bottle of cleaner? Between the multisyllabic chemicals you can't pronounce and the warnings to keep children and pets away from them, it's no wonder many people wind up in the emergency room when they ignore those warnings. One of the most dangerous mistakes you can make? Accidentally mixing ammonia (found in window cleaner) with chlorine bleach (found in all types of cleaners). The result is chlorine gas, which as an agent of chemical warfare in World War 1.

Detox Tip

Ditch the toxic chemicals lurking under your kitchen cabinet, on the shelf in your bathroom and out in the garage. Then mix your own cleaner that will kill bacteria and leave your surfaces shining.

Mix together

1 tbsp of Borax powder (find it in the laundry aisle of your supermarket)

3 tbsps of white vinegar

2 cups of water

1 tablespoon of dish soap

1 drop of essential oil such as peppermint for fragrance (optional)

Pour it into a spray bottle you bought at the hardware store, give it a shake, and you are ready to clean. For windows, use white vinegar wiped down with newspapers, and to disinfect toys and other kids' products fill a spray bottle with non-chlorine bleach (3% hydrogen peroxide) and wipe with a paper towel.

Bonus: Cleaning out harsh chemicals is not only better for your health, it's good for the environment, because you drastically cut back on your plastic use by eliminating all those bottles of mildew cleaner, window washer, bathtub scrub, and more.