- There are many toxins we are exposed to every day.
- They are found in common household items and products used for various purposes.
- You can make your own cleaning products with just 3 ingredients and remove toxins from your life. Read on to find out how.
You may be shocked when you hear about the number of hazardous toxins we are exposed to every day, but the good news is that there are ways that we can reduce our exposure and ensure that our families can live healthily. In this article, I will inform you about the harmful chemicals in daily life and how to get rid of them.
Why we need to seriously look at these chemicals
You may be wondering what is so bad about using these chemicals if they are all around us. Surely we would have been warned or the manufacturers would stop using them if they are so bad, but the unfortunate thing is that many of these chemicals that are used in products have research that shows that they could be harmful or are, in fact, harmful and it can take years to get them banned.
Because women tend to use more personal care products and often do more cleaning they are exposed to more toxins. It is estimated that women are exposed to around 168 chemicals every day. A common result of this is hormonal imbalances. Girls are even starting to menstruate earlier because of the whole change in the hormonal balance. The whole market is flooded with Baby Lip Gloss, Baby Nail Paints, Baby Eyeshadows. Manufacturers even make them glittery and attractive for the kids. It pains in my heart when I see little girls all coated with layers of makeup.
Toxins were always around us but the load of toxins on the body has increased so much that our body fails to detoxify, hence affects our organs.
In 2011, Canadian environmental group Environmental Defence released a report of studies done on the most popular makeup items. The products tested positive for various heavy metals (nickel, lead, beryllium, thallium, cadmium, selenium, and arsenic). Some of the brands tested were Avon, L’Oreal, Clinique, NYX, and MAC.
Men and boys also experience problems. They just tend to use fewer products. The problem with many of these chemicals is that they are endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system in your body is responsible for producing and regulating your hormones. It’s suggested that Hashimoto’s which is a common cause of hypothyroidism is caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
What Chemicals Do to the Body
While the percentage of these toxins in products can be fairly low they build up in the body. If the liver is not removing these toxins effectively or in the case of cosmetics and personal care products, they get into the bloodstream immediately because they are absorbed through the skin, these chemicals are free to cause problems. Some of the most common chemicals we are exposed to daily include:
Phthalates are found in cosmetics, personal care, and cleaning products they are used to maintain the fragrance. In plastics, they are used to make the plastic more flexible and durable. Phthalates, however, are endocrine disruptors. If you see the words “parfum”, “perfum”, or “fragrance” it’s an indication of phthalates.
Phthalates are particularly harmful to men as they cause testosterone to lower. This can lead to a whole host of problems including lowering your sperm count. Have you ever see a man with man boobs? Its a result of too much hormone estrogen and too less hormone testosterone. No one should be allowing phthalates to enter their system, but especially so if you are planning a family. They can also cause problems in children, especially boys, so check your children’s products too.
BPA is also known as Bisphenol A. BPA is used to make plastics, usually, hard plastics. It’s also used in the plastic that lines cans and is found in containers that processed and prepackaged foods are kept in. BPA mimics estrogen. This is one of the causes of girls menstruating early.
Because BPA mimics estrogen, your body responds to it as it would to estrogen. Estrogen dominance is a common problem for women. It can also increase the risk of reproductive problems and cancer. Many manufacturers have stopped using BPA because of this, but not all of them.
3. Heavy Metals
Heavy metals include arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, and thallium. Some of them, copper, iron, and selenium are needed by the body in trace amounts, but others like arsenic, cadmium, and mercury are not needed at all and are harmful.
As you saw early, they are present in cosmetics, but some are even present in our foods. Arsenic is found in rice and mercury in seafood. They are also present in other food items, but in much smaller quantities. Amalgam dental fillings, usually silver in color, also contain mercury. Luckily there are dentists who are no longer using these fillings but unfortunately, there are still dentists who do.
Over time these heavy metals increase the risk of disease. Mercury and arsenic are also of particular concern because rice is common in baby food products. Learn how to reduce the arsenic content of rice here. Fish needs to be limited during pregnancy because mercury affects the healthy development of unborn babies.
4. Halogens and Halogen-Containing Chemicals
Halogens are chemical elements. There are five of them: astatine, bromine (bromide), chlorine, fluorine (fluoride), and iodine. Halogens and halogen-containing chemicals affect the thyroid gland. Iodine is very necessary for healthy thyroid function but the others are harmful.
The other four chemicals are very similar to iodine in terms of their structure and can deplete iodine. They also block thyroid hormone T3 from entering the thyroid gland and cause inflammation in the thyroid gland. Some of these halogens, namely fluorine, can even cause cancer.
- Astatine: Astatine is radioactive. It’s mainly used to treat certain cancers, one of them being thyroid cancer due to the structure of astatine which like iodine, is drawn to the thyroid gland. It’s a very rare chemical and is not used in products other than those used to get rid of cancer.
- Bromine: Bromine is common in pesticides used on crops can also be found in baked goods. It is also used to purify water and is an ingredient in flame retardants. Flame retardants are used in furniture, toys, cosmetics and personal care products, and even in clothing. Bromine is also necessary to be able to capture images on photographic film.
- Chlorine: Chlorine is commonly used in swimming pools and is often used to water. It is also found in pesticides and herbicides used on crops. If you use bleach, it is likely that you are using chlorine too since it is used to bleach textiles. Another surprising place to find chlorine is in PVC pipes often used in plumbing.
- Fluorine: Fluorine is used in toothpaste to prevent cavities and to purify water as fluoride because fluorine is toxic. Though fluoride is safer to use than fluorine, it still increases the risk of cancer. Fluoride is also found in certain medications such as antidepressants, and even processed foods contain fluoride.
For more on fluoride, watch this short film by Jeremy Seifert:
Not only are halogens bad for you, but they are also bad for the environment. CFC’s were found to damage the ozone layer, chlorine and fluorine are chemicals used to create CFC’s. The use of CFC’s has dropped at least and been replaced. But the fact that these halogens are still used in pesticides is troubling not only for humans but is bad for the environment and can be toxic to animals too.
Triclosan is used as an antibacterial agent in soaps, face washes, lotions, shampoos, toothpaste, shaving products, and other common personal care products. The FDA has stated that manufacturers are no longer allowed to use triclosan in products due to insufficient data about how safe it is to use and whether it is even effective.
Research carried out over the last couple of years that indicate triclosan is not good for our health or the environment. It has also been implicated in the massive problem that has developed, the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics.
These Chemicals act as Xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens mimic estrogen in the body. BPA as you saw, mimics estrogen but there are others. Other chemicals that are xenoestrogens are parabens. Parabens are preservatives and antimicrobials used in cosmetics and personal care products as well as cleaning products. Parabens are even used in packaged foods.
Parabens are still FDA approved but there are studies that show that they are, in fact, not safe. Breast cancer risk is increased with exposure to paraben. Parabens even have an effect on androgens, one of which is testosterone and poses a problem for the female and the male reproductive system too by dropping testosterone levels.
Soy is another xenoestrogen. Many foods contain soy, it is even present in some bread. Soy is one of the most controversial topics in the health research. It has its health benefits and disadvantages. Since the research is not full, I do not eat soy anymore.
How do We Minimize or Get Rid of Chemicals
When I first read about this, I looked around me. I was standing in a pool of chemicals. I had no idea where to start. Don’t panic, we will all aim to be chemical free in 6 months and these are the first ones that you can avoid without any effort.
1. BPA and phthalates
- Avoid plastic containers for storing foods: Use glass instead of plastic containers for the storage of your food. Don’t use plastic wrap.
- Avoid food in plastic packaging: Cardboard and glass jars are better than plastic or cans.
- Avoid heating plastic: If you do have plastic items, never heat them up since this allows more of the chemicals to leach into your food and drink.
- Bottled water and other plastic packages: Never leave plastic water bottles in the heat, for example, leaving them in the car on a hot day. Never reuse plastic bottles that bottled water comes in. The same goes for any other cooldrink bottles or prepackaged foods.
- BPA-free items: If you insist on using plastic items, buy BPA-free items, but be aware that they may still contain other harmful chemicals.
- Protect your children: Make sure that your baby’s bottles are glass and free from BPA and BPS as well as phthalates. Make sure that your children don’t drink from the hosepipe as it likely contains BPA as well.
- Lesser known plastic items: You may never even have given these a second thought, but CDs and DVDs are made from a plastic called vinyl. Try to avoid them. Plastic shower curtains are made from vinyl and PVC. Rather use material curtains instead. Put your personal care items into glass containers if they come in plastic containers originally.
- Minimize contact with till slips: Most till slips contain BPA. Though some stores have switched to a BPA free type of paper, some stores still use paper that contains BPA.
- Buy fragrance-free products: This will take care of phthalates. Use fragrance-free garbage bags. Be sure to check for other chemicals. Read about other chemicals to avoid in personal care products here. Using natural organic products are best. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) have a guide to choosing safe products here.
2. Heavy metals
- Change your cookware: This may be surprising, but in poorer quality cookware, the nickel and other heavy metals can leach into your food. Non-stick cookware is convenient but is full of chemicals that also leach into your food. Rather choose ceramic, stainless steel, or cast iron cookware. Read here to find out more about the healthiest cookware and safest methods of cooking to prevent toxins.
- Change your cooking utensils: Plastic utensils can also leach chemicals like BPA into your food. Using wooden or stainless steel utensils are much safer.
- Choose your makeup carefully: When you eat some toxins they are filtered by the liver. But when you apply something on your skin or inhale it, it goes directly into the blood circulation. Our lips are like sponges so it is very important to carefully choose your lipsticks, lipglosses, and lip balms. Check out these paraben-free products.
- Eat organic foods: Pesticides and herbicides are very rarely used in organic farming methods and is usually prohibited. If you cannot afford organic produce, Check out the EWG clean fifteen list as these are not as full of pesticides and always rinse your produce thoroughly.
- Use filters: Reverse osmosis filters are the best for making sure you and your family do not consume chemicals and heavy metals. Filters can also be fitted to the tap or you can have them installed in a way that makes sure your whole house is taken care of no matter which tap you use.
- Check the type of piping your home uses: If your home uses PVC piping, you should consider getting it changed to copper pipes.
- Vacuum regularly: Flame retardants are present in the dust around your home if you have items that contain them, most people do as they are in most of the older furniture and in toys. Vacuuming your home regularly will prevent you and your family from breathing them in. Read about more ways to protect against fire retardants and other chemicals here.
Detoxing to Get Rid of the Toxins We are Exposed to Every Day
To detox means to support your liver, and also your kidneys, skin, lungs, and digestive system to get rid of toxins. Simple ways you can do this are:
- Cutting out processed foods
- Eating organic foods
- Exercising at least 30 minutes 5 days a week
- Using a sauna, especially an infrared sauna
- Drink a glass of water with lemon juice every morning
These are a great start but you may need to do more to detox effectively. Read about more natural ways to detox here.
Hand Sanitizers and Antibacterial Soaps
Hand sanitizers are available from most stores and are even provided by stores to clean your trolley or baskets off before you shop. Antibacterial soaps are also widely available and we constantly see ads about how great they are.
But did you know that over-sanitizing does more harm than good? Using hand sanitizer, for example, instead of washing your hands with soap and water, removes all the bacteria, good and bad instead of just the bad. If your environment is overly sterile, it can impact the strength of your immune system negatively.
This is especially true for babies and toddlers who need a chance to build up their immune systems. As they play in the soil or go about the house, their immune system is able to build up antibodies against the germs. Their little bodies can’t do that in an overly sterile environment. This doesn’t mean you should not clean your home at all, but constantly using hand sanitizer is not the way to go.
Antibacterial soaps have also been found not to be any more effective at removing dirt and germs than ordinary soaps as you can see here. Triclosan is one of the most common ingredients in antibacterial products. Luckily the FDA is banning its use in products. But there are other chemicals present that can cause more harm than good.
Bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics is a very serious problem since some just do not respond to treatment anymore. As you now know, triclosan is one of the chemicals that cause this. Overuse of antibiotics and incorrectly using antibiotics also contribute to this. Make sure that you are only using antibiotics when absolutely necessary and use healthy home remedies to get over colds and flu.
Rather stick to regular soap (fragrance and colorant-free) and water, or make your own antibacterial soap. Look out for the DIY recipe for antibacterial soap coming soon.
Make Your Own Cleaning and Personal Care Products
When you make your own products, you know what goes into them. You can make sure that they are free of harmful chemicals. Personal products that contain chemicals can result in skin irritation. Essential oils are great for skin when diluted in a carrier oil like jojoba oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil. If you struggle with eczema, a common response to toxins, check this DIY recipe out.
For cleaning, 3 ingredients are all it takes. You can use bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide as effective cleaning aids instead of chemicals. It is best to use them separately as not all natural products go together, these 3 are definitely some of those that do not mix well. But you can use them one after the other for extra cleaning power.
Look out for DIY articles that will be coming your way here on palaknotes.com. Sign up to receive notifications of new articles and DIY recipes for anything from healthy food to healthier products to use on your skin and around your home in your inbox.
- Common hazardous chemicals in daily life are phthalates, BPA, heavy metals, halogens, triclosan, and xenoestrogens.
- These chemicals are found in personal care products, cleaning products, furniture, plastics, food, water, cookware, and other common household items.
- Avoid these chemicals by getting rid of plastic items in your home, only buying food in glass jars or cardboard boxes, eating organic foods, using organic and fragrance-free products and installing water filters.
- You can easily create your own lotions using essential oils diluted in carrier oils, and you can make your own cleaning products using bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide.
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- Women Put an Average of 168 Chemicals on Their Bodies Daily
- Bisphenol A
- Why Halogens are Dangerous to the Thyroid
- Fluoride: Poison on Tap
- Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptions