I’ve been eating clean and organic for almost a full year now. While there’s no question that reducing your exposure to the pesticides that are found in and on foods is beneficial to good health, this isn’t the only way toxins enter our bodies.
We live in a world flooded with dangerous chemicals. Today many of the common household products we use everyday (hand soap, toothpaste, make-up and cleaning products to name a few) are built using a mix of unpronounceable, unregulated or unknown chemicals.
(Yes – unregulated – a significant portion of ingredients used in personal care items have not been tested for human safety. In fact, many household items are full of antibiotics which are helping to build our resistance to bacteria – but that’s a separate debate for another day).
Now before you start thinking I’ve truly gone past the point of no return into hippy land, I’m not suggesting that we should abandon modern life as we know it and crawl into a cave (as tempting as that may be some days).
My message is simply one of consideration. That is, if you’re concerned by what you put into your body, perhaps you should also consider what you put on it and what you breathe in.
While it’s seemingly impossible to remove all the badies, word is catching on that there are some serious household toxins that we should be avoiding.
Not convinced? All you have to do is look at the aisles in our biggest supermarkets. Alongside food, organic tampons, hand soaps, shampoos and washing tablets are starting to take pride place on our shelves. This is because demand for products free of nasty chemicals is growing as education is on the rise.
The US Environmental Working Group says that women use an average of 12 personal care products before they leave the house in the morning, ingesting up to 168 toxins. Why is this important? Well many of these toxins are considered to be estrogen disruptors (yes, that’s right they are linked to lady bit cancer and reproductive issues). While not as bad as us, our male counterparts also consume 85 toxins in that same morning period. And this is all before your morning coffee!
If you’re having trouble imagining how these toxins enter your body, consider your skin – it’s your biggest organ and everything you put on it is absorbed. Take for example a Nicorette patch – this simple sticker that is absorbed via your body is enough to influence someone’s ability to quit smoking, one of the most addictive habits in the world.
A great example of this is brought to life in the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. They tested the potency of dangerous chemicals in everyday products and found that by simply living in a way we all typically do, they could notably change the levels of these chemicals in their bodies.
So what can you do? There are several simple changes can you make around your home that are easy and inexpensive to implement. The easiest place to start is with this advice: once you run out of your current supply of product, buy cleaner, healthier versions of that same product when you next visit the shops.
You know they’re the better-for-you version when they’re free of the below chemicals:
Often known as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben, parabens are able to easily penetrate the skin and are widely used in cosmetics as a preservative. Studies suggest parabens are in 85% of today’s make up products. In the 1990s these little nasties were deemed as xenoestrogens―agents that mimic estrogen in the body – meaning that there is evidence that they interfere with our hormone function. While there are some parabens in food, parabens in cosmetics bypass the metabolic process and enter the blood stream and body organs intact. It is thought that parabens are linked to breast cancer, testicular cancer and reproductive issues.
2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (and Sodium Laureth Sulfate)
SLS is an emulsifier and foaming agent common in body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and laundry detergent. It is linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption.
Phthalates are used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics and to make aromas stick around. They are common in household cleaning products, scented beauty products, food packaging and household air fresheners. They are thought to increase the risk of asthma, attention deficit disorders, breast cancer, obesity, autism spectrum disorders, as well as male and female fertility issues.
You may have seen the words BPA-free plastered across plastic products before. BPA or Bisphenoal A is a carbon-based synthetic compound used in the lining of some food and beverage packaging such as canned food. It is also found in many consumer products such as plastic containers, water bottles and baby’s bottles. BPA’s toxicity increases when the product it’s contained in is exposed to heat. Most commonly, if you’re using plastic containers to take food to work – make sure they’re BPA free. You can check this by looking out for the numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5 on the container. Risks are similar to that in point 3.
A more extensive ‘to-avoid’ list is below.
Products that can have high levels of toxins are:
- Make-up, moisturisers and creams
- Shampoos and conditioners
- Body soap and hand soap
- Washing machine powder
- Dishwasher tablets and dish washing liquid
- Cook-top and kitchen bench sprays
- Non-stick fry-pans coated with Teflon
- Room deodorisers
- Plastic containers and plastic wraps such as cling wrap (life hack – don’t wrap hot food in cling wrap! See my above point on BPA)
An upside – by buying the greener versions of these products you’ll inadvertently be doing something good for the environment too, as most of those in the better-for-you range are also free of animal cruelty and are drain water safe. Win-win!
For more information:
- Know what the toxic ingredients are: http://www.miessence.com/shop/en/miessenceStory/ingredientsWeShun
- Use your smartphone – clever apps like Think Dirty allow you to scan the barcode on makeup to know how bad it is for you.
- Be careful of green washing – this is where products are labelled as green or organic as a marketing tool. Make sure you check the ingredients list and certifications.
- For some makeup brand inspiration, check out Sarah Wilson’s recent post http://www.sarahwilson.com/2015/04/the-best-toxin-free-cosmetics-my-personal-listicle/
- The team at ecostore do a ‘nasty chemical of the month’ post which is super informative – you can catch their blog here http://blog.ecostore.com.au/category/sustainable-living-2/healthy-home/
Image credit: http://cityofcreativedreams.blogspot.com.au