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Baby Steps to Limiting Personal and Household Toxins

Let me start by confessing here that I am in no way suggesting that my earnest attempts at limiting my family's exposure to toxins means I excel at doing so across the board. I mean my husband and I straight up inhaled an entire box of oreo-style cookies in two sittings and then turned around and bought TWO more boxes, which we have since gone to town on. I cook my food in non-stick skillets and store said food in plastic tupperware with aluminum foil on top. We lather our hands in hand sanitizer every time we exit the gym and, speaking of lathering, you can occasionally find purple shampoo in my shower because it's cheaper than going to the hair salon.

Each day we are faced with decisions on what to put in and on our bodies and I will start by agreeing with you that it is pretty much impossible to altogether avoid exposing yourself to harmful toxins. Therefore, it's really easy to write off or justify bad consumer habits. I know I'm guilty of it. Consider what you put on your body every day, the food that goes in it, what that food has been exposed to (or eaten), the air you breathe, the water you drink....toxins are in all of it. However, and that's a BIG however, there are endless choices we can make each day to take control over what harmful substances our bodies are subjected to.

Sugar, alcohol, BPA, synthetics, sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, aluminum...the list goes on. We've all heard a thing or two about something on this list and how it can be harming our body. I don't dare attempt to address all I'd like to say about toxin exposure here in one post but I want to start by chipping away at some of the more common ingredients that we, as consumers, may not even realize are harmful to us. Either that or we do realize it and aren't quite sure what to do about it or, honestly speaking, we're just lazy about finding alternatives. In this post I am going to address body care products and a few household items that contain some ingredients that we should all be doing a better job avoiding.

Quick note before I dig into the nitty gritty, though. This subject can spiral out of control very easily and get lost in translation to most, including myself. I am not here to be an alarmist or fearmonger, to tell you what to do with your life or even suggest that I know what is best for you. I simply have a strong interest in knowing what I am consuming and how that may or may not be impacting the proper functioning of my body and my family's bodies. My hope is that this will trigger your interest as well and encourage you to start learning more and taking steps towards limiting you and your family's (and pets!) exposure to harmful substances :)

Let's start with a basic list of common ingredients that you should add to your RED FLAG list when looking at body care labels (which you should always read!):

1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

2. Phenoxyethanol

3. "Fragrance"

4. Parabens

5. Phthalates

1. SLS and SLES are emulsifiers (keeps ingredients mixed) and surfactants (helps clean and create lather). They are derived from either palm, coconut or petroleum oils. The difference is that SLES undergoes a chemical treatment called ethoxylation to make it less harsh. These ingredients can be found in most hygiene products like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, and soaps. It is also used heavily in cleaning agents such as dish soap and laundry detergent. They are both known as skin, eye and respiratory tract irritants and common allergens. The additional concern with SLES is that during the ethoxylation process, the ingredient may be contaminated with measurable amounts of known carcinogens 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide can damage the nervous system, has been linked to breast cancer and the California Environmental Protection Agency has found evidence that it may interfere with human development and cause male and female reproductive toxicity. Although both ingredients are banned in other countries and ethylene oxide alone is banned in the EU, the US has yet to set regulations on these ingredients. To avoid these toxins and others that undergo ethoxylation, look for sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryth sulfate, sodium laureate sulfate, PPG, PEG, polysorbate and ingredients ending in -eth.

2. Phenoxyethanol is an antimicrobial preservative and stabilizer used in cosmetics, soaps, sunscreens, detergents, toothpaste, baby products, body care products, hair care products and more. This ingredient is a skin and eye irritant, common allergen and can cause eczema and hives. It has been classified as toxic or harmful by the EU in products used around the mouth or on the lips. If you or anyone in your family has sensitive skin, this is an ingredient to avoid.