5 Easy Ways to Lower the Toxins in your Life and Home
After 3 x cancers, I get a kick from learning new ways to boost my health. Things like eating better, exercising more, stressing less and trying to stay away from chemicals that could potentially be harmful. As we don't know what causes cancer, I've found making small changes quite empowering as it's helped me regain a sense of control over my health. It makes me feel like I'm doing something to help my healing.
When I started to assess the products I was using around the house, I found the gorgeous Carolyn Russo of @ForUsandEarth. Carolyn is a breast cancer warrior and a certified Low Tox Coach having studied underneath Alexx Stuart of Low Tox Life. She is now helping make people aware of the chemicals that we're exposed to in daily life.
If like me, you're interested in reducing some of the chemicals in your life, you might be interested in the tips written by Carolyn.
After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted to know if I could reduce the risk of it returning. My oncologist initially thought it could be genetic, given my strong family history of breast cancer. But the results were negative. And given that only 5-10% of ALL cancers (not just breast cancer) involve inherited gene mutations, I figured there are lots of ways I can potentially try to reduce my (and my daughter’s) risk.
I started reading the research. I discovered that while chemicals are an essential component of our daily lives, some chemicals can have harmful effects on our health and the environment. And while zero toxins is a great goal to have, it’s not easy to achieve in the modern world. It can leave us feeling stressed out and panicked (which is not good for our health either!).
A more realistic goal (and one which I have set in my own life) is to try to LOWER the toxins in your life and home. So here are 5 simple things you can do:
1. BEAUTY PRODUCTS & COSMETICS:
Avoid those containing PARABENS, FRAGRANCE and SLES:
PARABENS: Derived from petrochemicals (bad for us and earth); a known hormone disruptor (estrogen mimic); and can penetrate the skin. The most widely used preservative in personal care and make-up; and has been detected in human breast cancer tissue.
FRAGRANCE/PARFUM: Unless it has an asterisk with ‘*from natural essential oils’ then it is 99.9% fake – ie it is a synthetic fragrance with PHTHALATES to make the smell last longer. Phthalates are not a listed ingredient – but by avoiding fragrance/parfum, you are avoiding phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that are also hormone disruptors. Linked to reduced sperm counts, asthma, changes in male babies’ testes, increased breast cancer incidences; phthalates are prolific in so many products in our homes including shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, deodorants, perfumes, and soaps. Basically if it’s got a fragrance, and it doesn’t state that it’s from natural essential oils, it more than likely contains phthalates.
SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES) – makes products bubble/foam. Can be contaminated during manufacture with two chemicals (one is classified as a ‘known human carcinogen’ and the second, a ‘possible human carcinogen’).
It may come as a shock to you (as it did to me), that chemicals used in everyday cosmetic and beauty products, don’t need to be proven 100% safe before they’re made commercially available! These companies avoid bans by saying they only use the chemicals at so-called ‘safe’ or ‘low’ levels. But how many women (or men) do you know who use just ONE personal care product a day??!! If you’re anything like me, you use quite a few, which is why we want to be sure what we are putting ON our skins (and by virtue, IN our bodies) is safe.
U.S. researchers report that 1 in 8 of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors.
But there are many natural alternatives. Check out the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database – a fantastic free online resource, where you can search an ingredient, product or brand to check if it’s safe.
2. LAUNDRY Ditch the fabric softener!
This is the average home’s No.1 source of indoor air pollution! And they also pollute our waterways. Is it just me or does the laundry detergent aisle at the supermarket smell VERY strongly?! This is a hint – phthalates make synthetic fragrances linger. Many big brand fabric softeners are petroleum-based and contain phthalates and synthetic fragrances (hormone disruptors), benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), benzyl alcohol (irritates the upper respiratory tract) and chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen).
An EASY SWAP is to pop ¼ cup white vinegar (naturally fermented) into the fabric softener dispenser. To give a natural fragrance, try adding 5-10 drops of your favourite essential oil in with the vinegar, or onto a tea towel in with the wash. And no, your clothes will definitely NOT smell like vinegar (even without the essential oils)!
3. CLEANING THE HOUSE
There is also NO REQUIRED TESTING (OR LABELLING) on cleaning products before they’re sold to you and me! Scary right?! There are loads of nasty chemicals in them, including fake fragrances that disrupt our hormones, and harsh ingredients that can mess with our PH balances.
An EASY and CHEAP SWAP is to make your own vinegar-based home cleaner with essential oils. Buy some spray bottles and mix up a couple of your own. I have one for the kitchen and bathroom that is naturally antibacterial with tea-tree oil and another for general surfaces and dusting that has lavender and rosemary oils added. Just fill your bottle with 300ml white vinegar, 200ml water and 5-10 drops of essential oils for fragrance.
4. DITCH THE TEFLON PANS
That non-stick coating comes at a big price to both our health & the health of the planet. Teflon is the brand name for the chemical PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid), & is a “likely human carcinogen” according to an EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) commissioned science panel. At just over 300 degrees Celsius (pans on high, preheating after just 5 mins) Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, & MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. These chemicals take a long time to break down in our bodies & the environment too! When your budget allows, make the SWITCH to stainless steel pots/pans, cast iron or oven-safe glass. I've been low tox for years, but this is a recent swap for me, as I've only just saved up for it :)
5. HEATING FOOD: Avoid using plastic.
Using a plastic container in a microwave (even the so-called ‘microwave safe’ ones), or putting hot food into plastic, means that the warm food or liquid warms the sides of the plastic and then the plastic can leach chemicals into the food/liquid. Plastic contains phthalates and Bisphenol A (or BPA), which are endocrine disruptors.
In studies, BPA has been linked to everything from breast cancer and other cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. BPA-free plastics may be as harmful for you, or even worse, than those containing BPA. Alternatives such as BPF are being studied, and the evidence to-date is that these alternatives are often worse hormone disrupting chemicals.
EASY SWAP: Use glass or ceramic containers instead. Avoid plastic wrap covering food in the microwave – use a ceramic plate to cover the food instead.
And finally - PLEASE do not beat yourself up about past product choices. Stress and guilt are toxins to our bodies too, so take a deep breath and start to actively make changes - as and when your budget allows. If you can only make one change this week (or this month), it’s STILL A CHANGE and something to be proud of.
So enjoy the process of taking back some control, and reducing your risk.