Many of us are living in one of the largest chemical experiments in history. Over the past century and a half, new chemicals and compounds never before seen on earth have become part of everyday life. Over the past 30 years, 100,000 new industrial chemicals were approved for commercial use in the United States (US) alone. In fact, if you live in an industrialised country, scientists estimate that you carry an average of 700 synthetic chemicals or contaminants in your bodily tissues at any given time. These chemicals come from the air, water, food and exposure to consumer products on a daily basis. While you can’t escape exposure to harmful chemicals altogether, you can choose to make your home as safe and clean as possible. Hemp products can offer a hand to help detoxify your home.
You spend one-third of your life sleeping which means you develop a very intimate relationship with your mattress and bedding. Unfortunately, most mattresses are now coated with flame-retardants1, formaldehyde2 (a known carcinogen), pesticides and chemicals that cause respiratory and skin irritation. These chemicals leak into the home environment, but thankfully there’s a way to reduce toxic exposure while you sleep. Organic hemp mattresses and bedding. Hemp is more durable than cotton and is bacteria, mould, fire and insect resistant. As a 100% natural material you won’t have to worry about sleeping on cancer-causing chemicals all night. Natural mattresses are a bit more of an investment than some of the mass-produced synthetic mattresses, however, so opting for hemp bedding will help you begin detoxing your house while saving up!
Hemp is stronger than any other natural fibre, with approximately eight times the tensile strength and four times the durability of cotton and providing the highest UV protection of any natural fabric. Using hemp ensures long lasting bed linen (up to 10 years with normal use), making the initial cost an economic investment. Hemp progressively softens with every wash, without losing its shape, has superior inherent absorbency and breathability which helps promote good sleep. Hemp is warm in winter, cool in summer and is a natural insulator due to its hollow core fibre, a characteristic it shares with wool (without the scratchiness). Hemp is naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-viral, anti-mould and anti-bacterial, excellent for asthma and allergy sufferers.
- Hemp/latex mattress (Australia)
- natural latex core, with hemp or hemp and organic cotton covers
- made without glues or harmful chemicals
- Hemp and organic cotton/hemp sheeting, imported and/or Australian grown organic cotton/hemp
Another way to clean up the home is to get rid of products that cause an excessive amount of waste. Disposable paper towels and napkins are mostly treated with dyes and bleach and more often than not, they’re not made from recycled materials. US company Restalk has engineered a paper made from the stalks of the cannabis plant. “Our paper prototype is a great start, but we are really just scratching the surface. There is a real viability for our material to be integrated across several sectors, whether it be in the form of composites, bio-plastics, textiles, or even 3D printing. There are many practical and cutting edge applications”, said one of the co-founders of Restalk.
On the left is processed cannabis waste and Restalk’s prototype paper on the right
Swapping out disposables for some high-quality hemp (or cannabis) products reduces your exposure to bleach and dyes while further reducing your carbon footprint. Sourcing household items made from hemp is easy, a quick online search turns up many stockists in Australia from wholesale to retail and designer, home-grown and imported. A raft of environmentally friendly home-wares is available, naturally anti-bacterial and anti-mould tea towels, aprons, bags, cushion covers, napkins, serviettes, table runners and chair covers.
Carpet is perhaps the biggest air filter in many homes, yet carpeting is often sprayed with flame retardants (volatile or semi-volatile organic compounds, VOC’s3 or SVOC’s, which can become airborne or collect on dust particles we inhale) and other harmful chemicals. Flame retardant chemicals have even be measured in tree bark. Research shows the highest levels are found in densely populated areas, such as Toronto, Canada, but high levels are still found even in remote regions of Indonesia and Nepal. Stain-resistant carpets use the chemical perfluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA, shown to be completely resistant to biodegradation) to repel stains, which has been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer and thyroid issues.
Carpet is also often made with synthetic materials that increase the carbon footprint of the home. Hemp rugs provide a safe, natural alternative to synthetic carpeting. Hemp has a low carbon footprint as the plant converts C02 into oxygen better than trees. If you’re in the market for a new carpet, opt for untreated, natural materials such as hemp, sisal or wool. To keep your rug in place, wool or natural latex backing are two non-toxic, fire-resistant options. Meticulously hand-crafted, sustainable hemp area rugs are available worldwide from companies like Armadillo & Co. According to the company, their rugs are produced to the highest ethical standards, embrace fair trade practices and benefit local schools in the weavers’ villages. The company aims for its rugs to “lie lightly on the earth”.
It’s always nice to breathe in fresh air from natural environments. In the US in 1989, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) studied house-plants as a way to purify the air in space facilities. They found several plants that filter out common VOC’s. Lucky for us the plants can also help clean indoor air on earth, which in some areas is far more polluted than outdoor air. Other studies have since been published in the Journal of American Society of Horticultural Science, further proving the science.
“Ozone, the main component of air pollution, or smog is most often associated with outdoor air but it also infiltrates indoor environments like homes and offices and with people in industrialised countries spending as much as 80-90% of their time indoors, eliminating ozone is a health priority. University researchers studied the effects of three common house-plants on reducing ozone concentrations in a simulated indoor environment and found positive results”.
So, why not bring a little bit of nature back into your home? If you’re a casual cannabis grower, keep a plant or two near a south-facing window to help clean the air in your home. To further protect yourself, keep a cannabis plant in the kitchen and use fan leaves and small buds in dishes like you would use basil or other culinary herbs. If you’d rather save cannabis for your vaporiser or making medibles’, spruce up your house with some other plants. The recommendation of NASA is to use 15-18 good-sized house-plants in 203 mm (6-8 inch) diameter containers in a 170 m2 (1,800-square-foot ) house to detoxify your environment and give you a decent amount of fresh, clean oxygen.
Skin care is another big area of concern as far too many skin and personal care products found in supermarkets and elsewhere contain phthalates4 (endocrine disruptors), among other toxins. Phthalates are chemicals that act like hormones in the body and are linked to triggering death-inducing signalling in testicular cells, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm and birth defects in the male reproductive system. Studies have also linked phthalates to obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2 and thyroid irregularities.
How to avoid phthalates in skin care? Read the labels and avoid products that list “fragrance” or “perfume” as these terms usually mean hidden phthalates. Avoid shampoos and skin care products with long lists of synthetic ingredients and find phthalate-free personal care products with the help of the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep online database. Most of all, choose organic hemp or (where it is legal) cannabis (cannabis skin care/topicals). There are several great skin care lines that contain hemp seed oil. Not only is hemp nutritious for your skin, but it is filled with antioxidants that protect your DNA from environmental damage. If you can’t or don’t want to do it yourself, there are quite a few great choices, including;
Expanded from 5 Super Easy Ways Hemp Will Detoxify Your Home, 10 toxic items in your home that might surprise you, Flame retardants in your home can harm you, Health and the environment: A compilation of evidence, Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement and Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors
1. Flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDE’s have been found to contaminate the bodies of people and wildlife around the globe – even polar bears. These chemicals can imitate thyroid hormones and disrupt their activity which can lead to lower IQ’s, among other significant health effects. Several kinds of PBDE’s have now been phased out, but they are incredibly persistent, so they’re going to be contaminating people and wildlife for decades to come. In 1999, Swedish scientists studying women’s breast milk discovered it contained an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in flame retardants and the levels had been doubling every five years since 1972!
2. Formaldehyde (a volatile organic compound, VOC) is found in almost all areas of the home. Sources include foam insulation, resin in particle board, plywood, carpets and upholstery fabrics. Formaldehyde behaves as a common odourant at low concentrations and as an eye, skin or airway irritant at higher concentrations. Higher levels can even cause throat spasms and a build-up of fluid in the lungs, leading to death. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction. Although the short-term health effects of formaldehyde exposure are well known, less is known about its potential long-term health effects. Studies of workers with high exposure have shown an association to several cancers including nasopharyngeal cancer and leukaemia. The weight of evidence led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
3. Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) is the collective term for vapour-phase, carbon-based chemicals. Hundreds of VOC’s have been identified from sources which include paints, solvents, pesticides, building construction materials and office equipment. VOC’s are known irritants of the respiratory system and can trigger inflammation and episodes of bronchial obstruction in susceptible individuals.
4. Phthalates are the group of chemicals in plastics that make them flexible and unfortunately, they’re everywhere, but you can limit your exposure by avoiding reusable plastic bottles, supermarket food wrapped in cling wrap and by transferring food from plastic takeaway containers to glassware when reheating (or avoiding takeaways altogether).