Table of Contents
Not Only Exposed To Toxins But We Are Sold Toxins in Everyday Products
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Beware Of The Toxins In Everyday Products
Big Brand Skin Creams & Serums
Most of the popular moisturizing lotions and antiaging skin creams contain chemicals that have not been tested for safety; therefore, it is a trial-and-error product that both the producer and you hope doesn’t cause any adverse reaction. The law intended to guard the security of personal care products hasn’t had an overhaul since 1938 — quite 80 years ago.
Suppose it’s a well-known brand sitting in a big box store, or maybe one at an emporium. In that case, it probably contains multiple chemicals of concern, from alpha and beta hydroxy acids, which exfoliate the outer layer of your skin, leaving it more vulnerable to damage from the sun to fragrance. This catchall term will apply to quite 3,000 chemicals. Instead, choose only products with the USDA Certified Organic seal — these are those that contain only safe, pure ingredients for your skin (and remember that whatever you set on your skin goes into your body, leading me to a subsequent point)
“Organic Poser” Skin Creams & Serums
Be careful when buying cosmetics that state “organic” or natural on the label. For your protection, make sure they carry a Certified USDA badge.
“Greenwashing” is a practice some cosmetic companies use to try to fool people into buying their products by adding “organic” and or other similar terms on their labels. Sure, their products might contain one or maybe several “organic” or “natural” ingredients… but it’s going to instead be amongst several or many toxic, artificial, and nonorganic ingredients containing pesticides, herbicides, and whoknowswhat!
NOTE that if their products are genuinely organic, nonGMO, and safe, they will take steps to possess them independently, and they will be verified intrinsically to urge the USDA Certified Organic designation (or the equivalent, such as in other countries.) Simply said they will have a USDA certification label on them.
So, it begs the question… why aren’t they?
On cosmetics, the USDA Certified Organic Seal, in short, means the product is independently verified to contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients, with the remaining 5% on an approved safe ingredient list. “Due to confusion and lack of federal oversight, there are companies that use the term “organic” in their product names primarily as a marketing tool,” the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported, which is why you need to look past “organic” and “wild-crafted” and similar terms and only accept the USDA Certified Organic label or equivalent strict independent certifications when it comes to products for your skin.
5 Ingredients to Avoid Like the Plague
1. Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids (Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid):
Exfoliating the outer layer of your skin increases sensitivity to the sun, which will accelerate skin aging — not prevent it.
2. Hydroquinone: Popular in skin-lightening products, this chemical may cause cancer, respiratory tract irritation, eye damage, and ochronosis, a condition that causes your skin to thicken and turn bluish-grey.
3. Octinoxate: Also known as octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), this sunscreen chemical (also found in cosmetics, hair color, and shampoo) has hormone-mimicking effects, potentially contributing to cancer and thyroid problems.
4. Parabens: Paraben, in all of its forms, widely used as cosmetics preservatives, is a hormone-mimicking disaster that may harm development and reproduction while making you fat.
5. Polyethylene Glycol (PEGs):
Common in personal care products like facial cleansers and moisturizers, PEGs may be contaminated with carcinogens and act as penetration enhancers, making the dangerous chemicals more easily absorbed by your skin.
The global fragrance industry is worth $70 billion, but it’s hiding a dirty secret behind its nine fruity, musky, and floral undertones. Perfume (and cologne and any other fragrance product) can contain any combination of dozens, or even hundreds, of chemicals, many of which have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, respiratory damage, and reproductive harm.
Fragrances are among the worst products to “feed” to your body, as the toxic ingredients don’t appear on labels, making it impossible to avoid them. Worse, when the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) tested beauty and personal care products, fragrance chemicals made up 75% of the toxic chemicals in the products.
Truly natural and organic essential oils (not to be confused with synthetic fragrance oils) are the exception, as they smell lovely and have therapeutic properties that support health and well-being. Here, too, though, please do your homework, as some natural and organic essential oils can cause irritation and more if not properly diluted.
Like skin creams and serums, makeup — be it foundation, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, nail polish, or others — is full of chemicals that may disrupt your hormones, cause cancer, or harm human development, a serious concern if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Did you know that 10,500 chemical ingredients may be used in your makeup and other personal care products? And, “… a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without approval from FDA.
So, as with all skincare products, choose ONLY those that bear the USDA Certified Organic seal — the gold standard for safe skincare and cosmetic ingredients.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a synthetic fluoropolymer chemical that is better known by the brand name Teflon. Shaving gels are a widespread usage for PTFE, which is used in cosmetics to give a slippery, smooth feeling (the same reason it’s used in nonstick pans), but avoid it when you can, as this toxin is linked to developmental problems, cancer, liver damage, immune effects, thyroid problems, and birth defects.
Be aware, too, that PTFE goes by many other names, including poly-fluoroalkyls or perfluoroalkyl (PFASs). It’s best to avoid ingredients with “fluoro” in the title and be on the lookout for it in products other than shave gel, too — an EWG study found 13 PFAS chemicals in nearly 200 personal care products that included 28 brands.
For safe and straightforward shaving cream, consider coconut oil — it works like a charm. “Feeding” It to Your Skin? Make Sure It’s USDA-Certified Organic! If you’re applying it to your skin, remember that your skin eats if the molecules in whatever you’re using are small enough to be consumed… and unfortunately, so many of the toxic ingredients in so many products are small enough. And unlike the foods you put in your mouth, which go through various “filters” to weed out some toxins, such as your liver, what you apply to your skin essentially goes straight into your bloodstream!
Therefore, be confident that whatever you are “feeding” your skin is USDA Certified Organic — or a similarly trusted independent-of-the-company certification of purity, such as in other countries. When you see the USDA Certified Organic seal, you’ll know the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients, and the remaining 5% must adhere to an approved safe ingredient list. The word “organic” on its own is not enough, as no one is regulating the store when it comes to organic, natural, or purity claims on your cosmetics.
As a result, an “organic” product could still contain any number of toxic chemicals. When you see USDA Certified Organic, that’s when you can rest easy, knowing the product, whether it be a skin cream or even your clothing and bedsheets, was created without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, synthetic dyes, and GMOs, and with at least 95% organic ingredients.
Octinoxate, oxybenzone, and other chemical filters of ultra-violet light are hormone-disrupting chemicals that may mimic your hormones, while their penetration-enhancing ingredients allow the substances to readily flow into your body.
An FDA study even revealed that applying chemical sunscreens to your body increases levels of the active ingredients (in this case, avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule) in your bloodstream at “concentrations that exceeded the threshold established by the FDA for potentially waiving some nonclinical toxicology studies for sunscreens.”
There’s no reason to risk such exposures, as mineral-based sunscreens, which use zinc oxide to block UV rays, are widely available. Just make sure it’s a non-nano particle version, as nanoparticles may cause DNA damage, inflammation, and mitochondrial dysfunction, so they’re best avoided (some terms for nanoparticles include fullerenes, micronized zinc oxide, nano zinc oxide, micronized titanium dioxide, and micronized quartz silica).
Antiperspirant and Deodorant
Deodorants, which block odors, and antiperspirants, which reduce perspiration, often contain PEGs, nanoparticles, parabens, and triclosan, an antibacterial agent and endocrine disruptor linked to reproductive and developmental harm. Antiperspirants may also contain aluminum, which has been found to generate “genomic instability” in breast cells and alter the “breast microenvironment,” leading to oxidative damage and inflammatory responses. As with other personal care products, look for USDA Certified Organic as well as aluminum-free options.
As the importance of the body’s microbiome becomes clear, taking steps to avoid products that may disrupt its delicate microbial balance is crucial, and this includes antibacterial soap. Not only does it often contain toxic triclosan, but it’s no better at preventing infections than plain soap and water, so choose USDA Certified Organic chemical-free soaps instead.
Clothes can be toxic? Very! The textile industry is one of the top polluters worldwide, contributing about 20% of industrial water pollution globally. If you ever get caught up in fast fashion — buying the latest trends each season — this is part of the problem, as cheap clothing and lots of it is putting a heavy burden on the planet.
Every year, 43 million tons of chemicals are used in textile production, and this doesn’t even account for the pesticides used to grow cotton that’s made into clothes. Aside from polluting water, air, and soil, some of these linger on your clothes when you wear them (this is one reason why it’s so important to wash your new clothes before wearing them). Just to give you a quick idea of what kinds of chemicals might be in your clothing:
• Polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), used to make water- and stain-proof clothing, which may cause liver problems and hormone disruption
• Azo dyes, which may release cancer-causing aromatic amines
• Heavy metals, like cadmium, lead, and mercury, found in dyes and leather tanning, which may cause cancer or nervous system damage
• Formaldehyde is used to make wrinkle- and shrink-free clothing, which is a carcinogen
• Flame retardants, which act as hormone disruptors
When choosing your clothes, look for organic, chemical-free brands and choose quality over quantity, keeping your clothes until they wear out.
Every time you shower or bathe in chlorinated water, disinfection byproducts (DBPs), also known as trihalomethanes, enter the air. DBPs are formed from an interaction between chlorine and bromine and organic materials in the water, and they’re known to cause liver damage, decreased nervous system activity, and possibly cancer.
You can be exposed to DBPs when you breathe the steam from your shower, as well as via drinking water. When ingested over the long term, DBPs may harm fertility by adversely affecting semen quality. Installing a high-quality water filter made to remove DBPs, at both your tap and your shower/bath, can solve this problem.
Suds-ing up your hair with most big-brand shampoos is another unnecessary toxic exposure. Several “red list,” i.e., the worst of the worst, ingredients commonly show up in big-name shampoos, including ethanolamines, like DEA (diethanolamine), an emulsifying agent that may cause cancer liver and kidney damage, neurotoxic effects (tremors), and problems with brain development and memory.
Other chemicals to take a pass on include all forms of parabens, chemical sunscreens (oxybenzone and octinoxate), and formaldehyde-releasing ingredients, including DMDM hydantoin, bronopol, Diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea. These widely used preservatives pose cancer concerns, particularly since the longer you store such chemicals, and if they’re exposed to higher temperatures, as they probably are if you store your shampoo in your shower, the more cancer-causing formaldehyde they release. Look for USDA Certified Organic shampoo to avoid these toxins.
Stop Feeding Your Lungs Toxins
Air pollution is a major source of toxic exposure as far as your lungs are concerned, but it can be difficult to do much about the air outside of your home — aside from moving to a pristine area with low pollution, a luxury few can afford. What many do not realize, though, is that Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors, where air may actually be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.
This means that tackling indoor sources of air pollution should be top on your list, and is much more easily accomplished than tackling outdoor air. Indoors, secondhand smoke is a major concern that can cause cancer and other health issues, but there are many others that are far less well-known and, depending on your circumstances, may be far more ubiquitous.
This is a big one and includes dozens of top offenders, from oven cleaners and bleach to ammonia and toilet bowl cleaners. They release caustic chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, sodium or potassium hydroxide, or ethanolamines, which cause lung irritation and inflammation. If you’ve ever felt dizzy, got a headache, or had trouble breathing while cleaning your home, the cleaning chemicals were likely to blame.
Further, EWG has found that 53% of cleaning products contain chemicals that can harm your lungs, with toilet bowl cleaners, liquid laundry detergents, tarnish removers, and floor cleaners among the worst offenders.
For people who regularly use such products, long-term exposure has been linked to an accelerated decline in lung function, which may damage the lungs as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes daily for 10 to 20 years. Homemade cleaners often work as well as the store-bought kind and can save your lungs and overall health. Vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, and lemon juice are inexpensive and readily available to create a number of natural DIY household cleaners.
While you sleep, your mattress could be outgassing chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and flame retardants, into your bedroom, which you subsequently inhale. Such chemicals are not only irritating to your respiratory tract but may also cause cancer, disrupt your hormones, and harm your immune system or reproductive system.
When choosing a new mattress, comfort is important, but don’t just shop around to see how it feels. Make sure you choose a healthy mattress, which should contain at least 95% certified organic content, have low-VOC certification, and be free from polyurethane foam (such as memory foam), flame retardants, fragrance, antimicrobials, and PVC.
Your pillows, too, can outgas chemicals that are easily inhalable. Foam pillows are among the worst, as they may release VOCs linked to cancer, damage to your liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, headaches, and even visual disorders and memory impairment.
Your pillow is a double whammy of toxic exposure, as contact with your skin could also cause atopic dermatitis or eczema. This one is an easy fix: When you’re in the market for new pillows, avoid synthetic petroleum-based foam and choose those made of natural wool, organic cotton, natural latex foam, or plant-based fillings. The casing should be certified organic.
Flea and Tick Products
Flea and tick products for pets are toxic by nature, and when you apply them to pets, the chemicals migrate into the air and settle in household dust, which you later absorb via your lungs and skin. One such chemical, tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP), is used in flea and tick collars. It leaves residues on pets’ fur, which can then transfer to your hands and be absorbed via your skin.
TCVP is a nerve poison that’s particularly harmful to children’s developing brains, but anyone can be harmed by flea and tick treatments for dogs and cats, as most are toxic to the nervous system. Others, such as those containing pyrethrins, are possible carcinogens linked to asthma and allergies as well.
One way to protect your pets naturally is by giving regular baths (soap and water kill adult fleas), washing bedding often, and inspecting your pet for ticks after going on walks.
Furniture is problematic on multiple levels, depending on its material. Upholstery may contain polyurethane foam that contains flame retardants, with older relics (those from the mid-2000s and before) potential sources of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are linked to thyroid problems, infertility, and negative impacts on neurodevelopment.
When choosing upholstery, look for the TB117-2013 label, which reads, “The upholstery materials in this product contain NO added flame retardant chemicals.”
Composite wood products, such as particleboard, fiberboard, and plywood, are also harmful due to the potential to release cancer-causing formaldehyde into the air. These products are made from chips or particles of wood that are bonded using a resin, which may release formaldehyde.
Composite wood products are widely used to make furniture, cabinets, doors, flooring products, photo frames, and more. Opt for furniture made from solid wood instead, and if you do bring composite wood products into your home, be sure to ventilate the area well.
Candles and Air Fresheners
Scented products can emit an average of 17 VOCs (volatile organic compounds), including benzene and toluene, which are linked to cancer. Other chemicals in air fresheners and scented candles can cause respiratory symptoms and lung dysfunction while reacting with ozone in your air to create secondary pollutants like formaldehyde and ultrafine particles that may further damage your central nervous system and alter hormone levels.
In short, by trying to make your home smell good, you’re actually sending a toxic mix of chemicals into the air. There are far better ways that won’t harm your health, like putting pure essential oils in a diffuser or simmering a pot of spices (think cinnamon and nutmeg) on the stove.
Bad for You = Bad for Pets All those chemicals in your home? They’re getting onto and into your pets, too, at levels even higher than in humans. One study found that, compared to people, dogs had 2.4 times higher levels of PFCs (Teflon chemicals) while cats had 23.4 times more PBDE flame retardants and 5.4 times more mercury. With their smaller body sizes and closer proximity to the floor, where they ingest household dust regularly, they face many of the enhanced risks of chemical exposure as do children.
Yet, there are eight times more pet dogs and cats in the U.S. than there are children under 5, making this an issue that matters to many. Pets can even act as sentinels for human health, displaying health effects from environmental exposures decades before humans do. The good news is that as you make changes to protect your own health, your pet’s health will benefit too.
Wall-to-wall carpeting is one of the most toxic products in most homes, acting as a sink for toxic dust and allergens, acting as a reservoir for mold growth, and emitting toxic chemicals (again, VOCs and, for older carpeting, PBDEs) into your home’s air. If you have time to vacuum three times a week or more, using a HEPA filter vacuum can help to mitigate some of the toxins, but if you’re like the rest of us (who are lucky to vacuum once every two weeks), strive to put in healthier flooring instead.
This is a longer-term goal, but one that’s worth investing in. Tile or wood is best, but if you want carpet look for wool options or those with lower VOC emissions (Green Label Plus or Greenguard Certified). Stain- and water-proofing treatments should be avoided and choose low-VOC adhesives or no-adhesive hook fastener installation.
Nonstick pots and pans are undoubtedly convenient and easy to clean, but the chemicals used to make the slippery surface — PFCs — are proven to be toxic. While some PFCs, notably PFOA and PFOS, have been phased out in the U.S., replacement chemicals pose many of the same health risks, which include liver toxicity, thyroid problems, hormone disruption, high cholesterol, obesity, and more. An easy way to reduce exposure is to swap out your nonstick cookware for safer options.
Cast iron is one very good consideration, and if you want non-stick you can find cast iron with an enamel coating. Ceramic or ceramic-coated cookware is another good option. Stainless steel may not be the best choice for frying, but it’s a good choice for steaming and cooking. Titanium is a great all-around option, though it can be costly. Be aware, though, that PFCs are found in a wide variety of consumer goods, including fast food packaging, cosmetics, cleaning products, and more.
Nylon Cooking Utensils
Cooking spoons, spatulas, whisks, and other utensils made of black nylon may contain primary aromatic amines, including 4,4′-methylenedianiline (4,4′-MDA), a chemical linked to cancer. Further, they’re not heatproof, only heat resistant, which means they can melt upon contact with hot surfaces and can also flake off into your food as they wear out. Black plastic cooking utensils may even contain plastics recycled from electronics equipment, and as such could contain toxic flame retardants, heavy metals, and PVC. Wood cooking utensils are an easy, safer fix, as are organic bamboo options.
Mothballs may remind you of your grandmother’s attic or closet, but hopefully, you don’t actually use them in your own home … and if you do, get rid of them immediately. These toxic concoctions are nearly 100% naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, chemicals that may cause headaches, nausea, coughing, hemolytic anemia, and eye and nose irritation in the short term, and cancer, liver, and kidney damage if exposure continues long term. What’s more, mothballs are intended to release toxic vapors to repel bugs, but the fumes accumulate in enclosed spaces, acting as balls of poison to people or pets that get near them. This one is a simple fix: don’t use them.
Your printer, television, video game console, and other electronics contain large quantities of flame-retardant chemicals, which migrate into your household dust. This dust may be among the most toxic in your home, which is why it’s best to keep electronics well-dusted (use a damp cloth or microfiber cloth to catch the dust, so it doesn’t get stirred up into the air). Also, locate electronic devices as far away from your everyday living spaces as you can. Keep printers as far away as possible from your desk or anywhere you spend time.
Excess Blue Light
Blue wavelengths of light, which come from all electronic things — televisions, computers, cellphones, tablets — as well as fluorescent and LED lights, are OK during the day but disruptive to your circadian rhythm at night. Exposure to blue light at night has been found to disrupt sleep and may also be linked to cancer, depression, diabetes, and heart problems as a result.
To protect yourself, shut off your electronics two to three hours before bedtime and use red lights for nightlights if you need to get up during the night. If you work at night or have no intention of turning off your tablet until the wee hours, wear blue-blocking glasses or install an app on your device that will automatically filter out blue light at night.
Yes, noise pollution is also a thing, so much so that it’s been referred to as a “modern plague.” If you live near a busy highway or airport, the traffic noise may be making you depressed or anxious. Leaf blowers and lawnmowers are other types of noise pollution, as are loud blenders televisions, and even hair dryers, if the sound interferes with our well-being. Exposure to loud noise is linked with hearing loss, stress, disrupted sleep, high blood pressure, and heart disease, with more than 100 million Americans affected.
Metabolic health is also harmed by excess noise, with a strong association between transportation noise in neighborhoods and the incidence of diabetes. If you work in a noisy environment, you probably automatically wear ear protection but be sure to also do so when using lawn equipment or loud power tools.
If noise is a problem intermittently, noise-canceling headphones will be your friend. If you live in a noisy environment that you have no control over, double-paneled windows can help, as can acoustic wall panels made to reduce noise. Installing a fence, which can absorb sound waves and vibrations, planting trees, and situating your bedroom away from the source of the noise can also help.
Make sure you read the ingredients and the contents of the products you buy.
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