Healthful Habits: Baby Steps for Reducing Exposure to Toxins

Healthful Habits is a way for our family to intentionally implement a more wholesome style of living one small step at a time. The process of executing these small changes over the course of a year enables them to become lifelong habits. 

(photo credit)

At a recent mentoring session regarding nutrition, I was asked to suggest some "baby steps" to take when seeking to reduce exposure to environmental toxins. Never one to do well when put on the spot, I fear the information I shared was too discombobulated to be truly helpful as a checklist of baby steps. So here's the list again... in organized format with helpful little bullet points.

  • REPLACE Your Vinyl Shower Curtain
    • Why: The vinyl in your shower curtain is actually polyvinyl chloride (PVC)* *, which as its name suggests is majority chlorine content. Among the many problems with this substance is its connection to dioxin* * *, the most dangerous man-made known carcinogen even tested which the EPA has found to be exponentially more toxic then DDT. Plus, have you ever smelled one of those things? Sometimes it is good to trust your instincts...
    • Alternatives: cloth shower curtain
  • Keep Your Food Away from PLASTICS
    • Why: All plastics leach chemicals; some with worse toxins at higher rates than others. The fact that certain plastics {such as BPA containing} are labeled as more likely to contaminate than others does not indicate the rest are safe; it's just those have been studied more in depth. Exposure to various forms of plastic has been found to be toxic to the brain, nervous system, reproductive system, as well as to cause early onset to puberty, chromosome damage, and a whole host of other significant health issues. While it is best to avoid having plastic touch your food, if it often next to impossible to do so in our current culture. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy produced a guide to further explain some of the things to know about and avoid in plastics. Be especially careful to NEVER HEAT PLASTIC in the dishwasher or microwave since this causes it to break down and leach toxins more quickly. Also, plastics are more likely to leach when in contact with oily or fatty foods. Since most cans are lined with plastic, it's best to limit exposure to those as well. 
    • Alternatives: glass storage containers, natural wax paper and wax paper baggies for food storage; stainless steel for water bottles; glass for baby bottles; if you must buy food in plastic look for those labeled with recycle numbers 1 or 2 { 7's clearly labeled as bio-based/BPA-free are also considered safER}
  • Avoid Fragrances in AIR FRESHENERS & CANDLES
    • Why: That yummy cinnamon or vanilla bean smell coming from your candle isn't actually cinnamon or vanilla- it's a toxic benzene chemical. This chemical has been found present in the blood of 96% of Americans and has been linked to respiratory problems. Air fresheners also have formaldehyde, which is classified as a known carcinogen
    • Alternatives: essential oil and soy based candles
  • IMPROVE Your Indoor Air Quality
    • Why: Common household products are often a source of pollution ranging from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to biological allergens to known carcinogens. Only a few minutes of reading the Environmental Protection Agency's site will make you aware of the many toxins possibly polluting the air in your home. 
    • Steps to Take: remove shoes when entering home to keep from tracking pesticides and chemicals onto floors; try to open windows at least once a day to air out rooms; purchase VOC-removing houseplants like ivy and spider plants; regularly change your furnace filter


* RELATED COMMENT: Read this article if you desire to take a little bigger step in analyzing the toxins in all your normal beauty care products. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database is also a very helpful tool in evaluating your cosmetics. 
* * REMOTELY RELATED COMMENT: Polyvinyl chloride is classified as a #3 recyclable plastic {avoid}.
* * * RELATED COMMENT: Be aware that anything labeled "antibacterial" or "antimicrobial" is likely to exposure you to dioxin. 
* * * * RELATED COMMENT: Do research before purchasing to avoid lead contamination in stoneware and ceramic cookware. 
* * * * * RELATED COMMENT: The Environmental Protection Agency released a fact sheet containing new data regarding population wide exposure to fluoride. Even they concluded some children are likely being overexposed to fluoride due to that fact most municipals add it to the water supply {but they urge you to continue using fluoride- containing toothpaste as more research is done!?!}. Visit the Environmental Working Group site to learn more about the research regarding fluoride and to investigate what you can do about it in your drinking water