Healthy Homes: Environmental news you can use
4.6 (86 ratings)
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Healthy Homes: Environmental news you can use

What everyone should know about everyday products, the environment and your health
4.6 (86 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
4,469 students enrolled
Created by Jennifer Coleman
Last updated 1/2015
Price: Free
  • 31 mins on-demand video
  • 5 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • spot common household toxics
  • choose habits that are good for health and the environment
  • describe why everyday products are not always safe
  • spot and control asthma and allergy triggers
  • describe how the environment can support or harm health
  • describe how people are exposed to environmental hazards
  • read labels to pick safer products
  • describe the difference between acute and chronic exposures
  • describe why small amounts of hazardous chemicals may be a risk to health
  • Describe the basic history of environmental policy related to toxic chemicals
View Curriculum
  • This course is designed to be easy to understand with no preparation other than daily life in the United States.

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.

Who is the target audience?
  • If you want your home to be a healthy environment, this course is for you. Expecting parents, asthma and allergy sufferers, and people sensitive to chemicals will find useful information here.
  • This course will cover the basics of environmental health and policies in the United States. If you are interested in health, the environment, environmental regulations or chemicals in consumer products, this course will be useful.
  • This course is designed and produced by a nonprofit organization that is funded by donors who want to protect health and the environment in the U.S. It will be useful to people who want to act as citizens or community members.
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Curriculum For This Course
22 Lectures
Course overview
1 Lecture 01:14

Why take this course? Get the overview here.

A brief introduction
What's in your environment?
5 Lectures 08:54

The short answer? Every thing is a chemical. The long answer? Let's explore! Use the links here to find out more about chemicals.

What is a chemical?

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.

An everyday product: Dish detergent

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.

An everyday product: Baby doll

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:

  • Do you think this information is useful to people in making decisions about the products they buy?
  • How could it be improved?
  • Who do you think should be responsible for making this information easy to use?
Wait...what? That was so fast!
3 pages

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.

History of toxic chemical regulation: where did these chemicals come from?
What's in your body?
3 Lectures 07:22

Learn the routes of exposure: ingestion, inhalation and absorption

How do chemicals get from "out there" to "in here"?

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.

What's in our bodies?

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.

The life of industrial chemicals
1 page
Environment + Body = Health?
6 Lectures 05:36

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.

The puzzle of health

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.

The price of pollution
40 pages

If a toxic chemical doesn't make you sick right away, could it still be causing harm?

Acute versus chronic exposure

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.

The dose makes the poison?

Children are not little adults. Find out what makes them more vulnerable to toxic chemicals.

Why children are at greatest risk

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.

Five free, easy things you can do today
Choosing safer cleaning products
6 Lectures 06:07

When choosing cleaners, what words on the label can you trust?

Why is it so complicated?

You can protect your health by following label instructions; but it's not always easy!

Follow label instructions

You can always wear protective gear when you clean. But do you?

Wear protective gear

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.

Five basic ingredients

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.

Homework: Try the checklist
4 pages

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.

The whole-house healthy home checkup kit
28 pages
Digging deeper
1 Lecture 01:33
You're not in it alone: what others are doing to reduce toxics
About the Instructor
Jennifer Coleman
4.6 Average rating
86 Reviews
4,469 Students
1 Course
Health Outreach Director at Oregon Environmental Council

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.