The latest headlines are shouting that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will no longer be releasing assessment of potentially hazardous new chemicals or the planned new uses of already existing and potentially harmful chemicals.
Appalled and disheartened—This is the only way to read this latest news! Every day, I sit with patients and try to understand why they may have gotten cancer, an autoimmune disease, dyslexia, or autism. A wealth of research exists that shows that the chemicals we use in our everyday lives can cause increased disease risk, which is one of the many reasons that it is so concerning that the EPA is now cutting corners on chemical safety assessment. I won’t be silent when our government disregards public health in the interest of big business, and I urge you to take steps to protect yourself against the TOXIC chemical load that can be present in household and garden products, foods, and personal items like skin care and makeup.
We as consumers have to be more aware and not allow industries that use these chemicals to flourish. You can start by knowing how toxins are affecting you and your family now, and then follow the steps below to reverse and minimize the toxins you are being exposed to.
Your Toxic Load
Most toxins are found in the five chemicals below. Read on to see common sources of each.
|Heavy Metals||Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic||Cardiovascular disease, illness and defects in infants and children, cancer||fish, cadmium in batteries, paint, lead in bone broth, arsenic in rice, lead in water|
|VOC (Volatile organic compounds)||Nitrates, ammonia, acetone, ethyl alcohol, formaldehyde, butane, freons||These are chemicals that enter the air as gases from solids or liquids. Can cause headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, respiratory irritation. Long-term exposure damages the liver, kidneys, nervous system.||House paint, paint strippers, gasoline, kerosene, nail polish and remover, perfumes, hairspray, furniture and carpet, refrigerant for air conditioners.|
|Organophosphates||A class of neurotoxic chemicals used in half of all pesticides in the US.||Since these are used in many pesticides they can leak into nonorganic food. Can threaten healthy reproduction. Studies show that children exposed to higher levels of these pesticides have higher rates of ADHD.||Pest control products, flea and fly killers, garden pesticides, flea collars, head lice treatments,|
|Phthalate/parabens||Chemical preservatives and antifungal agents.||These chemicals work as estrogen and hormone disrupters, and have been linked to reproductive issues, dermatitis, rashes, and some cancers.||Cosmetics, hair products, skincare products.|
|Dioxins||A group of chemically-related compounds that are environmental pollutants.||Highly toxic, cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage immune system, interferes with hormone balance, causes some cancers.||Mostly a by-product of industrial processes including hospital waste, chlorine bleaching, manufacturing herbicides, and some pesticides. Can also be found in the fat in red meat and dairy products.|
Now that you know more about the common toxins, let’s take a closer look at the four main places where harmful chemicals can reside: food, pesticides, air & water, and body care products. Use our Trash or TREASURE guide to know which items to keep and which to dump.
The biggest risk of chemical exposure in food is from the use of pesticides. These poisons load our food with the chemical compound organophosphates. Organophosphates are linked to poor cognition, memory and inattention.
Heavy metal contamination is also a concern, especially with poor quality food and larger fishes like tuna or grouper. The storage of food in plastic containers increases our exposure to BPA (bisphenol A) and pthalates, another villain in the toxic load saga.
- Non-organic foods with fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, artificial flavors and sweeteners.
- Don’t eat fish with a high mercury content.
- Seek organic produce, especially avoiding the dirty dozen and organic, all natural, poultry and grass-fed meats and dairy (see chart above for specifics).
- Buy organic and all natural rice and grains, and know the safest grains.
- Limit large fish intake (with typically higher mercury count) to 2 times per week.
- Don’t store food or re-heat food in plastic containers.
- Check your water source and drink only purified, filtered water.
Your home can be a hotbed of environmental chemicals. Endocrine disruptors, nitrites, ammonia, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and BPA can be found in household cleaners, paints, carpet and the insecticides used to keep bugs out of the home.
- High VOC carpets made with petroleum products or toxic chemical finishes and high VOC paints.
- Household cleaners with a high plastic rating that increase phthalates and BPA, both endocrine disruptors in your home. This is the triangle on the bottom of your cleaning products. Avoid products with a number over 2.
- Look for low VOC carpeting with natural fiber wool, cotton rugs and low VOC paint.
- Use glass cups and plates instead of plastic.
- Use nontoxic insecticides within your home, especially the kitchen and the bedroom where you spend the most time.
- Plant air purifying house plants.
- Switch to green cleaning products. Replace bleach with vinegar and baking soda. Use hydrogen peroxide to remove laundry stains.
The air we breathe, the water we drink- yes, another load of chemicals. Ozone inhalation and VOCs are in our air as well. In our water, we know that we are often exposed to arsenic, fluoride, and chemicals from manufacturing plants that may be linked to disease.
- Limit outdoor exposure and exercise during high temperatures or smog alerts in your city.
- Minimize use of tap water in your home for drinking and bathing.
- Drive low emission automobiles and limit inhalation of gasoline and vapors from chemical plants.
- Enjoy the outdoors in the Summer- but in the early morning hours or late evening.
- Use a water filtration system in your home, especially on drinking and bath/shower water faucets.
BODY CARE PRODUCTS
We want to look and feel great, but at what price? Parabens, propylene glycol, hydrantoin, and sodium laurel sulfates—more big words to learn, but you’ll want to avoid these major personal care chemicals. Beyond reading labels, here are a few quick tricks to pick the right products for you.
- Makeup or skin care with parabens and propylene glycol.
- Products with synthetic colors.
- Excessive use of perfumes.
- Natural or organic makeup and skin care. Seek labels that say paraben free or free of propylene glycol.
- Shampoo and conditioners without sodium laurel sulfates.
- Minimal use of perfumes and fragrance.
- The searchable cosmetic database found on EWG.org.