When thinking about exposure to environmental pollutants, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. We see headlines about toxic waterways, terrible air quality, and increased leniency for polluters and think, “This is out of my hands. There’s nothing I can do.”
The truth is you actually have a lot of control over your exposure to environmental pollutants. Consider this: the average American spends about 90 percent of their time indoors, most of which is at home. What does this mean? It means you have a lot of control over what’s going into your body.
Time to Reduce Your Exposure to Environmental Pollutants
You can avoid three classes of chemicals without too much effort. Not only does focusing on these three areas remove a significant number of toxins from your home, but the longest half-life is only a few days. Therefore, you can significantly reduce your toxic burden within a week of making these changes.
#1 – GO ORGANIC
Studies have shown a direct correlation between pesticide exposure and autoimmune conditions, hormone imbalances, behavioral issues, neurogenerative conditions, and certain cancers.
But, here’s the good news: In recent studies where groups of people have been fed mostly organic diets, the levels of pesticides showing in lab work went down by 90% in just five days.
Here are some tips for simple swaps:
- Download Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen for a list of produce with the highest pesticide residue. Avoid these foods or only purchase organic options.
- Likewise, download EWG’s Clean Fifteen for the foods that are safer to eat when grown conventionally.
- Look for “pasture-raised” and “grass-fed” on meat, dairy and egg labels. Pesticides bioaccumulate in animal fat, so whatever was in the animal feed is making its way into your body.
- Finally, don’t forget the yard! Inhaling pesticides through sprays and contact through the skin is just as dangerous as eating pesticides on our food.
#2 – DITCH THE PLASTIC
You’ve most likely heard by now about BPA, the controversial chemical found in many plastic products. It’s been blamed for a number of birth defects and is a known endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors lead to issues like infertility and early-onset puberty. If that’s not enough, BPA is also an obesogen, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it.
Unfortunately, BPA-free plastics aren’t any safer. These containers are made with other chemicals that are considered to be just as dangerous. Reducing your use of all plactics is important in limiting exposure to environmental pollutants.
Some simple swaps:
- Replace your plastic food storage containers with glass. You can buy a set at pretty reasonable prices, or just reuse things like peanut butter jars.
- Speaking of peanut butter, anytime you have the choice of either glass or plastic, buy the brand that comes in glass. BPA goes into the lining of canned goods as well.
- If you’re drinking out of plastic, stop. Glass water bottles have become so easy to find, and they just keep getting more affordable. And always use glass baby bottles.
#3 – GET UNSCENTED
As a culture, we’ve become obsessed with scent. And for our products to hold scent, a class of chemicals called phthalates has been added to the recipe.
Phthalates have been connected to some pretty bizarre symptoms, like little boys who never develop distinguishable scrotums. And hypospadias, a condition in which the urethra develops somewhere along the shaft of the penis rather than at the tip. Need I say more?
Here are your swaps:
- Get rid of anything you spray or plug in for the sake of aroma. You don’t need air fresheners. You need to open the windows. Air fresheners are one of the worst offenders when it comes to indoor air pollutants.
- Avoid anything that lists “fragrance” or “parfum” in the ingredients. A product’s fragrance is considered a “trade secret.” Therefore, the recipe can legally include just about anything. And almost always, part of the secret recipe is phthalates.
- Certain plastics contain phthalates for flexibility. For this reason, replace the vinyl shower curtain liner with cotton and get rid of the rubber duckies.