Thursday, December 31, 2015

Healthy Holiday Cleaning

The holidays can mean having a lot of people over to the house which means a lot of cleaning. But instead of reaching for the bleach or drain cleaner, take the time to read the labels and follow the directions. Many of the cleaning products available in stores today are hazardous. You can tell by reading the signal word and precautionary statements. The signal words are: Warning, Caution, or Danger on the label.

Sure, we see these words on labels all the time, but what do those labels actually mean?

According to the the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) household hazardous products must be labeled accordingly. It was decided that there should be three levels of labeling.

Warning or Caution:
These labels indicate that a product may be “moderately toxic, corrosive, reactive, or flammable”.
This is the second ‘level’ of toxicity and means that a product is highly toxic, flammable, or corrosive. It can cause injury to you through ingestion or skin exposure.
This is the highest level of toxicity that can be listed and means that the product can cause injury or even death if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.

Choosing safer products

The best way to reduce hazardous exposures to you and your family is to use green cleaning methods or by choosing the least hazardous product available when shopping. There are many cleaning products available with hazards low enough to not require one of the signal words. There are also several recipes to create your own green cleaners that are easy and mainly use common household products such as baking soda and vinegar. If you must use a hazardous product, make sure you read the label, use the safety precautions described, and follow the directions. Simply using the product as directed with the best possible safety precautions can reduce exposures.
So the next time your drain is clogged or there’s a stain on your bathroom wall reach for a safer alternative. And you won’t have to worry about toxic exposures for you, your household, your guests and pets.

You can find more tips on how to reduce your family’s exposure to toxins through our Healthy Home Companion.


Monday, December 21, 2015

5 Tips for Safer Holiday Food

One of the most common things to do during the holiday season is prepare food. Here are some tips for safer holiday food.

1. Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
Raw meat and eggs can contain bacteria that can make us sick. Washing your hands with soap and warm water will help reduce the risk of bacteria spreading. Frequent hand-washing also helps reduce the spread of other germs and tiny bits of toxic chemicals that get on our hands as we go about our daily routines.

2. Use a meat thermometer.
Ham, turkeys, and other types of meat are popular this time of year and it’s easy to underestimate how long they should be cooked. Use a meat thermometer to cook meat to its safe minimum cooking temperature. Kitchen thermometers make a great holiday gift!

3. Refrigerate promptly.
Bacteria can grow quickly on cooling food, especially meat. Try to put everything in the fridge as soon as you’re done using it so that bacteria don’t have a chance to grow.

4. Separate, don’t contaminate!
When preparing food, designate one cutting board for meat (including poultry, seafood and eggs) and one for everything else. This will prevent any of the bacteria on meat from getting into other food. Here are some other tips for preventing cross-contamination.

5. Use glass or ceramic containers to store food.
Plastic containers contain phthalates and BPA chemicals linked to long term illness. Even containers that are BPA Free can still contain other chemicals with health concerns. Using glass or ceramic containers to store food reduces exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals.

For more information on foodborne illness visit the CDC’s website.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How to have a ‘Green,’ Healthy and Safe Holiday

If you’re like a lot of people around the holidays, you like to decorate! And this can mean strings and strings of colored lights wrapped around a tree or your house. While these lights are beautiful and help bring about holiday cheer, they also can be costly and, sometimes, hazardous. LED string lights are becoming more common and not only reduce your energy bills around the holidays, but also don’t burn or break as easily as conventional string lights. Nothing like saving ‘green’ while being green! Many holiday lights contain lead, which is toxic to the brain and especially toxic for children whose brains are still developing. Keep small children from touching holiday lights when possible and have everyone wash hands thoroughly after touching holiday lights.

Burning candles releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your indoor air. These VOCs are tiny chemical particles can irritate lungs and cause symptoms in people with asthma or allergies. Candles also present fire and burn hazards especially if there will be small children and pets present in your home. Instead of using real candles, consider using LED candles which give the same warm glow, without all of the fine particulate matter. They also last much longer than conventional candles and can save you money! If you burn candles for a warm holiday scent, try simmering cinnamon sticks in water on the stove instead.

And finally, a holiday tree can be a center point to the holidays. It can be a tradition from some to go cut one down and bring it inside without realizing what they’re hauling in with it. Trees, being plants, carry pollen with them which can cause seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as ‘hay fever’. If anyone in your home has allergies and asthma it may benefit your whole family to go with an artificial tree this year!