Janelle Sorensen is the Chief Communications Officer for Healthy Child Healthy World. Simultaneously, she takes care of her sweet little girls, cooks, cleans, gardens, reads, bikes, hikes, crafts, laughs, speaks using silly voices and accents, drafts environmental policies, works on a Master's Degree, and tries to keep up with social media. Well, typically not all at the same time.

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10-Minute Healthy Home Makeover

No matter how busy you are, now there are no excuses for not making a healthier home. Here’s how you can make a significant difference in only 10 minutes! Set your timer and follow these steps:

Step 1 – Open some windows. Indoor air is typically far more polluted than outdoor air. In fact, the indoor air in the typical American home contains over 500 chemicals, according to a study published in April 2009. Opening windows for even a few minutes a day can vastly improve your indoor air quality. Open one right now so that during the ten minutes you are doing your home makeover, you’ll be letting contaminated air out and fresh air in.

Step 2 – Dust electronics. One type of toxic chemical commonly found in household dust is flame retardants. According to “Tech Secrets: 21 Things ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know,”

  • Though electronics manufacturers have made great strides in reducing their use of harmful chemicals in recent years, tech gear still may contain brominated flame retardants–chemicals used to reduce the risk of fire that studies have linked to lower IQs in children and reduced fertility rates.
  • “BFRs used in the manufacture of circuit boards can be converted to highly toxic brominated dioxins and furans if the products are burned at the end of their life,” says Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and a visiting professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley.
  • But even daily use can be dangerous, says Blum. “When used in plastic casings, BFRs can also migrate out of the plastic into the dust in the room and then enter the body via the hand-to-mouth contact.”
  • The Fix: While major manufacturers such as Apple, Dell, and HP have moved away from BFRs in recent years, certain products built before 2009–especially devices that generate a lot of heat, like laptops and laser printers–may still contain BFRs, says Michael Kirschner, associate director of the Green Science Policy Institute. “Do some research,” says Kirschner. “Almost all vendors now have an environmental section on their Websites that tells you about the materials they use.”

For immediate health protection, keep electronic equipment dust-free by damp dusting it frequently.

Step 3 – Make a shoe drop-spot. Consider every place you walk when you leave your house and then think of what you could be tracking back inside – pesticides from a freshly sprayed lawn, lead dust from contaminated soil, gasoline from stopping to fuel your car, feces from your neighbor’s dog, and much more. One of the most recent studies published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology, found that toxic coal tar, a known carcinogen used in driveway sealants (among other places), is tracked into homes from driveways and parking lots. Keep contaminants out by leaving dirt at the door. Find a large basket or decorative box to keep shoes in by your home’s entryways. Hopefully you have something on hand, but, if not, you can use a laundry basket until you find a more attractive replacement.

Step 4 – Clean out your cleaning cabinet. Conventional cleaning products can contain many dangerous chemicals, which are usually not listed on the labels. So, whether you keep your cleaners in a closet or under the sink, grab a box and get rid of any with warning labels (danger, warning, or caution). Toss the box in the trunk of your car and drop it off at your local Household Hazardous Waste site the next time you’re in the area. Don’t know where your local drop-off is? Enter your zip code at Earth911.com to find out. Keep your home clean and healthy by purchasing non-toxic cleaners or making your own using these recipes for safer cleaners.

Step 5 – Purge plastics. Plastics, which are used for most of our food packaging, storage and serving, can pose potential health risks. Originally, manufacturers thought these chemicals were “locked” into the product, but more and more studies show they are not. Some plastics leach harmful chemicals into foods and drinks, especially when they come in contact with fatty or acidic foods, during heating and microwaving, or as a result of wear and tear. Grab a box or bag and quickly go through your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Toss any plastic that’s scratched or worn, as well as any with the numbers 1, 3, 6, or 7 which have been shown to be more prone to leaching. If you can’t find the number (usually located on the bottom of the product in a chasing arrow symbol), call the manufacturer. Don’t know who made it? Consider it guilty unless you can prove it’s safe. Better safe than sorry! Recycle the plastics if possible. Otherwise, think of creative ways to re-use them: sandbox toys, bath tub toys, for gardening, craft supply storage, etc.

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