It’s not just about what you eat and drink. There are plenty of toxins in our environment. Some of them we know about and make perfect sense to us. Toxins from cigarette smoke and fossil fuels are obvious, but what about your shampoo? Yes even household products have toxins. Check out this surprising list and learn how you live a safer life and keep a low toxin home.
Mold – many homes and apartments have this fungus and dwellers don’t even know it. Be aware. Always dry water damaged areas within 24-48 hours. If you live in an older building check for discolorations in the walls and water leakage.
Arsenic – last year, Consumer Reports did a study and found that several foods contained arsenic. In addition, arsenic can be present in ground water which is a common concern for people in the midwest and southern states. Arsenic is a dangerous carcinogen that can have lethal consequences. So always filter your water or avoid ground water as much as possible. Also look for brands like Nature’s One, working to rework their products so they have the least amount of arsenic as possible.
Phthalates – these chemicals help lengthen the life of fragrances and plastics but can be particularly harmful to children. Phthalates release into the air as plastics age and are broken down. This leads to higher concentrations of phthalates in outdoor air in urban and suburban areas rather than remote areas. However, diet is believed to be the main source for phthalate contamination. Solution? Avoid plastic wrap, plastic containers and watch out for any products with the ingredient in them (which can be common in baby-care products and children are in greater danger).
Parabens – these chemicals are widely used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. I choose to buy shampoo, soaps, conditioner, lotions and make-up that are all natural without parabens. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer with their ability to mimic estrogen in the body. Remember, just because something is on your skin doesn’t mean it cannot enter your bloodstream and cause damage. Lots of natural and organic products now say “no parabens” or “paraben-free” on the label. But ALWAYS read the ingredients in the products you buy.
VOC’s – Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. One of the most widely known VOC is formaldehyde which can slowly excrete from paint into the air. These dangerous compounds can be found not just in paint, but cleaning products, glue, adhesives, copiers and printers furnishings, building materials and pesticides. Exposure can lead to mild symptoms like headaches and nausea, to more severe symptoms such as damage to kidney, liver and nervous system. Some compounds are known to cause cancer in animals, others linked to humans. Solution? Eco-friendly furniture, VOC-free or low paints, and always use plenty of fresh air when using adhesives and materials known to have VOCs.
Dioxins – Over 90% of human exposure of these toxic chemicals come from conventional and mass-produced animal products. Dioxins are highly toxic chemicals from wastes and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. Most Americans are getting dioxins through dairy and meat products, so another important reason to limit your consumption of both. In 2011, Germany was faced with a huge dioxin scare that left most Germans running to organic markets for their meat, eggs and dairy. For more information, check out this video regarding dioxins in our food supply. Just another reason why even when I do eat the limited amount of meat I do eat, I always go for organic.
Triclosan – this ingredient added to many consumer products to reduce bacterial contamination can be hazardous. Studies in animals show that triclosan can alter hormone regulation. Other studies done on bacteria have suggested the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. So again, read the ingredients in everything you buy because chances are you just washed your hands with triclosan.
Lead- before World War 2, most homes were painted with lead-based paints. Sanding off this layer of paint releases lead into the air which can lead to lead poisoning. In addition, many ceramic dishes contain lead, and older homes may use metal pipes that contain lead which leads to contaminated drinking water. While frequent dusting and vacuuming can reduce some of the lead dust, it is important to remove the paint entirely if you live in an older home. Minor traces of lead in the body can cause extreme fatigue, headaches, mental confusion, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and vague aches and pains. Higher amounts of lead poisoning can have more severe effects such as damage to the brain, kidneys, and nervous system, especially in young children and fetuses. It also can be fatal.
Radon – this colorless, odorless, tasteless, naturally occurring radioactive gas is produced by the decay of uranium in rocks, soil, and building materials. This gas may be beneath your home, office or school. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon may be the second leading cause of lung cancer, ranking just after cigarette smoking. Radon is responsible for causing anywhere from 7,000 to 30,000 of the 140,000 cases of lung cancer annually in the United States. According to a Swedish study, those at greatest risk of developing lung cancer from radon were smokers living in homes with high radon levels. You can get a radon detection kit at most hardware stores to see if your home is at risk.
Oxybenzone – recently I have started using natural and organic sunscreens for this very reason. Oxybenzone is present in many (56%) sunscreens and cosmetics because it absorbs UVB and UVA light. To avoid both Oxybenzone and retinyl palminate (also toxic and in many cosmetics and sunscreens) choose products without these chemicals.
BHA – Butylated hydroxyanisol is preservative and a stabilizer in many conventional foods but can cause cancer and has been banned in some countries. I also discuss it in my other blog as being oil that is left to cool and then reused. So avoid conventional foods and stick to natural and organic foods that use Vitamin E as a preservative instead of BHA or BHT.
There are certainly more toxins out there, but these are the few that I found most important to report to the community on. So shop wisely, read products carefully and focus on a more organic lifestyle to help decrease your risk for many environmental toxins.