April was the month when we celebrated Earth Day, but our health is affected by the ways we interact with our surroundings year-round. How we’re affected by storms, whether our water is safe to drink, and even our choices about the products we use for our hygiene, household cleaning, and yard and garden care can have health effects.
But we can be thankful we have some control over what products we choose to use. Here are a few areas where carefully considering what you buy can make a difference to the health and safety of your family:
- CFL lightbulbs (the curly ones) reduce pollution, but they also contain a small amount of mercury. Mercury is toxic, and to protect your health, these bulbs need to be handled carefully. You can learn more about this, including how to clean up a broken bulb, at https://bit.ly/2FeqXZr
- Indoor paint can release vapors that are harmful when breathed. To learn how to choose the least toxic paints, and about ways to paint safer, go to https://bit.ly/2KaKBJC
- Mold and mildew can cause health concerns, especially for kids, seniors or people with chronic health issues. Learn how to prevent and clean up mold at https://bit.ly/2HIdoH5
- Even beauty and hygiene products can raise health concerns. Many of the ingredients in these products aren’t regulated or tested on people. To choose the products that are safest for your family, use the Skin Deep database put together by the Environmental Working Group.
- Choose cleaning products with the signal words “caution” or “warning” instead of “danger” or “poison.” Even better, choose products like vinegar and baking soda that don’t need a signal word! Find out green cleaning recipes here or contact us for a free hard copy we will send in the mail.
Another important area to consider is your yard. Scientists have found 23 pesticides (including weed and bug killers) in our local streams. Overuse of these products is bad for the soil, bad for fish and wildlife, and bad for our families’ health.
If you garden and have problems with weeds or insect pests, there are lots of ways to reduce the problem that don’t include toxic pesticides or fertilizers. Try natural yard care, and make use of the free Common Sense Gardening Guides first. If you must spray, check growsmartgrowsafe.org to find the safest products to deal with your situation.
It’s important to remember that properly disposing of toxic household items is not only better for your health, it’s better for the long-term health of the community. It’s also free at Thurston County’s HazoHouse.
For people who want to explore these issues in their own homes, there county staff offer free Healthy Home visits. The Healthy Homes Program offers free, voluntary, confidential visits to residents and child care centers in Thurston County. Trained volunteers help you identify areas of concern and share ways to reduce exposure to toxins, asthma triggers, mold, lead, and other housing-related health risks. At the end of the visit, the volunteers will help you determine what your highest priorities should be for taking actions to create a healthier space. Many of the suggested actions are low or no cost. To request the Healthy Home Companion booklet or to sign up for a Healthy Homes Visit, call 360-867-2674, TTY/TDD 711 or 1-800-833-6388.
Choosing to take care of your home, hygiene and household by making informed choices is a great way to celebrate Earth Day every day.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, email@example.com, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.