We are surrounded by toxic chemicals every day – around 80,000 worth, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From the pesticides on the foods we eat to the latest tech gadgets and hottest new beauty products, chemicals are everywhere.
Unfortunately, these chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), formaldehyde, phthalates and toxic flame retardants, are easily absorbed into our bodies and have been linked to obesity, infertility, asthma, heart disease and even cancer. Toxic chemicals are especially troubling for kids, as their bodies are much smaller and are still developing.
In fact, a recent study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that exposure to chemicals like flame retardants found in furniture and stain resistant items may cause breast cancer. What’s more, many of these chemicals have never been tested for their safety in humans, and experts agree strong legislation is needed.
It’s impossible to completely avoid chemicals, but there are things you can do to reduce your exposure and the level of toxicity in your body.
1. Eat organic
“You can significantly cut down on the toxic chemicals you eat if you’re being careful about your food choices,” said Rick Smith, co-author of “TOXIN TOXOUT: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World.”
Choose organic fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat to reduce your exposure to nasty pesticides and hormones. Organic foods are grown or produced without the aid of pesticides or antibiotics.
2. Read labels
The largest source of chemicals are found in personal care products and cosmetics, particularly because there are so many, and they’re designed to be easily and quickly absorbed through the skin, Smith said.
Look for products that are phthalate- and paraben- free. Also avoid products with retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that breaks down in the sun and has been linked to skin tumors and lesions.
3. Hit the gym
Toxic chemicals are actually stored in the body, and one of the most effective ways to break down the fat cells and flush the chemicals out is through regular exercise.
4. Forget “detoxing”
There are tons of cleanses and detox plans, but they’re actually not that effective at eliminating toxins, Smith said. In fact, he and his co-author Bruce Lourie found that sweating was more effective than urinating at eliminating BPA – a synthetic compound found in plastics that has been linked with a range of health problems..
So it’s time to work up a sweat at the gym or in the sauna.
5. Cut the saturated fat
“A lot of toxic chemicals are attracted to fat,” said Smith, who noted that once these chemicals are in our bodies, they enter our fat cells.
You don’t have to become a vegetarian, but try avoiding saturated fats found in some meats and other fried foods.
6. Use better—and less—cleaning products
Many cleaning products are toxic to breathe in and are especially potent for kids.
“Realize that ‘clean’ can come with a price,” said Sonya Lunder, senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Lunder said disinfectant products in particular are overused and misused.
Unless someone in your home is sick with an infection, nix the disinfectant. Look for green certified cleaners, and buy fewer of these products overall.
7. Make your indoor air cleaner
Sure, pollution is toxic, but what’s in our homes can be just as dangerous – especially because we spend a significant portion of our lives there. Look for paint, carpet underlay and flooring with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) , toxic chemicals that can be emitted as gasses from certain solids or liquids. Open your windows to circulate the air and reduce exposure from this furniture off-gassing.
8. Avoid plastic and nonstick pans
Choose glass instead of plastic when storing food to avoid exposure to BPA and never heat plastic in the microwave, as this can cause BPA to seep into your food. Choose stainless steel or cast iron pans over nonstick.
9. Chug water
Water is a great way to flush the toxins out of the body. Men should aim to drink 3.7 liters a day, and women should try for 2.7 liters.
10. Advocate for change
“It’s easy to make these products without these chemicals in the first place,” Smith said.
You can reduce your exposure as much as possible, but chemicals will still be in our environment if the laws don’t change. Learn about the issues at the EWG’s website and contact your local representative today.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.