Wise Choices for Safer Homes and Sustainable Interiors

modern kitchen

My second cancer journey, still fresh in my memory, was just 2 short years ago. Lump detected. Excruciating biopsy performed. My oncologist’s statements “yes, it is an aggressive form of invasive cancer and you need chemotherapy” and I’d lose “all my hair” set me back on my heels. The following 18 months of typical cancer treatment protocol side effects left me weak and vulnerable. Fortunately, my family provided the utmost care including drastically different eating habits. “Anti Cancer, A New Way Of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD was the catalyst to the complete removal of all processed foods, cured meats, white foods, sugar, alcohol, most dairy and non-grass fed meats/eggs. Instead, I embraced all things lean, green and organic, and shopped only the grocery store perimeter rather than the center. This wonderful man’s story is now a movie called “The C Word”, a must see even if you aren’t sick.

With diet conquered, I feverishly read labels on every product ingested or applied to my skin. Shockingly, carcinogenic chemicals are everywhere. I know what you’re thinking. She’s gone overboard! I may have agreed with you before my cancer. No, you can’t limit every toxin in the environment, BUT we can control much more of it than we do and they accumulate in our bodies. For example, aluminum is in toothpaste, deodorant and baking powder. Air fresheners and laundry softeners contain major endocrine disruptors. Lotions, shampoos, hair color, make up, soaps all contain toxic chemicals unless you know what to look for. Who knew there were organic non-toxic creams and make-up available? I found them!

What does any of this have to do with interior design for whole house remodeling? Toxins are everywhere including many home furnishings. So, if you are interested in making healthier choices for your home, and mitigating exposure of your family to poisons in your environment, read on. This is not a comprehensive list, but it will get your started on the road to a healthier living environment.

Options to Toxic Chemical Laden Home Furnishings

  1. Carpet, Drapery, & Upholstery – choose wool which cleans easily and contains lanolin which naturally coats the fiber and repels many stains. Cotton, silk, linen and natural hides are great choices as well, even though they may need more frequent laundering. Shorter pile heights keep skin dander, dust mites and allergens from accumulating as much.
  2. Fire retardants – while helpful are toxic and they don’t wash out. They coat children’s sleepwear as well as many fabrics. Check labels.
  3. Formaldehyde – found in foam cushions in upholstered items, prefinished wood flooring from overseas, foam mattresses and many bed linens. It does not wash out in the laundry. Choose a natural latex mattress which is made from rubber trees instead. Super comfortable. Check labels.
  4. Glass, Tile and Quartz – durable and sustainable choices for wall, countertop, backsplash, and flooring options. Easily cleaned with non-toxic cleaners.
  5. Indoor vegetation – Indoor plants are workhorses at absorbing and filtering carbon dioxide in return for oxygen. Orchids do more than most and are great for bathrooms and bedrooms.
  6. Paint – VOCs (volatile organic compounds) found in paints will off-gas for extended periods depending on the type of paint used. Choose readily available “low” or “no VOC” paints.
  7. Wood stains, varnishes, lacquers – spontaneous combustion fires have destroyed homes when stain-soaked rags are left unattended. Cabinetry, furniture, and flooring treated on site will off gas for extended periods. Choose factory finished items instead. Another great option is to use oil or wax on wood floors, countertops or other wood surfaces. The oil seeps in to fill the wood grain pores, makes for easy repairs, looks beautiful, and no off gassing. Ebonizing combines vinegar and steel wood to darken a raw wood, and produces a spectacular finish.

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