01 Apr 5 Steps to Reduce Toxic Exposure
We live in a toxic world, and it is becoming even more crucial to reduce toxic exposure for the sake of our health. From the foods we eat to the water we drink and the products we use on a daily basis; TOXINS constantly surround us! Many are becoming increasingly aware of this issue and periodically utilize cleanses or detoxes to rid their bodies of toxin build up. Some go a step further by changing their diets and lifestyles. This may even be the reason why you currently follow or are considering a Paleo lifestyle. You’re on the right track by considering diet as a major contributor to toxins in today’s world- however what about the rest of the products that we use a daily basis?
In a perfect world, the average consumer would be protected by some higher power to ensure that we aren’t buying and using products containing toxins that could lead to chronic illness. Sadly, its not a perfect world yet it seems that most trust that the food, water and air we take in and the products we use on a daily basis are in fact safe. The truth is, these products are creating a slew of conditions including (but not limited to) cancers, hormonal imbalances, learning disabilities, miscarriages and infertility, mood and behavior disorders, gastrointestinal dysfunction/damage, allergies and chronic fatigue, aches and pain. The vast majority of products are marketed and sold knowing that they contain potentially harmful chemicals and ingredients, however they are deemed safe because they contain miniscule amounts of mercury, arsenic, formaldehyde, parabens, etc. But what happens when we use these products, with these tiny amounts of toxins, EVERY SINGLE DAY? What happens when our toothpaste has one chemical, our deodorant another, our makeup/aftershave/perfume a couple more, our shampoo and conditioner a handful of others, our lotion a few more? I’ll tell you what happens- We’ve just slathered a whole bunch of toxins on our bodies and we haven’t even left the house… or the bathroom for that matter!
In today’s industrialized world, there really are too many toxins to discuss in this little column, and frankly it would be pointless because so many are unavoidable. However, there are a few simple changes that we can all make to ensure that we are reducing our exposure to toxins and overall toxic load.
- Eat an organic, unprocessed diet whenever possible. I really can’t stress this point enough! If you’re following a whole food or ancestral diet you’re already on the right path. For those who can, I highly recommend going one step further by opting for organic in order to avoid (or reduce) pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). Pesticides (particularly organophosphate and carbamate) have been linked impairment of the nervous system, cancer and have been shown to impair children’s brain development.(1) GMO’s have been linked to infertility, immune problems, issues with insulin regulation, allergies, and damage to the gastrointestinal system. As GMO’s have only been around for a relatively short amount of time, I’m afraid we’ve only begun to see the potential health and environmental impacts of these “foods”. (2) Because organic foods tend to be lower in pesticides and cannot be genetically modified, maintaining an organic Paleo diet is a great way to avoid these toxic ingredients. For those who can’t afford to go 100% organic, I recommend doing a quick Internet search for the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list of the Dirty Dozen for a list of foods that should always be purchased in organic form. (3)
- Filter your water- Unfiltered water has been shown to contain traces of a number of unregulated chemicals including arsenic, fluoride, chlorine, lead, copper, mercury, trihalomethanes (chemicals created when chlorine mixes with rotting organic matter such as farm runoff or sewage) and even prescription medications! As a result, simply drinking that tap water can result in a range of health issues including birth defects, a variety of cancers, miscarriages, kidney damage, learning disabilities, and a slew of others. (3,4) To effectively filter your water, I recommend investing in a carbon filtration system, which is most efficient at filtering out those toxins. Some may think they are avoiding the problem by purchasing only bottled water, however that water may not be much cleaner AND the plastic bottle raises additional concern. I recommend filtering your water at home and investing in a good quality BPA-free bottle to transport it in. (5)
- Rethink those toiletries: Shampoos, hair dye/sprays/styling products, makeup, perfumes, skin creams, toothpaste, deodorant and other toiletries often contain ingredients such as phthalates, parabens, fluoride, propylene glycol, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, aluminum, sodium lauryl sulfate and petrochemicals. A major issue with toiletries is that these products aren’t required to undergo safety testing prior to being released to the public and companies often don’t disclose ingredients as they are deemed “trade secrets”. Not to mention, companies often use misleading marketing gimmicks by listing their products as “natural” or “organic” leading consumers to believe that their products are safe. On the contrary, the chemicals in these products can be linked to everything from cancer to reproductive harm, birth defects in babies, miscarriages, and hormone disruption. Consumers can stay up to date on ALL toiletry products by reading labels and visiting the EWG’s website Skin Deep to determine exactly how safe those shampoos and lotions really are. (6,7 )
- Clean out your cleaners- Ironically, sometimes the products that we use to clean our homes are actually exposing us to more harmful chemicals than the spills and messes we were cleaning up! According to the EWG, dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde, thiourea (a carcinogen), perchloroethylene, nonylphenol ethoxylate (hormone disruptor), DEGBE or butoxydiglycol (inflames/harms the lungs), DEGME or methoxydiglycol (causes fetal development damage) are found in products that we use regularly. Even more alarming is the fact that, as consumers, we rarely know exactly which ingredients are going into our cleaning products as only 7% of cleaning products adequately disclose their contents! Oddly, many of these ingredients are banned in certain states (such as California) and countries but legal in others. While these products may leave your home looking spotless, they could actually be leaving behind an array of questionable chemicals. Rather than take your chances with these mystery ingredients, I recommend making your own cleaners using simple ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, tea tree oil, and basic hot water (can work wonders on a clogged drain!) or at the very least do your research before deciding which products to keep on hand. (8)
- Diminish Dust! Toxins are very easily transported into homes through windows, vents and on the bottoms of our shoes and pets feet. According to the EWG “One recent study by the Silent Spring Institute identified 66 endocrine-disrupting compounds in household dust tests, including flame retardants, home-use pesticides, and phthalates”.(9) This is particularly alarming for those with children who spend most of their time roaming the floors (and taste-testing everything) typically resulting in increased exposure. To reduce household dust, sweep, mop and vacuum regularly (vacuums with HEPA filters are best) and use a microfiber or damp cloth/duster to dust to ensure that you are catching dust particles rather than moving them around. To further remove dust and other toxins in the home, we strongly recommend Austin Air Purifiers. Lastly, make sure heating and cooling filters are changed regularly and always remove those shoes at the door.
These are only a handful of ways that we can all change our daily habits to reduce our toxic load. Additional tips for decreasing toxic load include drinking plenty of filtered water, spending time or (if possible) living in environments with less air pollution, sweating regularly through exercise or with the use of an infrared sauna, learn to manage stress, invest in deep tissue massage and of course keep enjoying that balanced Paleo diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fruit and vegetables.
-Jason M. Kremer, DC, CCSP®, CSCS
Regular sauna use is a great way to further decrease toxic load.
1) “Pesticides.” — Washington Toxics Coalition. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
2) “GMO Health Dangers | Institute for Responsible Technology.” Institute for Responsible Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.
3) “EWG’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™.” EWG’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
4) 2013, February. Washington, DC 20009Contents (n.d.): n. pag. Environmental Working Group. Association of California Water Agencies. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.
5) “Drinking Water Contaminants.” Drinking Water Contaminants. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
6) Dickey, Philip. “Cosmetics and Personal-Care Products: Avoiding Bodily Harm.” Washington Toxics Coalition, n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2015.
7) “Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | Environmental Working Group.” Skin Deep Home Comments. Environmental Working Group, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.
8) “About EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.” EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Environmental Working Group, n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2015.
9) “In The Dust.” Environmental Working Group. Environmental Working Group, 11 May 2004. Web. 23 Jan. 2015.