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RISMEDIA, July 16, 2011—(MCT)—We bring dangerous chemicals into our homes every day. It could be from our shoes, new furniture, or even our vinyl shower curtain. Here are my Top 5 Ways Chemicals Sneak into Your Home and the solutions you need to Do Your Part to make a healthier home and a healthier planet.

1. Chemical Cleaners: A common way potentially toxic chemicals get inside is from chemical-based cleaners. Their ingredients are not even required to be on the label. Some of those ingredients can pollute the air inside our homes and possibly cause all sorts of health problems such as asthma, allergies and reproductive issues. Instead buy or make non-toxic cleaners with baking soda, white vinegar, Borax, citrus juice and oxygenated bleach.

2. Furniture and Flooring: Furniture made from medium density fiberboard can contain a formaldehyde-based resin. And, many popular choices of flooring emit formaldehyde. At elevated levels, formaldehyde can irritate eyes and cause breathing problems. Seek out furniture and flooring products labeled formaldehyde-free. Used, wood furniture pieces are also a good bet because any dangerous chemicals have already evaporated.

3. Shoes and Paws: When you think about all the things you trek into your home with your shoes, it can be downright disgusting! The same can be said for what’s on your pet’s paws. It’s not only dirt but also residue from lawn chemicals, automotive fluids and pesticides. If you have young children in the home, they can easily be exposed to these toxins on the floor. The easiest solution is to simply leave your shoes at the door. Having a large mat near the entrance is a smart idea too. Wipe your pet’s paws when they come inside after lawn treatments.

4. Problematic Plastics: Polyvinyl chloride—or PVC—is a soft plastic used to make vinyl shower curtains, children’s toys and food containers. Plasticizers used in PVC are suspected of contributing to reproductive defects, premature births and impaired neurological development. Avoid plastics labeled with a No. 3 on the bottom. This identifies it as PVC. Choose vinyl products labeled PVC-free.

5. Dry Cleaning: If you bring home clothing from a traditional dry cleaner, you’re bringing in dangerous chemicals that can cause anything from headaches and breathing problems to liver and kidney damage. That’s because 80 percent of American dry cleaners use perchloroethylene (perc). Perc is a manmade compound that pollutes our homes, air, land and water. Seek out perc-free cleaners. If there isn’t a green cleaner near you, unwrap you’re clothes once you’re home and let them air out.

In small doses, these chemicals aren’t dangerous but persistent or elevated levels of these chemicals in our homes can pollute the air we breath. Do Your Part and make smarter choices for you and the planet.

(c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).