Even before Britney Spears sang about toxic relationships, it was no secret that we’re exposed to a huge number of toxic chemicals in our home environment on a daily basis. Between the pollution in our air, the contaminants in our water, the pesticides in our food, and the cocktail of chemicals in our products, our bodies are barraged by toxins day in and day out.
These toxins aren’t just being washed off or rinsed away, they are absorbed by your body. The Centers of Disease Control found traces of 212 different chemicals in a group of people that they studied over the course of five years, and that’s only the chemicals they tested for! According to the Environmental Working Group, (EWG), the average US woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics a day containing 168 chemicals. While men use fewer products, they're still exposed to about 85 such chemicals daily.
What's even scarier? We don’t yet know what effect each of these chemicals has on our bodies, as there are thousands of chemicals in regular use and the research is still early. However, we do know that having a higher toxic burden puts us at greater risk of developing chronic illness and that reducing our toxic burden helps to reverse disease.
Once we have awakened to the poison paradise that we live in and decide to break up with our intoxicated state, there are two main approaches - PREVENTION and DETOXIFICATION. In this two-part blog series, I'll share some tips and techniques that have helped me prevent and detox to the best of my ability, starting with the former. You can prevent or minimize toxin exposure by eating organic foods, minimizing your use of plastic, filtering your air and water, and using toxin-free body products. We can’t all live in a bubble, but we can try to keep our living and working spaces as toxin-free as possible, by engaging in the following:
1. GO ORGANIC
In the current industrial agriculture industry, food is grown and harvested via a system that uses technology and synthetic chemicals to help increase yields. This "conventional" farming approach may include growing the same crop on the same plot each year (mono-cropping), genetically modified organisms (GMOs), confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and synthetic chemicals that target insects and weeds. Conversely, food produced through more traditional, sustainable, "organic" methods uses a system that aligns with the natural rhythms of the land – organic regulations prohibit the use of antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, and synthetic insecticides and herbicides. Out of the two methods, conventionally cultivated produce may have up to four times more pesticide residue than organic produce!! Needless to say, if your aim is to prevent the toxification of your own body, purchasing organic whenever and wherever possible is the way to go!
The EWG creates lists ranking produce based on the amount of pesticides they contain. “The Dirty Dozen” includes the fruits and vegetables that tested highest for pesticides and the “Clean Fifteen” lists the produce ranked lowest in pesticides. If purchasing all organic is difficult, items from the “Dirty Dozen” list may be the better investment.
If organic produce is not available in your region, it is important to note that any fruits and vegetables are better than no fruits and vegetables! In fact, many varieties will actually assist your body with detoxification, as I will share in the second installment of this blog series.
2. REDUCE PLASTIC
As you’re reading this article, chances are you will find several plastic items within your reach, your computer or phone, a pen, maybe an old food container lingering on your desk. Today, plastic is everywhere in our lives. Light and durable, it has become an icon of convenience culture, a symbol of the on-the-go mentality that dominates our modern lives. Yet for a substance that we interact with daily, we know surprisingly little about it and as we learn more, we become more and more aware of just how bad plastic is.
Over the past 50 years of plastic use, evidence has accumulated to suggest that some of the chemicals used in its manufacturing are problematic. The biggest concerns are:
BPA and Alternatives
It has been well-documented that certain chemicals create hormone imbalances which produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in humans. One of the most famous substances of this kind is Bisphenol A or BPA. Research has linked long-term BPA exposure to serious conditions including birth defects and cancer. After years of campaigning, BPA is finally being removed from many plastic items. Unfortunately, recent studies are showing that the the chemicals being used to replace it are no better. Substitutes Bisphenol S and F (known as BPS and BPF) have remarkably similar structures and potencies.
This group of chemicals, another class of endocrine disruptors, is used to increase the flexibility of certain plastics such as PVC. One specific compound, known as Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP, is listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in the Thirteenth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program. Manufacturers began to remove DEHP from consumer plastics about 10 years ago, but new research is suggesting that the two stand-in chemicals, DINP and DIDP, are just as harmful.
As impactful as it would be, it is probably not realistic to say that everyone should get rid of all plastic items immediately and forever. The transition towards greener manufacturing materials will likely take time. What we can do however, is start with some simple steps to reduce the negative consequences that plastic has on the health of our families and communities.
A big part of the solution is limiting the amount of plastic you bring into your home. Reusable water bottles and glass food storage containers are a great alternative and a great place to start, as they do not leach questionable chemicals into your food and drink and therefore, into your body.
3. USE FILTERS
Water is a life-sustaining fluid that’s essential to health, but if you're drinking straight out of the tap or from a plastic bottle, it can undermine your health. When you drink tap (or even spring) water, you’ll likely be getting more than you bargained for — chlorine, fluorine compounds, Trihalomethanes (THMs), assorted hormones, pesticides and even trace amounts of prescription drugs. It can be a witches’ brew of health-killing toxicity.
EWG spent three years investigating the country’s drinking water and the results were jaw-dropping. They found that roughly 85% of the population was using tap water laced with over 300 contaminants, many with unknown long-term effects and more than half of which aren’t even regulated by the EPA. Add to the mix an ever-growing list of new chemical compounds that come online just about every day and well, the waters only get murkier
Unfortunately, bottled water isn't any better or cleaner. It's virtually unregulated, expensive, and even the EPA says it’s not necessarily safer than tap. It's also likely to be laden with chemicals that have leached in from it's plastic home.
So, how to tamp down the bad stuff in your brew? The best way to go is a water filtration system. Ideally, whole-house filtration systems are an excellent option, but they’re not always feasible. If whole-house filtration isn’t appropriate for your home, then I recommend investing in individual drinking water filtration units. My favorite is the Big Berkey. In addition to removing fluoridation, it also remove harmful pathogenic bacteria, cysts, parasites, and unhealthy chemical contaminants such as Chlorine to levels higher than 99.99%, while at the same time leaving in the essential minerals your body needs. We can all drink (safely and affordably) to that!!!
4. TRY TOXIN-FREE PRODUCTS:
According to the eye-opening Betrayal docu-series, we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals before we even leave the home each morning....and that's just with the plethora of skin, body, and beauty care products that the average person applies to themselves daily. Lotion, toothpaste, and bodywash....oh my!
One of the best ways to live a toxin-free life is to keep toxic beauty and body care products out of your home. Unfortunately, buying safe, non-toxic, and earth-friendly body care and cosmetics is not easy. The market in general, along with companies who manufacture body care and cosmetic products, aren’t making it simple and that’s super frustrating. The problem is that there are very few real regulations surrounding body care products and cosmetics. The FDA and the USDA do not regulate the term organic as it applies to cosmetics, body care products or personal care products as they do with food items. For example: food items can only claim to be “organic” if the item is 95 to 100% organic. A food item claiming, “made with organic ingredients” means that the food product must contain 70% or more ingredients that are organic. However, if you see a shampoo that says “organic” it could mean anything. There’s no regulation unless the body care product carries the actual USDA Organic Seal. This is very confusing to consumers and allows body care companies to get away with "greenwashing" galore.
The solution? Read the labels!! The USDA Organic labeling process is far from perfect however, right now it’s the best we’ve got. Look for the USDA seal where available. In this regard, Dr. Bronner's brand has always been my go-to. The company has expanded their offerings in recent years from their all-in-one liquid castile soaps, to toothpaste, lotion, shaving soap, lip balm, hair cream, and more.
Made with only the purest organic and fair trade ingredients, most Dr. Bronner's products are vegan and certified to the same organic standards as food! No synthetic preservatives, no foaming agents. Body, hair, face, mouth & teeth—food, dishes, laundry, mopping, pets—Dr. Bronner’s is the very best for human, home, and Earth.
Another trusted brand with many certified USDA Organic products is 100% Pure. 100% Pure offers a variety of skin, body, and hair care products, as well as fruit-pigmented make-up. They are committed to using natural ingredients which originate from nature and ONLY undergo chemical changes due to biological processes such as fermentation, distillation, and cold processing. All of their products are pigmented using fruits and vegetables; never using artificial colors, dyes, or carmine. 100% Pure uses essential oils instead of synthetic fragrances; beneficial organic floral hydrosols, organic aloe juice, organic fermented rice water (sake) and organic teas instead of water; chia seed as a thickener instead of cheap filler alternatives.
100% Pure is additionally committed to minimizing their carbon footprint. This is illustrated in how they develop their products (biodegradable formulas), how they package (recycled/ recyclable packaging, biodegradable packing material from corn starch), and how they print (non toxic and soy inks).They are also eco-friendly and cruelty-free/certified vegan.
Because the use of the term organic has been fairly unregulated in the health and beauty industry, USDA certified organics products are few and far between. If you're an avid label reader, however, you can still find good quality, clean products on the market without the certification. One of my favorites is Schmidt's All-Natural Deodorant. Their award-winning formula, known as the holy grail of natural deodorants, has plant-based powders to absorb moisture and keep smells at bay, while containing no aluminum, propylene glycol, parabens, phthalates, or artificial fragrance. Whether you prefer a deodorant stick or pit paste in a jar, their assortment of fragrances use natural products like arrowroot, baking soda, coconut oil, shea butter, and essential oils....and they seriously w