Eco Mom Series #4: Use non toxic products

Concern for the products that enter our bodies through our mouths is pretty straightforward. No one in his or her right mind would willingly drink a bottle of chlorine or munch a handful of lead. Indeed, humans and animals alike can very easily be poisoned and or affected in a multitude of ways if we ingest something toxic to our system. However, we are often in denial of the fact that products that touch our skin or that create vapors can be just as toxic.

Indeed it is commonplace for our society to overlook the fact that human skin is a living organ, which makes what we put on or next to our skin seriously important. Somehow, we think that our skin acts as a barrier, when in fact it can absorb toxins and environmental irritants just as easily as our digestive system. And, products that are absorbed through our skin can be especially dangerous because they go straight into our blood stream. At the least, toxins ingested through the mouth if they dont kill us first have the opportunity to be cleaned out of our system through the digestive process. This is why alcoholics get cirrhosis of the liver. The body works so hard at clearing the alcohol out of their bodies’ that it eventually cant keep up.

Similarly, the lung is a working organ and the only way for humans to get oxygen into our blood stream. Every time we inhale a chemical irritant we damage our lungs. Enough damage and the lungs start to lose their ability to repair themselves. Furthermore airborne irritants and toxins can aggravate the lungs for folks who already have breathing problems, such as asthma, even worse they can induce asthma in folks who were previously not at risk. Smoking may be the most common cause of lung cancer but it is not the only cause.

According to research collected by the Eco-Mom Alliance over 150 toxic chemicals are common to the average household. What is really bad news, is that many of these chemicals have been connected to increased incidence of asthma, allergies, cancers, and behavioral disorders.

Chemicals to avoid (more info at the Environmental Working Group):

  • Triclosan – antibacterial agent in soap. Reacts with chlorine to create chloroform a known carcinogen and it is showing up in water sources, humans and animals in unprecedented levels.
  • BPA – Is found in hard clear plastics, such as baby bottles, old Nalgene bottles, your Cuisinart food processor and more. BPA is more likely to leach when heated or in contact with fatty or acidic foods.
  • Fragrance (pththaltes) this includes perfumes, but also extends to baby lotions and all sorts of bath and body products.
  • Oxybenzone – chemical blocker in sunscreen is a photo carcinogen itself, as well as, highly allergic to certain people. And, in Sweden they have recommended that at the least it should never be used on children under the age of two, because they dont have adequate enzymes to eliminate in from their system.
  • PBDE and other fire retardants Bad, bad, bad. Bad for you, bad for me, bad for baby, bad for fish, bad for everyone.
  • Lead We’ve known about lead poisoning for eons. Why is this still a problem?
  • Chlorine is a lung irritant and also toxic to aquatic systems

Non-toxic replacements:

  • Antibacterial soaps and wipes: warm water and hand soap; alcohol, thyme or tea tree oil based wipes. I am very fond of these non-toxic wipes by CleanWell. Be cautious with alcohol gels and wipes around toddlers and pre-school age kids – the concentration of alcohol can be toxic.
  • Buy glass or BPA free baby bottles & sippy cups; glass food storage containers and the like.
  • For sunscreen look for physical blockers (like Zinc) versus chemical blockers. Checkout how your favorite sunscreen (or body product) rates at the Skin Dip Cosmetic Database.
  • Filter tap water to reduce exposure to lead, chlorine and other water contaminates (most filters cannot remove Fluoride).
  • Cook with stainless steel pans and a little healthy olive or canola oil or use a seasoned cast iron skillet.
  • Use green cleaners, but watch out for preservatives (which can still be skin and lung irritants.
  • Eat your omega 3 fats and fish that are low in mercury; breastfeed your baby!
  • Use a sprig of pine; baking soda in the fridge or freezer; orange rind or lemon in your garbage disposal; bake a fresh pie or cookies; or a soy or beeswax candle to freshen your air!
  • Make your own non-toxic cleaners with baking soda, vinegar, borax and more!

Also, don’t immediately trust a product because it calls itself GREEN. For example, Clorox Green Works, which has received lots of positive reviews contains preservatives that are potentially toxic to aquatic life and are most definitely potential skin and lung irritants. Specifically in question is the Kathalon biocide preservative and isothiazol. I have not yet fully researched these components and the claims against them; however, in the meantime if you have breathing problems or other chemical sensitivities I would steer clear of the Clorox Green Works line.

***Update***

When I posted this earlier today I forgot to mention two very important messages from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice:

  1. The Disney Go Green Campaign: Disney is participating in Florida’s Green Building program and they have committed to using non-toxic cleaning products in their zoos/animal enclosures. However, they still use over 80 highly toxic cleaners in areas where children play, bathe and sleep! Please join the campaign to ask Disney to Go Green! Follow this link to take action!
  2. The Non Toxic Home Cleaning Guide (down loadable PDF)