#1: Commercial Cleaning Products
You can avoid quite a few hazardous chemicals simply by tossing those commercial cleaning products in the dustbin. Every single one of them can be replaced with a short list of basic ingredients. Here’s a simple starter list of what you need to make your own natural cleaning products:
For example, lemon juice is a natural whitener, vinegar and water makes an excellent window cleaner, and vinegar combined with hydrogen peroxide works exceptionally well as both a disinfectant and sanitizer. Baking soda is also great for scrubbing your bath and kitchen.
#2: Personal Care Products
Chemicals are very effectively absorbed via your skin, so cleaning out your bathroom cabinet can go a long way toward reducing your toxic load. This is particularly true for women, who tend to use several different products on a daily basis. Makeup is also a hidden source of heavy metals. In the report Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup,14 Environmental Defense tested 49 different makeup items, including foundations, concealers, powders, blushes, mascaras, eye liners, eye shadows, lipsticks and lip glosses. Their testing revealed serious heavy metal contamination in virtually all of the products:
96 percent contained lead
90 percent contained beryllium
61 percent contained thallium
51 percent contained cadmium
20 percent contained arsenic
If you use conventional makeup on a daily basis, you can absorb almost five pounds of chemicals into your body each year and that’s without adding in body lotion, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, and other personal care products! To address this health-defeating cycle, switch to organic brands of toiletries and cosmetics. The Environmental Working Group has a great database16 to help you find personal care products that are free of potentially dangerous chemicals. Better yet, simplify your routine and make your own products. A slew of lotions, potions, and hair treatments can be eliminated with a jar of coconut oil, for example, to which you can add a high quality essential oil for scent.
#3: Stale Spices
Herbs and cooking spices contain a wide variety of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, and help maximize the nutrient density of your meals. On a per gram fresh weight basis, herbs rank even higher in antioxidant activity than fruits and vegetables. Many studies have also shown that most spices tend to have unique medicinal qualities. Four spices that are particularly effective at quelling inflammation are:17 Cloves, Ginger, Rosemary & Thyme.
Freshness matters, however, so if your pantry is filled to the hilt with old spice bottles, it may be time to refresh your stock. Expired, stale spices also will not provide you with much flavor, so if your attempts at spicing up your meals have left you unimpressed, they may simply have gone stale.
# 4: Electronic Devices
While few would consider getting rid of their smart phones or computers, you would be wise to reconsider how you use all of your devices, and just how many you surround yourself with at any given point of the day. Some kids, especially teenagers, tend to be surrounded by multiple electronic gadgets for hours at a stretch. I feel the evidence of long-term harm of EMF and wireless radiation is very clear, necessitating a prudent approach.
On May 31, 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO)/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report admitting cell phones might indeed cause cancer, classifying radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Class 2B).18 The classification came in part in response to research showing wireless telephones increase the risk for brain cancer. To reduce exposure, avoid continuously carrying your smart phone on your body.
Tucking it into your bra or pocket may be convenient now, but it’s an open invitation for health problems down the road, and that may be more than just a little inconvenient! It’s important to realize that as long as your cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently, even when you are not actually making a call. So wearing a cell phone on your hip for 15 hours a day is giving that area of your body nearly continuous radiation exposure. For more tips on how to reduce exposure, please see my previous article “Heavy Cell Phone Use Can Quadruple Your Risk of Deadly Brain Cancer.” Also consider unplugging from your digital life from time to time to “smell the roses” as it were. As noted by Time Magazine
“Mounting research indicates that information overload—what happens when you use smart devices constantly—is linked to depression and anxiety. Recent studies suggest that this is particularly true for people who are overly attached to their smartphones and tablets, and for those who use multiple devices at once (which experts call media multitasking). Power down and stow your devices in a drawer at least a few times per week to give your brain a break‚ ideally on a set schedule (for example, weekdays after 9 p.m. or weekend mornings before noon).”
#5: Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) trick your body into storing fat and raise your risk of diabetes, so if you’re looking for health benefits, you’d be better off throwing those colorful little packets in the trash.
The same goes for any food or beverage containing artificial sweeteners, such as diet soda. Besides worsening insulin sensitivity and promoting weight gain, artificial sweeteners also promote other more serious health problems, including heart attacks, stroke2,3,4 and Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the mechanisms by which artificial sweeteners promote obesity and disease is by disrupting your intestinal microflora.5,6,7,8 Specifically, artificial sweeteners alter metabolic pathways associated with metabolic function.
Decreased function has been observed in pathways associated with the transport of sugar in your body, for example. Artificial sweeteners have also been found to induce gut dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in otherwise healthy people.
#6: Plastic Food Containers and Bottles
Tossing your plastic food containers and plastic bottles is a basic step to reducing your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates.
Your endocrine system as a whole is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been linked to a wide number of adverse effects, including:
Reproductive health problems
Hypertension: According to one randomized, controlled trial,9 BPA from cans or plastic bottles can raise your blood pressure within just a few hours of ingestion
Reduced IQ in children10,11
Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
Cancer of the breast, prostate, and thyroid12
Heat, along with wear and tear through multiple washings can increase the amount of chemicals being leached from containers and bottles, so holding on to old containers is not a good idea.
While I used to support switching to BPA-free containers, it’s now been revealed that even “BPA-free” plastics can leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad as BPA.
Your best bet is to avoid plastic containers altogether, and replace them with glass bottles and containers. Also opt for glass baby bottles if you have young children. Make the switch to glass, and you won’t have to struggle figuring out which plastic might be safer than another, only to later find out it wasn’t such a great trade after all…
#7: Non-Stick Cookware
To further clean up your kitchen act, toss non-stick pots and pans and replace them with ceramic or glass cookware. The non-stick coating is made with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been labeled a “likely” carcinogen by an independent scientific review panel that advises the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Although PFOA is a long complex name, it is essentially a complex chemical and relies on fluoride for its non-stick properties. The problem is that once you heat the pot or pan, the fluoride vaporizes into the air where it can kill small birds and harm you and your family. You can easily bypass this unnecessary health risk by switching to ceramic or glass cookware that do not emit toxic fluoride.
#8: Air Fresheners
Room deodorizers frequently contain 2, 5-dichlorophenol (2, 5-DCP), a metabolite of 1,4-dichlorobenzene, which has been linked to precocious puberty and other health problems,13 including cancer. Endocrine-disrupting phthalates are also commonly found in air fresheners and room deodorizers.
If you’re having issues with unpleasant smells, you’d be wise to address the root causes rather than masking them with chemical sprays.
Opening your windows and doors from time to time can help, and will also improve the general air quality in your home or office. If you want a scent, opt for high-quality pure essential oils, which can actually support your health and wellbeing.
#9: Antibacterial Soaps and Detergents
Routinely disinfecting your body and surroundings may actually cause far more harm than good in the long run. Not only does it promote the development of drug-resistant bacteria, but antibacterial compounds such as triclosan have also been linked to a number or harmful health effects, especially in young children.
For example, research has shown that triclosan can alter hormone regulation and may interfere with fetal development in pregnant women. This antibacterial ingredient has also been linked to:
Warm water and a mild soap is really all you need to safely eliminate disease-causing microbes Even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that “there is currently no evidence that [antibacterial soaps] are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.”
Besides hand soaps and products specifically marketed as antibacterial, triclosan can also be found in a number of other household and personal care products, including cutting boards, toys, acne cream, and Colgate Total toothpaste—all of which are also best avoided.
One all-purpose disinfectant that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards, and bathrooms—all places where germs like to grow—is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Simply put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other. In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing the two mists killed virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces when used in this fashion, making this spray combination more effective at killing these potentially lethal bacteria than chlorine bleach or any commercially available kitchen cleaner.