We all have pets. Even you – even if you do not have Fido, Kitty-kitty, Bubbles, or Tweety, you have pets – you know the bunnies under the bed, the couch, and in the corners; dust bunnies that is.
It turns out that those fuzzy bunnies in all shapes and sizes may carry more toxins and allergens than any real pet you may feed.
According to a recent study by the Silent Spring Institute (of the Rachel Carson fame) 66 hormone disrupting chemicals; including flame retardants, home-use pesticides, and phthalates, are in household dust. Further corroborated by an Environmental Protection Agency study and reported in Environmental Science & Technology, provided proof that pesticides can be tracked into residences on shoes. People and pets that walk on pesticide treated lawns can pick up pesticides and herbicides, like 2,4-D, for up to a week after application. The study found that "track-in" exposures of pesticides may, "…exceed those from pesticide residues on nonorganic fresh fruits and vegetables."
I have a close friend who has a degree in microbiology and is quite the germo-phobe. However, scouring your home with cleaning products may not be the answer either. Most commercial cleaners may be more toxic than what you are trying to clean. So, the Environmental Working Group came up with an action plan to tackle the dust and round-up those bunnies once and for all!
- Vacuum frequently with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. Vacuums with these filters are more efficient at trapping small particles and can remove contaminants and other allergens that a regular vacuum would recirculate into the air. Change the filter, or wash it out, often. Don't forget to vacuum stuffed furniture, too. Under cushions, underneath sofas and chairs.
- Wet mop uncarpeted floors frequently to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating. Dry mopping can kick up the dust and just move it around. I have a doctor that I go to for asthma and allergies; he's long recommended wooden furniture, or furniture filled with wool, polyester, cotton, or down, as does the EWG. These are unlikely to contain fire retardant chemicals. (You have to weigh which is more important to you personally.)
- Wipe furniture with microfiber or damp cotton cloths; doing this, you can skip synthetic sprays and wipes when you dust – they only add unwanted chemicals.
- Caulk and seal cracks and crevices to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating in hard-to-reach places (and it helps to keep bugs and wind out!).
- Equip the heating or cooling system with high-quality filters and change them frequently. This may be one of the easiest and least expensive ways to keep dust down in this house.
- Avoid ozone air purifiers – ozone irritates lungs and does not remove dust or other airborne particles.
- Pay special attention to places where children crawl, sit, and play. They live closest to the floor and are exposed to these toxic dust bunnies.
Page 2 of 2 - These helpful tips will help corral the bunnies and keep toxins lower in your home, but do not forget one of the simplest of all…leave your shoes at the door.
Also, do not forget some of the cleaners that have been around for centuries and are in your kitchen cabinet right now. You can clean almost anything with three things, vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice.
To find out more about all the ways these natural three can be used to make your whole house sparkle – catch up with The Green Space next week!
Lynn Youngblood is a Kansas City-based naturalist who writes for Gatehouse Media.