Wellness

Common Chemicals You Need to Nix

You know those products you only buy at the store every so often? Things like shampoo, hand soap, countertop cleaner and other personal care and home cleaning products.

Am I the only one that suffers from running out of these items all at the same time? You might argue I could purchase back-up items to disperse my spending on these goods (because it’s inevitable a grocery trip for all those “occasional items” ends up costing $20 to $40 more than the average weekly trip), but I’m kind of glad I haven’t done that, here’s why:

I use pretty generic, brand name products, but I’ve started to come across a lot of information regarding the chemicals in our “everyday” items that are definitely something to be concerned about.

I’ve done some research, and while a good majority of safer and environmentally-friendly products (not just the global environment, but also meaning the direct environment of your home) cost more than your generic or “household” name brands, the difference in cost is well worth it given the increased value in protecting your personal heath.

Below are four of the most common chemicals I’ve seen pop up in my household goods (and they’re the ones I’ll be keeping a close eye on) and why we should nix them from our homes/bodies.

BPA

Primarily found in plastics (however it is pretty much everywhere), BPA is a chemical you may have heard about, especially with the frequent use and dangerous reuse of plastic water bottles.

BPAs can cause hormone disruption, early puberty and increase your risk of breast cancer along with decreasing the effectiveness of breast cancer drugs.

Some of the best actions you can take to avoid BPAs are to ppt for fresh or frozen foods instead of canned, look for plastics labeled “BPA-free” and never microwave plastic, and always look for an alternative such as glass or stainless steel for food storage and water bottle options.

 

Parabens

Used primarily as a preservative in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl) is a class of chemicals that can have some serious ramifications on your health.

By far the scariest thing about parabens is that they display estrogenic activity, meaning they mimic your body’s own hormone production and activity, which can affect your endocrine system and subsequently every system in your body.

Parabens are also heavily correlated to causing breast cancer and have also been linked to early puberty in girls due to the estrogenic activity.

Other places you can find parabens: lotions, creams, and deodorants (look for personal care products labelled “paraben free”)

 

Triclosan

If you’ve ever heard of triclosan, you’ve probably heard about in reference to anti-bacterial hand and dish soaps.

Triclosan comes with a variety of scary risks including causing endocrine (hormone) disruption, potential bacterial resistance to antimicrobials, which is already a problem given the over-prescription of antibiotics (but that topic is for another day), and fertility problems along with birth defects.

This toxic ingredient is registered as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency and is labelled as a chemical causing toxic harm to any organism. Therefore, avoid this ingredient at all costs.

Other places you can find triclosan: tartar control toothpastes, lotions, makeup products

 

Formaldehyde

When I hear “formaldehyde” I think back to high school chemistry where it was taught that formaldehyde is what was commonly used in embalming fluids to preserve dead bodies.  So the thought of this stuff being in so many materials in our home kind of grosses me out.

However, there is (somewhat) good news.  According to the American Cancer Society, formaldehyde and other chemicals that release formaldehyde are used in low concentrations in cosmetics and other personal care products, and although these may raise the concentration of formaldehyde in the air inside the room for a short time, the levels reached are far below what is considered to be hazardous.

But with that being said, it still doesn’t make me feel great about using products with formaldehyde simply because I use products like shampoo, conditioner and shower gel on a daily basis, which makes for a lot of exposure over one’s lifetime.

For minor exposure, some people may experience skin and respiratory irritation, however, people that are constantly immersed in environments with formaldehyde, such as a nail salon, run a much higher risk of developing cancer.

Better off steering clear of this ingredient, it may not cause you seriously harm with light usage, but why risk it?

Other places you can find formaldehyde: lotions, chemical hair straighteners, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and some fingernail polishes (look for nail polishes and hardeners labeled “three-free” or “formaldehyde-free”)

 

These four chemicals just skim the surface of the things to check your purchases for. Check out some of these other resources on what lurks in common household products, how these toxins affect various aspects of our health, and some of the best alternative brands.

Additional Resources:

Facts and Stats about Toxins in General: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10504/10-things-i-wish-all-americans-knew-about-toxins.html

Facts and Stats about Cleaning Products: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/24/shocking-facts-cleaning-products_n_4688024.html

Healthier Alternative Cleaning Products and Brands: http://wellandgood.com/2014/10/07/safer-household-cleaning-products-heathier/

Comprehensive Breakdown of Toxic Ingredients: http://www.womensvoices.org/avoid-toxic-chemicals/15-toxic-trespassers/

Guide on How to Choose Better Products: http://wellandgood.com/2014/10/07/how-to-choose-a-cleaner-cleaning-product/

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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