Toxic Free Lifestyle Guide
Chemicals are everywhere: Today, an average baby is born with 287 chemicals in their body. Tap water contains an average of 250 pollutants, including arsenic, lead, aluminum, fluoride, chlorine, prescription drugs, agricultural herbicides and pesticides, and PFAS (“forever chemicals”). More than 90% of cosmetics contain heavy metals and chemicals that can affect hormones, fertility, and early development in children as well as even cause cancer.
Toxic chemicals can also cause organ damage, weakening of the immune system, development of allergies or asthma, reproductive problems,birth defects, and cancer.
In the last 50 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the production, and use of chemicals in everyday products in the United States. It is no coincidence this mirrors the rise in corporate power. Corporate lobbyists have bought our politicians to the detriment of the public health and environment.
Concurrently, there’s been an increase in conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, childhood cancers, diabetes and obesity. “It’s not just a genetic drift.”
Living a toxic free lifestyle is more important than ever.
What Is The Toxic Free Lifestyle?
The toxic free lifestyle is the will to eliminate as many toxic chemicals as you can from your daily life. The lifestyle is gaining popularity as people are becoming more aware of all the chemicals surrounding them. An average person is exposed to over 200 toxic chemicals before even leaving their house! These dangerous substances can not only be found in food and beauty items, but in furniture as well!
No matter where you are in your non toxic journey, it is daunting to seek out all the toxic chemicals in products in your life. We have created this guide to help you understand and implement the toxic free lifestyle!
The Case For Toxic Free Living
Synthetic toxic chemicals surround us everywhere. They’re in our takeout containers, children’s toys, drinking water, food, furniture and clothes. There’s BPA in our receipts, and flame retardants in our children’s car seats. You might think the government has carefully reviewed every chemical for safety before it hits the market. But it hasn’t.
What Are Toxic Chemicals?
The annual global production of man-made chemicals rose from 1 million to 400 million tonnes between 1930 and 2000. While some of those chemicals have brought significant positive changes to our society, especially in sectors like healthcare, most of them are damaging our bodies and our environment. Indeed, thousands of potentially dangerous chemicals can be found in items we use everyday in the United States, ranging from electronics to medical devices, from organic food to carpets. We do not know their long-term health effects on ourselves and our children.
Let’s focus on the 5 main groups of synthetic chemicals, so you know what you’re dealing with everyday: pesticides, phthalates, bisphenols, flame retardants, and PFAS.
Pesticides are chemical substances used to destroy or control insect or plant pests. While some toxins are natural, extracted from plants and animals, most of them are unnatural and must be manufactured.. Acute exposure to pesticides like Organophosphates can be fatal. They interfere with a neurotransmitter that transmits signals between the brain and the muscles. Even chronic low-level exposure can increase the risk of neurological disorders. Some pesticides can also disrupt hormonal systems. Roundup, a glyphosate-based organophosphate weedkiller, manufactured by Monsanto, is one of, if not the most, widely-used pesticides in the world. A formal review of glyphosate done by the EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found some statistically significant links to certain cancers, such as Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The scary thing is though that 70% of produce sold in the US contains pesticide residues. And if it's not produce, pesticide residues can be found in animal meat or milk due to contaminated animal feed. Moreover, up to 50 million Americans are potentially drinking groundwater contaminated by pesticides!
Phthalates are chemicals mainly used as plasticizers (to make plastic more flexible) or in solvents. Exposure to phthalates is widespread and these chemicals have been found in children and young women. Phthalates are not only present in toys and personal care items (shampoo, perfume, sanitary pads), but they put the flex in your shower curtains and act as a solvent for the paint covering your walls. Unfortunately, studies have shown that phthalates, as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, might be responsible for a massive drop in male fertility and problems with sexual development in the womb.
- Bisphenols (ex: BPA)
Bisphenols are used in hard plastic products, DVDs, metal cans, beverage bottles and other food packaging. The most well-known is Bisphenol-A (BPA), which has a great risk of causing cancer. BPA can be ingested through our food and water, and is particularly damaging to sensitive populations like infants or young children. Even if many companies have eliminated it from their products, its replacements (like BPS, BPF) have similar effects.
- Flame retardants
Flame retardants are chemicals used in products to prevent the starting or spreading of fire. They are widespread in household items (carpets, curtains, mattresses, electronics, home insulation). They can cause endocrine and thyroid disruption, immune and reproductive problems, issues to child development, and cancer. People are mostly exposed to flame retardants through the inhalation of household dust. We’ll describe the right ways to detox your home later in this guide!
PFAs (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are chemical compounds commonly used for domestic and industrial purposes.They make surfaces resist stains, water and grease. For instance, they provide oil resistant coating for paper and cardboard suitable for food packaging, waterproof coating for textiles and carpets or fire-fighting foams. They are also known for their use in making Teflon, a material used for non-stick cookware. PFAs are believed to cause cancers, developmental problems, and harm to the hormonal system.
♥ Video: Toxic Chemicals and Harmful Substances in Our Environment ♥
The Danger Of Harmful Chemicals For Our Health
Many studies have shown the presence of harmful chemicals in the human body. For example, an EWG study indicates that an average baby is born with 287 chemicals in their body. If that is how exposed a newborn child is, can you imagine the exposure adults face in their daily lives.
Despite the growing evidence of harmful chemicals making their way into our daily lives, powerful industry lobbies combined with a regulatory system that requires a high level of proof of harm before action is taken, has made it difficult for any action to be taken.
The European Cosmetics Regulation prohibited the use of 1,300 harmful chemicals in cosmetics, while the US has banned or restricted only 11. That’s why formaldehyde, a known carcinogen banned by the EU, can be found in hair straightening treatments and nail polish in the U.S. Parabens, linked to reproductive problems, are banned in the EU but not in the U.S., where they lurk in skin and hair products. Taking care of your body shouldn’t be a daily risk, we’ve selected safe products made with natural ingredients to ensure a healthier way of life.
The Damage To The Environment
The vast quantities of chemicals that enter the waterways and oceans each day accumulate in the marine food chain, causing a serious environmental crisis. These substances enter the marine world from fertilizer runoff, use of pesticides in agriculture and home gardening, industrial waste dumping, and airborne emissions. Naturally, as these marine environments become contaminated so do the animals that call these places home. For example, polar bears in the Norwegian Arctic are highly exposed to chemical pollution due to air and water currents. These toxic components are passed on to young bears, threatening the ability of their immune system to combat common diseases.
Use our reef safe and chemical free sunscreen to make sure you don’t harm yourself as well as the environment, while enjoying your time off!
And most notable, as fish become contaminated by compounds such organochlorines and mercury, humans inevitably do too as we ingest them. This transfer of harmful compounds leads to a host of health concerns for humans including cancer, suppressed immune function and endocrine disruption which affects fertility.
How To Get Started with Toxic Free Living
Detox Your Home
Your house, as scary as this might sound, is one of the most chemically-treated places you will encounter. According to the EPA, indoor air pollution levels are often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels, and in some cases they can surpass 100 times outdoor air pollution.
Detoxifying your home is quite a long process given all the toxic chemicals surrounding us at home, but here are some simple steps in order to get started and live in a healthier environment.
First, decrease your use of plastic. Plastics can contain endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic chemicals. Transitioning to safer materials like glass, stainless steel, and ceramic will help you greatly reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.
Switch your conventional cleaning, dishwashing and laundry products with non toxic products or DIY recipes. This step will particularly protect your family by stopping toxic chemicals from covering surfaces.
Eliminate any product with artificial fragrances. Room sprays, air fresheners, scented candles, body perfume, etc. can be full of toxic chemicals, including phthalates or formaldehyde which can both disrupt your hormonal system and cause cancer. Use natural alternatives like essential oils.
In order to detoxify your indoor air, keep plenty of plants, and don’t smoke!
Highly processed foods often contain toxic substances, associated with poor health, risk of cancer and early death.
Eating clean privileges food in its natural state, minimally processed and additive-free. Preservatives, artificial sweeteners, additives, and dyes should be avoided.
Eat organic, plant-based food. Organic products are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides or insecticides.
Avoid GMOs and transformed products, which often contain artificial flavors or dyes.
As an easy step to eat clean and non toxic food, learn the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen”, which are the foods that are the most likely to contain high levels of pesticides:
These plant-based products especially need to be bought organic as they represent the greatest risk of ingesting pesticides.
On the other side, the "Clean Fifteen" are the top 15 produce least contaminated with pesticides.
Moreover, avoid food dyes and processed foods in general. Certains dyes contain chemicals like Erythrosine or Tartrazine, which can cause cancer, chromosomal damage or thyroid tumors. Ultra-processed foods often contain artificial additives, like added sugar, fats, or salt, while having little nutritional value. Easy tip: the longer the ingredient list, the worse this product will most likely be for your health!
Start cooking at home. You’ll be eating whole foods a lot more and won’t ingest all the toxins of processed foods.
Switch To Non Toxic Products
Shopping for safe products can be quite complex at the beginning. Our shopping assistant is here to help you shop sustainably as well as shift to non toxic products. Once you have chosen a product, our plug-in will give you all the information you need about its health impact but also nutrition and ecological impacts.
Download the plugin and never buy a toxic product again!
Tera has developed very thorough curation principles to select products that will be good for the planet, for the people and animals, and for your health. Discover our curation principles on this page. We are a safe place to shop for toxic free alternatives to the harmful items you use everyday. Shop here!
Next Steps To Toxic Free Living
Toxic Free Home
As we saw in the beginning steps, detoxifying your home is the most important part of your non toxic journey. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the utensils we use are often full of toxic compounds which must be removed for your well-being and for protecting your loved ones.
Most people think that if they dust and vacuum regularly, as well as disinfect surfaces, their home won’t be contaminated by toxic particles and other exterior agents. Unfortunately, your indoor air is full of invisible particles (dust, pollen mold, smoke, etc.) whose inhalation is linked to respiratory problems, lung diseases or even cancer. Babies, young children and people with asthma are particularly at risk concerning this problem.
You cannot completely clean your air from these particles, but installing an air filter will guarantee much better air quality, and will help air circulation in your home.
If you have a gas stove, switch to an electric stove. Cooking on a gas stove is bad for you and the environment, as it releases some of the same fumes found in car exhaust. If those fumes are not vented outside your house, they linger and can sneak into your lungs. Homes with gas stoves can contain from 50 to 400% higher concentrations of nitrogen dioxide - a substance which can be responsible for respiratory issues following prolonged exposures, than homes with electric stoves!
There are many ways to clean your indoor air, here are some simple steps to follow in order to live in a healthier home:
- Open your windows every day to bring fresh air into the house and reduce dust particles. If your have a ventilation system, it will help remove or dilute indoor airborne pollutants
- Get air purifying plants like the Money Plant or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue. These plants are known to remove numerous air pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen monoxide, formaldehyde, chloroform, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Moreover, they are very resilient and do not need excessive watering so don’t limit yourself!
- Dust once a week with wet cloth in order to capture dust particles.
- Vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum.
- Invest in an efficient air purification system. If you have a central air system, use the highest rated filter it can accommodate (MERV 10 or higher) and refer to the manufacturer’s directions for the frequency of replacement. If not, invest in a quality air purifier that can cover the surface of your house.
In the United States, tap water contains an average of 250 pollutants, including arsenic, lead, aluminum, prescription drugs and pesticides. Known chemicals like chromium, a carcinogenic chemical, or fluoride, a neurotoxin and thyroid disruptor, can be found in tap water in the US today and most people aren't aware!
What we call drinking water is often highly contaminated, due to municipal and industrial discharges, geological shifts, or water treatment processes.
First, find out what’s in your water. You can either use EWG’s Tap Water Database or call your local water utility to understand what contaminants you’re exposed to.
Once you’ve figured out which chemicals you’re drinking, choose an adapted filtration system.
Don’t forget to filter your bathroom water too. Baths and showers are often linked to chlorine, which particularly affects children.
Cooking And Storage
If the materials you use to cook and store your products are toxic, they can contaminate your food. PFAS, titanium, teflon, and plastics, for example, are recognized carcinogens. However, there are solutions to reduce your exposure to these substances in your kitchen.
PFAS can be found in non-stick pans and Teflon. As seen at the beginning of this guide, they are harmful substances which can also cause hormonal dysfunction. They are particularly dangerous when overheated as they release toxic fumes.
Switch to stainless steel cookware for stove-top cooking and oven-safe glass for baking. It’s the same for non-stick utensils: buy uncoated wood, stainless steel or silicon items.
Stop using aluminum foil for everything! Aluminum is a renowned neurotoxin and can cause potential damage to our nervous system when it accumulates in our bodies. Switch to non toxic unbleached parchment paper for storage and glass or ceramic bakeware for cooking.
Do not use plastic tupperwares for reheating or storing. Plastic containers, water bottles, bags or cutting boards contain BPA, a hormone-mimicking chemical linked to cancer, infertility and damage to developing fetuses. BPA can contaminate your food, especially when heating in the microwave.
Switching to stainless steel water bottles and glass storage containers are good tips to ensure a healthier home.
In the United States, manufacturers of cleaning products are not required to disclose their ingredients to the public. This means the products you use all over your house, in areas where you and your family live and sleep, can contain highly toxic substances. Imagine your children playing on a floor full of chemicals, which can enter our bodies through breathing, skin touch or hand-to-mouth contact.
Select non toxic, organic items to make sure you and your loved ones live in a safe environment. Non toxic products are made with powerful natural ingredients, creating efficient antiseptic solutions that will not harm your body. Test these natural hand sanitizer and dish washing bar, you’ll never want to use toxic products again!
Look out for certain words and labels on your cleaning products:
- If you see “Danger”, “Caution” or “Warning”, then toss away your product and never purchase it again. These words mean that a certain dose of the product can kill an adult. These items contain the most toxic substances (after pesticides) and shouldn’t be used to clean your home
- The words “Sanitizer” or “Disinfectant” should also put you on high alert. It often means the products contain an EPA registered pesticide which might be very dangerous for your health.
- Any reference to “Fragrance” or any perfume means your product is hiding toxic chemicals! Fragrance contains allergens and endocrine disruptors, especially with compounds like Phthalates.
Be careful not to be fooled by “greenwashing”. Companies market their products as green while they’re just as dangerous as any others. Buzzwords like “non-toxic” or “healthy” can be deceiving.
The easiest solution is to choose natural, fragrance-free items that will keep any hazardous chemicals away from your home. The safest way is to make your own DIY cleaning products, with these easy recipes.
Clean Beauty & Personal Care
In the US, the cosmetic industry’s panel has reviewed just 11% of the 10,500 cosmetic ingredients catalogued by the FDA (FDA 2000). Moreover, laws are not required to regulate the use of words like “Natural” and “Organic” in cosmetic and personal care products. When you know that your skin can absorb what you put on it within 6 seconds, you’d better check the composition of your products!
The products that you and your kids should avoid the most according to EWG are hair straighteners (cancer, allergy, skin irritation, hair loss), dark permanent hair dyes (allergy, cancer), loose powders (inhalation risks), perfumes/fragrances (allergy, hormonal disruption) and skin lighteners (skin damage).
Swap to toxic free products like this moisturize shampoo and conditioner, this body soap orthis shave cream bar They’re all guaranteed with harmless ingredients, and they’re good for the planet!
As for your deodorant, it often contains aluminum or other chemicals and should be replaced by non toxic alternatives like this one.
Non Toxic Fashion
Harmful chemicals can also hide inside your closet.
The fashion industry isn’t regulated by an agency like the USDA or the FDA. Many manufacturers use highly toxic substances in their industrial processes, without consumers ever being aware.
For example, conventional cotton is grown with genetically modified seeds and heavily sprayed with Roundup (whose main ingredient is glyphosate, a chemical linked to cancer) and other harmful pesticides which remain in the fabric even after manufacturing. Chlorine bleach, formaldehyde, ammonia, and other chemicals are also present in many textiles.
These toxins are used to dye and print your clothes as well as make them stain repellent or prevent them from burning.
Look for GOTS, OEKO-TEX and Cradle to Cradle Certified products. This means clothes made from organic cotton and wool, free of pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, and dyed without dangerous substances.
Non toxic fashion is also about how you take care of the clothes you buy. This non toxic laundry detergent is guaranteed without harmful chemicals, safe for sensitive skin and baby laundry. Switch to natural products and create a secure environment for your loved ones!
How To Protect Babies & Kids
Now that you know the number of toxic chemicals you’re exposed to everyday, the next question is: how can you minimize the exposure of children to these harmful substances? Babies and kids are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemicals because their bodies are still developing, and they are often wildly exposed through toys, furniture or even baby care products and lotions.
Choose safe crib and child mattresses, made of wool, cotton or natural latex. Avoid Polyurethane foam mattresses treated with toxic flame retardants. Same goes for changing pads, avoid anything that contains vinyl, polyurethane foam, or stain-resistant coatings.
Select safe toys. Many bath toys, dolls and inflatables are made with PVC (vinyl), a highly toxic substance. Choose plastic-free toys, especially for young children as they like to taste everything! Prefer toys made of unpainted wood, cloth dolls and games or puzzles made of paper.
Clean as much as you can. Babies and kids love to play on the floor, but they might inhale harmful chemicals such as flame retardants contained in household dust.
Carefully choose lotions and other baby care products. Just as the personal care products we use everyday, these items are often full of phthalates and other chemicals. Make sure you buy fragrance-free and phthalate-free products, and get used to using safe ingredients such as coconut oil for your baby’s skin. These kids shampoo bars are a great option for a non-toxic shower. Easy to use and made with natural fragrance oils, your kids will love it!
Support An NPO
Take action and support an NPO fighting for your health!
Join our non-toxic community
Joining a toxic free community is a great way to meet new people who are ready to achieve the same goals as you are. Connect with people, exchange tips and protect your health and the planet one step at a time!
Take A Toxic Free Pledge
Daily exposure to products we use for ourselves or for our home shouldn’t be a source of danger. In the last 50 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the production and use of chemicals in everyday products in the United States, while acknowledging a complete lack of consumer protection against toxic chemicals.
Toxic chemicals are everywhere, in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the things we touch and the products we put on our skin. Now, more than ever, we must take action against chemicals endangering our health and that of our children.
Protect yourself and others and pledge to go toxic free in your everyday life!