Advertisers spent an astonishing $144 billion in 2011 to entice shoppers to buy more and more stuff. So it’s not surprising that our homes are full of things we don’t even use — or like. This stuff just so happens to be where a lot of toxic chemicals lurk, so why not purge what isn’t necessary? To help you purge, we compiled the following list with the input of Healthy Child Healthy World’s active Facebook community.
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Vinyl, aka PVC, is banned in over 14 countries and the European Union. Unfortunately it’s still legally sold by U.S. retailers even though it threatens environmental and consumer health at every stage of its product life cycle. PVC can leach phthalates (linked to hormone disruption) and lead (a potent neurotoxicant), contaminating indoor air, dust, and eventually you. Go PVC-free by reading packages; look for a #3 in the recycling arrows symbol. If a plastic isn’t labeled, call its manufacturer. You can also smell check for PVC; it has that unique new shower curtain scent.
Healthy Child’s Facebook fans repeatedly cited dryer sheets as a toxic product they’d be happy to live without. Why? Because synthetic fragrances found in air fresheners, cosmetics, perfumes, and more can trigger asthma.
Though exact fragrance formulas are protected as trade secrets, many contain diethyl phthalate (DEP), which can be absorbed through the skin. Phthalates are both suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors increasingly linked to reproductive disorders. Unfortunately, phthalates are rarely listed on ingredient lists, making them tricky to avoid; trade secret formulas are exempt from federal labeling requirements. Until the law changes, consumers can choose fragrance-free products or use those scented with natural essential oils.
This huge category of products deserves inclusion in their entirety because of how extremely toxic they are. They’re made to be. That’s how they kill things. Unfortunately, solving a pest problem may leave you with another problem: Residual poisons that linger on surfaces, contaminate air, and get tracked onto floors and carpet from the bottom of shoes. There are so many non-toxic ways to eliminate both pests and weeds. Next time you need to go on the offensive, choose them.
It’s odd to wipe toxic chemicals all over your oven, floors, counters, and toilets in order to get them “clean,” but that’s just what the majority of us do with conventional cleaners. Corrosive or caustic chemicals, such as the lye and acids found in drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acid-based toilet bowl cleaners, are among the most dangerous ingredients because they burn skin, eyes, and internal tissue easily. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for anyone to know what their cleaner contains as cleaning product formulas, like fragrances, are currently government protected trade secrets. Either opt for products from a company voluntarily disclosing their natural, non-toxic ingredients, or make your own.
Food shouldn’t be on a toxic product list, but most cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA), making them our main source of exposure to this chemical, which has been linked to early puberty, cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression in young girls, and more. Some brands are already BPA-free, and still others have pledged to go BPA-free in the future but haven’t yet. Buyer beware: some companies have switched to BPS, BPA’s chemical cousin, which has been linked to many of the same problems. To be safe, opt for fresh, frozen, dried, or jarred foods.
Can you believe lead, a known neurotoxin that has no safe level of exposure, is found in lipstick? A study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered lead in 400 lipsticks at levels two times higher than found in a previous study. Pregnant women and children are especially at risk since lead can interfere with brain development. Either do without or choose wisely; lead can still be found in “natural” products if they contain natural mineral pigments, as it’s a naturally occurring element.
Get this stuff out of your kitchen. Now. Studies have linked the perfluorinated chemical (PFC) typically used to make pots and pans stick resistant to cancer and infertility. PFCs contaminate and persist in the environment and have been found in low levels in the blood of 98 percent of Americans as well as all over the globe—including in the bodies of polar bears. In addition to cookware, PFCs can also be found in microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, some dental flosses, stain-guarded furniture, and clothing. Replace nonstick cookware with safer materials like cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, and stainless steel.
Americans buy a half a billion bottles of water every week. Most people do so thinking they’re avoiding the contaminants that may be present in tap water. For the most part, they’re wrong. Bottled water can be just as—or even more—contaminated than tap water. In fact, some bottled water is tap water packaged in plastic that can leach its chemical components into the H20, and overpriced. Also, from manufacture to disposal bottled water creates an enormous amount of pollution, ultimately making our water even less drinkable. Do yourself and the world a favor and invest in a reusable stainless steel water bottle. Then fill it with filtered tap water.
This antibacterial agent is everywhere: soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, and even clothing. Studies have found it can contribute to drug-resistant bacteria (i.e. superbugs) as well as harm the immune system, making us more likely to develop allergies. It also contaminates our waterways when it washes down the drain. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns consumers to read labels for triclosan and recommends using just plain soap and water. If you still prefer to use an antibacterial hand sanitizer, avoid those made with triclosan.
Oil-based paints and finishes
There are 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens potentially present in oil-based paint, according to a John Hopkins University study. Safer options include water-based paint that is no- or at least low-VOC. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which are gases emitted from products like paint. VOCs can include variety of chemicals that may have adverse health effects. Natural finishes like milk paint and vegetable or wax-based wood finishes are other good alternatives.