Hidden Toxins In And Around Your Home – Scary Chemicals To Avoid

Our world is now chemically dependent, our desire to produce more and more products for a rapidly expanding population has resulted in chemical overload, not only on us but on the earth itself. Deadly toxins are hidden everywhere in our food and our environment, making it virtually impossible to escape them.

Industrial dumping, pollution, car exhaust fumes and pesticide ’run off’ from our fields, to name but a few, are everywhere in our modern world and there is nowhere to hide from them. We all have toxic metals in our bodies now in one form or another, from ingestion, inhalation and contact, making us vulnerable to cancers and other illnesses. Those whose bodies are compromised by nutrient deficiency are especially susceptible to our ‘chemical’ environment.

Our quest to make our world germ free by manufacturing products from the chemicals we have discovered, is now beginning to backfire on us with serious and life threatening disease and illness. Recent research is starting to show how deadly these chemicals really are and what effect they are beginning to have on our bodies and our environment.

We are at a point now where we can’t escape them, but we can start making informed choices about whether or not we want to use them in our homes and our lives.  We must also as a society, ensure that we have done everything we can to at least minimize the effects these toxins have on our fragile earth.

Toxins In Our Homes

Environmental experts suggest that the average household contains around 62 toxic chemicals and we are exposed to them on a regular basis. Ingredients in common household products alone have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders and many more modern day ailments and diseases.  Manufacturers however, still argue that these toxic ingredients are not a problem in small amounts.

Unfortunately, a wide variety of chemicals  are routinely used together to clean the home, and  as yet, these combinations have not been studied, so it’s impossible to gauge the risks from repeated exposure and contact with the many combined toxic ingredients.

Occasional exposure to chemicals during our lives wouldn’t necessarily be harmful, but chronic exposure over a lifetime of daily or weekly use of some chemicals, can cause toxins to build up, enough to cause harm in the body, which will inevitably trigger some serious disease.

While it is known that a few products can cause immediate reactions from acute exposure, such as accidental skin burns and headaches from inhaling fumes,  chronic exposure to toxins from these products, adds to the body’s ‘toxic burden’, which is the number of chemicals stored in its tissues at a given time.

The concept of toxic body burden is that pollution is not just in our air and in our water, it’s also in us.  Years of exposure to literally thousands of different chemicals, means our bodies have to work overtime to remove these substances. Those that aren’t eliminated tend to be stored in body fat, where they may contribute to a long list of health conditions.

Production Of Toxins

Volatile Organic Carbons, or VOCs: These VOCs comprise of hundreds, maybe thousands, of man-made and natural carbon-based agents, some of which are known to be direct chemical toxins. And some are known to indirectly weaken the immune system as well as disrupt hormones.

Research into health effects of VCO’s has shown, they can accumulate in certain parts of the body like the lungs, and can reach 400 times their original concentrations. VOCs are in paints, varnishes, glue for ceiling and carpet tiles, dyes, cleaning products, inks, perfumes, polish removers and many more. Below is just a short list of some VCO’s, and some of the products they are found in:-

Phenols: These are used in air fresheners, disinfectants, furniture polish and paint removers, as well as being used fragrances and most personal care products.

Creosol: This is an ingredient in numerous products from paint removers and disinfectants to personal care products.

Benzene and Nitrobenzene: These chemicals are in a variety of products from personal care to home care. These toxins cross cell walls, damage immune systems and are known carcinogens.

Ammonia: This is not only found in furniture polish and fabric softeners, but also antiperspirants, beauty products and even baby products!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chemical pollutants in the air inside our homes can be as much as 70 times higher than those outdoors, since we spend the majority of our lives indoors, we therefore spend hours and hours in an environment loaded with these toxins.

Although, we can’t avoid exposure to toxic chemicals altogether, it is possible to reduce it significantly and one area to start on is in the kitchen. We all love to keep our homes sparkling clean, especially the kitchen. There are so many products on the market now to help us keep our surfaces and cookware clean quickly and effortlessly, but once we discover that those very same products can be hazardous to our health, then that shiny work surface and spotless set of pans seem much less appealing.

kitchen sink photo

5 Hidden Toxins In The kitchen

There is such a large amount of dangerous chemicals in everyday cookware and kitchen products today, which can be both overwhelming and fear-inducing. So much so that it can be an almost impossible task to change the habits of a lifetime.  By investing in safe products like glass, grade 304 stainless steel, ceramic and  cast iron and replacing processed, foods with whole foods, you can  eliminate the majority of toxins  listed below.

1. Bisphenol (BPA)

This is a popular chemical, found in many items, particularly the lining of aluminum cans and in many plastics. BPA is harmful because it is classified as an environmental oestrogen.  It mimics oestrogen and thereby affects the endIt can have numerous negative effects on hormones and development.

2. Acetaldehyde​

This multi-syllabic chemical leaches from containers made with PET (polyethylene terephthalate). Acetaldehyde is classified by the EPA as a probable carcinogen, therefore, the reason to eliminate items containing this chemical are easily apparent.

3. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA​)

This chemical is used as a coating for non-stick cookware, it is also found in coatings for stain and water resistant products. The EPA currently lists PFOA as a chemical of concern, due to results that link it to developmental issues as well as cancer. Using this chemical in non-stick pans can be very dangerous, because it releases a toxic gas and becomes unsafe when overheated.  Non-stick pans became popular because as the name suggest, nothing stuck to them during cooking, but it isn’t worth the health risks that accompany the chemical coating.

4. Aluminum

Aluminum is most dangerous when used for cookware. It is a soft metal and becomes highly reactive when heated, thereby leaching significant amounts of its toxins into the food being cooked. Some products or items are chemically treated with Anodized Aluminum to prevent the spread of the chemical but don’t be fooled by them as they are just as dangerous. Aluminum has been linked to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

5. Dioxins

Bleaching paper products with chlorine gas or other derivatives, creates a by-product called dioxin. This chemical is widely considered to be a carcinogen and has been known to adversely affect the endocrine, reproductive and immune systems.

Ridding your kitchen of these 5 toxins will be beneficial to your health and the environment and once you have mastered the art of removing them from your cleaning routine, you won’t go back to chemical cleaners. Look out for chemicals in the list below and try to eliminate them from your life too.

Other Chemicals Found In And Around The Home

1. Phthalates

Phthalates are found in many fragrance household products, such as air fresheners, soap and even toilet paper. Companies are not required to disclose what is in their products but if ‘fragrance’ is printed on the label then there is a good chance that phthalates are present in the product. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, the health risk is mainly exposure through inhalation but it can also happen through skin contact with scented soaps. The skin has no safeguards against toxins, unlike the digestive system, so absorbed chemicals go straight to the organs.

2. Perchloroethylene

Perchloroethylene, or ‘perc’ as it is known, is in dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners.  It is a neurotoxin, and also a possible carcinogen, exposure is usually inhalation and it is easily identifiable in that telltale smell in the dry cleaners and the fumes that hang around after carpets have been cleaned.

3. Triclosan

Triclosan is an aggressive antibacterial agent, it is the active ingredient in many antibacterial products such as liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps. A recent study showed that triclosan has a profoundly negative effect on our immune system’s natural killer cells, our primary defense against virus and tumor cells. Dangerous levels of Triclosan has now been found in rivers and streams, which is mainly due to the constant desire to rid ourselves and our utensils of unwanted germs.

4. Butoxyethanol

Butoxyethanol is the key ingredient in most multipurpose cleaners, window cleaners and kitchen cleaners. It belongs in the ’glycolether’ category which is a set of powerful solvents that can be very dangerous to handle, it is what gives the cleaners that ’sweet’ smell.  The risk to health can be quite high if used in unventilated rooms, causing sore throats and even severe kidney damage.

5. Chlorine

Chlorine is a chemical used in laundry whiteners, scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners and even household tap water. It is an acute respiratory irritant through exposure to the fumes and possibly through the skin. Its main use is to get rid of bacteria in water, therefore exposure to it through drinking and bathing is thought to be a serious thyroid disrupter.

6. Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide, also known as ‘lye’, is extremely corrosive, it is usually found in drain and oven cleaners. It can cause severe burns if it touches the skin or gets into the eyes and inhaling it can cause a sore throat that will last for days.

So How Do You Avoid Toxins?

Non-toxic cleaning products can be expensive or hard to find.  However, with the right information to hand, you can make safe cleaning products yourself. There’s nothing better than plain old soap and water,  or look for information on cleaning the way our grandparents used to clean,  with  baking soda; borax etc.

You will find many books on the use of distilled white vinegar as a natural cleaning product along with information on the use of vegetable soaps and linseed oil. Whole industries have now sprung up around alternative natural remedies using essential oils, such as lavender, lemon, tea tree and other natural extracts, which are excellent for cleaning and disinfecting the home as well as for personal care and health.

All you need are some refillable spray bottles and a bucket or container for mixing, and once you have conquered your fears of letting go of chemical cleaners, you will have the peace of mind knowing that you and your home will no longer be contaminated with the toxins.

Natural And Healthier Alternatives

To help you make the choice to switch to alternative products, take a look at the list below for some alternatives to chemicals and their toxic side effects.

  • Diluted vinegar and newspaper is wonderful for cleaning mirrors and window glass.
  • Vodka.  Will produce a reflective shine on any metal or mirrored surface.
  • Toothpaste makes an outstanding silver polish.
  • Steradent denture cleaning tablets makes a very good sterilizer
  • Milton baby bottle sterilizer is safer than bleach for getting rid of tea and coffee stains on crockery
  • Borax powder works well for whitening clothes.
  • Install filters on your kitchen sink and in the shower to reduce exposure to chlorine through tap water.
  • Baking soda paste is ideal for cleaning grime from the oven, it just takes a little more time and elbow grease but there are no deadly fumes to breathe in.
  • Pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain and plug it for 30 minutes. Run hot water down the drain once the bubbles have died down.
  • Avoid any antibacterial products with triclosan in them instead, use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists.
  • Good old unscented soap and water has worked for centuries, and there’s no reason to change now.
  • Reduce your consumption of processed foods to avoid exposure to acetaldehyde and cut out soda.
  • Buy fresh, whole and organic whenever possible and store and serve food in glassware, not plastic.
  • Replace items of cookware with pieces made from stainless steel, cast iron or preferably, ceramic cookware. Just make sure the ceramic cookware isn’t glazed with heavy metals or other toxic coatings.
  • Choose dried beans and fresh or frozen produce instead of using canned products. The additional prep time is negligible.
  • Choose fragrance-free or all-natural organic cleaning and personal care products.  Essential oils diluted in water make a perfect air freshener, or simply open your windows to freshen the air.
  • Houseplants are natural air detoxifiers, so try adding some to your home environment
  • Dry clean only items can be taken to a launderette to be “wet cleaner,” instead which uses water-based technology rather than chemical solvents.
  • Change over from plastic to a stainless steel / glass water bottles and replace plastic storage containers with glass or silicone containers. This is especially important for containers that are used to microwave food.

Conclusion

When it comes to certain dangers, cleaning products are clearly marked. But if you don’t understand the terminology, warnings can be confusing. If you still prefer to use chemical products then read the labels before you buy, so that you can make an informed decision. Products with nothing to hide will usually list their ingredients and most should be recognizable like citrus or coconut etc.

Photo by Arlington County
Photo by NancyHugoCKD.com

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