The meaning of Spring is “new” or “light”, and many often see this season as a time to reset their lives and homes through what has become known as Spring Cleaning. Unfortunately, not all cleaning and home supplies are created equal. While the E.U. has banned over 1,300 chemicals, the U.S. has only banned 11 chemicals commonly used in cleaning and personal supplies. While the FDA does monitor which chemicals enter the market, they do not have the power to demand data on the long term effects of any given product or chemical. With so many dangerous chemicals on the market, it’s important to keep an eye out for the most common ones so you can keep your home truly clean!
We place quite a bit of emphasis on what we put into our bodies; food and drink, organic or non-organic, dairy or gluten free, etc, but you may be sabotaging some of those thoughts through how you are preparing and storing your food.
When traditional pots and pans are overheated, they release chemicals. It is well said and known that teflon is bad, but the alternatives are hiding the same toxins in different names. PFAS, PFOA, Gen X, and PTFE are all toxic chemical combinations used in modern day coated cookware. When looking for nonstick coated pots and pans, look for a “non-PFAS” label as this will exclude all the chemicals included in the PTFE coatings as well. For specific brands we’d recommend: Staub, Le Creuset, and Xtrema. They are all non-toxic and have varying benefits depending on your cooking situation.
Once you have prepared your food, it’s time to store it. Traditional Tupperware has been linked to various illnesses and diseases. When heated, the plastics release chemicals into the foods you consume. Any plastic with a #3, #6, or #7 labels on it is considered toxic and should not come into contact with food. Look for non-toxic alternatives such as glass, silicone, or stainless steel containers.
Some cleaning supplies may leave your house smelling good, but the chemicals hiding in the products are detrimental to your wellness. Many home cleaning products (and personal products) contain what are known as “endocrine disruptors”. The endocrine system in your body controls your hormones- the chemicals in your body that affect growth, development, reproduction processes, metabolism, and mood to name a few. When outside “endocrine disruptors” enter our bodies, they disrupt our natural processes by mimicking our hormones. The long term effect can result in cancer, reproductive blocks, metabolism issues, birth defects, and more.
Thankfully, the most common chemicals can be recognized and avoided fairly easily. Fragrance is the number 1 most common chemical- you cannot pin down a specific component within the fragrance because the fragrance formula is considered a trade secret of which the ingredients do not have to be disclosed. Any chemical with “paraben” in it is another hidden toxin. Parabens are preservatives, any product containing water requires a preservative. Odds are, if the product does not require immediate use, refrigeration, or to add water, there is a preservative hidden in the product. Formaldehyde is another preservative, though you’ll likely never see its proper name on a label. This carcinogen hides in DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate on labels. Vinegar and lemon are a powerful combo for cleaning, but our top brands for truly “clean” cleaning are Planet, 7th Generation, Dr. Bronners, and WholeFoods 365.
Fragrance is rampant in personal supplies. If you want to be clean without all the chemicals, get unscented body wash, shampoo, soap, and other personal products, and then add a drop or 2 of your favorite essential oil scent. Unless you’re making it yourself, bar soap is another hidden toxin. Standard bar soap is designed to clean your skin by removing anything on your skin, including the natural and protective oils.
Just like with cleaning supplies and personal products, makeup can contain harmful chemicals that you apply directly to your face. Many cheap primers contain silicone,
which works to dry your skin and enlarge pores allowing for irritants to permeate the skin barrier. As mentioned above, formaldehyde, parabens, and fragrances are common in any skin “care” product. For a full guide to makeup products, check out EWG’s guide here
The next generation is truly the future. Unfortunately, as much as we want to protect our kids, there are quite a few dangerous chemicals found in baby products. In addition to the chemicals we’ve already discussed, talc is a drying agent found in baby powder which is an inhalant that is a carcinogen (linked to cancer). Baby oil consists primarily of mineral oil and fragrance- mineral oil is a petroleum byproduct which coats baby’s skin in a way that results in toxins not being able to fully detox from their bodies. Most “antibacterial” products contain triclosan, an endocrine disruptor. While it may seem like a good idea to keep baby away from bacteria, when raised in a sterile environment, baby’s immunity can actually be stunted by not exposing them to good bacteria and bacteria their body is designed to fight off.
Diapers- by law, companies are not required to disclose what chemicals are used in the production of disposable diapers. Concerns of chemicals in conventional, disposable diapers include: volatile organic compounds or VOCs (including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and dipentene), sodium polyacrylate or SAP, dioxins, polyurethane, adhesives, lotions, inks, fragrances, and pesticide residue. Plus the petrochemical load used in manufacturing. Chemicals like these can have toxic health effects and may irritate little babes’ skin, eyes, and lungs. “Natural” disposable diaper brands are a confident step up from these chemicals and include brands such as 7th Generation, Honest, Bamboo Nature, and Dyper. Cloth diapers are another great option.
It can seem exceedingly overwhelming to clean and clean out your home. With so many chemicals on the market, it’s impossible to change everything at once or to avoid every single one of them. Begin with one room in the house to make “clean” and go from there. You’ll be surprised by how you feel by changing the products you use so frequently. If you’re curious about what’s in the product you're using, check out EWG’s comprehensive guide here