It’s officially 2016, a new year, a chance for a fresh start ... an opportunity to avoid toxic chemicals? While it's not a typical resolution, when it comes to the products you use every single day, it may be the most important one you can make.
Here's the deal: Carcinogens in conventional products usually only show up in small amounts. But when we use multiple products over and over, those small amounts compound and that so-called safe allotment grows into something more complicated.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), women use about 12 products a day with an average of 168 different ingredients, and the average man uses six products daily with an average of 85 unique ingredients. That’s a lot of ingredients we’re putting on our bodies every day, most of which make it into our bloodstream.
Swapping out the products you're used to using may seem like a daunting task, but there are ways to find safer alternatives. The first and easiest place to start is to ask yourself which products you use every day, and then do your best to cut down your exposure to potential carcinogens in those products.
Here are a few other simple product swaps you can make right now or be aware of every day for a safer body and home:
Sure, deodorant keeps us from smelling less than ideal as a courtesy to our fellow humans but at what cost to ourselves? Many toxins have been found in deodorants — and especially antiperspirants — that are linked to Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, and birth defects. But these days there are many natural options that are super-effective and leave out ingredients like aluminum, triclosan, and parabens, protecting our bloodstream and lymphatic systems.
Another product we all need on a daily basis is sunscreen, but not all formulas are created equal. Vitamin A is a popular ingredient in many conventional sunscreens and while it's great for us when eaten, it can encourage the growth of skin tumors when applied topically and exposed to sunlight.
Chemical sunscreens can also contain oxybenzone (a hormone-disrupting compound), octisalate (a known allergen), and endocrine disruptors homosalate and octinoxate. It's smart to also avoid spray-on sunscreens that release nanoparticles into the air.
Instead, say yes to zinc oxide, natural mineral ingredients that give you great protection without hormone-disrupting ingredients.
We use toothpaste at least twice a day, so it’s crucial to switch to a nontoxic brand. You've heard about triclosan in deodorant, but it's also a popular ingredient in conventional toothpaste. Triclosan has been proven to help prevent gingivitis, but it's also been linked to antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption, which can potentially cause breast, ovarian, prostate, and testicular cancer.
Something else to look out for is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), the ingredient that makes toothpaste foam. Unfortunately, SLS often causes skin irritation and canker sores. But there are many great alternatives that leave out these harmful ingredients and still clean and whiten your teeth.
4. Dish Soap
One daily routine many of us have in common is washing dishes after cooking and eating, which means that whatever dish soap you're using is touching your plates, cups, and silverware, and ultimately soaking into your food. Many dish soaps contain the aforementioned SLS, triclosan, and fragrance. Do you want that stuff to end up on your food and in your body? Opt for one of these safe dish soap choices instead.
Candles can brighten up our homes and work spaces but they may have a dark secret: Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which creates potent and highly toxic toluene and benzene when burned, the same fumes that are created from diesel fuel. Another potential problem is the fragrance used in candles because it's a proprietary ingredient, meaning manufacturers don’t have to list what chemicals are included in the blend. Better, healthier alternatives are beeswax and soy wax candles that aren’t chemically processed and essential oil diffusers.
6. All-Purpose Cleaner
The all-purpose cleaner is an easy go-to when you’re trying to tidy up, but spraying one makes for some serious toxic indoor air. Many mainstream cleaners contain ammonium hydroxide, ethanolamine, propylene glycol methyl, and dipropylene glycol butyl ether. These ingredients can cause harmful effects from allergies, irritations, and respiratory symptoms to cancer, damage to DNA, and developmental, endocrine, and reproductive effects.
This stuff is no joke, and we definitely don’t want it floating around our indoor air and hanging out on every surface we touch. EWG has a great database for safe cleaners and can steer you in the right direction.
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