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November 19, 2013

There are around 100,000 synthetic chemicals available on the market today, in everything from shampoo to cleaning products, toys to baby bottles, furniture, carpet and even clothes.

But did you know that most of them have not been tested for human and environmental toxicity? Of those that have been, they contain many known and suspected carcinogens, allergens and endocrine disrupters—even in products you put on your skin.

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In fact, one in three personal care products contains ingredients identified as possible human carcinogens, approximately one in five contains ingredients commonly contaminated with known carcinogens, and almost one in two products contains ingredients that could be damaging to your reproductive health or your baby’s development.

The good news is there are many simple things you can do to reduce your exposure to nasty chemicals. Here are 15 tips:

1. Keep some house plants in every room of your house.

The soil bacteria helps to reduce the volatile organic compounds (like formaldehyde) in the air.

2. Take your outdoor shoes off at the door.

That way you'll avoid bringing in dust, lead and pesticides.

3. Stop using air fresheners and other synthetic fragrances.

You'll reduce your exposure to phthalates.

4. Switch to pure beeswax candles.

Other candles contain petroleum-based, which paraffin releases nasty chemicals when burned, such as benzene, toluene, and ketones. Soy and Palm oil candles are hydrogenated and then typically colored and scented, again releasing nasty chemicals when burned.

5. Switch to non-toxic DIY cleaning products.

Use everyday ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, soap, and lemon peel.

6. Use essential oils like tea tree, lime and cinnamon for their disinfectant properties.

These are better for you than commercial anti-bacterial products, which typically contain nasties like triclosan and formaldehyde.

7. Use clove oil rather than bleach to get rid of mold.

When bleach is mixed with other chemicals, it can create a toxic gas. It's also harmful to your skin and your eyes.

8. Start reading the labels on any processed food products you buy.

Avoid anything with artificial flavors, colors or flavor enhancers. Studies have found food additives affect around 60 to 70% of people, most of whom are unaware they are effected.

9. Get to know the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists.

If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce, focus on avoiding the items with most pesticides: apples, blueberries, capsicums, celery, cucumbers, grapes, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach and strawberries.

10. Pay attention to the recycling symbols on plastics.

As much as possible, avoid numbers 1, 3 and 6, as well as clear plastics labelled number 7. This will cut down on your exposure to BPA, phthalates and styrene.

11. Don’t leave your thermal receipts in your grocery bags.

They leach BPA, which you really don’t want all over your fresh organic produce!

12. Wash your hands regularly, but avoid hand sanitizers.

They can contain nasty chemicals, which may increase your absorption of other chemicals to which you're exposed!

13. Read the labels of your cosmetics and skin care items.

Avoid anything with coal tar, formaldehyde, lead acetate, DEA, MEW or TEA compounds, petroleum (including mineral oil), phenylenediamine, alpha hydroxy acids and silica.

14. Alternatively, start making your own skin care products.

Opt for natural ingredients like beeswax, shea butter and almond oil. Many items are easily reproduced at home at much lower cost to your wallet, your health and the environment.

15. Vacuum your house regularly using a HEPA filter to reduce the levels of many chemicals in your house.

This could help reduce your exposure brominated fire retardants, phthalates, and pesticides. A study by the Silent Spring Institute identified 66 endocrine-disrupting compounds in household dust.

If you do all this, you'd be going a long way to reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals. But if 15 changes are a bit overwhelming, why not start with one and go from there?

Now over to you: tell us your best tip for detoxing your life, or the number one thing holding you back from going “non-toxic.” This is an awesome community, and I bet we can come up with ways to make things easier!

Want to learn more? Check out my new ebook, Less Toxic Living: How to Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicalsan Introduction for Families. For a short time, I'm giving away the PDF version absolutely free, and throwing in several bonus downloads. Download the ebook before December 3rd to get yours. Use access code MINDBODY.

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Kirsten McCulloch
Kirsten McCulloch

Kirsten McCulloch is an Australian freelance writer passionate about living a more sustainable, healthy life, for herself, her family and the planet. She is the author of Less Toxic Living: How to Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicals - an Introduction for Families and writes about non-toxic living and other aspects of a healthy home at, where she is currently in the midst of two months of fabulous GIVEAWAYS! You can get the PDF of her book for free at, download her free non-toxic cleaning printables, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.