By now, you know that eating organic drastically lowers the levels of pesticides circulating in your body. But protecting your family from these toxic, often brain-damaging chemicals doesn't end with smarter food choices. Scientists are linking low doses of pesticide commonly found in the home to all sorts of health setbacks, including certain cancers, ADHD, autism, and even asthma and food allergies. While it's clear that pesticides and children don't mix—their young developing bodies are the most severely affected by the chemicals—it's in your entire family's best interest to avoid exposure to these harmful chemicals that are designed to kill.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest to sound the alarm bell when it comes to our everyday encounters with pesticides, noting chronic, low-level exposures are most strongly linked to childhood cancer and neurological damage. As scientists continue to link tiny amounts of pesticides to huge health problems, protect your family by avoiding these 5 hidden sources of pesticides in your home.
Here's how to keep pesticides out of your home:
1. Slay dust bunnies.
Like many other harmful household chemicals, including flame retardants, cancer-causing driveway sealants, and plastics chemicals, pesticides used to kill bugs or tracked into the home on the bottoms of shoes could cling on to dust and become airborne. To stress the importance of habitual household dusting, consider this: A 2009 published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology also found that indoor dust bunnies are often laced with lead and arsenic.
Anti-Pesticide Plan: Dust regularly but avoid store-bought dusting products that may actually pollute your air with harmful fragrance chemicals. Instead, whip up a batch of homemade nontoxic dusting solution by mixing a few drops of cold-pressed, pure organic lemon oil and olive oil with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Make sure your vacuum is equipped with a HEPA filter to keep the dust where it belongs—in the vacuum bag.
2. Pull unsafe toothpaste from the shelf.
Believe it or not, some popular toothpaste and mouthwash brands list "triclosan" as an active ingredient. This antibacterial chemical, technically a registered pesticide, damages the thyroid and could spark allergies, according to several studies.
Anti-Pesticide Plan: Visit Environmental Working Group's Cosmetic Safety Database to find safer alternatives and to rank the safety of your current toothpaste. Xylitol, a compound derived from birch trees, is a more natural tooth protector. (Just keep it away from pets—even though it's natural it causes life-threatening symptoms in dogs.)
3. Tell insect-repelling clothing to buzz off.
Insect-repelling clothing is often laced with permethrin, a chemical that attacks the nervous system of insects. The chemical washes out gradually in the washing machine, meaning the wastewater could harm wildlife. Permethrin is highly toxic to fish and tadpoles. It might not be so hot for humans, either. According to Natural Resources Defense Council, the chemical may cause headaches, asthma attacks, and nausea.
Anti-Pesticide Plan: To deter mosquitoes, avoiding wearing blue, the color that's most attractive to the critters, and follow these nontoxic mosquito repellent tips. To keep ticks from attaching, get a shower within two hours of being outside. Yale researchers found that doing so slashes your risk of contracting Lyme disease.
4. Take cleaner showers.
In one of the strangest findings of 2012, researchers found an association between the breakdown by-product of a common lawn, golf course, and farm pesticide called 2,4-D and higher rates of food allergies.
Anti-Pesticide Plan: More research is needed to better understand this apparent phenomenon, but in the meantime, filter your shower and drinking water to remove chlorine and pesticides. Find proper filtration devices to fit your showers and sinks by searching NSF Certified Product Database.
5. Use less-harmful pet products.
Many flea and tick products are toxic to both pets and people, particularly tetrachlorvinphos and propoxur chemicals found in flea and tick powders and sprays.
Anti-Pesticide Plan: Visit Green Paws Flea and Tick Product Directory to rate your current pet products and find safer alternatives. For natural flea control, comb your pet regularly and toss any fleas you snag into a jar of soapy water. Make washing pet bedding weekly a priority and vacuum under carpets and furniture to control infestations.
Avoid treating your yard with weed- and insect-killing chemicals, too. A 2012 study published in the journal Environmental Research found that dogs with malignant lymphoma were 70 percent more likely to live in a home where professionally applied lawn pesticides had been used.