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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Baby Steps to Living Greener: Tips for Lowering Toxins in the Home

Jan 31, 2023 06:30AM ● By Tom O'Bryan, DC, CCN, DACBN
Green Living Sustainable Living home toxins

Millions of Americans are spending more time in their homes as employers embrace work-at- home arrangements following the pandemic. Many families have redesigned living spaces to accommodate one or more offices, and as they streamline their abodes, it is important to also take care of any potential hazards.

Some dangers around the house are easy to spot, like toys left in a hallway where people might trip or exposed electrical wires that could cause a fire. Other hazards are not as obvious but equally dangerous. Daily exposure to invisible household toxins, for example, can cause serious health consequences.

Almost beyond comprehension, the average person is exposed to 700,000 to two million toxins each day, and some of these are “forever chemicals” that never leave the body or take decades to be expelled. This huge toxic burden can accumulate in the body, strain the immune system and compromise overall health. “The research is very clear—huge, huge, strong correlations between toxin load and most of your autoimmune diseases,” remarks Joseph Pizzorn, ND, author or co-author of six textbooks for doctors and seven consumer books, including, most recently, The Toxin Solution.

The good news is that many of these threats can be corrected with a little insight, planning and budgeting. Changes to our everyday choices can go a long way toward keeping our bodies and homes healthy and safe, while also creating a greener and healthier environment.

The Air We Breathe

The air inside our homes can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air, containing pollutants such as mold, smoke, out-gassing chemicals, pollen, pet dander, bacteria and viruses. There are many portable HEPA and carbon air filter options available at different price points that will help remove contaminants. According to a 1989 Clean Air Study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, common houseplants can remove organic pollutants from indoor air and, when combined with activated carbon air filters, they are more effective.Examples of such plants are the Boston fern, spider plant, variegated snake plant, peace lily, English ivy, cornstalk dracaena and many other inexpensive varietals.

Between the Sheets

Flame-retardant chemicals in our sheets, mattresses, mattress pads and even pajamas out-gas minute amounts that can accumulate in our bodies over time. Because we spend approximately one-third of our lives in bed, it is important to ensure that the sleeping environment is as healthy as possible. Consider switching to organic cotton options for all bedroom items. Pressboard furniture is soaked with formaldehyde; replace it with solid wood pieces to reduce exposure to off-gassing. Turn off Wi-Fi at night to reduce exposure to EMF radiation. These changes can be made gradually, as the budget allows; think of them as an investment that will pay off with improved sleep and wellness.

In the Kitchen

For many of us, turning on the faucet for a glass of water can produce a cocktail of toxic chemicals, including lead, arsenic and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—also known as the “forever chemicals.” The Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database ( provides a searchable database of contaminants found in drinking water by zip code.

Investing in a water filtration system is a great way to avoid these chemicals. They, too, are available at different price points. Whether it’s a countertop unit, a filter mounted on the faucet, an under-sink device or a whole-house system, the best solutions include charcoal granulation, a two-micron filter and reverse osmosis.

Smart swaps in cookware and bakeware are also a must. Begin by replacing nonstick pans with stainless steel, glass or cast-iron options. If replacing them all at once isn’t economically viable, start with the most damaged and scratched pans and continue as finances allow.

Food storage can be another source of toxins. Studies have found that certain chemicals in plastics can leach into our food. Move away from plastic storage containers to glass and swap plastic wrap for a non-toxic alternative like beeswax wrap or reusable bowl covers.

In the Bathroom

Clean your shower head and install a chlorine shower filter. Gradually begin to replace soap and shampoo with non-toxic products that contain all-natural ingredients; specifically look for ones that are paraben-free, gluten-free and organic.

For other personal products such as perfume, move away from synthetic fragrances, which can contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and replace them with all-natural alternatives such as essential oils. Toothpaste should be gluten- and fluoride-free. Newer options contain hydroxyapatite—a naturally occurring mineral—which can be an alternative to fluoride and help remineralize teeth. Replacing makeup all at once can be costly, so begin with lipstick and lip balms and look for gluten-free alternatives.

Baby Steps

While it may feel overwhelming to embark upon a green living journey, positive change doesn’t happen all at once. Pick one area and make baby steps. Even small, incremental actions can have a powerful cumulative impact on the mind, body and planet.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan is the founder of, author of The Autoimmune Fix and chief health officer for KnoWEwell, the parent company of Natural Awakenings Publishing Corp.

5 Top Tips to Finding Your Next Doctor

1 Keep an Open Mind! Healthcare has come a long way. Today, you have access to practitioners that branch outside of traditional medicine and aim to identify the root causes of conditions while using alternative treatments that may help you get the relief you need. Just because it’s not a pill, doesn’t make it pseudoscience.

2 Build Your Health Care Team. There is no one doctor that can be the be-all-end-all for your health needs. Be sure to have a team of practitioners with different “lenses” and areas of expertise who will treat the root cause and not just the symptom(s).

3   Environment Influences Healing. Health is multi-factorial. Your mental and emotional environment plays a pivotal role in your healing potential. Your doctors and their staff should create an office atmosphere filled with positivity so you can get the most out of your care.

4 Your Story Matters.  Before you begin any treatment, be sure to have a comprehensive consultation to discuss your health concerns. Find practitioners who welcome questions and will take the time to listen and treat you with respect.

5 Report of Findings. When it comes to our health, we often make decisions without understanding the risk versus benefits. Knowledge is an important part of the healing process and is essential to make conscious, informed health decisions. Find practitioners who take the time to explain their exam findings and the recommendations for treatment in ways that make sense to you.

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