Is your home making you sick?

What a fantastic topic we have lined up for this week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge.

We’ve been asked to do a “toxic audit”!

The aim is to raise awareness of the things we might be using on a daily basis which contain toxic materials or components. It was suggested we did this in the garden, but I’m much more interested in seeing what’s indoors; especially as I’m on ‘mission declutter’ this month with the aim of making my home safer, healthier and a more beautiful space to be in for me and my family.

The challenge reads “Focus on one room in your house and seek out any toxic and / or non-environmentally friendly materials and make plans to replace them. This might include paint with harmful ingredients or a plastic shower curtain. Other ideas include plastic decor, light bulbs, etc.”

Of course my first thought was ‘but what about the landfill; what about resources – isn’t it better to continue using what we already have?’ but the rest of the challenge reads “NOTE: we’re not asking you to run out and replace everything … but simply to evaluate items and replace as you can or deem fitting.”


My area of decluttering and cleaning this week is the conservatory and dining area. Here’s a picture of the area after it’s been cleaned and here’s what I’ve discovered in terms of ‘toxic stuff’.

I’m pleased to say it’s not that bad as far as I can make out.

The floor is wood and we never varnish it, instead we use a natural oil that penetrates the wood and nourishes it over time.

The paint was low VOC and this area hasn’t been repainted for several years. I’m pretty sure it has off-gased by now and in all honesty I can’t see us bothering to decorate for a long time; it’s just not worth it with open fires!

The chairs around the dining table are antique – they belonged to my great Uncle’s family; so no nasties there. They will have been made long before we swathed ourselves in chemicals.

Our dining table was gifted to us from a lady on Freecycle many years ago. We use olive oil and lemon juice to clean it and never varnish it.
But wait! On there you can see my laptop where I write to you all from – that’s *bound* to be filled with all sorts of toxic nasties…

Our sideboard (excuse the dead flowers!) was given to us from a friend who no longer wanted it. Originally it was two kitchen cupboards but we cut it up and pieced them together to create our sideboard. It was made nearby from local wood by a craftsman and has not been treated, apart from the top which was varnished before we were given it, eight years ago.

The sofa bed was second hand from eBay. I’m sure it has flame retardants on it, but you can’t get furniture without unless you buy antique and I’m not about to replace it. Goodness knows what it is stuffed with, probably some hideous foam but again, I’m not about to replace it as I’m pretty sure antique sofa beds don’t exist!

Mr Green laid the hearth and built the fireplace from old salvaged material. We’ve oiled them rather than used a sealant.

In the cupboard (which Mr Green made from salvaged wood) is our stereo, I’m sure it’s full of toxic materials in the circuitry and the remote control will be cased in Bromelated fire retardants. But you know what? Music feeds my soul and I’m keeping it with no plans to upgrade! In my favour the stereo is about 20 years old, I don’t know if these things off gas?

The unit that hides a multitude of sins and serves as my personal work station is the only new(ish) piece of furniture we have and I bought it because I had limited space and it was the only thing I could find that fitted. The wood *looks* untreated but goodness knows what those seagrass baskets have been treated with. I’m not planning on upgrading it any time soon because it serves a purpose. See the darling card Little Miss Green made for me this week?!

I have plenty of plants around which drink up pollutants such as formaldehyde and give us oxygen in return and we spend a lot of the time with doors and windows open to allow fresh air to circulate. According to the EPA, indoor air pollution can be up to five times higher than outdoor; even on a busy road!

One thing I have done since taking this challenge is throw away some candles. Unless candles are made from beeswax or soya, they are pretty toxic things made from petrochemicals. The scented ones are even worse with a concoction of chemicals that can cause all sorts of respiratory (and worse!) problems. I noticed last time I lit them that I felt a little wheezy so thanks Small Footprints for the inspiration! I will replace these will locally made beeswax candles if I can find them – the only challenge is beeswax candles burn away really quickly; which is why we all buy toxic ones which last longer I guess…

I’m sure there are many, many more things I could examine, but it’s been a great start and a real eye opener to view things in terms of toxicity. I usually reserve that for food, beauty products and cleaning products.

What about you? Do you have anything toxic lurking in your home that you could replace?


  1. Kira on August 3, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Your home is just lovely.

  2. Neil on August 5, 2012 at 11:16 am

    One of the biggest reasons for the accumulation of toxins in the home is the simple fact that not enough air circulates through the house.

    Throwing open the doors and windows as you do is the simplest answer.

    But so many people that I know just will not do this, instead they buy the horrendous scented things advertised on the television and fill the house with a miasma of artificial stinks.

    A terrible waste of resources when something as simple as opening a window for some fresh air will create a vibrant lively atmosphere!

  3. All Natural Katie on August 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I love your toxic audit! I also prefer to get second hand furniture. Most of the stuff in our house is second hand aside from the new couch and seat in the living room. It is difficult to expensive to find antique items, so I have been buying more plants to hopefully remove some of the toxins from the air.

  4. Argentum Vulgaris on August 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Of course the challenge wasn’t only for the garden, glad to see you took it indoors. I love your photos. I love wood in the home,it makes it home. I love the rustic touch and that hob you have in the fireplace is a wonderful touch.


  5. CelloMom on August 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    After decking out our beds with organic cotton futons, I bought an Ikea mattress for our re-done guest room. We’ve done that in the past and been fine with it, but CelloDad (who has a terrier’s nose for such things) says this one is outgassing horribly. We’ve used it now, so can’t very well return it – I’m torn between conserving it and just opening the window all the time, or just letting go, but the landfill is pretty much the only option.