In clothing, furniture, and carpet, watch for: Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
New furniture, carpeting, and mattresses are created with dozens of different chemicals. Think about the smell of new carpeting or of a new mattress. It comes from chemical fumes that are escaping. One such type of chemical is PBDE, which mimics thyroid hormones and can lead to lower IQ.
A few years ago, a team of Danish and Swedish scientists measured certain markers of health in 21 healthy, elderly couples while the couples performed their normal routines at home. Then for two more days, the researchers measured the same health markers but filtered the air inside the homes. The air filters removed up to 9,000 particles per cubic centimeter from the air in each home, resulting in a near immediate 8 percent improvement in the function of small blood vessels. This could be enough to lower blood pressure, reduce angina pain, or improve blood flow.
Solution: Use a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner and buy organic cotton clothing, furniture, mattresses, and other products when you can.
In dry cleaning, watch for: Perchloroethylene (Perc)
Great at removing stains, perc also protects clothes against shrinking, evaporates quickly, and can be reused over and over again, making it very cost effective. That’s why as many as 85 percent of dry cleaners use it as their primary solvent. But it comes at a price. The chemical is a liquid at room temperature but evaporates easily into air, where it can be washed out with rain and get into soil and ground water. Exposure to this chemical results in dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and nausea. It has been shown to cause cancer in rats and mice and is rated “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The relationship to heart disease is not yet certain, but the toxic effect of perc on important enzyme systems including the liver is concerning.
Solution: Take the plastic off your dry cleaning and air it out for a few days before you wear it. And drink filtered water.
On fruits and vegetables, watch for: Pesticides
More than 400 chemicals are regularly used to kill weeds, insects, and other pests. Conventional produce may have 90 times the pesticide content of organic produce. When researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden took blood samples from more than a thousand elderly Swedes, analyzed them for pesticides, and compared those levels to existing heart disease, they arrived at rather disturbing findings. People with more pesticides in their blood were at a higher risk for clogged arteries, and this was true regardless of their age, weight, blood pressure, and other health habits.
Solution: Organic fruits and vegetables are your best bet for avoiding pesticides altogether. But if you can’t afford to go organic, buy conventionally grown fruits and veggies that are least likely to contain pesticide residues like cabbage, cantaloupe, and eggplant, thoroughly wash your produce.