Many of us have done a detox in order to eliminate internal toxins from our bodies, but what about the toxins in our own homes? Common household and personal-care products are increasingly being found to have negative health effects on the nervous, immune systems, reproductive systems, endocrine, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.
The average home contains 500 to 1,000 chemicals, many of which we are unable to see, smell, or taste. While these chemicals may be tolerated individually and in small doses, problems can arise when one is exposed to them in combination or in larger doses.
The good news is that there are ways to lower our toxic load — to reduce our exposure to both internal and external toxins by detoxing our bodies as well as the various products we use.
To achieve optimal health and create sustainable wellness, it’s imperative that you become aware of not only what you are putting in and around your body, but also, what you put on it.
Between shampoos, toothpaste, face creams, deodorant,cosmetics and so on, most people are voluntarily dousing themselves daily with multiple chemicals, carcinogens and mutagens, adding to their toxic loads and setting the stage for illness and disease. Seems like kind of a crazy habit, doesn’t it?
The problem is that many cosmetics and personal care products contain undisclosed toxic chemicals that are dangerous to your health and are known to contribute to a variety of problems such as cancer, nerve damage, and infertility. And as your skin is an extremely permeable membrane, these toxins enter your body very easily, so the fewer you use the better, particularly with products that remain on the skin for long periods of time, such as facial makeup.
The longer you are exposed to chemicals, the greater the opportunity for your body to absorb them.
Keep cosmetic self-pollution to a minimum by taking the following steps
- When choosing makeup, select unscented, fragrance free products that contain few or no petrochemical derivatives.
- Avoid products that contain diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA).
- Avoid products with the preservatives imidazolidinyl urea and quarternium 15.
- Look for nail polish products that are “3-free” meaning they do not contain the “toxic trio” of toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate.
- Look for skin care lines that are formulated with fewer dangerous ingredients, such as Dr. Hauschka, Aubrey Organics, Ren, Sumbody, Amala, Tata Harper, Tammy Fender and Weleda. To research the toxicity of a specific product before you buy, check out the Environmental Working Group’s massive cosmetics database.
- To cut exposure, use make-up sparingly, and only on the days you think you “need” it and not at all on the weekends. When you get home from work, take your makeup off right away – don’t wait till bedtime.
- Trade in your high-end perfumes and colognes for plant-based essential oils.
- Opt for natural hair colorings like henna and other plant-based formulas.
- Carry a copy of the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Safe Cosmetics, to help you make the best cosmetics choices possible. Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Safe Cosmetics
- And for more, see this list of chemicals to avoid in your personal care products taken from my book REVIVE: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again
Living a healthy lifestyle means looking out for not just what you eat, but also for what you put on your body. These are the chemicals to avoid in your personal care products.
This list was taken from my book REVIVE: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again
DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine)
These three chemicals are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can form cancer-causing agents — research indicates a strong link to liver and kidney cancer. They are commonly found in shampoos, soaps, bubble baths and facial cleansers.
Phthalates and Parabens
Banned by the European Union in 2003, phthalates and parabens are a group of chemicals commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. They keep hairsprays sticky and bacteria and fungus out of things like nail polish and perfume. Both have demonstrated themselves to be carcinogenic and particularly linked to breast cancer.
FD&C Color Pigments
Many of these pigments cause skin sensitivity and irritation, or even oxygen depletion in the blood. Most FD&C color pigments are made from coal tar and studies show that almost all of them are carcinogenic. FD&C Red #4 is no longer available for use in foods because of a known threat to the adrenal glands and urinary bladder.
"Fragrance" is a euphemism for nearly 4,000 different ingredients found in most shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens, skincare and body care products.
Most are synthetic and are either cancer-causing or otherwise toxic. Exposure to "fragrances" has been shown to affect the central nervous system.
Imidazolidinyl Urea and DMDM Hydantoin
These are derivatives of formaldehyde. Remember dissecting frogs in school? Formaldehyde is what scientists and morticians use to preserve corpses and body parts. These chemicals are linked to allergies, chest pain, chronic fatigue, depression, dizziness, ear infections, headaches, joint pain, loss of sleep, and can trigger asthma. They can weaken the immune system, and, surprise surprise, cause cancer. Imidazolidinyl Urea and DMDM Hydantoin are used in skin, body and hair products, antiperspirants and nail polish.
Quarternium-15 commonly causes allergic reactions and dermatitis, and breaks down into formaldehyde. Quarternium-15 is used as a preservative in many skin and hair care products.
Isopropyl Alcohol is used in hair color rinses, body rubs, hand lotion and aftershave lotions as well as in antifreeze and shellac! Scientists believe it has the ability to destroy intestinal flora, leaving the body's major organs open to parasites, and thus to cancers. Beyond attacking the intestinal flora, isopropyl alcohol can cause headaches, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, and coma.
Mineral oil is a petroleum derivative that coats the skin like saran wrap, and prevents it from breathing, absorbing and excreting. It also slows the skin's natural cell development, causing premature aging. Note that baby oil is 100% mineral oil – and 100% bad for your baby's sensitive skin.
PEG (Polyethylene Glycol)
PEG's are most commonly used in spray-on oven cleaners and in many hair and skin products. PEG's main fuctions are to dissolve oil and grease. Thus, on the body, they take the protective oils off the skin and hair, making them more vulnerable to other toxins.
Petrolatum is a petrochemical that prevents the skin breathing and excreting.
It contains two well-known carcinogens: Benzo-A-Pyrene and Benzo-B-Fluroanthene.
Propylene Glycol is the active ingredient in your car's antifreeze. It is also used in makeup, toothpaste and deodorant. Direct contact can cause brain, liver and kidney abnormalities. Stick deodorants have a higher concentration of PG than is allowed for most industrial use! The EPA requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles when working with it. And yet, the FDA says we can put it in our mouths!
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are the most toxic ingredients on this list. They are used to clean engines, garage floors, at car washes and are still the most popular ingredients for makeup, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste. Exposure causes eye damage, depression, diarrhea and many other ailments. When used in combination with other chemicals, they can form nitrosamines, a deadly class of carcinogen.
Talc has been linked to ovarian and testicular cancer. It can be found in makeup, baby and adult powders and foundation.
A synthetic antibacterial ingredient that has been compared to Agent Orange. The Environmental Protection Agency registers it as a pesticide, highly toxic to any living organism. It is also classified as a chlorophenol. In other words, it is in a cancer causing chemical class. Triclosan disrupts hormones, can affect sexual function and fertility and may foster birth defects. It has been linked to paralysis, suppression of the immune system, brain hemorrhages, and heart problems. It is widely used in antibacterial cleansers, toothpaste, and household products.
Whether we can see them smell them or not our bodies are effected by the thousands of chemicals we're exposed to in our homes. Choosing household products that are more natural and have less chemicals and toxic ingredients is important to both you, your family and the environment. Here are some ways to limit your exposure – and what to look out for.
20 Ways to 'Detox' Your Home
Many of us have done a detox in order to eliminate internal toxins from our body, but how many of us do anything about the toxins in our own homes? Common household and body-care products are increasingly being found to have negative health effects on the nervous and immune systems, on our reproductive systems and on our endocrine, cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
The average home contains 500-1,000 chemicals, many of which we are unable to see, smell or taste. While these chemicals may be tolerated individually and in small doses, problems can arise when one is exposed to them in combination or in larger doses. Everyone's tolerance level is different depending on genetics, nutritional status and previous contacts with many chemicals, but the negative effects of household toxins are often compounded by the use of other drugs especially the habitual use of alcohol, or prescription or recreational drugs.
Indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Home insulation, so wonderful for keeping our homes warm in winter and cool in summer, doesn't allow fresh air in, so we're constantly breathing in the same stale air. Wall to wall carpeting keeps us cozy, but can introduce a myriad of toxins to our well insulated homes. It can also trap dirt, fleas, dust, dust-mites and lead.
Many of the cleaning products we use to clean our furniture, bathrooms, windows etc. are full of toxic chemicals, some of which do not even appear on the labels. Similarly with the many personal-care care products we put on our skin and the pet-care products we use on our pets.
Most tick and flea products contain active ingredients and solvents that might cause cancer in animals. Also, substantial human exposure is possible by absorption through the skin, while playing with and handling the pet.
The pesticides we use on our gardens eliminate not only plant pests but also most of the insects that are beneficial to help control these pests. Of the 30 most commonly used lawn chemicals, 19 have studies pointing toward cancer and 15 are known to cause nervous system poisoning.
This is not to say that we should not keep our houses comfortable and clean and our yards looking good. What's important is to understand that how we do this can have an important impact on our health. Abundant toxins can and do lead to health problems.
Taking more care to reduce our exposure to both internal and external toxins, by detoxing our bodies and our living space allows the body's own detoxification to function more efficiently. This strengthens our resilience to the daily onslaught of factors impacting our health.
There are many things you can do to "detox" your home, some more practical than others.
Here are my top 20 suggestions:
- No shoes in the house (as most household dirt, pesticides and lead come in on your shoes). Go barefoot or wear slippers.
- Place floor mats vertically by your entryways to wipe your shoes. This way more dirt and residue from your shoes stays outside on the mat
- Keep the air clean. Keep your windows and doors open as much as possible to ventilate. Use green plants as natural air detoxifiers. Remove odors with baking soda. Use fresh flowers or bowls of herbs like rosemary and sage to add a pleasant fragrance to rooms. Have your air ducts and vents cleaned with nontoxic cleaners. Get a portable air cleaner/purifier, especially for the bedrooms.
- Switch from the standard household cleaning products to cleaner and greener ones. These don't damage your health or the environment's as much and work as well as the mass marketed ones. You can also use basic ingredients you have around the house, for instance, vinegar in place of bleach, baking soda to scrub your tiles and hydrogen peroxide to remove stains. According to Annie Bond, the author of "Better Basics For The Home," she can clean anything with water and these five basic ingredients: Baking Soda, Washing Soda, Distilled White Vinegar, Vegetable based liquid Soap eg Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap and Tea Tree oil.
- Replace your skin care and personal products with less toxic and chemical free options. Deodorant, toothpaste, cosmetics, hair products, nail polish and perfumes are often loaded with toxins. Learn how to identify them and avoid them.
- Use plastics wisely (as some contain Bisphenol A (BPA), which is linked to cancer and Phtalates, which are linked to endocrine and developmental problems). Avoid plastic food packaging (when you can). Don't wrap food in plastic. Don't microwave food in plastic containers. Choose baby bottles made from glass or BPA-free plastic. Avoid vinyl teethers for your baby. Stay away from children's toys marked with a "3" or "PVC." Avoid plastic shower curtains.
- Avoid non stick pans, pots, bakeware and utensils (as Teflon contains perfluorinated chemicals (PFC's) which have been linked to cancer and developmental problems).
- Keep house dust to a minimum (as more dust means more toxins). Mop all surfaces at least once a week. Use a vacuum cleaner (with a HEPA filter, preferably) for your carpets. HEPA-filter vacuums capture the widest range of particles and get rid of allergens.
- Avoid excess moisture (as it encourages the growth of mold and mildew). Check areas for moisture accumulation or leaks (particularly basements). Regularly clean surfaces where mold usually grows - around showers and tubs and beneath sinks.
- Get a shower filter (as many of the contaminants in tap water become gases at room temperature). A shower filter can help keep these toxins from becoming airborne.
- Get a water filter (as more than 700 chemicals have been identified in drinking water). Filtering your tap water is better than drinking bottled water.
- Avoid stain-guarded clothing, furniture and carpets (due to the presence of PFC's). Wrinkle free and permanent press fabrics used for clothing and bedding commonly contain formaldehyde - use untreated fabrics where possible.
- Be conscious of toxins in carpeting, especially in products made from synthetic materials. Use natural fiber wool & cotton rugs. If possible, replace your wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors, all natural linoleum or ceramic tiles. Use nontoxic glues, adhesives, stains or sealers for installation.
- Seal (with a non toxic sealer) or replace particleboard walls, floors or cabinets (which often contain formaldehyde, which can emit irritating and unhealthy fumes for decades). Avoid plywood, fiberglass, fiberboard and paneling
- Avoid harmful pet-care products and avoid toxic pest control (including traditional termite exterminators).
- Replace toxic lawn and garden pesticides and herbicides with less harmful natural ones.
- Tell the dry cleaner not to use the plastic wrap or remove it as soon as possible (as the plastic traps the dry cleaning chemicals on clothes and in your closet). Let your dry cleaning air out (preferably outside) before storing it. Use "wet cleaning" if you are lucky enough to have it in your area.
- Use low VOC, low odor latex (water based) paint. Open all windows to ventilate properly when painting indoors.
- Have your house checked for carbon monoxide leaks, (most commonly found in leaking gas stoves, gas fireplaces, furnaces and chimneys and gas water heaters). Install a carbon monoxide alarm
- Check Radon levels in poorly ventilated basements that have cracked walls and or floors. Radon is an odorless gas that forms as uranium in rocks and soil breaks down. Radon is linked to lung cancer
- We can reduce our risk of chronic illness by limiting our exposure to these toxins but don't let this become an obsession which can cause so much stress that it creates more of a negative impact on your health than the toxins themselves.
- And finally, no amount of environmental toxins are as important as emotional toxicity. You can do all the above, but if your house is full of anger, resentment, jealousy, unhappiness and a lack of love, compassion and forgiveness, the house will remain toxic.