Did you know that nearly everyone carries hazardous chemicals in their bodies that started out in frying pans, cleaning products and other household items we use every day? You deserve to know where these chemicals came from and how they can affect health, and you shouldn't have to be a chemist to find out.
This course is designed to be easy to understand for any student, parent, teacher or caregiver who wants to know how to create a healthy space to live, work and learn. It's also great for anyone who suffers asthma, headaches, or other sensitivities to chemicals and wants simple and affordable tips to reduce toxics in your life. Find out:
Why untested and hazardous chemicals came into our lives
How we are exposed to these chemicals
What hazards these chemicals might pose to our health; and
Who is responsible for reducing toxics and protecting health.
The course offers a series of very short overviews (five minutes or less) that deliver the basics of what you need to know. Then, if you want to dig deeper, you can follow the links to many rich resources on the science and law of chemicals in consumer products.
You'll finish the course with a step-by-step handbook that will help you give your home a healthy check-up: spotting hazards and recommending ways to reduce those hazards.
You can race through this course in less than an hour and come away with a great basic understanding of one of today's most pressing environmental health issues. But you'll want to return to the course to try out the green cleaning recipes, do research on your favorite household products, and re-visit healthy choices when you make changes to your home.
Why take this course? Get the overview here.
The short answer? Every thing is a chemical. The long answer? Let's explore! Use the links here to find out more about chemicals.
Take a look at this common household product: do you know what the ingredients are, whether they are linked to health harm and how to find out? We'll take a closer look. You can use the links provided here to take a closer look at dish detergent, or other cleaning products, on your own time.
Toys are also common household products, and they are also made from chemical "ingredients." We can also do a little research to find out what chemicals of concern might be in a product like a children's toy. You can use the links provided here to take a closer look at toys, or other products made for children, on your own time.
Lectures two and three are a preview of what it's like to try to search for information on ingredients in consumer products. It goes by very fast! If you want to try out the search for information at your own pace, here is a step-by-step guide for using the web sites I mentioned. Give it a try. And then ask yourself:
This lecture gives an overview of how so many industrial chemicals came to be, how they are regulated, and how this regulation leaves a lot of questions about the health and safety of chemicals in everyday products. You can take a deeper look at the history of chemicals and chemical regulation at the links provided here.
Learn the routes of exposure: ingestion, inhalation and absorption
Oregon Environmental Council asked ten volunteers to have their bodies tested for toxic chemicals. See what we found in two of those volunteers. You can also read the entire report in the document attached here.
Sometimes, we are exposed to chemicals in products simply by using them: breathing in the spray of an air freshener, for example. But other times, people come into contact with chemical ingredients before and after they become products. To see all the ways we may be exposed, take a look at this illustration of one type of chemical, a flame retardant, used in furniture foam.
Health is made up of many pieces; find out which pieces you have the power to change. Also take a look at the attached infographics to learn about the links between our environment and asthma, breast cancer and Parkinson's disease.
Even if a very small part of our total health is related to pollution and toxic chemicals, the costs can add up. See a report that calculates the cost of pollution on our health.
If a toxic chemical doesn't make you sick right away, could it still be causing harm?
We regulate chemicals today based on the concept that "the dose makes the poison." In other words, things become toxic at a high enough amount of exposure. But today, we've learned that the story is more complicated.
Children are not little adults. Find out what makes them more vulnerable to toxic chemicals.
Reducing toxic exposure does not have to be expensive or difficult. Try these easy tips! You can download the attached file to remind yourself and your guests in your home.
When choosing cleaners, what words on the label can you trust?
You can protect your health by following label instructions; but it's not always easy!
You can always wear protective gear when you clean. But do you?
Find out what five ingredients you need to clean your entire home. Also, use the "total price" download to compare the costs of green cleaning to ready-mixed products. Basic green cleaning recipes are also available here for download, as well as links to more green cleaning recipes.
Now that you know what words to look for on your labels, take an inventory of the products in your home using this checklist. Then, refer to the same document for action challenges you can try to reduce toxics. This document is also a useful reference for safer ways to use bleach, and what to do with your five basic cleaning ingredients.
If you would like to go a step beyond green cleaning and look for other ways to reduce toxics in your home, try our healthy home kit. Use the checklist at the front to take a close look at your home, and then use the guide to find out what your checklist tells you about home health. The checklist is also provided here as a separate file for you to download.
Jen Coleman is the Program Director of Health Outreach at Oregon Environmental Council, a nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1968. Jen began her work in environmental advocacy in 1997 with Environmental Defense Fund in Washington DC and New York. She moved to Oregon in 2008 to become OEC’s outreach director, giving people the information they need to act on their environmental values.
Jen spends much of her time working with parents, caregivers and college students to understand the links between health and the environment. Jen also works with OEC on business programs and state lawmaking that encourages toxics reduction and supports safer chemistry innovation.
Jen was appointed to serve on the Governor’s Environmental Justice Task Force in 2010, and currently chairs the Multnomah County Healthy Homes Coalition.