Stop Being Toxic! - A Guide On How To Protect You And Your Family From Harmful Chemicals
We’re exposed to a scary amount of harmful chemicals every day, just about everywhere we go. These chemicals are creeping up on us from the shelves of the supermarket to our new set of furniture at home.
These accumulated toxins, also known as our “chemical body burden”, can dramatically affect our health by increasing the chances of cancer, infertility, many hormonal imbalances and more.
Another issue here is that many of these chemicals are heavily unregulated hardly noticeable for the unsuspecting consumers that rely on the industry regulations to look after them.
That’s why I’ve created this guide to show you how these chemicals affect us, how to clean the toxins out from your life, and what are the most common harmful ingredients to look out for.
Main Concerns With Harmful Chemicals
So are these chemicals really that bad?
Well, using a deodorant that has aluminium once is probably not going to cause cancer. But these things add up - and that is the real issue.
According to CDC, the bodies of most women in the US are contaminated with heavy metals, along with a number of toxic solvents, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, fire retardants, chemicals from plastics, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and banned pesticides such as DDT.
Researchers have connected these toxins to cancer, infertility, lowered IQ, thyroid disease, birth defects, Parkinson's disease, and many developmental disorders. Given that our hormones are critically important for proper growth and development, babies and children are at the greatest risk for adverse effects.
How to clean up toxins from your life
Toxins in the environment, like smog, you can’t do much about. Luckily, however, the self-care and food products you choose is another matter and there is plenty we can do.
Here are some easy tips on how to decrease your chemical body burden.
1. Make your own cleaning products
Most cleaning products include very harsh chemicals. Best way to avoid exposure is to make your own! For example, simple ingredients like lemon, vinegar and baking soda are excellent for making safe cleaning products.
Here is a quick and easy alternative for a chemical cleaning spray:
2. Always buy “fragrance-free”
“Fragrance” can be found in many cleaners, laundry detergents, air freshners, and personal products. This confusingly nice-sounding ingredient may include hundreds of different chemicals that companies are legally not responsible of explaining to the customers. Fragrance often contain phalates that are linked to reproductive health, development and other issues.
3. Stop using plastic containers and buying food with plastic packaging
Avoid plastic packaging (especially marked with PC (polycarbonate) or PVC) as much as possible and especially avoid microwaving food in plastic containers. To be on the safe side, replace plastic completely with glass, ceramic or lined cardboard.
4. Don’t touch paper receipts
Paper receipts are usually coated with BPA which is a very harmful chemical that negatively affects many aspects of our health such as brain function and fertility. Try to leave the paper receipts completely or at least try not to touch them with your bare hands.
5. Leave your shoes at the door
Take your shoes before entering your house to avoid tracking in oils and chemicals from the street outside.
6. Switch non-stick cookware to stainless steel
Don't use high-heat when using Teflon or any non-stick cookware. Teflon releases perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) when heated to high-temperatures. PFOA is linked to developmental issues and cancer. Always throw out any teflon cookware that has scratches in the surface or choose cast iron or stainless steel pans for cooking instead.
7. Go organic!
This is kind of a no brainer but many actually don't seem to know why its important.
Organophosphates are nerve agents that are used in many pesticides to target the nervous systems of insects. Many studies have linked organophosphate exposure to effects on brain development, behavior, and fertility, but they are still among the more common pesticides in use today. When you buy organic produce, you don't have to worry about these pesticides.
However, I know that buying everything organic can make anyones eyes water when looking at the bill. Follow this list to know what is most essential to buy organic and what's less important.
8. Avoid processed foods
Generally, the more the ingredients, (and especially the more ingredients that you don't know what they are), the more processed the food product is. Try to switch to raw ingredients as much as you can and minimize the amount of processed foods. Avoid metal cans and plastic packaging.
9. Never eat “burned” food or cook meat in high heat
HCAs (cancerous chemicals) form when meat, including beef, pork, fish, and poultry is cooked using high-temperature methods. To avoid HCAs, try low temperature cooking methods such as steaming and boiling instead of roasting, pan frying, grilling, and baking. Never eat any food that is even slightly burned.
10. Drink high quality water
As surprising as it sounds for many, our dear and clear tap-water is actually source for a lot of chemical residue that gets into our bodies. And unfortunately bottled water is not much better (unless its high quality spring water bottled in glass). The best way to filter the chemicals out from your water is finding a natural spring or well or using reverse osmosis.
11. Avoid water-resistant products
Avoid brands like Scotchgard, Stainmaster, Polartec, or Gore-Tex. Avoid stain-repellent treatment on new carpets and furniture.
12. Cut down the meat
Organochlorines are a group of chemicals that includes dioxins, PCBs, and pesticides such as DDT. Although most of these were banned decades ago, they persist in the environment and creep up the food chain. According to research, vegans has significantly less than organochlorines in their blood than omnivores. Best way to cut down these harmful chemicals is simple, just reduce the meat intake and you have one thing less to worry about.
13. Check the labels for flame retardants
Flame retardants are often added in mattresses, upholstered furniture, foam cushions, baby car seats, insulation, and electronics. Always look for the labels to make sure it was made without flame retardants (if the product is flame-retardant free, this should be clearly indicated in the label as long as the product is manufactured in 2015 or later). If you're not sure, it's better to wash your hands frequently using soap and water. This is especially important before meals and for babies and young children.
14. Avoid dry cleaners
While it may be more convenient to drop your clothing off with a dry cleaner, the cleaning chemical they use is usually perchloroethylene (known as PCE). It is classified as a probable carcinogen and has been linked to liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage. Stay on the safe side and do your own laundry using natural detergent.
15. Wash new clothes before wearing them
Washing new clothes significantly reduces the amount of chemicals left over from the manufacturing process. Also, some of the research suggests that synthetic materials may be treated with more chemicals than cotton for example. Favor natural fibers over synthetic.
16. Use organic hair dyes and products
Regular hair dye is made with dangerous chemicals such as ammonia (or ethanolamines in the case of some ammonia-free products), hydrogen peroxide, and p-phenylenediamine that are directly touch your scalp each time hair is dyed. To avoid exposure, choose organic hair dyes such as henna.
17. Check that your personal case products are safe
The average person uses about nine personal care products such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, lotions etc. per day. That equals 129 chemicals daily just from personal care! To find a safe way to choose the personal care products is either to make your own (which is super fun!) or use these great resources to check your products: EWG Skin Deep, www.cosmeticsdatabase.com
Making your own cosmetics (like this easy body lotion recipe below) is a great way to clear your cosmetics from harmful chemicals.
Common harmful chemicals and where to find them
Now that you've gotten on your way to make your life a little less toxic, here's a list of common harmful chemicals and where to find them. Some are easier to identify (listed as ingredients) and some are just toxins that might be hiding in burned food or contaminated seafood.
HCAs heterocylic amines (meat prepared in high temperature)
Triclosan (toothpaste, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, and surgical soaps)
Retinyl palmitate or retinol (skin products)
Parabens, most common methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- and isobutylparabens. (Moisturizers, face and skin cleaners, sunscreens, deodorants, shaving gels, toothpastes, makeup, shampoo and many other products)
Formaldehyde or formalin (heated hair products such as hair dyes, nail products)
Glycol Ethers 2-butoxyethanol EGBE and methoxydiglycol DEGME (cleaning products, water-based paints, brake fluid and cosmetics)
PVC Polyvinyl chloride (plastic products)
Lead (Crumbling old paint, water, canned foods)
PFAS chemicals (cookware, waterproof clothing, coatings on upholstered furniture and carpeting, and food packaging)
It’s important that we stop relying on the industry regulations thinking “it wouldn't be sold if there was something harmful” and start looking after ourselves and our families by making better and more educated choices.
First step is to reduce the amount for new exposure as much as you can and then to look for solutions to detox the chemicals that have already accumulated in your body over the years.
For more information about natural ways to detox and tips for aiding our body's natural detoxification process, stay tuned!