Two months ago was a major milestone for my husband and me…we had our first child. My husband and I are the proud parents of our first born, well, really, our first home. Though this is my first experience as a homeowner and have no experience as a parent (other than being a “parent” to my 3 year old Dachshund mix, Riley) I imagine the amount of time, energy and care that we are putting into our new home is a responsibility perhaps not all that unlike becoming a parent. To all you parents out there, I am sure this is not a great comparison but for me, viewing my house as my child allows me to understand that the health of the house, just as those living in it, is vital. Just in the month that we officially owned our house we learned about so many important things that needed to be taken care of right away-such as fumigation and spraying for bugs, painting and fixing up the floors, etc…Most people move into a house, find the best person for the job whether from a referral or advertisement or something, and just get it done. They won’t think about the details-what substances and chemicals are being used in the home, what the health risks may be and if there are any alternatives. Why would they? Only until very recently, the options were limited or just not as easy to locate.
As we make the decisions about who to use, I am always trying to find out if there is a healthier alternative. For example, Center Termite, the company we used for spraying and fumigation use chemical free, environmentally friendly pest spray, at comparable prices! I got three quotes and though Center Termite was a tad more expensive they were happy to match the other quotes. So why not??? Why not cut back on the toxins right off the bat when the option is available for the same amount of money?

Next came painting. I decided to take a crack at painting myself (something I vow never to do it again and hope you never choose to do it yourself either!) and made sure I bought the low VOC which are volatile organic compounds (toxins) to make sure it was as harmless to both myself and the environment as possible. These days there are so many alternative paints that are water based, soy based, and even some made of a milk protein ( My husband, Karl, suggested I keep paint thinner handy for any mishaps along the way. MANY mishaps later, I discovered I could simply use water to quickly wipe the wet paint off the floor, rather than paint thinner. And thank goodness! If you haven’t used it before, let me tell you-there is a reason why teenagers are using it to get high! It is probably one of the most toxic things I have ever smelled. Yikes! Just another example of how many toxic things can end up in your home that you may not even need!

Bleach happy? I can honestly say my husband is a very bleach-happy person and though I haven’t been able to wean him off his weekly date with bleaching his whites, I have at least switched to the non-chlorinated stuff (Seventh Generation makes a good one). It is a battle I will continue to fight. You may be thinking I am being overly sensitive, but you WEAR your clothes all day, you SLEEP in your bleached sheets every night (which is typically ONE THIRD OF YOUR LIFE!)….how is that affecting your health? If you insist on the whitest of whites, all I am suggesting is at least becoming AWARE of how often you use it, what kind of bleaches and detergents you are using, and if it is worth it for you. Become educated.

In our previous apartment, we had a wonderful housekeeper named, Flora. She had been doing her job for years and when she first came to my apartment, she wasn’t exactly thrilled to see the cleaning products I had left for her-Seventh Generation dishwashing soap, Bar Keepers Friend for the bathroom tile (less abrasive and bleach free), Mrs. Meyers countertop spray, etc…She explained to me that it would be better if I bought the “regular” supplies as it would clean the place much better and I told her no, so she shrugged her shoulders and went to work scrubbing away with her 409. Later she told me that she loves how Comet cleans the bathroom and insisted it enough that I let her do it her way.

Not even a year later, Flora came for her monthly visit and expressed to me that she was suffering from a terrible disease and was very sick. She told me her doctor believed it was from years of cleaning homes with the various chemicals. She said she would no longer be cleaning any homes with anything other than the more natural, chemical-free products. No more Comet for her. Just six months later she had to stop working because she became so ill.

What about your yard? Have small children or dogs? What kinds of plants are growing in your yard? Do you know? Our fence was lined with Morning Glory-a beautiful purple flowering ivy that is essentially a very toxic weed. As beautiful as those flowers were, it had to be the first thing to go. What are you fertilizing your grass with? Again, think about your children and pets that may be playing out there all day and make sure to consider this when you plant your gardens and grow your lawns.  The list goes on and on. If nothing else, just become aware of your choices for the health of your home, just as you are constantly making choices for you and your family’s health because at the end of the day, your health will be affected by the health of your environment.  It is where you LIVE.

(Click here for a great guideline for improving the health of your home)