Detoxing Your Home: An Interview with Christine Dimmick

By: Kealia Reynolds

Your home contains around 500–1,000 chemicals, many of which we are unable to see, smell, or taste. These chemicals can be found in furniture, household cleaners, food, and toys, and while they may be tolerated in small doses, they can have negative effects on the nervous, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. Being more intentional about the products we use can reduce our exposure to internal and external toxins and strengthen our resilience to the chemicals impacting our health.

Christine Dimmick, author of Detox Your Home and founder of The Good Home Co., is a public health and wellness advocate who strives to use natural products that are good for both the home and the body. We talked to Dimmick about how to detox our own homes.

When researching Detox Your Home, what findings surprised you the most?

The most surprising finding for me was the chapter on dental hygiene. I was shocked at the minimal research that was done on fluoride before our government started adding it to all of our tap water. It was also upsetting to see popular dental flosses coated with Teflon.

What are your top three recommendations for someone looking to detox their home?

It depends on the goal—if you’re concerned about disease and cancer, then eliminating meat and dairy is first. Beef and milks/creams are where we receive our highest exposure to dioxin—a carcinogen that was banned years ago (it was in agent orange), but still exists as a byproduct of pesticides and certain manufacturing products. The US government allows a certain amount of parts per millions (PPMs) of dioxins, but many soaps exceed it.

[Removing] single use plastic would be second as the benefits of eliminating these improve our health and reduce exposures to BPAs from the bottles and utensils, as well as the pollution from making them. And of course it’s a huge benefit to our planet and our natural resources.

Third would be water or an air purifier. Depending on where you live, your water quality may be very polluted and you wouldn’t know it. Everyone should test their homes for lead in the water. Chances are there are a lot of other contaminants as well. An excellent air filter can make all the difference, but some are extremely expensive and the communities than need them the most cannot afford them. If you can afford just one, get one for the bedroom. You can also invest in a monitor from PurpleAir—these devices monitor the air in homes, businesses, and parks around the world.

What are some long-term initiatives people can take to reduce toxins in the home?

An air filter system that also traps VOCs, a water filtration system that removes fluoride (reverse osmosis is excellent but it’s not sustainable and wastes nearly half the water it cleans), furniture free of flame retardants and formaldehyde, an organic mattress, and various things that will reduce the VOCs in your apartment, such as removing vinyl products like shower curtains and bath mats—even your yoga mat off-gasses. A diet free of meat and dairy will also significantly reduce your intake of carcinogens.

What toxins and synthetic chemicals inside our homes are we most unaware of?

PCBs. Banned in the ’70s, they still linger in many homes constructed before 1979. They are odorless and are in the air. They were used in caulk and other construction materials and are still in electrical transformers. Unlike asbestos, there are no rules to test for them, and should you find them, cleanup is expensive and costly. Sadly, many schools—an estimated 13,000—have PCBs.

Dioxin would be the second. Our exposure to this is daily if we eat meat, dairy, and fish, with beef being the highest. Like PCBs, dioxins are fond of fat. Animals store the toxic chemicals in their bodies via the contaminated feed and grass they eat.

What are the health and environmental impacts of these toxins and chemicals?

Both toxins cause cancer, skin disorders, and interfere with hormonal processes. They are bioaccumulative and increase as they pass from food to human. They are also in manufacturing waste water, which was illegally dumped in our rivers and seas in the ’70s, and they are still in there despite cleanup efforts.

What common misconceptions do people have about “healthy” home products (products that we assume are healthy but actually contain chemicals)?

Labeling and regulations can be quite deceptive. While vegan means the product is free of animal byproducts and testing on animals, it can still have very unnatural ingredients like dyes or preservatives. In fact, [vegan products] can be very artificial.

Free range / organic eggs is another misnomer. The thought of free range and organic conjures up images of happy hens roaming a farm, when in fact it’s a very industrialized industry with chickens in horrible conditions, barely leaving the overstuffed coop. Their beaks cut off from attacking one another from being in such distress. If you want an egg from a happy hen, look for the “humane” seal which regulates living conditions for animals or perhaps have your own chickens.

What should people look for when buying natural, healthy products for the home?

Minimal ingredients that you can understand. Our bathrooms should not be filled with drugstore products. We really don’t need much more than vinegar, water, baking soda, and some Castile soap to clean.

Any favorite products you recommend?

A good olive oil bar soap can wash your body and your hair if you are a child. From my company, The Good Home Company, there is our best selling All Purpose Cleaner, which is vinegar-based and vegan. For adults who need a little more tender care, look for shampoo bars with moisturizers that have argan, coconut, neem, or another good quality oil.

I am a believer in conservation over consumerism, and while I have certainly done my fair share of shopping and still do enjoy a trip to a store, I look for markers. Is it sustainable? Will I have it for more than five years? Can it be reused or repurposed? Disposable fashion, furniture, and food are no longer on my shopping list. The cheaper and faster it is, the more toxic it is.

We are truly in crisis mode where our health and our planet’s health is concerned. If we hope to have a beautiful beach to go to or see animals on a safari and do it in good health, we literally have to clean up our act now. We have the resources and the inventions to do this, but it will take a lot of money that corporations and governments simply do not want to spend. They would rather continue doing what we are doing until it is too late in many ways. And that is a world I am not so sure I want to live in.

About the Expert

Christine Dimmick is the founder and CEO of The Good Home Company. She pioneered the move to combine natural ingredients and true to life scents in cleaning products over 20 years ago in her New York City kitchen. She and Good Home products have been featured in O Magazine, Instyle, Dr. Oz, and House Beautiful. She is a public speaker promoting health and wellness at Canyon Ranch, Lenox, Massachusetts, and other wellness facilities.

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