Today you’ll find chemicals everywhere, from furniture, toys and carpets to clothes, detergents, bodycare products, insect sprays and so on. These often-toxic chemicals find their way into our air, soil and waterways (for instance, from landfill sites or detergents washed down our drains). And this everyday “chemical cocktail” has been linked to cancers, allergies, birth defects and more. In truth, no-one really knows what effect this constant low-level exposure to so many chemicals will have on our long-term health. But if you’d rather not be part of this vast experiment you can buy natural domestic cleaners, air fresheners and insect repellents. Or you can make your own.

Chemical facts
• It has been estimated there are between 70,000 and 100,000 synthetic chemicals in common use today. • Most people now have about 400 synthetic chemicals in their blood. • Indoor air quality is typically five times worse than outdoors, but the average Australian spends more than three-quarters of their lives indoors. • Every year 3,500 children under five in Australia are admitted to hospital with poisoning after swallowing household cleaners, bleaches, medicines, etc.

chemicals: key steps

  1.  Natural cleaners. Look for cleaning brands that are free of synthetic chemicals. Or make your own cleaners using simple ingredients such as bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and lemon.
  2. Use microfibre cloths and mops. Clean tiles, kitchen tops and floors without detergent. Good-quality ones last years.
  3. Pest control. Buy natural pest control products (available in health stores or online ecostores). Use flyscreeens and swatters, and tolerate insect-eating non-venomous spiders. Remove stagnant water from your garden to stop mosquitoes breeding.
  4. Air-fresheners. Open windows for fresh air instead of using sprays. Use natural pot-pourri, scented candles, essential oil burners or water sprays with essential oils. Indoor plants absorb toxins and improve air quality.

want to do more?
♦ Avoid dry-cleaning as it leaves chemicals on your clothes.
♦ Get a high-pressure steam cleaner to clean floors.
♦ Avoid furniture and furnishings treated with brominated flame retardants (IKEA doesn’t use them), and furniture made from plywood/MDF, which often contains formaldehyde.
♦ Choose furnishings made of natural, untreated materials such as linen, hemp, organic cotton, canvas, glass, untreated wood and clay.
♦ You spend a third of your life asleep so keep your bedroom free of synthetic chemicals by painting your bedroom walls with natural paints and buying organic cotton bedding.


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