It’s convenient to drop your clothing off with a dry cleaner, but the cleaning chemical of choice in this country remains perchloroethylene, also known as PCE, or perc. This chemical is classified a probable carcinogen and is linked to kidney, liver, and central nervous system damage. It’s not something you want to wear or have holed up in your home closet.
Flame-retardant chemicals can be found in electronics, carpets, carpet padding, and furniture foam. They’ve been associated with a wide range of health problems, including infertility, thyroid problems, learning disabilities, and hormone disruption. In the event they come in contact with a lit candle or cigarette, the chemicals only delay a fire, and for just a few seconds. When these flame retardants do burn, they release higher levels of carbon monoxide and soot, the two leading causes of fire-related deaths, than non-treated materials.
When shopping for new furniture, call the manufacturer and ask if it contains flame retardants. If you see a tag that says “complies with California Technical Bulletin 117,” avoid bringing home that piece of furniture. California requires all upholstered furniture to be flame retardant, and nearly all furniture sold in the US is made to comply with this law.
Nasty indoor air-polluting culprits, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) could be trashing your indoor air, especially in the kitchen, the basement, or even the laundry room. Scented, petroleum-based laundry detergents contain high levels of VOCs. These hazardous chemicals are linked to asthma and, in some instances, even cancer, and they add to indoor air pollution. Pressed wood and particleboard cabinets and other furniture are big emitters of VOC and carcinogen formaldehyde.
Choose unscented, plant-based detergents, or go old-school and use washing soda or borax to clean your clothing. For new paint projects, choose readily available no-VOC paint, and avoid storing paint in your garage or basement. Fumes can escape even tightly closed lids and enter your home. If you have leftover paint, take it to a waste-collection facility for recycling.
Some environmental health groups have dubbed vinyl the “poison plastic,” due to its harmful production process and its effects on humans. Vinyl is laced with phthalates, chemical plastic softeners linked to hormone disruption, stunted growth, obesity, and other health problems.
For flooring, opt for wood, bamboo, or cork that’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or for real linoleum, instead of vinyl. Avoid plastic shower-curtain liners, as well as fake leather furniture, clothing, and accessories, to cut down on phthalate exposure.