The Spring

Eight toxic everyday items in your home

Learn how to toss potentially unsafe toxins and restock your home and life with natural cleaning, cosmetic and other products
By Kate Keating

By Kate Keating

Practitioner, The Spring

Today, toxins are found in the foods we eat, water we drink, products we put on our bodies, in the air we breathe and even in the soil.

While it’s nearly impossible and unrealistic to avoid all of the toxins, there are certain lifestyle changes you can implement to reduce your toxic load and stress put on your body to detox from them. It’s important to be mindful of the toxins you may be exposed to and how those toxins can affect your body and overall functionality.

“Household cleaning products are the most obvious entry point for toxins into the home, especially heavy duty cleaners,” says Ali Wiser, owner and practitioner at The Spring, “though even products labeled as ‘green’ can emit chemical toxins according to studies. Often we are told to focus on diet and exercise for health and well being. However, it’s also important to understand that what you breathe in and put on your body can be just as important.”

Let’s take a look at eight items you may have around the house and how they can impact your health:

Pesticides & Herbicides

This is an easy one – anything that can kill your lawn is not safe to keep in your home. But it’s not as simple as keeping your Round-Up out in the shed or garage (which you absolutely should). According to the EPA, a “study suggests that 80 percent of most people’s exposure to pesticides occurs indoors…” Pesticides and herbicides are in rat traps, ant spray, moth balls, kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants that kill mold and mildew, flea and tick products used on pets, and on fruit, vegetables, rice and other groceries. These chemicals are toxic to the human body and can disrupt the microbiome. So opt for natural solutions where you can for lawn care or cleaning (more below), and read our Guide to Healthy Shopping for more on how to avoid pesticides and herbicides when buying groceries.

air-freshener

Air Fresheners, Candles & Room Sprays

Air fresheners with artificial scents contain chemicals that actually worsen the air quality in your home, and have the potential to cause hormonal disruptions and respiratory issues. Air fresheners, candles and scented sprays emit chemicals toxic to humans, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and more. Swap out these types of fragrances for non-toxic candles or essential oil diffusers. At The Spring we recommend Primally Pure candles and VerVita or Young Living for essential oils.

Beauty Products & Cosmetics

Phthalates, also known as plasticizers or stabilizers, are common in beauty or self care products, including shampoo, fragrances, hair spray and deodorant. These chemicals mimic hormones and can contribute to hormonal imbalances as your skin absorbs these toxins. When shopping for cosmetic products, watch out for acronyms like DEP, DBP or DEHP, or the word Fragrance. We recommend Skin Deep by EWG as a helpful resource, which offers a database of products ranked by their level of toxicity.

Non-Stick Pans

Non-stick pans use a synthetic chemical called Teflon, the brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene, to keep your food from sticking. The danger is a chemical formerly used in the making of Teflon called PFOA which studies have linked to cancer, immune deficiency, and more. PFOA was banned in 2013 and Teflon non-stick pans no longer use the chemical, so anything bought in the last 10 years should be fine. But anything purchased before then, or non-stick cookware that’s especially worn down or scratched, should be replaced. If you want to avoid Teflon altogether, you can switch to cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel cookware which will all last forever with proper care.

Plastic Food Storage & Baby Bottles, Utensils & Toys

Plastic items are often made with bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA has a similar structure as estrogen and therefore is known to be a hormone disruptor, and has been linked to fertility, behavioral issues and faster physical development in girls and boys. Plastic food storage containers also often include phthalates, a chemical used to make plastic more flexible and durable. Swap out your plastic tupperware for glass, and never microwave your food in plastic. Be mindful of BPA in baby items as well as it can be especially impactful for young children, where studies show BPA exposure could be associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, inattention, and conduct problems. Make a conscious effort to find baby products and toys marked non-toxic and BPA free. Babylist and Branch Basics both have great roundups of natural baby products.

Athletic Apparel

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found in 2022 that leggings, shorts, sports bras, and athletic shirts from several popular athletic wear companies could expose wearers to up to 40 times the safe limit of BPA. The chemical is found in plastics and spandex used in clothing. While the dangers are most commonly associated with ingestion, it’s been shown that absorption through the skin can be dangerous as well. Fast Company has some options for non-toxic activewear and intimate apparel brands.

sunscreen

Sunscreen

A 2019 report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that “two-thirds of sunscreen products [on the market] offer inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients, like oxybenzone.” Oxybenzone is absorbed by the skin and has been shown to cause hormone disruptions in some studies, and popular sunscreens often include additional chemicals like benzene. EWG also found that about half of the beach and sport sunscreens sold in the U.S. would not be allowed on the market in Europe due to inadequate protection against UVA rays. Check out EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens for more information.

Flame Retardants

Flame retardants are often used in mattresses, furniture and televisions. Studies have linked exposure to memory problems, poor thyroid function and even low semen count in mice. While many states have banned the sale of new items containing most flame retardant chemicals, they’re still in homes and in the market. Next time you need a new couch, car seat, or mattress, make sure to look for non-toxic options without flame retardants.

What to do about all these toxins in the house?

At this point you might feel a little overwhelmed with having to switch out your products or spend extra money. In most cases it’s fine to take your time, to slowly switch one product at a time. Also, natural products can sometimes cost less, and you can often use items you already have around the house. Baking soda is a great shower and toilet scrubber, for example, while vinegar is perfect for surfaces, glass and floors. Try using or diffusing a high quality essential oil for a fresh and non-toxic scent. Dipping your toes into non-toxic living for the first time can be overwhelming, but it’s an exciting opportunity to change your life. Here are some tips on how to approach transitioning to a non-toxic lifestyle, and some of our favorite products to try.

toxins

Focus on one thing at a time

Focusing on cleaning up one area of your life at a time is the best way to make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself. We recommend that pesticides found in your food/water, laundry, and household cleaning products be the first few groups of products you remove from the home. After that, it is really up to you to choose which area works best for you. For example, those with hormone imbalance  may want to eliminate fragranced products after they have removed the pesticides, laundry, and cleaning products. Each individual step taken makes a difference. Most important, it’s all about making sure you have thoroughly removed all products in a category before moving to the next.

Build new habits

Making healthy changes that stick involves creating new habits. However, one unique aspect of eliminating harmful products from the home is that once they are out, it’s over. It doesn’t have to be repeated.

Forming new habits can be tricky when you are changing up long established rituals. Try habit stacking – a form of implementation intention that lets you piggy back new habits on old habits. It works by taking advantage of the strong neural networks your brain builds around existing habits or established skills. Instead of going through the time, effort and brain-training required to create a neural pathway that supports a new habit, you simply tack on your desired new habit to an established one. For example, if you’ve had the same morning or evening skin care routine for years it can seem daunting to try something new. Start slowly replacing one item or step, and slot it into your already established routine – you won’t even notice it.

Learn how to be your own product advocate 
+ educate yourself

You don’t have to have a scientific background to read labels, evaluate ingredients and find answers. In fact, you can vet products quickly and feel confident about your decisions with some great tools. EWG Skin Deep is a great place to vet skin, beauty and personal care products, a fantastic tool to look up ingredients. For household items, the Environmental Working Group has guides for every item, room or project in your home.

Be kind to yourself

Make sure to focus on the good things that are coming out of your transition, and not on all things you miss. Remember, when you make the switch to non-toxic living, you’re doing right by your own body, those you surround yourself with, and the earth. Here’s the thing: Non-toxic, healthy living won’t do you any good if your mind is constantly stressed, anxious, worried or overwhelmed. Stress is an emotional toxin, and we believe your mind, body and spirit all needs to be healthy to reap the real benefits.

Making the switch to non-toxic living takes effort, but it’s worth it. Below are some of our favorite brands and products to incorporate into your home, but we encourage you to get curious,and start learning about products you’ve been using and new products you’re ready to incorporate into your lifestyle.

Cleaning Products

Skin, Hair & Beauty

  • Primally Pure
  • Oliveda
  • Osea Hair Products
  • Cocokind
  • Ilia MakeUp
  • W3LL People 
  • Dr. Bronner’s
  • Avalon Organics

Food Storage

The Spring is a holistic wellness clinic in Austin, TX, offering personalized, integrative care. We consider all aspects of you, your symptoms, and your health history, and offer personalized programs focused on lifestyle, nutrition, and education, incorporating a variety of assessments and therapies: muscle testing, functional lab testing, health coaching, and dietary and supplement recommendations. Make an appointment with us today to visit our wellness center and discuss how we can help you feel your best.

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