Surprising Seasonal Toxins

Britney Fitzgerald

Before you hang up the holly, take note of these easy ways to keep pollutants out of your home:

Ditch artificial fragrances
We all want our house to smell festive, but plugging in an air freshener isn’t the green way to go, says Melissa Sargent, environmental health educator at the Ecology Center, an environmental health advocacy group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “You are basically pumping toxins into your home,” she says, like VOCs (volatile organic compounds), possible cancer-causing agents. Instead, Sargent suggests decorating with real evergreens for a fresh, natural scent.

Try green dry cleaning
Family gatherings and dinner parties are all part of wintertime fun. But if your dressy clothes need dry cleaning, avoid places that use perchloroethylene, or “perc,” says Sargent. Have a stain? Look for a green dry cleaner, or try a wet cleaner—the EPA recognizes this water-based process as a safe, eco-alternative.

Avoid certain trees
Opting for a real Christmas tree over a plastic one will save you from bringing excess lead into your home—but not all trees are equally eco. “More pesticides are used on Fraser firs,” Sargent explains. Shop for a different type of tree, or visit to search for organic tree farms in your area.

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