In our effort to live in an ultra-sanitized world, our everyday exposure to dangerous and toxic chemicals has skyrocketed. We find these chemicals in antibacterial products, air fresheners, and more. To say that we have reached our toxicity threshold would be an understatement. From our workplace, to our bathrooms, to our kitchens and living rooms, right down to our cosmetic bag, the focus on ultra-clean living has officially passed the “trending” zone and has gained permanent residency in the healthy living realm, with no sign of leaving anytime soon.
Excessive Germ-Killing Leads to Toxicity
Our toxic load, or the total amount of stressors that we put on our system at any one time, plays a role in not only the health and disease pathways in our body, but also in our body’s ability to support a healthy detoxification system. Our detox system can easily become overloaded, like when a glass spills over with too much water. Things that lead to this include:
- Lack of sleep
- Excessive sugar
- Too much stress
- Environmental toxins
4 Symptoms of an Overwhelmed Detox System
When our detox systems get overwhelmed we will start to develop symptoms related to poor health.
1. Low Energy
As our system becomes inundated with environmental and chemical stressors, our adrenal glands can weaken, leading to fatigue and low energy. We also will burn through energizing vitamins more readily, such as B vitamins, in an attempt for the liver to detoxify these harmful substances. Chemicals may also interfere with sleep, leading to chronic fatigue and sleep disturbance. (1)
2. Weight Gain
As inflammation increases, we secrete more cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. This can increase ghrelin, the hunger hormone, decrease insulin sensitivity, and lead to increased weight gain. Cortisol is also densely located in visceral fat, which can also explain its link to weight gain. (2)
3. Suppressed Immune System
Chemicals found in our everyday beauty and home care products can lead to increased production of free radicals and oxidative stress, leading to a decreased immune response. Some chemicals may cause the immune system to overreact, while others can suppress immune activity. Many of these chemicals are recognized as foreign invaders in the body, which can lead to autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks its own cells. Autoimmune conditions like this can include lupus, thyroid disorders, and even arthritis. (3)
4. Cognitive Decline
Repeated exposure to toxic chemicals, combined with poor liver health, can inhibit the effects of certain neurotransmitters that can affect mood and ability to think clearly, such as serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. Sherry Rogers, M.D. in her book, Tired or Toxic, explains that the most common organ affected by chemical exposure is the brain, leading to drowsiness, fatigue, exhaustion, and sluggish thinking. (4)
We Aren’t Protected Against Toxins
With the United States allowing more than 84,000 chemicals to be used in household products, cosmetics, and food alone, it comes as no surprise that we can easily begin to accumulate these toxins. A majority of these chemicals have never even been tested for safety.
According to the U.S. Poison Control Centers, in the year 2000, household cleaning products caused about 10 percent of all toxic exposures alone. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 85 percent of new chemical applications include no testing whatsoever. (5)
The chemicals that are found in common household cleaners and personal and cosmetic products are one of the biggest sources of exposure that can lead to the accumulation of toxins in the body. A typical American adult comes in contact with an estimated 6,000 chemicals, most of them never being fully tested for safety. The FDA actually gives ownership to the individual company who makes and markets the cosmetic and personal care products to ensure the safety of their product, meaning that neither the law nor the FDA regulations require specific tests to show the safety of individual products and or their ingredients.
Long Term Risks of Chemical Exposure
Research suggest that exposure to these chemicals can contribute to cancer, reproductive issues, early puberty, endocrine dysfunction, neurological disorders, and metabolic problems. (6)
Most of these toxic chemicals have been found to be endocrine disrupting chemicals, which have been linked to health problems associated with breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, thyroid cancer, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, as well as ADHD in children. (7,8,9)
Beauty and cleaning products can vary in the type of health hazards they may possess. Some ingredients can cause immediate and short-lived reactions, such as skin irritation, watery eyes, or even chemical burns, while other ingredients have been associated with long-term health issues, such as cancer. Some common chemicals that you will find more often than not in your personal, home, and skincare products include the following:
- Parabens: These synthetic preservatives are known to interfere with hormone production. These are often found in deodorants and face creams. (10)
- Phthalates: A carcinogenic and synthetic preservative, phthalates have been linked to adverse reproductive effects such as decreased sperm count, early breast development, liver and kidney damage, and birth defects. These are usually found in personal care products, such as nail polish, hair sprays, lotions, soaps, shampoos, and perfumes. (11)
- Synthetic Musks: These have been linked to hormone disruption and have been found to accumulate in breast milk, body fat, and umbilical cord blood. Fragrance formulas are among the top five known allergens and have been known to trigger asthma attacks. You will find these in fragrances and perfumes. (12)
- Triclosan: Found in most antibacterial soaps and some toothpastes, this antibacterial chemical has been linked to antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption. Research has also found triclosan to cause estrogenic activities in human breast cancer cells, stimulating growth and development. This is found mainly in antibacterial soaps and hand wash. (13)
- PCBs: A synthetic chemical that has been linked to hormone disruption, neurobehavioral issues, cancer, and decreased immune response, PCBs are found in most cosmetic products, including soaps, face creams and even mascara! (14)
In Europe, more than 1,300 chemicals have been banned from use in lotions, soaps, toothpastes, and cosmetics. In the U.S., just 11 chemicals have been banned. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics per day, containing over 168 different chemicals.
About 80 percent of women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease, further connecting the link between exposure to environmental toxins and their role in disrupting the body’s hormone systems through repeated exposure of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals. (15)
DIY Body Care
With so many risks from conventional cosmetic and body care products, it is becoming increasingly safer to make your own. DIY body care products are simple, affordable, and free from hidden chemicals.
Apple Cider Vinegar
While it is popular for its many health benefits, apple cider vinegar also comes in handy for some of its not so common uses, such as cooking, cleaning, hygiene, and more. Here are a few additional ways to integrate this versatile kitchen staple into your daily beauty routine.
- Hair Rinse: Apple cider vinegar can help remove product build-up in your hair. Try a weekly rinse to add shine and body by pouring this throughout your hair after shampooing. Combine 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 8 ounces of water in a mason jar for a quick post shampoo rinse. Add a few drops of essential oil, like lavender, for a fresh scent.
- Skin Saver: Make an easy, affordable facial toner and cleanser by diluting apple cider vinegar. Spread some on a cotton ball and rub on your T-zone to decrease oil build-up for beautiful skin!
This fantastic fat can leave your kitchen cabinet and find its way into your bathroom. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid known for its antimicrobial and antibacterial benefits.
- Oil Pulling Mouthwash: Mix 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil with 3 drops of peppermint essential oil. Gently swish the coconut oil in your mouth for 10-15 minutes, and be sure not to swallow any of the oil. Do this 3 to 5 times per week!
- Face Moisturizer: Keep it simple and just use plain coconut oil to add moisture to your skin after washing or showering. Also works for a whole body moisturizer.
This is a rock star when it comes to replacing personal and home cleaning products. Baking soda can be used to naturally whiten teeth, clean the countertops, and even keep body odor at bay. Deodorant is one of the worst offenders when it comes to personal care product toxicity, as many deodorants contain aluminum and other anti-caking agents, which has been linked to breast cancer, altered thyroid function, and hormone dysregulation.
- DIY Deodorant: Combine 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda with 5 tablespoons arrowroot powder, 5 tablespoons shea butter, and 30 drops of your favorite essential oil. Tea tree oil or lemon will keep things fresh and free from bacteria. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl until it has a dough-like consistency, transfer the mixture into a mason jar, and use your fingertips to apply a small amount to your underarms.
- DIY Lotion: Combine 1 cup aloe vera gel, 1 cup water, ½ cup jojoba oil, and ¼ cup beeswax. Add in 1-2 teaspoons of Vitamin E oil, 5 drops Frankincense oil, and 15 drops of your favorite essential oil. Try vanilla for a sweet scent. Add all ingredients to a mixer and blend on low until the mixture becomes lotion-like in consistency. Transfer to a glass container and use morning, noon, or night for glowing and toxin-free skin.
Home Cleaning Products
Most of the commercial cleaning products that we use on a daily basis contain dangerous chemicals that might not even be listed on the label. A manufacturer can omit any ingredient that is considered a “secret formula” from the label, even if it is a toxic carcinogen.
The Environmental Working Group urges complete avoidance of unnecessary cleaners, like oven and drain cleaners, which are at the top of the list when it comes to being highly toxic. The three most dangerous cleaning products that are most commonly used at home are oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and acid-based cleaners. If you take even a quick glance at the labels, many of these products are labeled with adjectives like “danger” or “corrosive.” Many of these scents, detergents, bleaches, and ingredients can result in immediate health hazards such as skin or respiratory problems, irritated eyes, asthma, and burns.
Ingredients like chlorine bleach are often found in dishwasher detergents, bathroom cleaners, and stain removers, while ammonia is found in glass cleaners, metal cleaners, and dishwashing liquids. These are two of the most toxic chemicals that are commonly found in most American homes.
You can reduce your chemical exposure by simply eliminating or reducing your use of these products and making your own natural cleaning products. Some of the most effective cleaners can be made from items that you likely already have in your cabinets, like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice!
Make Your Own Home Cleaning Products
These ingredients are inexpensive and free from toxins that can cause irritation or harm to skin. As a bonus, they’re safer for children and pets.
- Oven Cleaner: Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda over the bottom of the oven and cover with enough water to create a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight and wipe away built-up grease the following day.
- Drain Cleaner: Pour ½ cup baking soda down your drain, followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. Allow this to sit in the drain for 10-15 minutes. Flush with boiling water for a sparkling and clog-free drain!
- Laundry Detergent: Combine 1 cup washing or baking soda with 1 cup of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap and ½ cup of white vinegar. Add in 10 drops of your favorite essential oil for a clean and calming scent. Store the mixture in a glass container and use 1-2 tablespoon per load of clothes, less if you have a high efficiency washer.
- Fabric softener: Skip the chemicals and scents and simply add ½ cup of white vinegar to your fabric softener dispenser. Add a few drops of essential oil if you want your clothes to have a bit of natural scent.
- All Purpose Cleaner: Combine 16 oz of hydrogen peroxide with 5 drops of lemon essential oil and 5 drops lavender essential oil in an opaque spray bottle and shake together. Use for cleaning any household surface that is not wood.