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While I believe it’s important for kids to play in the dirt (of the muddy sort), there are other types of “dirty” that I try to avoid in order to keep my family healthy. The following is a list of what I feel to be the dirtiest places and things (of the germ and toxic sort).

Hotel Rooms: Whenever we travel, the first thing I do is de-germ the hotel room.  It may surprise you that one of the dirtiest items in a hotel room is the remote control – fecal bacteria was present in 81% of the samples tested!  For this reason, I always wipe the remote down with sanitizer.  I also remove bedspreads, wipe down the phone and door/sink handles and avoid the drinking glasses. Did you see the special report on how housekeeping simply rinses the glasses with gloved hands (after cleaning the toilet)? Yuck!

Conventional Produce: Every year Environmental Working Group releases their “Dirty Dozen”, a list of produce that contains the most pesticide residue. This year, apples top the list.  I typically buy organic produce and avoid the dirty dozen altogether if the organic variety is not available. Besides apples, 11 other fruits and vegetables — in order of the amount of pesticide residues, from more to less — earned a spot on the Dirty Dozen list:

  • Celery
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries (domestic)
  • Potatoes

Community Swimming Pools:  A recent survey conducted by the Water Quality & Health Council found that one in five ADULTS admitted to urinating in the pool.  I can only imagine what the real data shows when you factor in kids and other adults who didn’t actually admit to relieving themselves while taking a dip. The thought of swimming in a toilet does not appeal to me!  And while many community swimming pools combat urine and other germs brought into the water with copious amounts of chlorine, I’m not thrilled about exposing my children to this harmful chemical on a daily basis either. In fact, we have a whole-house water filter to reduce the family’s chlorine exposure. And so, while we do occasionally visit the neighborhood pool, I prefer the kids to play in our backyard sprinkler or blowup water slide. The kids have just as much fun and are much less likely to be exposed to a serious bacteria like salmonella or E. coli.

Personal Care Products: The very items intended to keep you clean can be the most harmful! You simply have to pick up any bottle and read the list of impossible to pronounce ingredients in your personal care products to see that they may not be so good for you. Phthalates, Sulfates, Lead, Formaldehyde, 1,4-Dioxane and other potentially toxic chemicals are abound in common every day products such as body wash, shampoo, sunscreen, laundry detergent and makeup. I use Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database to search over 74,000 products to ensure that I’m buying the safest products for my family.

And while this list isn’t meant to turn you into a complete agoraphobe – although I’m sure it will cause a germaphobe to grow pale – I do think it’s important to stay informed to help protect the health of your family.

What dirty places and things do you try to avoid?

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