If you’ve been bitten by the home-makeover or spring cleaning bug, be aware that many home furnishings materials, products, and accessories are made of known hormone disruptors — also known as endocrine disruptors — that can negatively impact your health.
Don’t let your home make you sick — be on the lookout for endocrine disruptors in and around your home, and avoid them diligently. For anyone with a thyroid condition or a family member who has one, here are some important points to take into consideration before undertaking a redecorating/renovation project, to arm your home against unwanted chemical invaders.
Select home furnishings made from natural fibers. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are commercially-produced flame retardants that are used in many commercial products. They are also endocrine disruptors that can negatively affect thyroid hormones. Select carpets, carpet pads, bedding, cushions, and upholstered furniture made from such natural fibers such as wool, cotton, and hemp, which are naturally flame-retardant. Decline Scotchguard and stain-resistant Teflon treatments of furnishings and fabrics. Also, avoid furniture made from pressed wood or particleboard; they can release the irritant and toxin formaldehyde.
Here’s great incentive to fix up ripped furniture: Flame retardants are added to polyurethane foam filling in furniture, so if your couch or chair upholstery has any rips or tears, sew these closed (or take them to be repaired) to reduce your exposure.
Avoid phthalates in your household furnishings and items. These endocrine-disrupting plastic softeners are found in polyvinyl (PVC) flooring, wall coverings, shower curtains — even wallpaper and wall coverings. That strong odor that fills the room when you open up a new vinyl shower curtain comes from phthalates, which keep the material pliant. Over time, as the phthalates leak out, shower curtains grow brittle. To avoid exposure to these endocrine disruptors, choose untreated cloth curtains and curtain liners—such as those made from nylon—and natural flooring and wall covering options. (Note: Ikea has some phthalate-free plastic shower liners.)
When decorating, select a paint that is free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as Benjamin Moore’s Natura. Don’t worry that you’ll be restricted by a bland color palette — Natura offers a splendid range of dazzling hues.
In the kitchen, get rid of your Teflon pans, especially if they are old or flaking. The toxin PFOA is used to make Teflon, and studies have found that the chemical may harm the immune system, liver and thyroid and cause raise cholesterol levels in children. In addition to various health concerns, studies have found that thyroid function is affected in PFOA-exposed people, with the effects even at moderate levels of exposure. If you love non-stick pans, check out Cuisinart’s PFOA-free Green Gourmet line of anodized steel nonstick pans.
In the bathroom, make sure that you avoid products that include the antibacterial triclosan. Triclosan is a thyroid-disrupting chemical, and is found in some hand sanitizers, soaps, shampoos, and even toothpastes. Switch to triclosan-free products to minimize exposure.
We spend so much time in bed that it pays to invest in a non-toxic mattress. People love memory foam these days, but many don’t realize that it’s made with 100% petroleum oil. Not very eco- friendly, or kind to your system. Keetsa has innovated Bio-foam, a new type of memory foam that replaces a portion of the petroleum oil with castor bean oil, a natural plant oil. This foam has no detected harmful VOCs and no detected formaldehyde.
Avoid air fresheners and chemically scented products, which merely fill your home atmosphere with yet more toxic chemicals. Open the windows regularly for fresh air, but close and seal them tight whenever your area is being sprayed with pesticides to kill West Nile Virus — those pesticides are also endocrine disruptors, and particularly harmful to the thyroid. For a fragrant flourish that’s safe, dab your favorite essential oil onto your light bulbs, which will mutltitask as a home fragrance differ! In warm weather, you can also gently scent the air by adding a few drops of, say, lavender oil or patchouli to your air conditioner’s filter when you clean it.
Last, but not least, if you have companion animals, be aware that toxic chemicals also lurk in certain pet products and accessories, many of which are made of PVC. Dog beds contain fillers treated with fire retardants, which are endocrine disruptors. (To check out which pet products are and aren’t safe, see HealthyStuff.org, which also provides a comprehensive list of safe/unsafe children’s toys and accessories.) Meanwhile, plastic food and water bowls contain phthalates, so it’s best to feed and water your pets with metal or glass bowls. Also avoid using chemical flea/tick repellents on pets; these are pesticides, and known endocrine disruptors. To keep fleas, ticks, and mosquitos away from your best friends, you can make your own flea/tick powder, using non-toxic neem oil and diatomaceous earth instead.
Do you have any helpful, thyroid-friendly pointers for home to share? Please let us know in the comments!