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Reducing Toxins in Your Home

One of the best ways you can reduce the exposure of people and wildlife to toxins in the environment is to eliminate them from your own home. There are many simple, safe and effective steps that you can take to reduce the use of chemicals in the home. The list below is just a start so that you can live a healthier and greener life. (You cna also check out thisblog post written by the Center's Jonathan Evans about how to protect wildlife, children and pets from rodenticides, and listen to a radio interview with him.)


  • Household Cleaners: Though helpful around the house, all-purpose cleaners contain toxins that not only irritate the skin but cause respiratory infections. Household staples — like scrubber sponges, water, vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda — can oftentimes be combined to mimic the effect of all-purpose cleaners.
  • Dishwashing Soap: While not containing any direct toxins, many name-brand dishwashing soaps are petroleum-based and thus contribute to our reliance upon oil. Consider a non-petroleum-based product next time you head to the store.
  • Hand Sanitizers: Hand sanitizers that contain triclosan can cause damage to the liver, disrupt thyroid hormones, and contribute to drug resistance. When looking for an antibacterial agent be sure to opt for ones that are alcohol, not triclosan, based.
  • Plasticware: Plastic containers provide a great way to store and transport food — but make sure that yours are BPA free. Plastic labeled with 3, 6 or 7 may contain BPA, so stick with items labeled 4, 5 or 12. Another important thing to remember is never microwave plasticware. Just because the label says it won’t melt doesn’t mean chemicals from the container won’t seep into your food. Alternatives to plasticware include stainless steel, ceramic and glass containers.
  • Food: Avoid pesticides and GMOs when shopping for food. Buy organic produce whenever possible. Eliminating pesticides is not only good for you and your family; it also discourages the use of these chemicals in commercial farming and is thus good for the environment.


  • Toilet Bowl Cleaners: Toilet bowl cleaners oftentimes contain sulfates that irritate the lungs and burn eyes and skin. Scrubbing a toilet with baking-soda water paste will remove mildew and stains in a much safer manner.
  • Glass Cleaners: Ammonia is a common, and toxic, ingredient found in most glass cleaners. Water mixed with some white wine vinegar or lemon juice is a much safer way to clean windows.
  • Drain Cleaners: Drain cleaners are made up of some of the most dangerous toxins around, and can be fatal if ingested. To avoid using drain cleaners we suggest putting screens over drains to capture drain-clogging particles; then use a plunger or “snake” plumbing device to manually remove blockage should it occur.

Living Room

  • Rodenticides: The best way to eliminate rodents is through proactive management — make sure that trash is stored in bins and that there are no holes in exterior walls. Should a rodent problem occur, traps are a less-toxic alternative to rodenticides. Just be sure to keep those traps away from areas where children and animals may find them.
  • Air Fresheners: In trying to rid a room of an unfavorable odor you could actually be irritating your allergies and causing harm to your reproductive system, as many air fresheners contain phthalates. Instead of using a store-bought remedy, open a window to improve ventilation.
  • Furniture: Many new pieces of furniture contain perfluorinated chemicals and volatile organic compounds — substances that are stain and flame resistant. These chemicals, however, cause cancer and developmental problems. To avoid them buy vintage furniture or ask about toxin-free options at your furniture store.


  • Flea and Tick Control for Pets: Flea and tick medications are necessary pesticides for household pets — but it is important that they be used cautiously. Two important usage tips: Use the medication only for the specified animal, and use only the recommended amount — don’t think that twice the amount will do twice the job.
  • Lawn and Garden Pesticides: Many pesticides used on lawns and gardens contain carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or can irritate human tissues. Pesticides should be avoided altogether in the household. Instead practice soil-management techniques like crop rotation, plant pest-repellent herbs and flowers, or use organic gardening techniques.



Tehachapi slender salamander photo © Gary Nafis, www.californiaherps.com