We’re surrounded by toxic chemicals every day. It’s a fact. You can go to great lengths to protect your family, only to realize that you’ve missed the mark! I know this from first-hand experience. That’s why I love to share simple ways to ditch and switch to reduce household toxins.
To protect your wellness, you need to know the source of your products and any toxins they may contain. Many of us make choices every day that impair our health and wellness. Yet we often don’t see the connection.
Here’s some food for thought. We eat foods with pesticides. Cook and store our foods in toxic containers. Wash our clothes and sheets in toxic detergents and fabric softeners. And then we wear or sleep in them for 24 hours a day while they off-gas those toxins! We eat off of dishes that we wash in toxic soaps and rinse aids. And wear cosmetics, moisturizers, sunscreens, and deodorants that contain toxic ingredients.
Yet we’re surprised that autoimmune illnesses and cancer are so prevalent.
Of course, it’s impossible to completely eliminate your exposure to harmful chemicals. But, there are ways you can minimize your risks. And it’s important to realize that some toxins are more harmful than others. That’s why it’s so important to become an educated consumer. This knowledge will help you make well-informed decisions to protect your long-term well-being.
Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. But that isn’t the end. Knowledge without action doesn’t change anything. As Dale Carnegie once said, “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.” But, that doesn’t mean that we should beat ourselves up over not taking action sooner. Instead, remember this truth: When you know better you can do better.
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Ingredients Matter, Buzz Words Don’t
After that experience, I started researching. And researching. Lots and lots of research. I needed to find out what I was doing to cause this toxic overload in my indoor environment and my body.
Immediately, I learned that I would need to start digging beyond the wording on the front of the bottles. Instead, I started digging into the actual ingredients listed. To be honest, most of them I couldn’t even pronounce!
Focus In On the Toxins That Show Up Most Often
After learning about the many different toxic chemicals, I honed in on the top offenders. These became my focus because they showed up over and over in so many different types of products.
That part was easy enough. But I also wanted to be sure I could avoid those toxins going forward. Because it was confusing to know what to buy. Sometimes the toxins were clearly noted on the label, but often they were really well hidden.
As a result of my research, I created a document to help me keep track of all the information. Initially, I started with the toxic chemical names. But that wasn’t enough detail. So then I included their most common aliases. And finally, the most common products that they might be hiding in.
Armed with this document, I checked my household cleaners and personal care products. What I found appalled me. They contained many toxic ingredients. Yet the labels claimed Safe, Natural, Green, Clean, or Organic. That’s greenwashing, my friend!
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Ditch and Switch to Reduce Household Toxins: 14 Easy Tips
As I mentioned earlier, there are many toxic chemicals in our environment. We can’t remove them all, but we CAN take small steps each day to reduce how many we allow into our homes.
In this post, we will focus on some of the top offenders and some of the well-documented dangers they pose. You’ll discover which types of products they’re likely to be hiding in, as well as some of their aliases. I’ll include simple ditch and switch tips to reduce your exposure to household toxins. In addition, I’ll share some of what I use to reduce our exposure to these toxins in my own home.
As you’re reading, please remember that no one’s home is perfect, because there is no way to do this perfectly. There is no judgment here. I will share the facts, but I will also share what has worked to help us remove toxins in our home over the past 5 years or so. This isn’t something you will be able to do all at once. So, focus on small steps you might be comfortable starting with. And then just go from there.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
What Are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?
Volatile Organic Compounds are also known as VOCs. They’re a large group of chemicals that certain solids or liquids emit into the air as gases. VOCs vaporize easily, adding gas pollutants into your environment.
What Are the Dangers of Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs?
- Eye, nose, & throat infections
- Dyspnea (difficulty or labored breathing)
- Increased risk of cancer
- Headaches, loss of coordination, & nausea
- Allergic skin reactions
- Damage to the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system
Once items with VOCs are in your home, they continue the process of “off-gassing.” Off-gassing means that the items continue to release toxic chemicals into the air.
Since they are in so many household products, VOCs tend to be more common inside than outside of the home. In fact, indoor air pollution is on average 2-5 times higher than that of outdoor air. Even worse, during and for hours after certain activities, the levels can be 1,000 times that of outdoor air.
What Are Common Sources of VOCs?
- household cleaners & disinfectants
- air fresheners & scented candles
- pesticides & insecticides
- personal care products
- paints, paint strippers, and stains
- dry-cleaned clothing
- new furnishings, cabinets, mattresses
- new flooring, rugs, carpeting
- tobacco smoke
- aerosol sprays
Dry cleaning your clothing and bedding is a source of VOCs. The most commonly used chemical in dry cleaning is perchloroethylene. The concern is not only chemical exposure when collecting the items from the dry cleaner. It’s also about the chemicals “off-gassing” in your closets, on your bodies, and in your beds.
A recent study revealed that household aerosol products emit more air pollution from VOCs than ALL the passenger cars in the UK. Read that again.
4 Simple Ditch and Switch Tips to Reduce Household VOC Toxins
Tip #1- Focus on Air Quality
Ventilation is the main way to eliminate VOCs that are already in the home. Open windows frequently. Use kitchen and bathroom fans. It’s especially important to ventilate when using high VOC products (e.g., paint, air fresheners, cleaners, and aerosols).
Keep the humidity and temperature in your home low. You can also use an air purifier with a carbon filter to reduce VOCs. This is the air purifier I use. Don’t allow any smoking in the home, because tobacco smoke has many VOCs.
Tip #2- Ditch Air Fresheners, Candles, Wax Burners, and Plug-Ins
Seriously. They’re full of toxic chemicals! Instead, replace them with essential oils in a diffuser or simple DIY non-toxic air freshener sprays.
Tip #3- Ditch Household Cleaners That Contain VOCs
Also, ditch cleaning products with VOCs. You could make a simple DIY cleaner with vinegar and water.
Tip #4- Forgo Dry Cleaning
Skip dry cleaning. If you must, then be sure that your clothes don’t have a strong chemical smell before you bring them home. Don’t accept them until they are properly dried.
For more information about toxins, especially VOCs, visit the Toxic Substances Portal.
What Are Xenoestrogens?
Xeno- is a Greek prefix that means foreign. So xenoestrogen translates to foreign estrogen. They’re man-made, synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen in our bodies.
What Are the Dangers of Xenoestrogens?
Not surprisingly, there are many concerns about xenoestrogens. Firstly, they are endocrine disruptors that wreak havoc on hormones. They’re also known to be cancer-causing.
Additionally, Xenoestrogens aren’t eliminated from the body the way that natural estrogen is. Instead, these estrogen mimickers build up in fatty tissues. They remain there even after natural estrogen level drops during menopause.
Therefore, it’s especially important to consider your cumulative toxic burden with xenoestrogens. This simply means the accumulation of chemicals and toxins in your body over time. As we touched on in the last post, there is increasing evidence to suggest that there is a strong link between autoimmune illnesses and toxic load.
But here’s the thing. Xenoestrogens are rampant in our environments. And I do mean they’re ev-ery-where. Although we can’t avoid them altogether, we can make conscious daily choices to improve. We can start to remove what we can…where we can…whenever we can. Every little change can help.
What Are Common Sources of Xenoestrogens?
- conventional meats
- non-organic dairy products
- pesticides on food
- farmed fish
- household products
- air fresheners & scented candles
- cleaning products
- dryer sheets & fabric softeners
- plastic products
- bleached products
- coffee filters
- paper towels
- tampons & pad
- toilet paper
- personal care products
- cosmetics & moisturizers
- shampoo & conditioner
- shaving cream
- nail polish & removers
The other three toxins we will discuss all fit under the category of Xenoestrogens. For the purpose of this post, we’ll break them down and discuss each one individually. Doing so will allow us to dig deeper and consider specific “ditch and switch” suggestions for each one.
What Is Fragrance?
Do you use air fresheners or plug-ins to cover up stinky smells? Or scented candles or wax burners to scent the air? Perhaps you wear perfume or cologne as your signature scent. Or reach for a scented tissue when you feel a sneeze coming on.
If so, you may not realize that these products are typically full of harmful toxins. Toxins that are hiding under the word fragrance. Were you aware that the term fragrance can hide over 3,000 chemicals? Yep, you read that right. In fact, an individual fragrance can contain between 50 and 300 different ingredients.
What Are the Dangers of Fragrance?
- headaches & nausea
- eye, nose, & throat irritations
- asthma and sinus concerns
- increased risk of cancer
- endocrine disruption
- loss of coordination
- respiratory and/or neurotoxic symptoms
Another important fact is that companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients in their fragrance. That’s due to labeling laws in the United States. The fragrance is a “trade secret” so they don’t have to tell us what toxic soup they used to create it.
What are Common Sources of Fragrance
- perfumes and colognes
- baby wipes & lotions
- air fresheners & candles
- dryer sheets & fabric softeners
- personal care products
- products labeled “unscented”
Fragrance, which may also show up on the label as “parfum,” is in many, many products. Fragrance can also be found in products labeled as unscented.
Using the term unscented is a greenwashing technique, of course. It leads you to believe that the product doesn’t have any fragrance. However, this is not true. Unscented products can indeed contain fragrance ingredients. They’re used as a masking agent to cover up unpleasant chemical smells. The term unscented only means that the product has no aroma. That’s some shady marketing in my book.
Theoretically, fragrance-free means that fragrance chemicals were not added to the product. However, products labeled as fragrance-free may or may not follow that definition. Check out this study that tested 174 of the top-selling moisturizers from three of the top online retailers. The findings show that a full 45% of the products labeled as “fragrance-free” in fact contained fragrance chemicals.
4 Easy Ditch and Switch Tips to Reduce Household Fragrance Toxins
Tip #1- Avoid Fragrance at All Costs
Stop using and buying products that have fragrance or parfum in them. While that does include perfume and cologne, it also includes a whole host of other products. Avoid products labeled as unscented, because they almost certainly include fragrance chemicals.
Consider products labeled as fragrance-free over unscented, but be aware that they may not actually be free of fragrance.
Tip #2- Read Labels and Look For Transparency
Choose products that list ALL the individual ingredients used to produce the scent. Accordingly, you don’t want to just see the words “natural fragrance” or “made with essential oils.” Actual ingredients.
It’s important to realize that “natural fragrance” ingredients can be as dangerous as synthetic fragrance ingredients, so avoid those as well.
Tip #3- Toss the Air Fresheners and Scented Candles
Those air fresheners, scented candles, plug-ins, and wax burners are full of toxic fragrance ingredients. Instead, use a diffuser and essential oils to add a lovely aroma to your home without any harmful ingredients.
Additionally, you can make delightfully-scented DIY non-toxic room freshening sprays from pure essential oils. Just remember that it is important to use only pure essential oils that list all the ingredients used on the label. Also, be sure there are no added chemicals, synthetics, or fragrances.
Tip #4- Ditch the Dry Cleaning Sheets and Fabric Softeners
Ditch the fabric softener or dryer sheets and switch over to reusable non-toxic dryer balls. You can either add essential oils to the dryer balls or simply use them on their own. Some people say they get a little static cling when they use dryer balls. I set my dryer to “medium,” and have had no issues with static cling while using the dryer balls.
What Are Parabens?
Parabens were first introduced in the 1920s. They’re added to products to prevent fungus, mold, and bacterial growth, and to extend the shelf life. Presently, parabens are the most widely used artificial preservatives in personal care products in the United States.
What Are the Dangers of Parabens?
- endocrine disruption
- harm to fertility & reproductive organs
- increased risk of birth defects
- early puberty
- cardiovascular disease
- increased risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer
- diabetes & obesity
- allergies & skin irritation
- can affect birth outcomes
Many parabens are strictly regulated in other countries. Some have even been banned. However, that is not the case in the United States.
What Are Common Sources of Parabens?
- shampoos & conditioners
- hair styling products
- face & skin cleansers
- shaving cream & gel
- lotions & moisturizers
2 Simple Tips to Ditch and Switch to Reduce Household Paraben Toxins
Tip #1- Read Labels Carefully
Read your labels and skip products that have ingredients that end in -paraben, -isopropyl, or -isobutylparaben.
Also, avoid methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone because they are paraben substitutes.
Tip #2- Choose Paraben-Free
More companies are offering paraben-free products. Choose wisely.
What Are Phthalates?
Phthalates are industrial chemicals that can be in consumer products. They’re added to PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in order to make the plastic more pliable and less likely to break. Phthalates are also used as a solvent in cosmetics and other consumer products.
Phthalates are known as “everywhere chemicals” since they are in hundreds of products. In fact, you most likely have many of these products in your home right now (and so do I).
What Are the Dangers of Phthalates?
- damage to the cardiovascular system
- endocrine system damage
- liver damage
- respiratory & lung problems
- increased risk of cancer & diabetes
- can affect birth outcomes
- birth defects
- increases children’s risk for learning, attentional, & behavioral disorders
Phthalates pose a huge risk to our health. And they are especially harmful to children. Even low doses of phthalates can cause health risks.
What Are Common Sources of Phthalates?
- products with fragrance
- insect repellents
- moisturizers & personal lubricants
- hair spray
- air fresheners
- plastic baby toys
- vinyl shower curtains & liners
- vinyl flooring
- plastic wrap
- plastic food storage containers
- nail polish (in the US)
- household cleaning products
If a product contains phthalates, it should be listed on the label. However, there is one huge loophole to that rule. Phthalates DO NOT need to be included on the label if they’re part of the scent of the product! And since phthalates are often used to extend the fragrance, you can expect to find them in products that have fragrance. There’s that “trade secret” loophole again.
4 Easy Tips to Ditch and Switch to Reduce Phthalates From Your Home
Tip #1- Forgo the Fragrance
Once again, avoid all products with “fragrance” or “parfum” on the label. Avoid air fresheners and scented candles.
Tip #2- Pass on the Plastics
Avoid storing food in plastic containers, especially warm or hot food. Don’t eat food cooked in plastic microwave containers, because the heat allows chemicals to leech into the food.
Avoid plastic labeled with recycling code recycling codes 3, 6, & 7, because those are made of PVC. Check out this guide for more information on recycling codes.
Tip #3- Read Labels; Choose Phthalate-Free Products
Also avoid products that contain DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOP. Make sure products are “Phthalate-free”, especially baby products.
Take a minute to look at the ingredients in your nail polish. Most likely, there are harmful chemicals in the polish and remover. Choose a safer nail polish, such as ella + mila. This is my favorite non-toxic nail polish line, especially because it’s free from 17 common chemicals, including phthalates.
Tip # 4-Toss Conventional Cleaners
Check the labels on your cleaners. Do they say that you need to wear gloves and a mask? Or maybe open all the windows and ventilate the house while cleaning? Do they list any of these toxic chemicals?
If so, ditch them and switch to a safe alternative. One option is to make a DIY vinegar and water spray.
The Time to Ditch and Switch to Reduce Household Toxins Is Now
As the saying goes, “The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now.” Friend now is the perfect time to begin to ditch and switch to reduce your exposure to household toxins.
When it comes to the safety of cosmetics and personal care products, the US is well behind other countries. Over 40 nations have created regulations related to the safety and ingredients in these products. Some have restricted or banned more than 1,600 chemicals from cosmetic products. However, the U.S. FDA has banned or partially restricted only 30 chemicals in cosmetics.
As you can see, it’s truly up to you. And it can feel overwhelming. I know that because I felt it too, at first.
Can you do this perfectly? No! No one can. But slow steps taken consistently in the right direction really will add up as you welcome wellness one ditch and switch at a time!
How I Started to Reduce Household Toxins With Simple Ditch and Switch
There are many ways to start, and none of them are wrong! I created an infographic with some of the top hidden toxins and I used that to start ditching.
For me, the best way to get started was to first look for any products that had the word FRAGRANCE in the ingredients. I knew that was a big red flag, so I threw away everything with that ingredient.
“Fragrance” was in my cleaners, makeup, facial washes, moisturizers, shampoos, baby wipes–just about everything!
Then, I went down the list of dangerous ingredients and got rid of the products that had the worst offenders.
The next thing I did was find a safe and effective household cleaner that I could use to replace all of those toxic cleaners. I continued researching and found a makeup brand that is safe, and absolutely free of these (and many more!) dangerous chemicals.
The biggest suggestion I can make is to NOT get caught up in perfection. It will never be perfect, and honestly, you can make yourself sick striving for that perfection.
Make one small change, and then add another when you’re comfortable. Choose what feels sustainable to you. Maybe swap out 2-3 products this month, and then add on another 2-3 products next month.
Check out my post, 7 Sneaky Non Toxic Living Myths That Are Endangering Your Health, for more info!
I’d love to hear from you! Which toxins are you going to focus on ditching? Or which ideas do you plan to use to reduce household toxins and ditch and switch your way to wellness? Let me know in the comment.
Not sure how to get started? Have questions? I’d be happy to help answer your questions and help guide you in the right direction. Just fill out this form, and I will be in touch!
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