6 Easy Ways to Reduce Everyday Chemical Exposure
Everyday you come into contact with thousands of chemicals and toxins. Here’s 6 simple steps you can take to drastically cut your toxic load.
1. Stop using non-stick
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Non-stick cookware uses various forms of Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). You know it as Teflon. This chemical is toxic if ingested or inhaled. It breaks down around 480° – cooking meat and frying foods typically reach 450° and if you’ve gotten smoke or burned something you’ve cooked, you’ve probably reached close to 500° in the pan.
If your pan is chipped, you don’t need to reach high temperatures to start getting PTFE in your body. Heating and stirring will break off tiny pieces of the coating into your food. Toss them ASAP. To avoid scratching pans use wooden spoons or silicone spatulas.
Ceramic pans are amazing. They cook evenly, require no special treatment and work beautifully, but are more expensive than other options.
My favorite is cast iron. LOVE it. It actually puts iron into your food and makes everything taste better. I can cook anything in this baby. I mostly use Lodge – I have 3 sizes. I also got smart about a year ago and bought the silicone handle thing because I burned myself once. Obsessed.
2. Wash new clothes
This may be hard –part of the reason we buy new clothes is because they are perfect and, well, new. Unfortunately clothing is FULL of chemicals. Cotton is one of the most pesticide-heavy products made – 25% of insecticides used in the world are used on cotton! Pesticide residue can be found even after multiple washes, especially when the cotton comes from less-industrialized nations (due to more relaxed laws & oversight).
Going organic can help, but even organic fabrics have been packaged, shipped and displayed and could contain a host of chemicals you don’t want to rub up against all day. Non-organic and synthetic fabrics can have dozens of chemicals in them.
Some of the most common issues:
~ Formaldehyde and several other nasty compounds are regularly used as wrinkle reducers. These are gases by nature and as you wear fabrics treated to be wrinkle-free, the compounds break down and you inhale the toxins.
~ Phalates are known endocrine disruptors -they alter hormone production and can even mess with puberty. These are used to help words and images stretch with fabric and are found mostly on BABY and CHILDREN’S clothing.
~ Dyes have to be mixed with a whole host of stabilizers & conditioners so that the colors will stay after multiple washes.
If you can’t bring yourself to wash new clothes outright, at least put them through a rinse cycle and hang dry!
Clothing for babies and kids
You should ALWAYS wash these with a dye & fragrance free detergent (I got Charley’s Laundry Powder to wash cloth diapers & now it’s all we use! They also have a liquid version).
Washing 2-3 times is ideal BEFORE they wear it.
SHOP USED! I’m a consignment freak. We’ve got a bunch of really nice kid’s sales around here so I’m spoiled – but this way I get nice outfits for a couple bucks that have already been washed a dozen times! It’s amazing.
3. Take off your shoes
I could (and may eventually) write PAGES about all the horrible chemicals you walk on during your day. Floor waxes, industrial carpet cleaners, fertilizer, pesticides, gasoline, the list is endless. Your shoes collect all these things (a fact my baby seems to know since all she wants to do is chew on shoes). Taking off your shoes at the door stops these chemicals from invading your home. This is especially important if you have pets or kids crawling around! Vacuuming does NOT get rid of chemicals you bring in. If your vacuum doesn’t have a great (hepa-type) filter you’re just tossing all that grossness into the air!
Worries about what you’ve already brought in? Dust your carpet with baking soda, brush it in, then steam clean with water and vinegar.
4. Get Rid of Fragrance
Fragrance, as an ingredient on a label can pretty much mean anything. Legally, “fragrance” is proprietary information (literally a secret recipe), so companies don’t have to tell anyone what’s in it. There can be thousands of chemicals that makes up a fragrance.
Recently a slew of studies have linked scented candles & air fresheners with asthma, developmental problems & cancers. If you want your house to smell good, try flowers or essential oils.
Cosmetic products are FULL of fragrances. I’d love to know why eye cream needs to be scented. Possibly to cover up the way the product actually smells, but that’s a fight for another time. Your skin is your largest organ & it absorbs what you put on it. That includes all these chemicals. When absorbed through the skin, there is evidence that fragrance disrupts the endocrine system & hormones balance.
Always opt for products that are synthetic-fragrance free. I use the Skin Deep App from the Environmental Working Group. It’s super easy to use – just type in or scan a product and it will give you a health score with a detailed list of what each ingredient is/if it’s safe. Check out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for more great (& slightly scary) info on fragrance.
5. Filter Your Water
Chlorine is a gas. It’s added to water to kill dangerous bacteria. This is great except that when water comes flowing out of a tap (or worse, spraying out a shower head) the gas easily separates from the water & then you get to breath it in.
Fluoride is a neurotoxin that attacks the central nervous system…. And hardens tooth enamel – but I brush my teeth & floss so I would rather not drink that, thanks.
Right now there are thousands of children in Michigan who are now at risk for brain damage, severe health & developmental problems, seizures & death – all because of their water. This is obviously a worst case scenario. But no one knew they were drinking such bad water until it was too late.
The government thinks it’s ok for heavy metals, petro-chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs to be in our water supply – as long as it’s just a little… And they purposely add fluoride & chlorine. I don’t really think any of these are ok.
The Environmental Working Group has this site where you can check your area’s water quality report
We have great water where I live because it’s mainly from a natural watershed. Since it’s low to moderate on all the nasty stuff, I just hard-core filter our drinking water & shower & use a basic filter for cooking water.
If your water isn’t as low risk (or there’s no quality report) treat it like it’s risky. A whole-house filter system is easiest (but expensive initially) but under sink filters are pretty easy to install.
To save your lungs and reduce your shower chlorine exposure without a whole house filter try a shower head filter. I have looked and looked but I can’t find a good filter for the tub. Vitamin C powder will help to neutralize chlorine but it’s hard to know how much you need, if it’s working, ect… When it’s time for baby bath time I take the slow road and fill up her tub with the filtered shower head.
For our drinking water, we use a Berkey Water Filter that has a special fluoride/arsenic filter. We’ve used this for 3 years. I WILL NEVER GO BACK. My husband swears he got smarter when we started filtering out the fluoride. It also still tastes good, which not all filters can say.
6. Filter your air
The air inside your home is usually more polluted than the outside air. You have furniture full of chemicals (flame retardants, VOC’s, paint fumes, laminated wood), carpets full of dust, allergens, and who knows what else, and appliances/electronics full of plastics and petrochemicals. Make sure you change your air filter every 6 months (more if you have pets or live in an older home) and add plants that suck up toxins and spit out clean oxygen like succulents, snake plants and ferns.
Don’t forget your car. See that little symbol in the middle? The car with the arrow that stays inside the car? That means you are recycling your air. If you’re driving down a country road, turn it off and let the clean air in. If you’re in traffic or behind a giant, smoking truck, turn it on so you don’t get those nasties in your car!