February Health and Wellness
Reducing Toxic Exposure Part 1
More than ever today, we are seeing an increase of illness, allergies, and chemical sensitivities. This seems to be a growing trend that previous generations may not have had to deal with until now. We are also starting to learn the correlation between substances we use in daily life and cancer. And according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), our indoor environment is 2 to 5 times more toxic than our outdoor environment, and we as Americans are spending more of our time indoors than not. But not to worry, by bringing some awareness to this topic, you can greatly reduce the synthetic and chemical exposure you may be receiving in your home and create a non/low toxic home.
Top things you can do to reduce your toxic load naturally at home:
This is probably the biggest area of concern inside our homes. Things we may not even realize can be negatively affecting us. For starters, reconsider scented candles, room sprays, and plug-in air fresheners. These are filled with a generic umbrella term called “fragrance” where companies do not have to fully disclose their ingredients. The toxic synthetic fragrances in these are known endocrine disrupters, and can exasperate conditions such as allergies and asthma. The smoke and fragrance from candles are particularly toxic, making us more vulnerable to their side effects even more so in the winter when we use them more regularly. In addition, we are not properly and sufficiently ventilating our homes. On a nice day, aim to open your windows for as long as possible. And on colder days, try opening them for as little as five minutes. Getting fresh clean air circulating through your home is a crucial step in improving air quality. You may want to consider investing in a high quality air filter, regularly cleaning your home, and using vacuums with a HEPA air filter. If you still want some kind of scent or candles in your home, try diffusing essential oils, using homemade or purchased nontoxic room sprays, or investing in high-quality battery operated candles that create just as much of a cozy environment as the real things.
Probably the most commonly owned and used toxic and synthetic products, the FDA no longer recommends using antibacterial hand soaps and cleaners. The reason for this being that it has not shown to be any better than plain soap and water or using more natural cleaners around your home. According to the FDA and EPA, triclosan, the antibacterial property found in these types of soaps, contributes to the proliferation of antibiotic resistance and slowly breaking down our own body’s immune system and microflora. The heavy fumes of most conventional household cleaners are another source of aggravation for those with respiratory issues and allergies.
Cookware and storage containers
We are now starting to learn the dangers of using Teflon nonstick cookware and plastic food storage containers. These types of cookware contain PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals), which then leaches into the food that we consume. Plastic is particularly a concern when used for storing and heating food. BPA (bisphenol A plastic), BPS (bisphenol S plastic), and phthalates that make up plastic Tupperware containers, will also leach into your food causing various health problems. Upgrade your Tupperware to glass as often as possible, and aim to cook your food with oven safe glass, ceramic, cast-iron, stainless steel, or nonstick cookware that is specifically made to be non-toxic.
Aside from scented candles and spray or plug-in air fresheners, laundry detergent and dryer sheets are one of if not the biggest concern for toxic exposure in your home. When I first started seeking out a non-toxic lifestyle, I was surprised to find out how serious this area actually is. The soap that you use will leave toxic and synthetic residue on all of your clothes that you wear all day every day. The things that we are exposed to the most overtime are the most concerning. If everything you wear, even if it is freshly cleaned, contains toxic residue from your laundry products, you are constantly exposed. Dryer sheets are horrifically toxic and should be thrown out immediately. It’s so easy to substitute with wool dryer balls that are completely non-toxic and will actually help speed up the drying time of your clothes. These products are particularly concerning for women as they contain serious endocrine and hormone disruptors. There’s so many non-toxic brands that clean just as well if not better and smell amazing- free of toxins and synthetics.
Personal care and beauty products
While both men and women use personal care and body products, women in particular are more vulnerable to toxins in this area, as they use on average far more products than men. The average woman is exposed to 515 synthetic substances in products on a daily basis. These include hair and skin care products, make up, perfume, nail polish, deodorant, and body lotions and moisturizers. Particularly for the products we put on our hair and skin, the pores on our scalp absorbs more than most other areas of our body. Whatever you put on your hair or head is getting absorbed by your scalp. In addition, products applied to the skin are all getting absorbed into the bloodstream. Doing this every day with multiple products is what has eventually been found as one of the reasons why we see a rise in chemical sensitivities and hormone disruption. Many people are afraid to try more natural nontoxic products fearing they won’t work. I have found these types of products to actually be superior to their lower quality counterparts because of the caliber of ingredients that are used, in addition to the process in which they are made. I much prefer my more natural products now over the synthetic, conventional ones I used to use. Also bear in mind that whether we are talking about a body or cleaning and laundry products, companies are scientifically manufacturing smells that we have learned to associate with being “clean”. These types of products are not inherently better, we have just learned to associate fake chemical smells with being clean. I promise your body and home will feel and smell very fresh without these types of chemical fragrances added.
If you are new on your journey to reducing your overall toxic exposure in your home, it may seem a little overwhelming at first, but I really want to encourage you to stick with it because the benefits far outweigh any temporary inconveniences of trying new products. You can focus on one area at a time and slowly buy new non-toxic products as your current ones run out. You can also experiment with making very simple, easy, and affordable DIY products at home using common ingredients like white vinegar, water, and essential oils. Some of my favorite brands to help get you started are Seventh Generation, Method, and Meyer’s cleaning and laundry products. I promise you will not be disappointed!