Toxic items you’re exposed to daily and how to reduce your family’s exposure in 7 steps
In the last 3 years I’ve managed to decrease our household exposure to toxic chemicals by at least 80% (according to my husband’s diligent calculations and help of the internet)! Reducing the toxic items that surround our daily life became an obsession of mine when I learned of their relationship to infertility and cancerous tumours. These dangerous synthetic substances can build up in your body, eventually giving you a variety of illnesses. You may not be able to avoid the chemicals given off in strong air-conditioning, the interior of your car, or the air that you breathe, but you can make a few important changes for a healthier home. Admittedly it can be a bit more time consuming, especially if making your own cleaning/household solutions, or more expensive if buying ready-prepared organic products/cosmetics. There’s no way to measure how much better or longer my life will be because of the changes I’ve made, but it feels good doing something positive for me, the environment and the younger generation.
1 – CLEANING PRODUCTS
Stay away from any cleaning product that contains chemicals especially surfactants or phthalates, and look for ‘organic’ or ‘bio’ certified ones. Depending on where you live these can be hard to source or much more expensive, so look into making your own household cleaning products! For a clean home using toxic free substances, all you need is: baking soda, lemon, vinegar, natural black soap or soap powder and hot water! Be aware that fabric protector sprays are an invisible coat of plastic that over time will release into your environment. Instead clean stains or dirt as it occurs or cover regularly used furniture with a washable blanket. And don’t forget that the same applies to the products you use to clean your car, especially the interior.
2 – COSMETICS
Shampoo, hand-cream, lip-balm, make-up, soap can all contain a number of harmful chemicals. Anything that ‘foams’ usually contains sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureate sulfate, or the hormone inhibitor Triclosan, so make sure you check the labels! It is estimated that, woman especially, can be exposed to over 125 unique chemicals DAILY just from the few products used regularly! Instead look for organic or bio certified products using natural oils or mineral based cosmetics and try to cut down the number of products you expose yourself to daily. NB: avoid sunscreen sprays that are more likely to be inhaled as well as absorbed by the skin. Organic sunscreen, usually made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, can be difficult to source and very expensive. So when buying sunscreen check the label and avoid oxybenzone, octinoxate, retinyl palmitate and fragrances.
3 – PLASTIC CONTAINERS/TUPPERWARE
Many plastic containers/tupperware contain chemicals such as phthalates which are endocrine disruptors. These can interfere with our body’s hormones causing cancerous tumours, birth defects and developmental disorders. When washed or exposed to changes in temperature (fridge, microwave, room temperature, dishwasher) they release these dangerous chemicals into your food. Instead use glass jars or tupperware containers, especially for storing fatty foods which absorb chemicals easier. NB transfer prepared food in plastic packaging, to glass or ceramic containers before heating up, so the chemicals in the plastic don’t seep into your food.
4 – NON-STICK COOKING PANS
Have you noticed scratches or chips on your non-stick pans? Most non-stick pans contain PFOA’s (perfluorooctanoic acid) which have caused cancer in laboratory animals. Instead use stainless steel, cast iron or PFOA free cookware NOT Tefal!
5 – ANTIPERSPIRANT/DEODORANT
Most antiperspirants use chemicals and aluminum based compounds that are absorbed into your sweat glands. Instead use natural deodorant crystal sticks or sprays that are paraben and aluminum free. There are many on the market these days and make sure they also do not include ‘PEG‘ ingredients, such as PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil.
6 – AIR FRESHENERS
Even plug-in air scents and synthetically scented candles can contain the endocrine disrupting phthalates chemicals. And anything that you spray can end up in your lungs and blood stream, and build up over time. Instead find organic certified air fresheners or candles made from essential oils and flowers. Or of course you can easily make your own mix in an empty spray bottle using ingredients such as water, rose oil, lemon, lavender etc. Baking soda and white vinegar also act as great odour absorbers.
7 – PERFUMES
Like air fresheners, the chemicals found in most perfumes or colognes, will be absorbed into your blood stream through your skin and lungs. Perfumes can contain over 300 chemicals in them, which is too many to fit on an ‘ingredients’ list and is kept secret from competitors. Luckily there are more natural perfumes coming into the market so look for ‘organic’ or ‘bio’ labels and essential oil scents, or make your own!
My advise is to begin by reading the ingredients labels of all the products you buy, and start swapping them for healthier ones once they have run out. Also don’t be fooled by the word ‘Natural’ which has no legally approved standing. Instead look for the word ‘organic’ or ‘bio’ which means it is a certified product. To put it simply, when buying products for the house or family, avoid sulfates, parabens, fragrances or parfum. Of course, buying organic food also plays a part in reducing your exposure to chemicals, but that’s for another post!