by guest blogger Ava Anderson, natural-beauty expert and safe-cosmetics advocate
Many of us made health and wellness resolutions this New Year—eat better, skip the junk food, sign up for yoga classes. One resolution we should ALL make is to create a nontoxic home in 2015.
Just as there are health consequences from eating lots of cheap, processed junk foods, there’s a price to pay for using low-cost conventional home and beauty products: Our homes are now filled with man-made substances that include an array of synthetic chemicals, some of which are known carcinogens. The best way to begin creating a safe place for you and your family to live is to ditch the following 8 common products (many of which are probably in your home right now). All are made with toxic, potentially cancer-causing chemicals.
Arm yourself with the information to kick them to the curb (or the hazardous waste dump) to ensure a healthier home for you and your family, as well as a reduced body burden of harmful chemicals throughout the New Year and beyond…
1. Air Fresheners often contain napthelene, formaldehyde, and phthalates, none of which is on, or required to be on, the label. A Natural Resources Defense Council study of 13 common household air fresheners found that most contain chemicals that can trigger asthma and affect reproductive development. According to a 2008 study at University of Washington, all air fresheners tested gave off chemicals regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, including carcinogens with no safe exposure level.
INSTEAD: Try eliminating smells with enzyme-based products that break apart malodors.
2. Dryer Sheets commonly contain chemicals like chloroform (it’s neurotoxic and carcinogenic and is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s, or EPA’s, Hazardous Waste list); ethyl acetate (on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and also a narcotic that may cause headaches and narcosis); and pentane (can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and loss of consciousness.)
INSTEAD: Try wool dryer balls or a little nontoxic hair conditioner on an old rag or sock.
3. Paraffin Candles. The EPA warns that burning paraffin candles emits small but harmful amounts of toxins (such as benzene and toluene, known human carcinogens) into the air at rates that are considered above the excess cancer risk after multiple exposures. According to California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, there are up to 20 toxins in paraffin candle wax, including methyl ethyl ketone and naphthalene (substances found in paint, lacquer, and varnish removers). Most candles on the market are made from paraffin, which is created from leftover residue of the petroleum refining process and may contain other chemical additives in the dyes and fragrances that can be toxic when inhaled. Avoid artificially scented paraffin candles, as most are also hosts to phthalates, which extend the reach and life of their secret chemically concocted fragrances. Some will also have metal, even lead, wicks.
INSTEAD: Choose candles made of organic beeswax or coconut wax scented with pure essential oils and cotton wicks.
4. Lotions and Potions. Termed “cosmetics” by the Food and Drug Administration, many personal care beauty products contain more than a few chemicals that are known carcinogens. Philip Landrigan, MD, dean of global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, advises avoiding these toxic chemicals in skin care: formaldehyde, hydroquinone, mercury, lead, parabens, phenylenediamine, coal tar (synthetic dyes), diethanolamine, 1,4-dioxane, nanoparticles, and petroleum distillates. According to Dr. Landrigan, phthalates are among the biggest culprits in cosmetics because they mimic the action of our natural hormones. Another of the worst offenders is lipstick, which may contain lead, known to cause numerous health problems, including cancer.
INSTEAD: Choose products without the ingredient “fragrance/parfum” on the label or ones whose fragrances are derived from natural and botanical ingredients. But beware of greenwashing!
5. Antiperspirants. According to the National Cancer Institute, “aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants. These compounds form a temporary plug within the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like (hormonal) effects. Because estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer.”
INSTEAD: Find a deodorant free of aluminum, parabens, and synthetic fragrances. Try one made with organic butters or oils and baking soda, instead.
6. Baby Powder. Studies on talcum powder (which is widely used in baby powder) has suggested that it may cause or increase the risk of ovarian, uterine, and lung cancer.
INSTEAD: Use baby powder that contains organic arrowroot powder rather than talcum.
7. Laundry Detergent. Petroleum distillates are found in most conventional detergents and are linked with cancer. In addition, alkyl phenols, industrial chemicals used in the production of detergents are endocrine disruptors that have been shown to alter mammary gland development in animal studies. Two more reasons to avoid conventional laundry detergents are they frequently contain phenols, which cause toxicity throughout the whole body, and synthetic “fragrance,” which can contain any number of toxic ingredients that by law don’t have to be listed. Keep in mind that in the U.S., ingredients don’t have to be listed on cleaning products.
INSTEAD: Choose natural, enzyme-based detergents without synthetic fragrances, undisclosed chemicals, and optical whiteners.
8. Antibacterial Soaps, Washes, and Toothpastes are often products whose active ingredient is triclosan. The chemical, which is registered with our government as a pesticide (that’s why it has antibacterial action), can affect the body’s endocrine, or hormone, system—especially the hormones produced by the thyroid, which regulate metabolism—and may disrupt normal breast development and cause cancer. Widespread use of triclosan may also contribute to bacterial resistance to antimicrobial agents. On top of all that, the chemical has been shown to weaken muscles, including the heart.
INSTEAD: Find nontoxic alternatives that employ organic essential oil properties.
Here’s to making 2015 safe and toxin free!
At the age of 15, Ava Anderson launched her line of personal-care and home-cleaning products, Ava Anderson Non Toxic. Now 20, Ava is educating hundreds of thousands of American families annually on the issue of toxic chemicals in personal-care products through her line, which now includes baby, skin, hair, body, cosmetics, men’s, candles, bug, home, sun, and pet products. As an undergrad at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Ava actively helps run her large company with 40-plus employees and thousands of Ava Consultants in every state in the nation. Her goal is to force a paradigm shift on the issue of toxic chemicals in products—with your help.