By Guest Blogger Jessica Sheedy

What Mom doesn’t want the best for her kids and family? We all strive to lead healthier lives, and recent news of dangerous chemicals and irritants in products we use every day has become more prominent. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there about what choices we should be making regarding cleaning products, food storage, and even personal care products like makeup and baby shampoos/soaps.

My sister was just recently diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32, which made me really think about a lot of things, but especially how my family lives and the future I want for my two boys, Evan (7) and Alex (5). To be clear, I am not the most ardent environmentalist by any means, but I do know that making these changes will have a positive affect on my family and our health. With innovation and popularity of convenience, we’ve lost a lot regarding personal safety and responsibility for our planet. Not sure where to start? Check out this list of small changes that can have a dramatic impact on your family’s health:

Cleaning products
Have you ever read the label on a bottle of toilet cleaner or even dish soap? CAUTION, poison control, toxic, and on and on. These words should be a huge red flag. Instead of the very convenient Swiffer floor wipes (which I used to love!), try a steam cleaner such as a Shark. It does not require any chemicals and uses the heat from the steam produced to kill any bacteria or germs that may be on your floor. Think back to what Grandma used to clean with… it certainly didn’t contain all of the chemicals in our products today! Lots of baking soda and vinegar. More info on specific ingredients to avoid coming soon…

Food storage
Plastic containers are so convenient, but also can be unhealthy, especially when warming up or storing food long term. Plastic containers can take up to 80 years to decompose-yikes! Food that is in contact with plastic containers may become contaminated with chemicals that have leached from the container. Extreme temperatures make that leaching even more likely. Store leftovers and drinks in glass dishes/pitchers instead. Unfortunately for the kids, yes, this means ditching the fun plastic character set plates, cups, and bowls. Take the kids and have them pick out some new glass or ceramic dishes with funky bright colors and designs. Have we broken a few? Of course, but I’d rather deal with that than exposing them to chemicals. If you just can’t go without your plastics, at least hand wash them and most importantly, do not put them in the microwave!

Open your windows!
Especially during the spring and fall, when we have more moderate temperatures. Outdoor air is much healthier than indoor air, especially if you are using a lot of chemical cleaning products, air fresheners, or candles. Carpet and furniture also emit certain chemicals that need to be aired out.

Candles and air fresheners
Especially those that are scented should be replaced with soy-based candles and be sure the wick is lead-free. All candles emit ash and soot, whether you can see it or not. Plug-in air fresheners, while adding a nice seasonal smell to your house, also add a ton of lung and skin irritants.

Ziploc bags/lunch supplies
How many sandwich bags does your family go through within a month? Convenient- yes; Good for you and the environment- No! Buying reusable lunch containers is a much healthier and much less wasteful option.

Drinks in plastic bottles
Are probably the best and worst invention of all time. The convenience has enabled people to drink more water, however; the chance of chemical contamination from the plastic bottles is pretty high. Think of how water is delivered to area stores for distribution- in the backs of 18 wheelers, which can get very hot in the summer, which in turn increases the likeliness of contamination. The better option would be buying a filter for your faucet or using the filtered water dispenser on your refrigerator. Even regular city tap water can be contaminated with various hormones, chemicals, pharmaceutical waste, and more.

Although it’s sometimes difficult to think of the long-term effects of things we are doing now, it is important to remember that cancer was virtually non-existent 50 years ago. It wasn’t until we started eating more processed foods, developed all different types of chemical cleaners, and drastically increased the use of plastics that rates of cancer rose to our current levels. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. Let’s stop the cycle and do something now to protect our families.