1. Plastic containers: Check to see if you use containers bearing the recycling code 3 or 7 or if it was made prior to 2010. If so, they may contain dangerous chemicals that seep into stored foods, moreso as the containers age or if they’re exposed to high heat conditions like dishwasher use. No. 3 plastics are at risk of releasing phthalates into food and drinks. According to nutritionist Nancy Dell, “Phthalates trigger the ‘death-inducing signal’ early especially in testicular cells.” Furthermore, she points out that a pregnant woman who is exposed to phthalates can have a child with male reproductive birth defects. All adults, she said, may experience hormonal changes that lead to obesity and even diabetes.
2. Kitchen sponges: You’ve probably heard of this before, yet people still hold tight to that kitchen sponge far longer than they should. Rather than turn to the potentially harmful effects of microwave exposure to help kill bacteria (a common suggestion to rid sponges from germs), the best bet is to just buy a new sponge much more frequently. Microbiologist Philip Tierno, Ph.D., of New York University says, “. . . it’s the germiest thing in most American households, with bacteria thriving in the damp crevices.” Those sponges can harbor coliform bacteria and staph germs. Coliform bacteria are connected to symptoms and illnesses ranging from diarrhea and stomach cramps to dysentery and hepatitis.
3. Pillows: Replacing pillows may help you beyond providing better support. If you haven’t gotten a new pillow in over 18 months, your pillow could contain (if you’re eating while reading this, now’s the opportunity to put that salad down) dust mites which thrive on devouring flakes of human skin. Additionally, the feces that these microscopic mites excrete contain a strong allergen called DerP1, so people with allergies may experience asthma-like symptoms, eczema or even chronic sinus problems.
4. Old carpet: Microbiologist Dr. Philip Tierno says, “Rugs are botanical and zoological parks,” suggesting they have several different organisms calling that old carpet home. In fact, it’s been shown that carpet can hold several times its own weight in dirt and toxins that the naked eye can’t detect. He believes carpets, especially ones that haven’t been replaced in years, are a “hotspot” of germs that can be upwards of 4,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat. The older the carpeting, it houses a bevy of mold, mites, dirt and even pesticides that can seriously worsen allergies and asthmatic conditions.
5. Cell phone: Major news outlets have reported that cell phones have 500 more times bacteria than a toilet. You probably take your cell phones everywhere you go, including inside public restrooms (and perhaps resting it on the sturdy outer shell of the toilet paper dispenser or on the shelf above the sink), put them on restaurant tables or simply let friends swipe through photos. If you take the time to really think of just what you do with your phone in the course of one day, you’d be surprised at the germs it’s collecting that can contribute to colds, at the very least.
Increased awareness about these everyday items is key. Be more aware of your habits and seriously considering giving your environment a once-over today to determine if you should get rid of, or replace certain items. Your health will thank you!