Hello dear friends!
For those of you who have known me for a while, you’re probably aware of my “crunchy” tendencies. I recycle like a madwoman, make my own household cleaners, and shun plastic whenever possible. However, I wasn’t always like this! Before getting sick (and before educating myself), I did the things everyone else was doing and bought everything everyone else was buying. I didn't give a second thought to the dangers that lurked in my cosmetics, or in my flooring. Ah, ignorance is bliss, as they say!
I was this close to declaring an environmental science major back in the day, mostly after I had watched one too many (well, let’s be honest, there is no such thing as too many) documentaries about pollution, illness, the food industry, and what happened to our health after the chemical revolution. And while I never ended up pursuing official schooling on this stuff, my own experiences have taught me a lot. My voracious desire for learning carried through from childhood, and has given me access to so much amazing (and truth be told, some heartbreaking) information, and I’m grateful to have this chance to know better and do better.
You’re probably already aware that you are surrounded by chemicals every day. From the stain repellants on your carpets to the artificial fragrances in your candles, your home, office, and car contain millions of individual compounds that you’re exposed to on a regular basis. And here’s the kicker: since the vast majority of these chemicals are so new, nobody actually knows what they’re doing to us, especially over the long term. Just in the past few years, we’ve raised questions about what things are safe and what things aren’t, and while we’ve eliminated a few bad ones, we’re still in the dark.
Here in the U.S., we have very lax regulation when it comes to consumer products and health safety. Over in the European Union, for contrast, they have already banned over 1,500 chemicals from their food, cosmetics, and household goods industries (nearly all of which we still allow). There is growing evidence of illness and poisoning from dozens of so-called “safe” ingredients in our modern marketplace, even those that are touted as “green” or “natural.” I’m sure, over the next decade, the push for safe products will increase, but many people don’t even know where to begin removing toxins from their homes.
Well, hopefully this post will help!
I’ll just say this now: you don’t need to be extreme, or turn into an eco-warrior in order to make small, sustainable changes. We all want to be safe and healthy, right? Thankfully, there are several simple steps you can take to cut down your body’s load of toxic chemicals (this is often called your “body burden”) and help yourself detoxify, starting now. If you’re looking for a place to start, to reduce your exposure to harmful materials, here are ten areas to explore:
1. Stop drinking bottled water
Not only are single-use plastic water bottles the #1 polluter of our environment, but they’re no good for your health either. Water that sits in contact with plastic can become contaminated with petrochemicals and other endocrine disrupters. And when you think about the sheer volume of water you drink, that adds up to a lot of toxins! Pick up an awesome stainless steel or glass water bottle that you can reuse and take with you everywhere. If you’re worried about water quality, invest in a home filtration system or get water from your nearest natural spring.
2. Swap your cleaners
Household cleaners contain some of the most deadly and caustic ingredients on the market, and your home doesn’t actually need them to be clean and smelling fresh. You can make your own cleaning products from just a few ingredients, or you can simply buy cleaners from companies that feature biodegradable, non-toxic, and sustainable products. If your cleaning supplies come with lengthy health and safety warnings on the bottle, it’s time to dispose of them properly and find something else!
3. Buy more loose, organic foods
What you put in your body is vitally important, especially if you deal with any kind of chronic illness, so take a look at your food. Try to choose foods that aren’t wrapped in tons of plastic or come in cans, as packaging can expose your foods to chemicals. Also, if your budget allows, reach for organic produce whenever possible, to cut down on your pesticide intake. If you can’t eat 100% organic (I certainly don’t!), check out the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.
4. Ditch the air fresheners
All those things we use to make our homes and cars smell nice are actually filled with compounds that are linked to cancer and respiratory disease. Unless something says that it is only scented with 100% essential oils, it likely contains artificial fragrances and perfumes. Swap out your Febreze, candles, and little car trees for alternatives made with essential oils or incense.
5. Try some new cosmetics
It has been estimated that the average woman puts over 1,500 different chemicals on her body each day, and many of them come from cosmetic and beauty products. Take a look at the EWG’s guide to safe cosmetics, research some alternatives, or shop at your local natural foods store for makeup, skincare, and more. And men- whether you wear makeup or not, this applies to you too!
6. Put down the drugs
While it’s not always the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “environmental toxin,” drugs and other harmful substances deserve a place on the list. If you are smoking, quit. If you are drinking to excess or using another illicit substance (especially from an unknown supplier), it’s time to get help, so you can stop. And if you’re overly dependent on caffeine or pharmaceutical drugs, these can poison your body too over time, so find ways to cut back or find natural alternatives.
7. Refresh your laundry routine
Your clothes and sheets come in contact with your skin for many hours, each and every day/night. So what you wash with makes a difference! Look for safe, non-toxic laundry detergent (or make your own) and ditch the unnecessary “scent boosters” and other perfumes. Get rid of your chemical-coated dryer sheets and use wool dryer balls with some essential oils instead.
8. Throw out the non-stick cookware
Teflon and other nonstick coatings have already been implicated in creating disease, so I’m always surprised at how popular nonstick cookware still is! Thankfully there are alternatives. Get rid of your nonstick pots and pans, and look for safer cooking supplies. My favorites are ceramic, glass, stainless steel, and cast iron. There are many silicone options too, but the jury is still out on whether exposing this to high heat is safe, so use caution with these.
9. Reevaluate your medicine cabinet
Too often, when we’re feeling sick or in pain, we reach for cheap, convenient, conventional medications to help. And while these can be nice (for the reasons just mentioned), they can also come with a whole host of nasty ingredients. Artificial dyes, flavorings, sweeteners, and toxic coatings are in many well-known OTC meds. Consider trying natural or herbal remedies instead, with ingredients you can pronounce, and no wild colors (bright blue cough syrup isn’t a good idea!) or flavors.
10. Take your shoes off
Many of us wear our shoes in and out of the home (I’m definitely guilty of this), but it’s actually a seriously bad idea for our health. Think of all the things you step on while you’re out and about, and how many chemicals, bacteria, molds, and other nasties you’re tracking in. These things can get spread throughout your home pretty easily, and aerosolized every time you sweep or vacuum. Designate a shoe area near the entrance to corral the toxins!
When you want to recover your health, or prevent yourself from getting sick, it’s important to remember that you have more power than you realize. You are in charge of what items you allow into your home, into your body, into onto your skin, and just a few small changes can make a big difference. These ten ideas can get you on the road to feeling better and regaining control over the toxins in your environment.
My rule of thumb (for just about everything, but certainly when it comes to my food and products I use)?
Keep it simple.
The more ingredients, additives, dyes, flavorings, coatings, and unpronounceable chemicals something has in it, the more likely it is to be toxic. Choosing simple, handmade, or processing/packaging-free items is a great habit to get in to!
Okay, friends. What do you think? What else would you add to the list?
And as usual…
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~
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