School feels like a distant memory, summer camp is in full swing, and so far summer has been beautiful! While you get outside and take advantage of the glorious weather at the beach, lake, pool, playground or just in your back yard, keep in mind these 11 simple healthy living tips that will reduce your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals this summer.
- Use a glass. Plastic disposable water bottles are a waste of money, pollute the ocean, leach harmful chemicals into water when warmed, and the water is generally no cleaner than tap water. Fill reusable water bottles with filtered tap water to have on hand throughout the day. Glass is the safest material for food and beverage storage, and most glass water bottles come with silicone sleeves to prevent breakage.
- Open your windows. On average, indoor air is 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. The best way to freshen the air in your home and reduce exposure to indoor air pollutants is to open your windows.
- Eliminate pesticides. Want a beautiful lawn? Keep it watered and mowed and avoid chemical treatments. Most indoor pests can be easily deterred without the use of toxic chemicals. For example, ants HATE the smell of cinnamon, so sprinkle copious amounts of cinnamon to block their path.
- Choose safer water toys. Avoid polyvinyl chloride when choosing safer toys – aka PVC or vinyl (though it is often described as “rubber” it is not in fact made of rubber). PVC pools and toys are soft and flexible, like “rubber” ducks. PVC is toxic in many ways throughout its lifecourse and often contains toxic additives like phthalates, organotins and lead. Instead, choose baby pools made of polypropylene and hard plastic pool toys. The company Greentoys has a great selection of nontoxic recycled plastic toys perfect to play with at the pool, at the beach, or in the bathtub.
- Rethink water play. Most garden hoses leach toxic chemicals into the water including lead and phthalates, especially when left out in the heat. Look for ones that are phthalate-free and marketed as lead-free or “drinking safe,” though I still recommend discouraging kids from drinking from even the safer garden hoses.
- Don't get bitten. The best protection from mosquito bites and ticks is clothing or stroller nets when possible. And if you live in areas where Lyme disease is found, it is very important to perform nightly tick checks for the whole family.
- Choose a better sunscreen. I recommend sunscreens with non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient, like Badger Baby, and make sure to reapply every two hours when you are exposed to prolonged direct sun. However, the best way to protect young sensitive skin from the damaging rays of the sun is with full-coverage bathing suits, hats, and shade.
- Limit your BBQs. Everyone loves a good summer BBQ, but grilling and cooking meat at high temperatures creates toxic chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are carcinogenic. Keep this in mind and consume grilled meat in moderation in summer and all year long.
- Choose reusable utensils. Opt for reusable plates, bowls, cups, and utensils when possible. Most plastic disposable dishware and utensils are made of polystyrene/Styrofoam (recycle code #6), which can leach toxic styrene into food, especially when warm. Safer plastics have recycle codes #4 and #5. Stainless steel is another good option for unbreakable, reusable, and light dishware for poolside use.
- Sun your stains. Did you know that the sun is great at getting out those tough stains from clothes, like grass stains and food spills? Take advantage of this powerful, nontoxic, and free stain remover!
- Rinse off after swimming. Spend your summer swimming in a chlorinated pool? Protect your skin from the harsh effects of chlorine by showering both before and after swimming. Working out after swimming can also help you sweat some of the chlorine out of your skin.
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