Did you know that we expose ourselves to harmful things daily which could potentially have negative effects on our health?
Most importantly, these daily harmful things don’t just put us in danger, but our entire family.
So it is critical we learn to identify these daily hazardous products and avoid them if possible.
Next, are 5 harmful things we use on a daily basis and healthier and safer alternatives.
5 Harmful Things You use Daily
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1. Air Fresheners and Scented Candles
Air fresheners, candles, and perfumes are in almost all American households.
After all, who wants to have their house smelling like a school cafeteria?
So, you light up a scented candle, or you spray a “fresh laundry scent” air freshener.
But what are you really spraying in the air? Worse yet, what are you inhaling into your body?
As Wikipedia explains, “many air fresheners employ carcinogens, volatile organic compounds and known toxins such as phthalate esters in their formulas.”
Additionally, a University of Washington study of top-selling air fresheners and laundry products, found that all products tested gave off chemicals regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, including carcinogens with no safe exposure level.
However, none of these chemicals were listed on any of the product labels or Material Safety Data Sheets.
The chemicals found in these air fresheners included acetone (paint thinner and nail polish remover ingredient), chloromethane (a neuro and respiratory toxin) and acetaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane (two known carcinogens).
In addition, a plug-in air freshener contained more than 20 different volatile organic compounds, with more than one-third classified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws.
Again, another reason to be extremely selective with the products we decide to purchase and expose our entire family to.
Candles don’t fall far behind the toxic spectrum.
In fact, what many might consider as a “harmless candle”, could be filling the air in your home with carcinogenic soot and lead emissions.
Most scented candles are made of paraffin which is a waste product from the petroleum industry.
“Paraffin waste releases carcinogenic chemicals when burned and many others such as: Acetone, Trichlorofluoromethane, Carbon Disulfide, 2-Butanone, Trichloroethane, Trichloroethene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Tetrachloroethene, Chlorobenzene, Ethylbenzene, Styrene, Xylene, Phenol, Cresol, Cyclopentene”. (source)
“Researchers have shown some scented candles produce smoke laced with almost as many toxins as those produced by cigarettes. Research by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shown that cored candles release the dirtiest soot – sometimes containing particles of zinc, tin, lead and the metal cadmium.” (source)
It is also extremely important to reduce candle emission exposure around our children.
Studies have shown that a child’s central nervous system is particularly sensitive to lead. Some of the most damaging neuropsychological effects of lead poisoning of young children include learning disabilities, reduced psychometric intelligence and behavioral disorders. These effects have been associated with chronic low-level exposure to lead and are believed to be irreversible. (source)
Below are safer and healthier alternative to regular candles.
SAFER AND HEALTHIER ALTERNATIVES
So, are we forced to leave our house smelling like a high school’s boys’ locker room?
The best solution is to use good old baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in closed spaces (fridge, closets, even shoes) and diffuse organic essential oils.
Please note: NOT ALL essential oils are good for you either. Even those which claim to be “natural” and “healing”. Ensure you use organic essential oils, as many scented oils are made from petroleum and other chemicals. Always look for the “USDA” organic seal.
If you don’t have an essential oils diffuser, this Amazon’s Choice product is super inexpensive and has over 31,000 happy customer reviews on Amazon.
As far as candles, the safest option are ones made of pure 100% beeswax. Not only are they the safest option but they help purify the air by emitting negative ions into the air.
Bluecorn Beeswax Candles are a popular choice. They are:
- 100% Pure Beeswax & 100% Pure Essential Oils in 100% Recycled Glass
- Paraffin-Free; Lead-Free; Non-Toxic & Hypoallergenic
- Beeswax emits negative ions that cleanse the air
Here are some size options for natural beeswax candles:
- Bluecorn Beeswax 100% Recycled Spanish Glass Aromatherapy Beeswax Candle
- Bluecorn Beeswax 100% Pure Beeswax Votives (18 Case, Raw)
- Bluecorn Beeswax 100% Pure Beeswax Tea Lights (24 case, Raw)
- 12-Hour Natural Beeswax Candles for UCO Candle Lanterns
When it comes to air fresheners there are not many “safe” options.
It could be extremely overwhelming to look for healthier options but there are a few resources that can help.
The EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning gives you practical solutions to protect yourself and your family from everyday exposures to potentially harmful chemicals.
However, even those classified as “A” on EWG hazard rating system, pose some sort of health threat.
2. Pots and Pans
As busy moms, we love the convenience of non-stick cookware.
It makes for a faster and cleaning dishwashing experience.
But are we trading in convenience for safety?
When choosing cookware is important to note that non-stick cookware pretty much always contains a man-made chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA.
These chemicals are notoriously persistent in the environment and the human body, and some have been linked to serious health hazards. (Source)
After all, what good is it to cook healthy food when we are cooking in harmful cookware.
To avoid these harmful toxins, it is recommended you stick to cast iron, stainless-steel, and glass cookware instead.
HEALTHIER AND SAFER ALTERNATIVES
Cast iron cookware is one of the healthier alternatives. It also comes with its own set of health benefits.
Some of the benefits of cooking with cast iron cookware include:
- It adds iron to your food (great for people with iron deficiency)
- Dual purpose (stove-top and oven)
Here are some great and inexpensive cast iron cookware options:
- Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
- Cast Iron Reversible 20″ x 10″ Grill/Griddle
- Cast Iron Dutch Oven 5 qt
- Cast Iron 5 Piece Bundle
Stainless steel is another great and safe cookware option.
The 13-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set by T-fal (Pots and Pans with Copper-Bottom), is an incredible investment as you will be able to tell by the almost 5,000 costumer reviews.
Another safe cookware material option is glass.
Glass cookware is perfect for baking. This particular glass set is clear, nonporous Pyrex glass which won’t leach odors or metallic tastes into food. It is also safe for oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher…and I love that you can see the food as it cooks.
Ceramic coated cookware is another popular option. But is it safer?
Even though ceramic material doesn’t contain PTFE and/or PFOA they also raise health concerns.
The reason is because although the ceramic itself is considered “safe” the material underneath (usually hard anodized aluminum) isn’t. Recent studies on potential health effects of exposure to aluminum include neurotoxicity and Alzheimer.
There are some “safer” nonstick brands in the market that claim to have come up with healthier ways to make cookware non stick. These brands include GreenLife and Green Pan cookware (which use Thermolon), and Ozeri Green Earth Pan (which use Greblon). Neither Termolon or Greblon contain PFOA or PTFE.
If you would like to go with non-stick cookware, choose a “100% ceramic” products instead of a ceramic “coating” products.
One of the most known and trusted brands is Xtrema.
Xtrema uses “a unique ceramic clay formula that is 100% natural.” Xtrema cookware products are also said to be free of lead, cadmium and toxic heavy metals, PFOA and PTFE-free, non-scratch, nontoxic, and non-metal.
You can now safe 10% in all of their products using promo code SaveX10.
3. Cleaning Products
Coming in at number three in harmful things we use daily are cleaning products.
You just arrived from soccer practice and you rush to wash the stinky uniform before it infests the entire house.
So, you reach for your handy bleaching product and your toughest stain-removing, grime attacking detergent.
But as you are pouring it in your washer…. Are you aware of what you are inhaling? More so, do you know what is doing to those who wear those clothes afterwards?
One of the most common household products associated with harmful toxins and potential health issues is laundry detergent. (Source)
Not only can you come in contact with toxic chemicals via your clothing, but you can breathe them into your lungs once they become airborne in the process of doing your laundry.
Popular brand detergents come with a big list of hazardous chemicals, some of which the manufacturer doesn’t even have to list on the label. That makes it even harder for the general public to ever discover what’s in there.
That was just an example of every other category of cleaning products.
Just like laundry detergents, most popular brands of dish soaps, disinfectant sprays, bathroom cleaners (to mention a few), are made with toxic chemicals that could be putting the entire family in danger.
It is extremely important for the health of our entire family that we learn to buy all-natural cleaning products with the best safety ratings and non-toxic ingredients.
Recent studies of over 2,000 cleaning products in the American market today found that many contain substances linked to serious health problems.
The American Lung Association claims that many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems, including cancer.
HEALTHIER AND SAFER ALTERNATIVES
I must admit, the search for natural cleaning products can be overwhelming. After all, there are thousands of products to choose from.
And what’s worse, even if we wanted to look in-store for the ingredients of the cleaning product of our choice, chances are we wouldn’t find them.
Did you know that U.S. law allows manufacturers of cleaning products to use almost any ingredient they wish, including known carcinogens and toxic substances?
Yup, that happens. All the time. Right under of our noses.
Neither does the government review the safety of products before they’re sold. That it is why it is so important to be informed and know what products are safe to purchase and use for the entire family.
Once again EWG had made so much easier by creating the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning database.
If doing the research on your own seems a bit daunting, don’t worry.
I’ve put together a “Best Natural Cleaning Products List” where I list recommended products based in EWG hazard scoring system, product reviews and personal preference.
This caught me completely by surprise when I first learned about it. And when it comes to potentially harmful things we use daily, this one in particular is one we really USE DAILY indeed.
Our bed mattresses! And you guessed it… our baby’s cribs mattresses as well.
Most mattresses on the market are full of chemicals that can pollute our bedroom air and harm our body.
Here is a list of some of these chemicals and their potential health concerns (source):
- polyurethane foam that can emit volatile organic compounds (can cause respiratory irritation or other health problems
- flame retardant chemicals (have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and adverse effects on the immune system)
- and PVC or vinyl covers (can damage developing reproductive systems)
HEALTHIER AND SAFER ALTERNATIVES
The EWG recommends that you look for the following specifications when purchasing your mattress:
- No less than 95% certified organic content (cotton, wood, or natural latex)
- No polyurethane foam
- No added chemical flame retardants (wool and polylactic acid, or PLA, are good alternatives)
- Low-VOC certification
- No added fragrances or antimicrobials
- No PVC or vinyl
- If you opt for polyurethane or memory foam look for one that is low-VOC certified by (Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or Greenguard Gold)
- If you opt for latex, ensure you choose one with 100% natural latex.
Safer Mattresses Certification
- Global Organic Textile Standard
- Global Organic Latex Standard
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100
- Greenguard Gold
A great option for Organic Certified and Non-Toxic Mattresses is Naturepedic!
Unfortunately, much like regular adult mattresses, most baby crib mattresses in today’s market also emit large amounts of VOCs, have toxic flame-retardant chemicals, fragrance chemicals, and use PVC or vinyl covers.
Studies found that, “infants spend most of their time sleeping and are likely to be exposed to elevated concentrations of chemicals released from their crib mattresses… The results suggest that crib mattresses are an important source of VOCs and infant exposure to VOCs are possibly elevated in their sleep microenvironments.” (source)
Organic crib mattresses are the safest option as they are free of harmful chemicals and materials.
As a first option, look for the GOTS certification when choosing a crib mattress.
The Emily Crib Mattress, GOTS Organic Cotton and Natural Eco-Wool is a great option.
The Emily Crib Mattress manufacturer’s specifications include:
- Made in U.S.A
- GREENGUARD Gold Certified.
- Handcrafted using a GOTS certified organic cotton, 100% Natural Eco-wool quilted cover, and organic coconut pad
- Free of polyurethane foams; A heavy batting of GOTS certified organic cotton
- Two-sided design (easy flip in case of an accident or spill)
- Certified to be free of lead by UL Laboratories and passes CFR 1633,1632 flammability testing
If an organic option is not possible, EWG suggests you look for a crib mattress with:
- Wool or polylactic acid to provide flame resistance (instead of chemical flame retardants)
- A natural fiber cover, like cotton or wool, polyurethane laminate, or polyethylene (not PVC or vinyl)
- No antibacterial additives or added fragrances
- A low-VOC certification like Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or Greenguard Gold
For a full list of some of the best organic crib mattresses check out: 15 Best Non-Toxic Cribs and Mattresses (GREENGUARD Gold Certified)
- EWG Healthy Living: Home Guide (Mattresses)
- Infant Exposure to Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds from Crib Mattresses
Makeup is not far behind the list of harmful things we use daily.
It might come as a complete surprise to you that personal care and beauty products are one of the least regulated industries in the U.S.
We assume that the government is overseeing what type of ingredients go into our beauty products and ensuring they are safe for us to use.
Well, we assumed wrong!
Truth is, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “oversees” the cosmetics industry but lacks the power to approve products or ingredients before they are sold, even though their contents have been shown to enter the body.
What’s more, it has been more than 80 years since Congress last updated the federal law designed to ensure that personal care products are safe.
Some of the harmful toxins found in most cosmetics sold in today’s American market include (source):
- BHA and BHT
- Coal tar dyes
- DEA-related ingredients
- Dibutyl phthalate
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
- Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance)
- PEG compounds
- Sodium laureth sulfate
You can find detailed information on each of these ingredients and the health concerns, here.
I know this information can feel overwhelming and scary.
But it is our reality and we must find proactive ways to be informed and to what we are buying, putting on our bodies, and exposing our family to.
HEALTHIER AND SAFER ALTERNATIVES
Once more, EWG comes through as one of the ground braking organizations that is determined fight this issue (and many others).
They also created the Skin Deep Database which allows us search amongst thousands of cosmetic and personal products and brands for the least hazardous products in the market.
EWG’s staff scientists compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases.
Checking Skin Deep Database before purchasing products is a great idea. You can also check cosmetics products you already have and see how they score.
Just because we use products daily doesn’t mean that they are safe. And just because they are sold in stores, does it mean that they are heavily regulated by the government.
Do your own research, ask questions, and take action by helping EWG and other organizations sign petitions to protect your health, your family’s health, the environment and future generations.
What other harmful things do you suspect you use daily?