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In my earlier post "Are you aware of the elephant (TOXINS) in your room and how it’s affecting your family’s health?" published last week I delved into the most common types of toxins that we are exposed to on a regular (most likely even daily) basis. It must have been alarming for many of you to read about the level of toxic exposure that our children (and adults) are exposed to in the modern world. 

Body burden” is a key concept that we all need to grasp in order to fully appreciate the effort that we need to put in order to minimise the impact of toxins on our health. It refers to the total amount of toxic chemicals that are in your body at any given point in time. NO ONE  is exempted from this toxic load in their bodies, not even newborn babies. Infact studies have shown that babies are being born already carrying a toxic load of as many as 300 different chemicals in their bodies, and that breast milk is filled with various environmental pollutants. 

Children and babies are also more susceptible to environmental toxins since their bodies are smaller by weight and can be exposed to more toxins than adults. Their immune and organ system are still developing and their exposure to toxic chemicals puts them at greater risk for chronic disease. Health problems in both children and adults can range from cancer and diabetes to autism and infertility. 

At the same time, many people mistakenly believe that there is nothing they can do to mitigate the harmful effects of toxin exposure that happens in our homes. As a result, they do not take it into account when buying food and other products. 

One of the things that I educate my coaching clients in is to become adept at reading the ingredient list of products before buying them to check for toxic chemicals in both foods and personal care products. Focussing on the things that are in our control since we can minimise our exposure to these at home. 

However, it can become overwhelming to make all the changes at the same time so it is always advisable to start with the ones that you think will make the most difference or what is easiest to change and then build from there. 

I also created a great freebie "Creating a non-toxic home for your family" so that you can use this free resource to choose different brands of products that are available in India in various categories. You can grab that right here:

Below I have listed some of the toxins usually found in each category and what to look out for.

Reducing exposure in personal care products

Please keep in mind that what is applied to the skin may be more important than what we eat. The gut is pretty good at blocking toxin absorption when it is in good health. However, it is pretty easy for toxins from these products to readily reach the bloodstream through the skin. Check out this excellent resource from safecosmetics.org HERE 

Avoid these ingredients-

  • Lotions – Avoid all lotions and moisturisers where there are ingredients like “parfum” or “fragrance” unless they are plant based /essential oil based; phthalates, petrolatum/petroleum by-products like propylene glycol, polyethene glycol (PEG) and polypropylene glycol (PPG); preservatives like parabens
  • Sunscreen- Oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate in chemical-based sunscreens
  • Cosmetics- PEGs, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and siloxanes in makeup/cosmetics
  • Shampoos and bathing products – Avoid all shampoos and bathing products like shower gels/soaps which have SLS and SLES (Sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate); parabens as preservatives; “fragrances” unless they are plant-based/essential oil based; petroleum by-products like propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polypropylene glycol (PPG); triclosan as an antimicrobial
  • Baby wipes and diaper cream – Avoid baby wipes with ingredients like triclosan, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polypropylene glycol (PPG), parabens and artificial fragrances; boric acid and BHA (a preservative) in diaper creams
  • Hand sanitizers – Triclosan is the key toxin in hand sanitizer due to its antibacterial effect; other chemicals to avoid are artificial fragrances, alcohol, petroleum by-products. Use normal soap for regular use at home
  • Mosquito and insect repellents – Some of the regular mosquito repellents contain chemicals like synthetic pyrethroids, DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) both of which are known to cause allergic reactions and skin rashes. There are safer and natural alternatives which use the power of essential oils to repel insects naturally.

Home care and cleaning products

Other main sources of toxin exposure at home are laundry and dishwashing detergents, home cleaners and air fresheners. Check out excellent guide from ewg.org HERE.

  • Laundry and dishwashing detergentsDetergents which have sulphates (SLS and SLES- sodium laureth sulphate and sodium lauryl sulphate), which are foaming agents. They are known to be skin irritants and can dry the skin excessively. Other chemicals which are usually present are preservatives like parabens (Methyl, propyl, isobutyl to name a few), artificial fragrances containing phthalates are other chemicals which may or may not be listed at all. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets also have artificial fragrances and which are also known endocrine disruptors as well as synthetic chemicals. 
  • Toilet and other household cleaners– It should be enough for one to stay away from these products which usually give warnings on the bottles saying it is toxic and unsafe for children to use. Sadly, most of us are not aware of exactly how toxic these products are in terms of causing health issues like lung and skin irritation, infertility issues, hormonal disruptions. Chemicals commonly used are ammonia and chlorine, hydrochloric and phosphorous acid, ethanolamines to name just a few. Natural and safe alternatives are available in the market. You can also use this recipe.
  • Air fresheners, paints and polishes- All of these are major sources of air pollution inside our homes. Wherever possible choose non-toxic alternatives and avoid artificial air fresheners completely. Opt for natural, plant-based room air fresheners and/or incense sticks which have essential oils or use essential oils in a diffuser in each room. Also, use HEPA air filters in the bedroom for those living in cities and especially for those having children (and adults) with asthma. There are several brands of essential oils available for use in diffusers.  
  • In the kitchen– there is a LOT you can do in terms of making healthy choices in your kitchen. I have listed some of them below.
  • Perfluorinated chemicals like PFOA and PFTE have been linked to a range of health problems including thyroid and infertility. Avoid using  PFTE and PFOA coated non stick cookware since non-stick cookware when heated has proven to be a primary source of a dangerous toxic fluoride derivative, specifically perfluorinated chemicals (PFOAs). Switch to ceramic, glass or stainless steel or cast iron cookware instead
  • STOP giving microwave popcorn to your children. PFOA is not only present in the inner coating of the bag, but it also migrates to the oil from the packaging during heating. Make it from pop corn kernels instead
  • Remove plastic containers, cans, cling films or plastic wraps, canned beverages as they are all sources of various toxic chemicals. Even BPA-free containers contain other bisphenols which are equally toxic. Use glass, steel for storage and beeswax, parchment paper, paper foil for wrapping food instead of plastic wraps. 
  • Avoid putting hot food in plastic containers and avoid heating food in the microwave oven in plastic containers.    
  • Keep plastic out of the dishwasher, freezer, and microwaves, because both hot and cold temperatures can release more phthalates
  • Do not drink canned food products, soda or other beverages, because aluminium cans are often lined with BPA

Nutrition

  • Eat a nutrient dense diet - A combination of refined, processed foods lacking in nutrients and unprecedented toxin exposure is causing a lot of harm to us and our children. Foods like processed meat, canned foods; processed and refined food; foods with additives like artificial colourings and flavourings; refined sugar; artificial sweeteners in beverages and sodas are completely avoidable. We certainly need to pay more attention to our diet by making it nutrient dense by incorporating fresh vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and proteins and lots of fibre. Read this article to learn more about this topic

There is a lot which can be done inside your home to mitigate the risk of environmental toxins. It can become quite overwhelming to make sweeping changes all at once. Start with what you think will have the maximum impact for your family. Start with one category by consistently making healthier choices in terms of products and continue to do so.

After all,

“An imperfect action is better than perfect inaction”