How to Avoid Toxic Products

If I was going to eliminate only the worst toxic stuff from my world because, let’s say, it was too expensive, complicated or uncomfortable to work my way through ALL of it, then which ones would I choose? How would I know which ones were the worst and how would I find them in that pile of junk I have around me that I’ve become dependent upon and used to? Well, I know that this is a daunting task and it could take a novice years to get up to snuff, as well as taking many months to work the bad stuff out and to find new.

So knowing this and thinking about how people are, I thought it might be a good idea to give a list that people could write down, print out or record for future reference. A simple enough list to be added to the grocery and household shopping lists. So I came up with a “worst chemicals in the world” type of list with the names they go by on the labels you read so that you can snoop them out in your buying expeditions. I also give a short description of what they do and why there are bad for you so that you can understand that this is important. So get your pen, open your text document or start the voice recorder. Here they are:

Synthetic Pesticides

DDT – You already know all about DDT. It is mainly used in arial sprays of crops. The only way to avoid DDT for sure in your food is to buy organic from a trusted source. Keep in mind that the label “organic” is often used in a misleading fashion. Check company websites for the facts before buying.

Dursban – This used to one of the most used pesticides throughout the US, used everywhere from households to hospitals. It was banned because it poses an unacceptable health risk, and this according to the EPA and the FDA, who are not known to ban much. It is a known neurotoxin and endocrine disrupter. However, here’s the thing. It is allowed to be used on foreign crops in other countries, many of which we import our food from. So, it is back on the table in a roundabout way. The way to avoid it is to know where your food comes from. So I advise that you do not buy produce from third world countries in the Middle East, southeast Asia, South America, eastern Asia or Africa.

Diazinon– This product was also banned some time ago because of links to cancer. However, it is currently still being used on golf courses and for mosquito control in some areas. Do not go outside when they are spraying. Clean off outdoor surfaces when they are done spraying. Also, they use Diazinon to grow mushrooms so do not buy mushrooms unless they are grown organically.

Other synthetic pesticides include: glyphosate, malathion, carbaryl and others that are less often used. These are used systematically on most vegetables in the USA. GM foods are often referred to as “roundup ready” because they are resistant to herbicides such as Roundup. This allows them to be saturated with herbicides while fields are being eradicated of weeds and still survive to end up on your table. This amplifies your exposure to glyphosate, which is considered toxic.

When you purchase vegetables and fruits and cannot get organic brands, then you must take certain measures to reduce your exposure to these harsh chemicals. Wash the food thoroughly. Peel it when you can to get rid of the layer of chemicals that end up absorbed in the skin. When purchasing meat and dairy foods, get the ones that contain less fat because fat is a place where pesticides and herbicides are known to accumulate. Always remove fat from meat before preparing or eating.

But the best way to avoid consuming synthetic pesticides along with your food is to eat organic produce, meat and dairy products. Organic food is grown and processed without being treated or supplemented with synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, although it can be treated with natural pesticides. Look for the USDA certified organic label on your foods. As I said before, this label can be misused but for the most part, if the company is one you trust, it is safe.

Moth balls

You must get rid of these if you use them. Naphthalene is a registered carcinogen by the U.S. Government. It is more toxic than the moths are a problem, believe me. A humane, non toxic and great smelling alternative to moth balls is to place cedar chips around clothes or store sachets made out of dried lavender or equal parts of dried rosemary and mint in drawers and closets. Try making a mothbag like the one in the photo.

Formaldehyde

Found in pressed wood and particle board, many contemporary furniture manufacturers use formaldehyde-based wood products. From the EPA website: “Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by industry to manufacture building materials and numerous household products. It is also a by-product of combustion and certain other natural processes. Thus, it may be present in substantial concentrations both indoors and outdoors.”

And also from the EPA website: “Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer. May also cause other effects listed under “organic gases.”

So how do you avoid this crap? First of all, do not buy products made from plywood or particle board, which are the most dangerous of all. Prefab homes and furniture are mostly made from pressed wood, which is a culprit. The sad thing is that these pressed woods were mostly used in mobile homes and trailers and other manufactured housing. These homes belong mostly to the poor and disabled among us and are the smallest spaces, where emissions accumulate and reach dangerous levels. So do not buy these items if you can purchase something else.

Also from the EPA website: “During the 1970s, many homeowners had urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) installed in the wall cavities of their homes as an energy conservation measure. However, many of these homes were found to have relatively high indoor concentrations of formaldehyde soon after the UFFI installation.” The truth is that very few homes are being insulated this way anymore so the problem has fallen off the radar. However, older homes have not been forced by law to undergo upgrades so if you are buying or renting an older home, you should check the formaldehyde levels.

When buying furniture, make an effort to purchase “eco friendly” stuff. If this is not an option due to financial or other concerns, then consider sealing your current pressed wood furniture with a heavy duty sealant. This should keep formaldehyde out of your air.

VOCS

Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC’s) are contaminants that may be found in drinking water supplies across the nation. VOC’s are those organic chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals) that are “readily vaporizable at a relatively low temperature” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). They included chemicals like Benzene, Chloroform, 2,4-D, Toluene, Styrene, Dinoseb and many others. With no visible characteristics, smell, or taste, VOC’s are virtually undetectable in drinking water by the consumer. The only way to know if your water has VOC’s is to have it tested or to obtain test results from local public water supplier. VOC’s are often toxic and pose intimidating health risks.

The way to avoid VOCs in your water supply is to buy distilled water over the counter. Chlorination of the water supply only amplifies the problem.

These products ended up in your water supply because they started out in agriculture, paint manufacture, pharmaceuticals, refrigerants and the building industry. Since they are industrial solvents they are often components of petroleum fuels, hydraulic fluids, paint thinners and dry cleaning agents. So this means they can be in your nail polish, the paint on the walls of your home, the drugs you are taking or literally in the walls or floors of your home. They are insidious and difficult to eradicate.

Building materials and furnishings, such as new carpets or furniture, slowly release VOCs over time. It may be necessary to ventilate areas with new carpeting or furniture for longer time periods because VOC levels can build up again after the windows are closed. If possible, unroll new carpets or store furniture outside your home (in a shed or detached garage) to minimize odors before bringing them in the home. If that’s not possible, open windows, close doors and try to stay out of rooms until odors are reduced.

Here are the products which can often contain VOCs: gas cans, paint thinners, oil based stains and paint, pesticides, furniture polishes, mineral spirits, nail polish, hair spray, perfumes, rubbing alcohol, spot removers, pvc cement, pvc primer, liquid adhesives, paint strippers, glue removers, degreasers, commercial solvents, moth balls, deodorizers, air fresheners, freon or refrigerant, upholstered furniture, carpets, plywood and clothes that you have had dry cleaned.

There is no bigger argument for going back to the basics and living more naturally than these horrible chemicals. They are literally everywhere in our modern world. Use care if you must use paint thinner, stains, paint, solvents, degreasers, freon or rubbing alcohol. Use these things as little as possible. Use natural pest repellents. Don’t use crap like nail polish and hair spray. Use perfumes lightly. Use natural air fresheners and deodorants. Don’t use dry cleaning.  Get plain wood furniture and tile your floors instead of carpeting.

Plastics with phthalates, PVC, and BPA.

Phthalates are added to plastic to make it more flexible. PVC is added to plastic to make it harder. BPA is added to plastic to make it thicker. As if plastic alone isn’t enough of a problem! Phthalates are known to be disruptive to the endocrine system and therefor have a toxic effect on hormones. They can cause reproductive and neurological damage, especially in children.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products are everywhere and are dangerous to our health. Chances are your lawn furniture is made from it. This plastic is known for releasing poisonous chemicals that have been linked to cancer and birth defects.

I have mentioned the dangers of BPA on various posts in the past. It is a known endocrine and metabolic disruptor and has been implicated in metabolic syndrome, a component of diabetes. It is considered a contributor to obesity, hyperinsulinism, heart disease and is known to cause angina and heart attack. This is a prevalent chemical with very serious dangers and is just too toxic to ignore. If nothing else, do not buy or use baby bottles made with BPA.

There are easy ways to avoid all these chemicals in plastic. In regards to PVC, the health risks are well known and most companies are no longer using it. Toss out PVC furniture and replace it. Chances are you won’t be forced to buy any more in the future as the market for alternatives is competitive.

In regards to BPA, check the bottles containing the products you buy. Always choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates.

To eliminate phalates altogether, then you must read the ingredients. You can identify phthalates in some products by their chemical names, or abbreviations:

DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions. (BzBP, see below, is also in some personal care products.)
DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics (as well as rocket propellant).

Another idea: be wary of products listing the word “fragrance” in their ingredients. This usually means a combination of compounds, most often phthatates which have been shown in recent studies to mimic certain hormones in the body and disrupt the endocrine system. Ingredients in fragrances are also known to cause severe allergies and to aggravate asthma.

Fire Retardants

These are problematic and found in cushions of sofas and chairs, the lining of coats and jackets, the pillows and sheets on your bed and just about everywhere in your home. They usually contain long-lasting chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, (PBDEs), that are endocrine disrupters. PBDEs have been used in a wide array of products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane foams, and textiles.

People are exposed to low-levels of PBDEs through ingestion of food and by inhalation. PBDEs bioaccumulate in blood, breast milk, and fat tissues. Dxposure to PBDEs impairs development of the nervous system. PDBEs has also been shown to have hormone disrupting effects, particularly on estrogen and thyroid hormones. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted that PBDEs are particularly toxic to the developing brains of animals.

Other than buying new couches, pillows, cushions, bedding, etc… you might consider covering everything in plastic. It works best with pillows (which can be hidden in slips and cases) and in bedding, which can be easily replaced. Here are some good rules of thumb when you are shopping and wish to avoid these chemicals:

1. Inspect foam items. Replace anything with a ripped cover or foam that is misshapen and breaking down. If you cannot replace these items try to keep the covers intact. Beware of older items like car seats and mattress pads where the foam is not completely encased in a protective fabric.

2. Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. These vacuums are more efficient at trapping small particles and will likely remove more contaminants and other allergens from your home. HEPA-filter air cleaners may also reduce particle-bound contaminants in your house.

3. Do not reupholster foam furniture. Even those items without PBDEs might contain poorly studied fire retardants with potentially harmful effects.

4. Be careful when removing old carpet. The padding may contain PBDEs. Keep your work area isolated from the rest of your home. Clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and mop to pick up as many of the small particles as possible.

5. When purchasing new products ask the manufacturers what type of fire retardants they use. Avoid products with brominated fire retardants, and opt for less flammable fabrics and materials, like leather, wool and cotton. Be aware that “natural” or latex foam will also contain fire retardants.

And then, last but not least, scan your house for Deca-containing items. The chemical can be found in:

Electronics TV components, mobile phones, fax machines, remote controls, video equipment, printers, photocopiers, toner cartridges, scanners.
Transportation electronic components (radios, cd players, cb radios, scanners, etc), automobile fabrics, plastics and electronics.
Household items kitchen appliances, fans, heaters or hair dryers, curtains and drapes, water heaters, and lamp sockets.

When you are ready to replace these items, ask the manufacturer or visit the website to discover what kind of fire retardants they use and how much.

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4 Responses so far

  1. 1

    […] Now, I won’t be the one to tell people to eat what they like or to stop exercising. Our sedate society is making all of us lazy and unproductive to some degree. People were made for physical labor, to build their own huts, to hunt their own food, to run through the jungle, literally. Our current technology oriented sit on your butt and eat lifestyle can’t be good, no matter what. But what if it’s not the only factor in your weight problem? What if it is in the world around you? Among those things that you have made a part of your beloved lifestyle or among the expensive and much desired objects you surround yourself with? What if? As early as 2002, a Scientist in Scotland published a paper about the link between obesity and synthetic chemicals. This event was chronicled in a big story in Newsweek by Sharon Begley, published in 2009. This discovery sparked interest from others in the field and many other studies followed. Just as early, in Japan, scientists were finding that bisphenol A (a chemical compound used to make plastic drinking bottles and baby bottles, among other things) pushed certain cells to become fat cells in experiments performed in the lab. They also found that BPA accelerated the growth of existing fat cells. If their results held true outside the lab in people, it would mean that BPA, and potentially other synthetic chemicals, were in fact contributing to obesity. I have written quite a bit on this blog about BPA (Bisphenol A); you can read those posts here and here. […]

  2. 2

    […] For more information on the dangers of plastic, read my post on BPA . […]

  3. 3

    ljhealth said,

    Thanks for this important posting, I would love to get your feed back on my blog http://www.ljhealth.wordpress.com I’m surprised how many people claim paraben’s aren’t harmful(chemical preservative that mimics that natural occurring estrogen in our bodies and has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer) we are given all kinds of excuses that small amounts won’t hurt or they leave the body. So if this were true why would paraben be found in the tissue of breast cancer? The cosmetic industry is not regulated. Lori

  4. 4

    […] Original post by spacecoaststargirl […]


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