Toxic - and consequently non-toxic - are terms we hear a lot these days, as we become more aware of the chemicals all around us, and try and find ways to reduce them.
Various studies have linked allergies and asthma to the chemicals used in and around our homes, and that doesn't only include cleaning or garden products.
Flooring, bed linen, curtain material, even the paint we choose can all have a detrimental effect on our bodies.
That's nothing new, of course. For example, it used to be common practice to use asbestos, lead paint and lead pipes when constructing homes, schools, hospitals and other public buildings.
And in just the same way those 'harmful' materials were replaced so, too, are we moving away from household products we believe to be toxic.
A lot of those changes are very easy and quick to make, such as replacing your cleaning products with non-toxic alternatives; using glass instead of plastic, and keeping the home free from dust.
But, thanks to technology, there are now major changes you can make to your home, such as using low or zero-VOC paint on your walls. These days, nearly every paint manufacturer offers eco-friendly paint so finding a supplier should be easy.
One thing to remember, however, is that if you're renovating an old home, there's a chance the existing paint may contain lead, so always seek expert advice before attempting to remove it.
The carpet debate
Flooring is another area where you can make improvements. While a lot of people love the warmth and feel of carpet, it can be a nightmare for allergy or asthma sufferers. Not only does carpet trap heaps of dust, dirt and allergens but, depending on the type, it could be full of chemicals, too.
If you must have carpet, look for healthier options, such as pure wool. Most major carpet stores now stock low allergen carpets and flooring and are happy to offer advice.
Wooden or bamboo flooring is a great choice these days, for many reasons. Beautiful, healthier and easier to keep clean, it's also much more affordable than it was. However, there are still issues to consider here, that can affect your health.
For example, will it need frequent re-sealing and, if so, is the sealer solvent-based, water-based or low VOC? How much ventilation is needed? What solvents are used in installation?
Laminated and floating floors are often glued together with formaldehyde-based glues - and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. So an E-rating is used to judge the toxicity of the product, with E00 ultra low, and E1 best avoided.
Linoleum and cork floors are considered to be amongst the healthiest floor coverings to use.
Of course, the non-toxic theme can be taken right through your home, including furnishing fabrics, curtains, blinds and so on. It just depends how extreme you want to be.
If you are making these changes to help an asthma or allergy sufferer in the family, a useful first step would be to contact the National Asthma Council Australia - www.nationalasthma.org.au