toxin sources


It’s been a little while since we wrote about the toxins of modern living. Meanwhile, the world certainly isn’t getting any less toxic—our homes and belongings, the air we breathe, and the products we buy still pose potential risks to our health and well-being.

In past articles, we’ve outlined the dangerous toxins in a wide variety of everyday products, including clothing, cookware, cosmetics, deodorants, moisturizers, furniture, cleaning products, toothpaste, and more.   We’ve warned you about endocrine disruptors, toxic plastics and microbeads, and the tens of thousands of other toxic industrial chemicals with which modern life is saturated.

Let’s review some of the worst offenders (and how to avoid them). Thank you to Parasol for providing this excellent infographic!

Pesticides. We’ve written about the horrors of pesticides before. A staggering portion of the planet is now contaminated with glyphosate-containing pesticides like RoundUp, neonicotinoids, and other chemical concoctions that wreak havoc on the health of both the human body and the environment.[1]

Despite manufacturer assurances that there’s nothing harmful about pesticides, mounting evidence links pesticide contamination with cancer and a variety of other health problems, as well as collapsing bee colony populations.[2]

Pesticides are so prevalent that it can be difficult to avoid them—but you can minimize your exposure by always eating organic (you should especially avoid the “Dirty Dozen,” which are known to be the most highly pesticide-contaminated produce).  

Conventional cotton. Unfortunately, it’s not just food you need to be worried about when it comes to pesticide contamination. Cotton is one of the most pesticide-contaminated crops in the world—this means that these toxins end up in clothing made from conventional cotton, and are readily absorbed through the skin. And to make matters worse, some clothing has even been found to contain chlorine bleach, formaldehyde (that’s right, carcinogenic embalming fluid), and toxic plastics like perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).[3]

Once again, you can easily protect yourself by choosing clothing made with organic cotton and natural materials such as hemp, bamboo, cork, and wool. Also, avoid “wrinkle-free” clothing like the plague, as it’s been shown to contain even higher levels of toxic PFCs and formaldehyde.

Diapers and toxic toys. It’s especially tragic that even baby-care products can be terribly toxic (and babies are more developmentally sensitive to toxin exposure than adults, so it’s imperative that you take steps to keeps industrial toxins away from your children).

Conventional disposable diapers contain irritating, toxic dyes, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as xylene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and dipentene. These chemicals not only cause painful diaper rashes for your baby, but are also linked with cancer, developmental issues, and other worrying health problems.[4] Similarly, many cheaply made children’s toys contain brominated flame retardants (BFRs), arsenic, and other heavy-duty toxins that are bioaccumulative (which means they cumulatively build up in bone and tissue and cause various long-term health issues).

Luckily, there are plenty of conscious companies that now offer both reusable and disposable diapers made from safe and organic materials, as well as non-toxic toys.

Cleaning products. The vast majority of cleaning products are anything but clean—they’re filled with a vast array of corrosive and health-sapping chemicals. And in the vast majority of cases, these powerful toxins are not even necessary for keeping your house clean; there are plenty of food-safe materials that work just as well, such as vinegar, orange oil, and baking soda.

Check out this article for tips on making your own safe and effective cleaning products from common household ingredients. It’s way easier than you might think, but even if you’re not the DIY type, there are plenty of safe and eco-friendly cleaning products available for purchase (just make sure you check the ingredients before buying anything).

 Beauty care products. The proliferation of toxic chemicals in nearly all beauty care products is a huge problem. Toxins are easily absorbed through the skin each and every time we use such products—yet because toxic bioaccumulation only causes health problems after a long period of time, manufacturers continue to get away with denying the dangers of their products.

Conventional make-up, shampoos and conditioners, moisturizers, lipstick, deodorants, and nearly every other common hygiene and beauty product are contaminated to some degree, so take great care in choosing which ones to purchase. You can even make your own beauty care products, cheaply and easily. In this article, we explain how you can replace a sizable portion of your beauty product repertoire with nothing but coconut oil.

Why it’s worth it to stay vigilant

It may seem overwhelming to have to think about all of these potential toxin sources—but it’s well worth the effort. The toxins in these products slowly (or not so slowly) undermine your health; the constant process of fending off toxins makes it dramatically more difficult for your body to resist disease and imbalance.

But by making a simple shift toward conscious, organic, chemical-free product brands (and by making your own self-care and home-care products whenever possible), you can give your body the helping hand it needs to stay strong, vibrant, and toxin-free.



[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273122396007378

[2] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6345/1393

[3] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151023084508.htm

[4] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/3/e450.full?sid=a13491bc-4318-4181-940b-d3d406ec7427

Image source

Infographic source



Last week we went to look at some homes for sale in our neighborhood.  We walked into one home where I immediately felt I could not breathe.  The air was full of odors from “perfumed” air fresheners and odor eliminators.  After 5 minutes in this house I had to leave… I developed a severe headache and felt I was being asphyxiated.

It occurred to me how many people are using these kinds of products in their homes, with NO idea of how toxic they are!!

People are not aware that in their own homes, they are living among toxins on a daily basis.

Many of the seemingly innocent household necessities are actually potent toxin sources: our appliances, furniture, building materials, cleaning products, cosmetics, and more are all suspect.

Combined with naturally existing toxins (such as mold, fungi, pollen, and dander), all of these offenders can transform your home into a health-sapping minefield. And these nasty toxins can have staggering effects on your health, ranging from suppressed immune function (which leads to more frequent illness) to asthma, heart disease, and cancer.

This phenomenon is so prevalent that there’s actually an official name for it: toxic home syndrome. One researcher says that it “occurs when individuals and families are exposed to a potent mix of airborne pollutants within the home arising from poor ventilation, causing respiratory and skin diseases to occur more frequently.”[1] It’s estimated that tens of millions of homes are victims of it (and that’s almost certainly a conservative estimate).

The home has long been the ultimate symbol of security, a safe and sacred space protected from the chaos of the outside world. But an increasing number of scientists are starting to agree that toxic home syndrome is real.

As crazy as it sounds, mundane tasks like cooking, doing laundry, watching TV, or sleeping in your bed may be dramatically increasing your risk of serious illness and decreasing your life expectancy. In fact, one study conducted in Europe estimated that household pollution could be linked to an annual loss of more than two million healthy life years in the European Union alone.

However, by learning about the most dangerous household toxin sources, you can give your home a detoxifying makeover, so you can rest assured that it’s a safe and healthy place.

The hidden killers unveiled

Research has revealed a startling fact: the air inside an average home contains more than 900 chemicals, the vast majority of which can have deleterious effects on your health.

Here’s some of the most worrisome toxin sources that add to this chemical soup…

Mold proliferation. Mold spores thrive in damp, stagnant places. If allowed to flourish, mold in your home can become a massive impediment to your health. Be especially protective of your bathroom and other areas where moisture often collects. Use mold-resistant shower curtains (and replace them often). Conduct routine mold inspections; check under shower moldings, under the sink, and other tucked away areas, and replace any areas of the room that have been mold-infested. Prevent further mold growth by assuring good ventilation.

Natural allergens. Like mold spores, natural allergens like pollen and dander are bound to make their way into your home. The key is to minimize their effects upon your health by properly ventilating your home, minimizing your use of carpets and rugs (which are a perfect habitat for allergens), and cleaning regularly (make sure you really ventilate the house whenever cleaning, or you’ll just stir up all the toxins rather than eradicating them).

Poisonous gases. A surprising number of noxious gases can get trapped in poorly ventilated homes. Some of them are natural, like radon, which is highly radioactive; it’s released from the Earth’s soil and seeps into your house and even into your water supply. Others are a product of household items, building materials, and everyday processes, like carbon monoxide (which is released through cooking, heating, smoking, incense and candle burning, and every other kind of combustion). Paint, building materials, and furniture materials also often “off-gas” all sorts of toxic chemicals, including lead, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and acrolein. If at all possible, replace lead-based paint with certified lead-free paint, purchase furniture that hasn’t been treated with flame retardants, and replace outdated (and most likely toxic) building materials with green materials.

Toxic household products. Industrial products are riddled with toxins of all sorts. I’ve written in detail about many of these toxin sources here, here, and here—bedding, cleaning products, dryer sheets, wrinkle-free shirts, and everything in between all contain volatile organic compound.

While outfitting your entire house with toxin-free products can be a huge task, doing so can also be immensely beneficial to your health—so take it one step at a time. Don’t try to take shortcuts, but just replace all these unhealthful household items at whatever pace works for you.

And speaking of short cuts…   

Air fresheners are not the answer

As awareness around the importance of good house air quality has increased, so has the demand for effective air freshening methods.

While the right air filtration system can be incredibly helpful, it’s very important to acknowledge that the same cannot be said for chemical air fresheners—they are a huge part of the problem, not a solution to it. In fact, they’re arguably one of the worst offenders of all in the “toxic household products” category.

Air freshener products like Febreze and Glade are packed with health-disrupting chemicals that, according to the Environmental Working Group, can cause asthma and other respiratory issues, skin problems, reproductive dysfunction, immune suppression, and cancer. And on top of all that…they’re terrible for the environment.[2]

Febreze is classified as an air freshner, created by Proctor & Gamble. It reports to work by “trapping” odor molecules in a donut-shaped chemical.

The first thing that is really important to understand: the product does not remove odor molecules and it doesn’t clean the item it comes into contact with.

The odor molecules are still there. Your nose just can’t perceive them because you smell the chemical product instead.

That alone should be your first warning. We know inhalation of any chemicals is dangerous, and several of its ingredients listed below are known to irritate the lungs…but this is a chemical whose entire purpose is to be inhaled!

Unfortunately there is not much data being shared on Febreze and their many products, but the Environmental Working Group (EWG) did conduct a test for the ingredients of one of their products, Febreze Air Effects.

Shockingly, P&G only disclosed THREE ingredients in this product, but the EWG…they found 87 chemicals in total!

For lots of tips on how to clean and freshen your home in a safe, sustainable, and healthy way, see my article on green cleaning products, as well as the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Make home healthy

It may be some time before our society mends its toxic ways. In the meantime, though, you can at least turn your home into a healthy island in a sea of environmental toxins.

By making smart product choices, ensuring proper ventilation, and cleaning regularly, you can ensure that your home remains a safe and health-supporting haven, despite the constant assault of toxins that you may have to bear outside its protective walls.



[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2920391/How-AIR-house-making-ill-drying-washing-using-gas-cooker-15-million-homes-affected-Toxic-Home-Syndrome-increases-risk-heart-disease-cancer.html

[2] http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/1659-FebrezeFabricRefresher

Image source


Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world free of manmade toxins? A world in which clean water, pure air, and optimal health is more important than profit margins and short-term schemes?

A world in which everyone holds themselves to the same high standard of accountability? A world in which you can trust that you’re not constantly surrounded by hidden sources of toxins?  

I’d like to think we’re on our way there. Unfortunately, though, that’s just not the way things are at present.

Staying healthy is a full-time job these days—mostly because we always have to be on the lookout for unwitting toxin sources.

Personal care, diet, and fitness obviously play an essential role, but even if you’re playing all your cards right, your health can still suffer considerably because of environmental toxins.

Below, you’ll find a list of unexpected toxin sources to avoid at all costs.

Don’t be overwhelmed; just take action, one step at a time. Start by removing just one toxin source from your life, and build up from there. This process should be empowering, not paranoia-inducing.

Let’s start with the basics…

Processed foods. It’s hard to take three steps in a grocery store without bumping into processed foods. Any product that is even a single step removed from its natural form should be considered processed.

Processed foods are designed to be overstimulating and addictive.[1] Creating such “designer junk foods” destroys nearly all the nutrients its ingredients may have contained. Synthetic vitamins and nutrients are sometimes added after the fact, but these are a poor replacement at best, and toxic at worst.

And to top things off, processed foods are filled with destructive substances like high-fructose corn syrup,[2] preservatives, colorants, artificial flavors, and texturants.

Many chemicals like this that have been deemed “safe” by the FDA in the past were later found to have deleterious effects on the body. The FDA will only ever investigate chemicals that they believe pose a serious danger—so just know that you’re rolling the dice by consuming any of them.

Non-organic produce. Organic products have been all the rage for years now, but because of the high price that they command, it can be tempting to justify the purchase of more affordable, non-organic food.

How bad could it possibly be?

Pretty bad, unfortunately.

Evidence is mounting that the pesticides and other various chemicals that are sprayed on conventional produce are adversely toxic. A widely published study claiming that there is little difference in the healthfulness and safety of organic and non-organic produce is now being harshly criticized and overturned.[3]

And don’t think that you can just wash off these noxious chemicals either—many of them are absorbed by the plant’s internal structures. In the case of GMO foods, toxicity is incorporated into the plant at a genetic level.

Unwashed produce. Even some organic produce is contaminated with pesticides and other toxic chemicals, so be sure to wash everything before eating it.

The most effective method is to submerge your produce completely in room temperature water, and then lightly scrub each item.

Avoiding dietary toxins

This probably isn’t anything you haven’t heard before.

If you’re already avoiding non-organic and processed food, excellent. Here’s some dietary toxin sources with which you may be less familiar, though…

Mycotoxins in wheat and corn. Here’s a shocking statistic of which very few people are aware: a large percentage of the grains available in the U.S. has been exposed to toxic mold (because it’s nearly always stored in commercial silos for long periods of time).[4]

When wheat and corn is exposed to mold, dangerous byproducts called mycotoxins are developed. Even though cooking will normally destroy any mold that’s present, the mycotoxins will remain intact.

Mycotoxins sap your energy, suppress the immune system, interfere with nutrient absorption, and disrupt metabolic and hormonal functioning in the body.[5]

While reducing (or even eliminating) your consumption of wheat and corn can be a difficult task, it’s really the only surefire way to protect yourself from mycotoxins.

And in case you still need some convincing, there’s a whole host of other reasons why you should banish wheat from your diet.

Damaged fats. Fats have gotten a bad rap in the past. Recent dietary fads (like the Paleo Diet) are starting to get the right idea, though—that the right kind of fat is incredibly healthful.

While whole books could be (and have been) written on this subject, here’s the basic gist that you should keep in mind: a fat becomes toxic when it is unstable, and thus becomes damaged and oxidized by the heat of cooking. The fats that are prone to this damage are called unsaturated.

The unsaturated fats that you’ll want to avoid (usually in the form of cooking oils) are as follows: corn oil (which can also contain mycotoxins, as explained above), canola oil, sesame oil, and anything else generically labeled as “vegetable oil.”

Stick with oils that contain lots of saturated fat, like coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and ghee.

Avoiding household toxins

And then there’s the myriad of toxin sources that surround us within our own homes. Here’s some of the biggest offenders, as well as some suggestions for how to neutralize them…

Plasticware. By now, you’re probably aware of the pitfalls of plastic.Even plastic products that are marketed as “non-toxic” are a gamble. Plastic contains many other chemicals besides those that are now considered toxic. Just because a company labels a given chemical as “non-toxic,” it doesn’t mean that future research won’t reveal the contrary.

So play it safe, and use as few plastic products as possible.

If you can’t eliminate plastic entirely, at least minimize your risk by not heating or freezing any plasticware (which accelerates the process of chemical leaching).

Never put plasticware in the dishwasher. Doing so will leach all those nasty chemicals and then redeposit them on all your other dishes!  

Furniture. A staggering percentage of mattresses, couches, and pillows contain flame retardants that have been shown to cause cancer and birth defects.[6]

High levels of these ridiculously toxic chemicals have been detected in people’s blood, which confirms that they easily enter the body when our skin is in contact with these household items, and even when we breathe the dust in our houses.

The process of “detoxifying” your house by replacing all your toxic furniture is certainly a daunting (and expensive) one. Just be aware of these dangers, and take one step at a time to clear your living space.

Start small: at least replace your pillows, then tackle the larger, more expensive pieces of furniture when it’s possible to do so. Isn’t your health worth the time and the cost?

Cleaning supplies. Taking one whiff of most cleaning supplies on the market is enough to confirm that they’re full of toxins. After years of coating our counters and tables, washing our clothes, and “freshening” the air in our house, these toxins accumulate to very dangerous levels.

And don’t believe everything you hear about “green cleaning products” either. Some of the top eco-products on the market still contain chemicals with demonstrable adverse effects.[7]  

Even seemingly inoffensive dryer sheets are bad news. Nearly all of them contain a whole host of terrible chemicals that cause burning skin, respiratory irritation, anxiety attacks, and irritability—like formaldehyde and chloroform, just to name a few that you’ve probably heard of.[8]

So always do your homework before purchasing any cleaning product. Better yet, read this article to learn how to make your own (it’s easy, I promise).

Creating your own sanctuary

Avoiding these toxin sources will have a huge effect on your health.

We may live in a toxin-laden world, but we shouldn’t just sit back and let ourselves be bombarded. Awareness is always the first step. Let the information that’s been presented sink in, and then start to take measures to protect yourself, bit by bit.



[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22016109

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23594708

[3] http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/120-a458

[4] http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/321551/aer828h_1_.pdf

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12857779

[6] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es303471d

[7] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/simply-green-washing-are-you-using-toxic-cleaner

[8] http://www.lifenatural.com/dangers_of_laundry_dryer_sheets.htm

Image source