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November 17, 2016

It wasn't until I became a mother that I realized many objects in our homes are made from petroleum and other harsh chemicals. Then, I learned that these chemicals can contaminate our air and even act as neurotoxins, reproductive toxins, developmental toxins, and endocrine disruptors in the body. But then, I discovered some good news: There are simple actions we can take at home to reduce our toxic exposures. There are plenty of products we can avoid or replace without threatening our joy.

Hold on to what you love and start nixing these five things today for a happier, healthier home:

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1. Plastic food and beverage containers

Plastic food and beverage containers can leach chemicals like hormone-disrupting BPA and phthalates, and extreme heat and daily wear-and-tear can expedite this problem. Play it safe and avoid plastics at home, replacing them with glass or stainless-steel containers.

2. Conventional moisturizers

Conventional moisturizers are often infused with chemicals that can disrupt our biology. In fact, of the more than 10,000 chemical ingredients used in our personal care products, 89 percent have not undergone safety testing. Some of these chemical preservatives have been linked to hyperactivity in children, while others are thought to contribute to breast cancer, birth defects, compromised fertility, and obesity1.

Protect yourself by using the Environmental Working Group's Safe Cosmetics database to search the hazard score of your personal care products and replace them if need be. I've simplified my life by using products made of natural materials like organic olive oil, sesame oil, and pure shea butter. Pure essential oils are lovely too—and fragrant!

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3. Microwavable popcorn

Microwavable popcorn bags are often coated with PFCs (perfluorochemicals)—a class of chemicals widely used in water, grease, and stain repellents. PFCs have been linked to various cancers, hypothyroidism, birth defects, and immune issues. Opt for homemade popcorn instead, and add a spoonful of ghee for a yummy, buttery flavor.

4. Vinyl shower curtains

Vinyl, or PVC, is considered one of the most toxic plastics for our health2 and the health of the planet. Often made from toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, and phthalates, its creation, use, and disposal can contaminate the environment. Once exposed to your shower's heat and humidity, these chemicals can enter the atmosphere as off-gas, so consider swapping your vinyl curtain with one made of certified organic cotton or hemp.

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5. Air fresheners

Both aerosols and plug-in air fresheners can contain hundreds of chemicals. And since companies aren't required to disclose all their ingredients, it's nearly impossible to know what they're putting in the air. Even air fresheners labeled organic, green, unscented, or all-natural can emit hazardous chemicals, particularly hormone-disrupting phthalates. Instead, fill your home with the scent of diffused pure essential oils.

Keep reading:

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Sophia Ruan Gushée
Sophia Ruan Gushée
Nontoxic Living Expert

A mother of three, Sophia Ruan Gushee invested eight years researching her children’s toxic exposures from common household products. Her book, A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures, is the reference book and manual that she wishes she received as a gift at her baby shower. It provides a fact-based overview of information that everyone should know.

While Sophia collected hundreds of detailed tips throughout her research, ultimately, she realized that just ten key goals are the most high impact ideas to focus on. Most cost little or nothing. She refers to these ten goals as her D-Tox Strategy, and believes that we should consider our toxic exposures as often as we think about what we eat and how much we exercise. Her research has turned her from an unconscious to a conscious consumer. The book is ideal for those who want to protect both human health and the environment. Since they’re both intertwined, it turns out that what’s best for human health is also best for our planet.

Sophia earned a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and a Masters of Business Administration from Columbia University. She is also certified to teach yoga. She and her husband reside in New York City with their children, including their dog, Lola.