Due to research and the increased efforts to reduce toxins and live more sustainably, many of our everyday products are a lot safer than they were 50 years ago. However, there are still some common products that contain substances that are toxic to the human body. Here are some common household items that you probably use every day but they may contain potentially harmful chemicals and some alternatives to those products.
Personal Care Products
Some lotions may contain binders and preservatives derived from chemicals. Acrylamide is a binder thought to be a cause of breast cancer, while parabens (including propylparaben and methylparaben) are a type of preservative known to be a hormone disruptor. Avoid lotions and other personal care products with these ingredients as often as you can.
Some sunscreens contain Ultraviolet (UV) filters such as benzophenone, homosalate, and octinoxate, which are also endocrine (hormone) disruptors. A safer alternative to these ingredients is mineral sunscreens that use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in forms that aren’t inhaled. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays.
1. Antibacterial Hand Soap
Studies have shown that antibacterial soaps don’t actually make us cleaner than non-antibacterial soaps. In fact, the main ingredient in antibacterial soap (triclosan) increases the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. It has also been found that triclosan has contributed to toxic algae in water sources. Bottom line, soaps and other cleaners labeled “antibacterial” are potentially doing more harm than good.
2. Multipurpose Cleaners
Many household cleaners, including window cleaners, contain an ingredient called 2-butoxyethanol. The EPA has found that this toxin can contribute to liver and kidney damage. While companies are not required to list this ingredient on their labels, you can avoid this by sticking to simple cleaning compounds, such as baking soda. Not only is this better for your health, but it’s also better for the environment.
1. Sodium Nitrate
This is found in processed meats. While it prevents the growth of bacteria, it also has some potential health issues. When sodium nitrate is heated at high temperatures, it can increase the risk of stomach cancer. Of course, this is more probable when consumed at higher rates, so it’s best to limit the amount of red meat you eat.
Glyphosate is the main ingredient found in most weed killers that have been linked to certain cancers. Unfortunately, this ingredient has been found in several foods as well. Oat-based breakfasts (including oatmeal, granola, and cereal) have been shown to have high levels of glyphosate. This is likely due to the use of pesticides and herbicides in food production.
Other Tips to Remember
Not all “natural” is good.
While we are looking for natural alternatives, remember that not everything labeled natural is good. Products can be labeled as being 100% natural, but harmful substances can be classified as natural. Also, not all synthetic ingredients are bad. Always read labels, and if you don’t recognize an ingredient, you can always look it up.
Who doesn’t love scented products? Companies are not required to list the ingredients that go into creating their fragrances, but they do have to list “fragrance” or “parfum” among the ingredients. Unfortunately, that “fragrance” can be a mixture of anything. Whenever you can, choose “fragrance-free” products. It sounds boring, but an alternative would be to purchase essential oils to add your own fragrance to products.
It’s important to note here that essential oils should always be used as directed. Though they are natural and generally harmless, they are not to be ingested unless stated otherwise. They should also be used in small amounts and diluted with water or a carrier oil.
Science doesn’t change, but as new studies and information come out, we may have a better understanding of certain ingredients. For now, it’s important to research questionable ingredients and learn if they are okay at lower levels, or if we should just avoid them altogether.