Chemicals in the environment negatively impact women’s health, which in turn affects the health and vitality of our offspring. As the gender who carries life in our womb and transports nutrition to our young, our bodies are more sensitive than our male counterparts. Men, too, are affected by chemical exposure. The incidence of autism and related neurological disorders, which primarily impact males, has risen dramatically in the last decade.
Knowing that exposure to harmful toxic chemicals is unavoidable, what are some ways that you can help minimize their effects on your body and your offspring?
Research the area where you plan to live and raise your family. Avoid areas near to “Superfund” sites, known pollution, industrial manufacturing plants, nuclear and coal powered facilities, landfills, and any place where there is known be a concentration of chemical waste.
Minimize your family’s use of plastics. Store food in glass containers instead of plastic bags or plastic tubs. Choose metal file cabinets and boxes, instead of harmful plastic ones. At the grocery store, opt for paper over plastic; or even better, shop with a washable, reusable bag made of 100% cotton canvas. Resist the urge to purchase cheap plastic toys and trinkets manufactured in China, where there is no regulation on the use of harmful chemicals in manufacturing.
Avoid microwaving food in plastic containers. The heat causes a chemical reaction, making the plastic emit toxins which then enter the food and your body when you eat it. Also be sure that food has cooled thoroughly before storing it in plastic containers.
Minimize exposure to petrochemicals. Petrochemical exposure comes from petroleum oil-based heating systems, proximity to industrial plants and factories, and even the pleasantly scented paraffin candles you burn in your home. If you are concerned about environmental toxins or have allergies to things like dust and mold, your best bet for home heat is floor radiant or electric heat. Solar power is becoming more prevalent of late, and worth looking into if you’re ready to make the financial investment. The next best heating option for your health is natural gas-powered steam radiators, then baseboard heat. Forced air heat is the worst for your health because it allows petrochemical toxins, dust and mold particles to enter your lungs.
Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products. Seventh Generation offers nontoxic choices – for example, their all-purpose cleaning solution is made from thyme oil. Thyme is an herb that has antibacterial and antifungal properties. The Shaklee company puts out an excellent cleaning product called Basic H that does not contain harmful chemicals. Bon Ami is a safer alternative for those who do not want chlorine in their abrasives. OxyClean has gained great popularity in recent years for its ability to remove stains without harming the environment and our bodies.
Make your own cleaning products. Vinegar, baking soda, and borax are all nontoxic choices that can be used to clean and sanitize your home. You can also add essential oils to your homemade cleaning solutions, both for their cleaning power and for their pleasant aroma. Clove oil, lemon oil, lavendar and thyme or oregano oil are all ideal for this purpose.
If you do use “old school” cleaning products like ammonia, chlorine bleach, and products made with these chemicals, be sure to don a pair of protective gloves while working. Open the window, turn on the fan, and air out the room before resuming normal activity. Beware spray bottles also. You are better off wearing gloves and applying a cleaning solution to a rag, than spraying it into the air where it will quickly be inhaled.
“Outgas” new products before using them in your home. Products that commonly contain chemicals which disrupt our hormone function and can negatively affect our health include new carpets; new computers; new clothes made from acrylic, polyester and other manmade materials; new mattresses; new shoes, couches, purses, etc. Every chemically-made item outgasses slowly, or loses its toxicity, over time. You can hasten the outgassing process by subjecting an item to heat, which increases molecular activity of the chemicals present in the item, and causes them to evaporate into the atmosphere.
For example, if you wanted to install new carpet but minimize the effects of the new chemicals on your family, you could wait until a time when you planned to be away for a few days, and turn the heat on in your home to about 80 degrees. (Of course, if you’re going to have the heat on you want someone to be nearby so they can check on the house and lower it eventually). The warm temperature will allow the chemicals in the rug to outgas over the course of several days. You could then shut the heat and open the windows/run fans, allowing the toxic fumes to escape. You can toss a pair of stinky new shoes in the trunk of your car to air out for a few hot days, or relocate plastic boxes to the attic in summertime.
Shop secondhand as much as possible. Children’s toys are made of plastic; but as mentioned, plastic eventually outgasses its toxins. You are better off with an old plastic toy than a new one that’s fresh off the plastic manufacturing assembly line. I would also assert that the “old” Tupperware which is now frowned upon is very likely innocuous due to the chemicals having long since released from the product. As long as you don’t heat these items, you and your children should be safe.
Gently used clothing, also, is worth giving a second turn around. You can find well-made sweaters made from natural fibers such as wool or cotton (beware Napthalene [moth ball] doused sweaters, though!). Used garage-sale clothing will have long lost the chemical residue that comes from being sprayed with a formaldehyde protectant. (Beware, even Goodwill may be spraying their used clothes!) Be sure to wash and machine-dry all new (and new-used) clothing before putting it on your body or in your closet and drawers.
Opt for furniture made from good quality wood. Avoid items crafted from particleboard which is loaded with formaldehyde… yes, even your typical big-box store bookshelf is not good for you! Again, used is better because the furniture will have outgassed any toxic chemicals it may have been harboring from solvents or whatever the wood or faux-wood may have been treated with. Antiquers, rejoice – your cherished vintage piece is likely as good for your health as it is pretty to look at. Better quality, too, than what’s made nowadays.
Manage your weight. Yes – being overweight increases your risk of disease because toxic chemicals are magnetized to fat cells. The toxins that enter your body via skin contact, inhalation and ingestion actually end up accumulating in your body fat. The more body fat you have, the more “toxic” you are. So it makes sense to lose that extra weight if you want to minimize your risk for illness.
Detox your body on a regular basis. There are several ways your body eliminates toxins. One way is the liver and kidneys. The liver metabolizes waste, and the kidneys evacuate it from the blood. Many chemicals negatively affect the health of your liver and kidneys, which is essentially poisoning you slowly. To boost liver and kidney function, you can do several things, including ingest organic vegetable juice, drink milk thistle tea, and consume more fruits and vegetables, particularly beets. Fresh beet juice is excellent for the liver. The kidneys respond favorably to herbs and foods that are high in vitamin C. Drink detox tea, lemon water, cranberry tea, dandelion tea, buchu tea, nettles tea, red clover tea, and lemon balm tea if you want to improve kidney function. If you don’t have time for tea, you can always purchase herbal tinctures and drink the indicated dosage in a glass of water.
You can also sweat out toxins. Saunas, as well as aerobic exercise that gets the heart rate up and causes the body to perspire, are both ways to rid your cells of harmful chemicals. A good workout at the gym 3 times a week is a great way to reduce the overall toxic load in your body.
Yoga and massage can help, too. Yoga and massage stir up the toxins that have settled into your muscles. After a good yoga or massage session, buildup of hormone and other chemicals is released into your bloodstream. Several large glasses of water or herbal tea will then move these toxins along to your kidneys where they will then be expelled from your body via urination.
Avoid chemical-based perfumes, body lotions, scented body sprays. These all contain aldehydes, which many people today have become sensitive to, as well as other toxic ingredients. Perfumes and skin products may be responsible for migraine headaches, insomnia, mood disorders, skin rashes and other unpleasant side effects which may lead to poor health down the road.
Although there are chemical toxins around us, there is no reason to panic or simply “give up”. Consuming in moderation, and being mindful of the ways we can reduce our exposure to environmental chemicals, can help preserve your family’s health and the quality of your future life together.
What ways have you discovered for minimizing the toxic burden on your body and that of your family members? Discuss on our Facebook page.