Environmental Do's and Don'ts
Environmental concerns aren't just about the health of good ol’ Mother Earth – they are about your health, too. Toxins and chemicals from paint to cigarette smoke create hidden hazards in everything from your living space to the air you breathe. Every day is earth day – let’s protect our planet so it can continue to protect us. Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent environmental health hazards for you and your family.
- Go back to basics and make your own cleaning supplies or purchase less toxic household cleaners. Visit Care2 to learn how to make your own cleaning kit, or check out The Green Guide's All-Purpose Cleaners Buying Guide to find out which green cleaning products to purchase.
- Choose healthier materials for home improvement projects, such as natural paints and non-synthetic flooring in the form of wood, bamboo or wool carpet. Choose your furniture wisely, as many furniture manufacturers use flame retardants that can have adverse health affects. One class of flame retardants, called brominated flame retardants (BFRs), has been found at high levels in women’s breast milk. The Safer Products Project lists some safer companies.
- Read your annual tap water quality report. Every year, tap water suppliers publish their water quality tests. Check out your city’s tap water and the Environmental Working Group’s Top-Rated and Lowest-Rated Water Utilities.
- Use a push mower for the lawn. Besides getting a great workout, push mowers avoid emitting air pollutants that are generated by the exhaust of gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment.
- Buy vehicles that give off low levels of nitrogen oxide, such as electric- or gas- powered or alternative-fueled cars. Find and compare cars on the U.S. Department of Energy's Fuel Economy Website or the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Vehicles Guide.
- Protect yourself against carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing at least one CO alarm in your home. Also remember to have your home's heating system, chimney and flue inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician every year.
- Forget to recycle paper, metal, plastic, glass, electronic, household and hazardous materials.
- Buy make-up and personal care products loaded with toxins. Not sure what to look out for? Check out Skin Deep, the cosmetic safety database to find out about safer products.
- Expose yourself unnecessarily to pesticides. Opt for organic foods and do not spray pesticides indoors or outdoors if a pest problem isn’t present. Get rid of left over pesticides at hazardous waste collection centers.
- Let dust pile up in your home, as it can become a host for contaminants. Clean regularly with safe cleaning products!
- Forget to reuse, recover, and recycle rechargeable batteries and electronic devices rather than throwing them in the trash. This is important because certain heavy metals found in these items are environmental estrogens, which can increase risk of breast cancer. Electronics in good condition can be donated to charities, and nearly all parts of a cell phone can be recovered to make other electronics.
- Light up. Smoking cigarettes is not only harmful to smokers, but secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, asthma and even ear infections in children.
- Overdo it with perfume. Creating "scent-free" spaces in your home and work place can reduce headaches and other common side effects of overexposure to perfume and other scented personal care products.
- Forget to be careful with your freshly dry-cleaned clothes, which are often treated with percholoroethylene or perc, a chemical known to cause cancer in animals. Don't accept your dry-cleaning if it has a strong chemical odor when you pick it up.