Magazine article Working Mother


Magazine article Working Mother


Article excerpt

Cathy O'Rourke found comfort in scrubbing, spritzing and spraying her home with an arsenal of cleaning supplies she stored under the sink. But things changed when her 6-year-old son developed asthma. "I started reading the labels on things I was using. The long lists of crazy-sounding chemicals made me think about their effect on the air in our home," says the 37-year-old dental hygienist. "Now if there's a chemical I can't pronounce, I don't buy the product."

When we think air pollution, we think outdoors. But the chemicals in everything from beauty products to food to furniture mean the air inside can be worse than outside. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air quality- in our homes, cars, workplaces and schools- as among the nation's top five environmental risks to public health. So how do we clean it up? We make healthier choices for our family and the planet. Here, we clear the air by cutting through marketing lingo to help you make confident choices when buying the essentials.


"There are so many easy things you can do to remove toxins in your home, where allergy and asthma triggers like dust, mold, pets, pests, smoke and environmental pollutants can make it tough to breathe," says Sonya Lunder, senior analyst for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG). To start, she suggests avoiding fragrances, never smoking indoors and not letting your car run inside the garage. Here are other simple changes to make your home a nontoxic haven.

Air fresheners Sure, you want your home to have a clean, fresh scent, but most candles and air fresheners have synthetic (read: chemical) fragrances. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that 12 of the 14 air fresheners it tested - even ones claiming to be "all natural" - contained phthalates; they have been linked to hormone disruption, birth defects and reproductive problems. And a European study found they also contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals like benzene, which the EPA has classified as a carcinogen. For good ventilation, open windows or use fans. Still want to scent? Try candles made with essential oils instead of synthetic fragrances, like Big Dipper aromatherapy candles (

Food and cooking Organic foods can cost more, but fruits and vegetables grown on conventional farms are often coated with residue from pesticides (80 percent of which are potential carcinogens). And those can be ingested, even after rinsing the food with water. If cost is an issue, then pick your battles wisely. Try to go organic on the biggest offenders- crops that use the most pesticides, like apples (and apple juice), lettuce and peaches. Check out food for a ranking of nonorganic produce and pesticide contamination (avocados and onions, for instance, rank low on the list). For meat and milk, look for labels that say "no added growth hormones." Avoid food and infant formulas in aluminum cans, because they are lined with bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to obesity, diabetes and breast cancer.

Cleaners "Bleach and ammonia are powerful cleaning agents, but they irritate kids' lungs," says Lunder. Natural all-purpose cleaners made from plants and minerals, like Green Works ( and BabyGanics (, get the mopping and dusting done without releasing harmful chemicals. When loading the washing machine, use phosphate-free detergents like Mrs. Meyer's ( Also, consider replacing traditional dryer sheets (the/re coated with potentially carcinogenic chemicals) with the addition of half a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Bath Labels can be deceptive, so the EWG makes it easy to find bath and beauty products that are healthy for you and your family. Simply check its safety guide at and avoid potentially hazardous ingrethents like triclosan, BHA, oxybenzone, sodium lauryl sulfate and fragrances. The health advocacy group also suggests avoiding suspected hormone disruptors, including parabens and oxybenzone. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.