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5 Steps To Help Green Your Home

 

We know that going green today impacts our kids' future. Yet there's suddenly so much info out there telling us how to be kinder to ourselves and to the earth, one could be forgiven for not quite knowing where to begin.

We suggest taking these five steps. Not only are they good for the earth, they're important for your family's health now. Could there be a better place to start?

1. Renovate with care

Any house built before 1978 likely has lead paint. If that applies to your place, make sure it has no peeling, flaking, chipping or chalking paint, or lead-painted areas like windowsills that children can chew on. If you're not sure, or if you have decided to strip surfaces and renovate, consult a state-certified lead-abatement specialist. For more info on lead, check out the Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet here.

If you're installing wall-to-wall carpet, reduce chemical emissions by using low-VOC (volatile organic compound) glues. Avoid carpeting treated with stain-resistant finishes, and ask your supplier to air out the carpet before installation. Better yet, consider area rugs in natural fibers or new inexpensive polyurethane blends, which are easier to clean than carpet, too.

When you're choosing baby furniture, do your best to avoid pieces made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF), a pressed wood product that contains high amounts of toxic glues. Other types of pressed wood, such as particleboard and plywood, also use toxic adhesives, but in smaller amounts.

2. Avoid BPA bottles

About 80 percent of the baby bottles on the market today are made from poly-carbonate plastic (recycling number 7 on the bottle), which contains a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA can leach from plastic into our bodies, and has been linked to breast and prostate cancers, and infertility. Can enough BPA leach from bottles to cause problems? The chemical industry, not surprisingly, says no; the National Institutes of Health says maybe; and many independent scientists - along with about 100 studies on animals - say yes.

Don't take a chance. Instead, buy glass (glass bottles really don't break easily), or opaque, less shiny polyethylene bottles (recycling numbers 4 or 5); the same goes for sippy cups. If the make is unclear, call the company. Avoid canned foods and drinks; cans are lined with BPA. And hand-wash all plastic food containers; wear and tear increases leaching.

3. Check for PVC in toys

Lead in toys is illegal, but squishy toys and teethers can legally contain the harmful softener polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Like BPA, PVC is suspected of causing developmental issues. Many manufacturers have already phased it out, but check labels to make sure your rubber ducky says "PVC-free," or, better yet, call the manufacturer and ask. Can't find a phone number? Don't buy the toy.

4. Buy organic

According to tests from the Environmental Working Group, most non-organic baby food contains noticeable levels of pesticides. Those pesticides can end up in our bodies and, scarily enough, scientists aren't at all sure how they a baby's developing system. They do suspect that many of these chemicals are carcinogens.

Thanks to popular demand, organic baby foods are becoming readily available, and they're not much more expensive than the non-organic varieties. As you introduce your baby to more foods, try sharing your meals with her; that way you're all eating organic together. All you need is a baby-food mill. Put a couple of spoonfuls of veggies from your dinner into the mill (before you add salt or fats), turn the handle a few times to make a puree, and presto! A real family dinner.

5. Use mild cleaners

Cleaning products with ammonia or bleach can irritate a baby's delicate lung tissues. Stick with the low-tox cleaning brands that are appearing on supermarket shelves or use a mix of vinegar, oil-based soap and a splash of lemon juice, which is safe, cheap and works great. And speaking of lung irritants, you already know not to smoke or let others smoke around the baby, right?

This information is not a substitute for personal medical, psychiatric or psychological advice.

 

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