REAL ESTATE- GIMME SHELTER- Tackling toxins: Could your home be healthier?


Deborah Judson-Ebbets
Ecological Horticulturist and Holistic Health Practitioner, Earth Harmony Education at


Q: We'd like to start making our home environment more healthy and free from toxins. What should we look out for, and how can we do something about it?


A: It is easy to be exposed to toxins in your everyday life. In the United States, researchers the Center of Disease Control have identified the presence of 148 toxic chemicals in the blood and urine of Americans of all ages in 2005. These contribute to asthma, cancer, ADD, ADHD, depression, allergies and other chronic health problems.

Here are a few guidelines for healthy living and avoiding toxins:

Water: Drink filtered water and bathe in it. Taking a shower or bath in chlorine water can cause chlorine gas to be inhaled or absorbed through your skin and go into your bloodstream. You can purchase shower filters that easily attach to your shower nozzle at health food stores or online. Swim in lakes, not chlorinated pools. Avoid bottles containing Bisphenol A, such as hard plastic water bottles and baby bottles. More toxins are leached when plastic bottles are heated. Use stainless steel or glass bottles. 

In the kitchen: Eat organic foods grown without herbicide, pesticides, or fungicides. Avoid foods with artificial dyes and preservatives and aspartame. Aspartame is an excito-toxin that kills brain cells. As much as possible, avoid plastics and aluminum for cooking and storage. Aluminum is suspected in causing Alzheimer's. Use stainless steel or cast iron pans and store foods in glass jars. Use non-toxic cleaners such as baking soda for burned pans, Bon Ami scouring powder for sinks, and white vinegar for sanitizing cutting boards.

Around the house and yard: Avoid all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides – poisons that are dangerous to bugs and humans. Fertilizer/pesticide combinations are often sold as lawn fertilizer. Instead use limestone, rock phosphate, greensand, and compost and pelletized chicken manure for the lawn. For weed control on the driveway, use BurnOut II manufactured in Central Virginia by St. Gabriel Laboratories in Orange; it's made from clove oil, vinegar, and citric acid.

Body care products: Avoid perfumes, colognes, after-shaves, hair-sprays– all scented products– all contain neuro-toxins. Aromatherapy-grade essential oils like lavender oil are a safer alternative. The skin absorbs what you put on your body. Use aluminum-free deodorants. Find a hand-lotion (e.g., in a health food store) that uses ingredients you recognize such as sesame oil, coconut oil, vanilla, and vitamin E.

For the lawn, use Milky Spore powder (a botanical pest control also from St. Gabriel Laboratories) to prevent Japanese beetle grub damage. 

To control termites, use the Sentricon® system, an outdoor Integrated Pest Management system that avoids toxic sprays in the house.

Use Poison-Free Flying Insect Killer from Victor (mint spray oil with no toxic residue) to control wasps and hornets nests. 

Use cedar blocks to prevent moths in wool blankets or sweaters instead of toxic naphthalene moth balls.

Use no-VOC or low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and varnishes. Avoid particle board, plywood, glues, and vinyl carpets. Check out Nature Neutral or the Blue Ridge Eco Shop for alternative building materials. Use wool, cotton, bamboo or sisal rugs. 

Open windows to air out new cars. That "new car" smell indicates volatile chemical compounds that could be a health risk.

Open windows. Even in the most polluted cities, the outdoor air is less toxic than indoor air. 


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