We are surrounded by chemicals. Some of these sources are obvious, like pesticides and air pollution. Others are not so obvious, such as everyday items we use on our bodies, in our food, and around our homes. While some chemicals are safe, there are harmful chemicals in these products that are not regulated or prohibited from use. In fact, since the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act in 1938, thousands of chemicals have been created and very few have been tested or restricted from use. It is important to be aware of these chemicals that you may be exposing yourself to on a daily basis. Certain chemicals have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system, cause cancer, and either trigger or exacerbate autoimmune and other chronic diseases (1,2,3,4).
Below are the top five things you can do to reduce your chemical exposure:
NUMBER ONE: Swap out plastic and aluminum for glass, stainless steel, or other reusable items
Plastics contain millions of chemicals that are largely untested. They also contain several harmful chemicals including bisphenols (BPA), phthalates and perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs). These plastics can leach into your food when using them for storage, and especially when eating items in plastic containers (4). Using aluminum foil while cooking can increase the amount of aluminum in your diet. High levels of aluminum have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and may be harmful for people with bone or kidney diseases (5). To reduce your exposure, use glass or stainless steel for cooking and storage. Instead of plastic wrap, choose either aluminum foil for storage (just not cooking) or an eco-friendly alternative like this one.
NUMBER TWO: Clean up your beauty care routine
The U.S. is way behind other countries in regulating chemicals used in beauty products. Our country bans 11 chemicals, while the European Union bans over 1,300 and Canada prohibits around 600 chemicals. Common chemicals found in our products are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and unsafe for pregnant women. The best way to make this switch is to find a beauty company you trust. There are plenty of clean products on the market, but it is important to understand how these companies source their ingredients, test them for contaminants, and formulate their products with consumer safety in mind. My go-to brand is Beautycounter. I love their mission and products so much that I’m also a consultant (in my spare time). You can click this link to shop or reach out if you have any questions. The other option is to download the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Healthy Living app. This lists out a number of brands, products, and their toxicity rating.
NUMBER THREE: Buy organic foods from the dirty dozen list (at a minimum)
Organic produce bans the use of synthetic pesticides during the growing and storage process. Although there is technically no difference from a nutrition standpoint when comparing conventional and organic produce, choosing organic reduces your pesticide exposure. Now, organic produce is expensive, so at a minimum, aim to buy the organic items listed on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list for 2020. These are the top 12 foods with the highest pesticide residue.
NUMBER FOUR: Explore alternative house cleaning products or make your own
Cleaning products may also be full of harmful chemicals. Similar chemicals such as phthalates and formaldehyde used in beauty products and plastic containers are also used in cleaning agents. EWG’s healthy living app rates cleaning products, and if you shop at Whole Foods they also have a rating system for toxicity. The alternative is making your own cleansers, and it’s quite easy. Here is a comprehensive list of how to make cleansers for a variety of uses.
NUMBER FIVE: Use a water filtration system
There are plenty of contaminants that leach into our water supply without us knowing. Just recently, residents of Flint, Michigan had terrifying levels of lead in their drinking water. Knowing where your water comes from and the quality of your community water is important. Every city should have a water quality report publicly available. If not, contact your utilities provider. If you are still concerned about your water quality, you can install a water filtration system for either specific faucets or even your entire home. Filtration pitchers like Brita or PUR also work well, but keep in mind that you will need to replace the filters in order to achieve maximum results.
Reducing chemical exposures can be overwhelming. My advice is to pick one category to start with and go from there. If you need additional help or are concerned about how chemicals are affecting your health, please contact me to schedule a free 15 minute call. Remember, even little changes can make a big impact on your overall health and wellbeing.