Home and personal care products—you’d think that the things we use on a daily basis wouldn’t prove detrimental to our health. After all, they are for our care. But just as with the food we eat, so it is with our home and personal care products: many of them are toxic and pose a threat to our health and life.
I’ve written before about some of the toxic chemicals that can be found in food items, and why organic is always the best choice.
Just this past week there was a report released by Food Democracy Now and the Detox Project stating how most of us are being exposed to shocking levels of glyphosate contamination in popular foods, including Cheerios, Doritos, Oreos, Goldfish and Ritz crackers and Stacy’s Pita Chips. You can read the report here. I recommend you check it out.
Today I want to discuss some basic home and personal care products: what ingredients to avoid and what are acceptable replacement products.
Read along, because I also share a special note about two products that many of us use every day and take for granted.
Common Home and Personal Care Products and Their Toxins: What Products to Avoid
Laundry detergents, softeners, and dryer sheets make laundry feel cozy and smell amazing. Unfortunately, the chemicals that allow these products to soften and smell great are extremely toxic. According to MotherEarthLiving.com, these toxins can cause irritation to the throat or skin and even contribute to cancer.
In their article, it was reported that dryer vents emit more than 25 VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, seven of which are “classified as hazardous air pollutants.” Most commercial detergents, particularly scented ones, contain these hazardous chemicals. Thankfully, MotherEarthLiving.com provides a list of chemicals to avoid, detergents to try (Seventh Generation or Vaska), and even provides a recipe to make your own detergent.
Have you ever smelled cleaning supplies? There’s no doubt you’re breathing in something toxic with these products. Fortunately, most surfaces can be cleaned with white vinegar and water, or a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda. Essential oils—like lemon, orange, lavender, peppermint, and tea tree oils—can be used to disinfect, deodorize, and clean.
As far as personal care products go, I’m going to lump them all together because many of them contain the same chemicals. When shopping for shampoo, conditioner, other hair products, body soap, nail products (polish, remover, etc.), and deodorants, do your best to avoid the following chemicals:
- Parabens – endocrine and reproductive disruptors.
- Dibutyl phthalate – endocrine and reproductive disruptor.
- DEA, MEA, TEA ingredients – cancer causing.
- Triclosan – an endocrine disruptor.
- Formaldehyde preservatives – these include hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and diazolidinyl urea. Formaldehyde causes cancer.
- BHA, BHT – endocrine disruptors and possible cancer causers.
- Fragrances – can cause allergies, asthma, neurotoxicity, and cancer.
- P-phenylenediamine and colors – these are typically coal tar dyes that can cause cancer and contain heavy metals.
- Siloxanes – endocrine and reproductive disruptor.
- PEG, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol – can cause cancer.
- Petroleum – can cause cancer.
- Sodium laureth (or lauryl) sulfate – can cause cancer.
A special note about two products that many of us use every day and take for granted: toothpaste and coffee.
Most drug store or supermarket toothpastes contain synthetic and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. They also contain sodium laureth sulfate, a surfactant, to get the paste to bubble. Artificial colors are also often used, which can cause behavioral problems in children, and can be cancer causing as well.
According to Mercola.com, these chemicals cause inflammation, endocrine disruption, and cancer. Please read Dr. Mercola’s article to get a complete list of ingredients to avoid, and make sure to check the label of any toothpaste you’re thinking about purchasing, even “all-natural” brands. You may even consider making a chemical free, all-natural, homemade toothpaste. Some ideas can be found in Dr. Mercola’s article.
Recent studies have found that coffee has the highest amount of antioxidants than any other food. It can help protect against cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and dementia. However, these benefits can go right out the window if you don’t buy organic, because coffee fields are sprayed with a crazy amount of pesticides. Many companies also use a chemical called methyl chloride to decaffeinate coffee beans, which has been linked to cancer. Make sure your coffee has been decaffeinated with carbon dioxide, ethyl acetate (which is a plant hormone), or by using a Swiss water method.
How do you feel after reading this list? I felt perplexed, to say the least. It made me want to do all I could to avoid using my hard-earned money to support companies that don’t care if their product contributes to my illness or death.
These products don’t just affect our health; they affect the environment and even wildlife. For a more detailed directory, check out the Dirty Dozen List by David Suzuki. Or, for a quick reference, try printing out this personal care product infographic by Dr. Mercola. You can hang it in your house, or if you can shrink it down you might even be able to carry it in your wallet when making purchases.
How to Make the Change from Toxic to Organic
I bet I can guess what you’re thinking right now. “Chris, you’ve already told us to make the change to organic, whole foods. Now we have to change our home and personal care products, too?” Listen, I get it, I really do. Change of any kind is hard, especially when it comes to something you’ve been doing for years.
Some personal care products we’ve used since we were teenagers. They smell great, they provide nostalgia, they bubble up and make us feel like we’re really cleaning and caring for ourselves. But, just as with food, we need to slowly start making changes to replacement products.
Key word here: slowly. No healthy change happens overnight. Pick a product or two that you feel comfortable with changing. Maybe switching up your laundry detergent and dish soap don’t seem like a big deal. Make the change, and stick with it for a while. Then, when you’re comfortable, make one or two more changes. These gradual changes are more likely to stick.
For some added assistance, check out this blog post by Amie Valpone on TheHealthyApple.com. You’ll see how to easily detox your life and start using healthy, organic, all-natural replacement products. The suggestions help make the process much simpler.
When All Else Fails, Remember Your “Why”
Change can be incredibly hard sometimes. Remembering why you’re making these changes will help you continue making them and reach goals that will give you and your family the best possible chance at living a healthy, disease-free lifestyle.
Are you interested in replacing toxic products with organic, replacement products? If you’ve already made the changes, what helped you make the switch? Comment below or join my Facebook discussion.