According to the EPA's last count there are a whopping 85,000 chemicals produced and used in the United States. The scary part is that the vast majority haven't been adequately tested for safety in humans. These toxic chemicals lurk everywhere in everyday products and you have the burden of trying to determine what's safe and what's not because most don't have to be labeled at all.
5 Simple Ways to Lighten Your Toxic Load
It's daunting, to say the least, but you'd be surprised to see just how much you can lighten your toxic load by changing little things, one step at a time!
1. Eat Real Food
Quick Cap: Stick to food that looks like it came straight from the farm. Steer clear of artificial dyes and artificial sweeteners.
The most impactful thing you can do is choose whole, unprocessed, organic foods as much as possible. This way, you're getting the valuable nutrients already present in your food that are mostly lost during processing. Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and good fats are essential to a healthy body and immune system.
When you do eat processed or pre-packaged foods (we all do sometimes), two of the top ingredient categories to avoid are artificial dyes and artificial sweeteners — some of the most ubiquitous and harmful additives out there.
In our guide to 100+ Types of Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners, we detail the dangerous ones and give you the secrets of what they are and how to avoid them.
Artificial food dyes have proven just as serious with a laundry list of negative health effects, especially prevalent in children, including hyperactivity and symptoms of ADHD, hypersensitivity, lowered IQ, and other behavioral effects including anger and violence.
The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens, and a prominent study found that the E-numbered food dyes do as much damage to children's brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ.
More food-related articles by TSL:
- DIY Natural Fruit and Veggie Wash to Remove Dirt, Bacteria and Pesticides
- 7 Ways to Get Your Child to Love Real Food
- BPA Found in the Majority of Canned Foods
2. Get Tough on the Worst Offenders in Products You Use Everyday
QuickCap: Choose safer materials, especially for food purposes. Don't use pesticides.
Avoid toxic materials like aluminum, PVC, polycarbonate, polystyrene and unknown #7 plastics, and choose glass, stainless steel, polypropylene, HDPE, LDPE or PET instead. Check out our simplified guide to Decoding the Mystery of Safer vs Toxic Plastics for more information.
It's also so important to never use conventional pesticides (i.e. RoundUp) in your house or on the yard. These chemicals are responsible for the contamination of our surface water, groundwater and drinking water, and can cause negative health effects ranging from headaches, nausea and fatigue to reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, chronic systemic poisoning and cancer.
It's a well-known fact that environmental toxins are found in alarmingly high percentages of newborns. According to EWG,
Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.
If you do have the need for a pesticide, read through these helpful articles on the safest ways to eliminate your bug problem without introducing extreme toxins into your living space:
- Factsheets on Indoor and Outdoor Pests and How to Control Them Without Toxic Pesticides
- Control Household Pests Without Scary Poisons
3. Minimize Airborne Toxins and Eliminate Synthetic Fragrances
QuickCap: Ditch the dryer sheets, stop using air freshener and bleach, and choose safer cleaning supplies and laundry detergent.
Dryer sheets, air fresheners (hello, Glade), cleaning supplies and laundry detergents are among the most toxic products on the market today, and the chemicals released from them are circulated throughout your home and are stubbornly hard to remove.
The number one thing you can do is rid your home of synthetic fragrances. Fragrance is a term that legally encompasses over 3,000 ingredients. So when you read your labels and you see fragrance listed there, be aware that there could be just one fragrance ingredient or there could be all 3,000 of them in your product. Fragrance is a dangerous umbrella term you should always avoid.
Seriously though, ditch those dryer sheets. Conventional dryer sheets have a nasty list of negative health effects including headaches, nausea, vomiting, loss of muscle coordination and central nervous system damage. Some even have carcinogenic chemicals, so we recommend using wool dryer balls instead. You can even scent them with organic essential oils to get that pretty smell again.
And be sure to click over to EWG to find better cleaning supplies and laundry detergents. They make it easy to choose safe products for your home that work just as good as that toxic crap. GreenShield Organic cleaning supplies and laundry detergents are our favorites.
More articles on airborne toxins by TSL:
4. Choose Skin Care Products Very Carefully
QuickCap: Grab organic skincare products whenever possible. Avoid synthetic fragrances all the time.
Skin is the largest organ of the body, and not only is it permeable, it's also exposed to massive amounts of toxins on a daily basis. Children are especially susceptible to chemicals that are absorbed through the skin. Their delicate dermis drinks up whatever's put on it, so it's highly important to carefully choose what skincare products they're exposed to.
By opting for organic, you're automatically avoiding those toxic pesticides we went over earlier. And oftentimes, the ingredients in skincare products are concentrated during production resulting in greater toxin exposure (that's why we always recommend organic essential oils too).
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics gives a helpful rundown of the most common chemicals of concern in skincare products, the vast majority of them have been linked to numerous types of cancer. Our favorite skin care products are made by Earth Mama Angel Baby, Acure Organics and Shea Moisture (not certified organic, but available at regular grocery stores).
It's also super important to also choose a safe sunscreen. They're infamous for containing some of the most toxic skincare ingredients, but we found quite a few acceptable alternatives in our Guide to Choosing Safe Sunscreen.
More skincare articles by TSL:
- Hidden Toxic Chemicals in Children's Clothes + How to Find Safe Options
- How to Make a Detoxifying Body Scrub
5. Take Care of Those Dust Bunnies
QuickCap: Keep up on your dusting, and use methods that actually remove it.
House dust now tops the list as one of the most significant sources of childhood exposure to toxic substances. Chemicals can literally accumulate in household dust for decades, so beating down those dust bunnies is important, especially for children who can be exposed to chemicals in many different ways. Check out our Top 10 Ways to Bust That Dust.
Most effectively, using a HEPA filter reduces concentrations of lead, phthalates and brominated fire-retardant chemicals (PBDEs), and helps keep dust and dirt from being blown back through the vacuum exhaust. Don’t forget to vacuum padded furniture furniture, where flame-retardants accumulate in large amounts.
And always, always use the wet-dust method with electronics where so much toxic dust resides. Just slightly dampen a towel or rag so it picks up the dust and holds onto it, and use a second dry towel to wipe any remaining moisture from the surface. That way you're not flinging toxins back into the air to be circulated throughout your home.
Whenever possible, choose products made from safer materials to prevent toxic chemicals from leaching out and sloughing off into household dust in the first place. It's a good idea to check for GreenGuard certified products when you're ready to make a purchase.
Other Helpful TSL Articles
We've written a number of other articles detailing ways to avoid toxins in everyday life. Here are some you might find useful:
- Safe Bath Toy Guide
- Create Clean Indoor Air with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Lamps
- In-Depth Guide to Detoxing Your Dangerous Cookware
- Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Safer Kitchen Appliances
- Safe Dishes for Freezer Meals
- 90 of the Safest Sippy Cups and Drink Bottles for Kids
- Comprehensive Safe and Natural Baby Food Guide
- Toxic Chemicals in Nail Polish + 35 Safer Alternatives