Help prevent cancer with a healthy home

Junges Mädchen spielt mit Hund im GartenIn addition to nutritious food and plenty of outdoor exercise, a healthy living environment is a great way to help prevent serious illnesses such as cancer.

Pets are very much like infants and young children — they have small bodies, are closer to the ground, tend to put things in their mouths and are usually more sensitive to toxins in the environment than adults.

Household cleaners are a major source of toxicity in your home. Most household cleaners you purchase at the grocery store contain harmful chemicals such as parabens, a preservative used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Many of these chemicals can act as endocrine disruptors, interfering with the body’s endocrine system and producing adverse developmental, neurological, reproductive and immune effects in both humans and pets.

All you need to give your home a good cleaning are basically three products that are safe for both people and pets — cider vinegar, baking soda and castile soap. They are non-toxic, inexpensive and readily available.

Just one example is using a mixture of cider vinegar and water for glass surfaces. Pets love to lick windows, so if they happen to lick a window cleaned with cider vinegar and water rather than a commercial cleaning product, you can be certain they’re not ingesting any toxic substances.

In addition to cleaning products, pet guardians need to be careful when choosing bedding, food dishes and toys for their pets. With respect to pet beds, some contain stuffing that’s been sprayed with flame retardant, a known carcinogen.

When it comes to toys, pet guardians need to think about what their pets’ toys are made of because they spend a lot of time in your pets’ mouth. Many toys are made of plastic, a petroleum-based product that breaks down into microscopic pieces, which can get into your pet’s body as well as in the air, surfaces in the home and in the soil outdoors.

And if you are still using plastic dishes for your pet’s food, please consider switching to healthier  alternatives like glass, ceramic or stainless steel.

Sadly, the manufacturing of pet products is not a regulated industry so pet guardians need to do their homework when it comes to choosing safe and healthy products for their pets. One way is to look for certified organic products, which are produced without the use of toxic chemicals.

Building materials in the home are another source of concern for people and pets. Flooring, carpet, paint, wood finishes and furniture, to name a few, all have the potential to off gas — the release of chemicals into the air through evaporation —  toxins such as formaldehyde, phthalates and BPA (Bisphenol-A). These can cause serious health problems for the whole family, especially pets and small children.

As with our indoor environment, the use of harsh chemicals outdoors is not healthy for you or your pets. Research conducted by organizations like the Cancer Society, Lung Association and environmental groups show the harmful effects of pesticides and fertilizers on our health and the health of insects, animals and the environment.

Consider taking care of your yard without the use of harsh chemicals. Keeping your soil healthy is the best way to discourage weeds, such as dandelions, from growing. One way is to use a mulching lawn mower rather than bagging and disposing of lawn clippings.

To help you “go green” are a number of guides, workshops and a help desk, offered through Green Calgary. For more information visit