Being pregnant (twice now) has caused me to reflect on how I’ve limited my daily exposure to chemicals and toxins to protect my growing baby. Before becoming pregnant, I had made a serious effort to limit my exposure to chemicals for my own long term health. A side benefit to this was knowing that my body would be more toxin-free the day I became an expectant mother. These are 5 Steps to becoming non toxic. It is everything I have learned over the last 5 years of striving for a non toxic lifestyle.
STEP 1: BATHROOM COSMETICS Among the lifestyle changes I made were to throw out all my lead and mercury makeup and replace them with organic, non toxic essentials from HoneyBeeGardens. I purged my bathroom of all products with SLS, parabens or PEGs. This ended up being a lot of product thrown away, but after learning the harm these chemicals were doing to my body, I was happy throwing these poisons in the trash. I replaced them with only what was necessary to cleanliness and basic beauty by finding chemical-free products from organic stores like Whole Foods. I took with me my “forbidden list” of toxins commonly found in products (even some natural products) when I went shopping. I scoured the ingredients lists on each product and if it appeared at all, I did not buy. I landed on great brands like Hugo Naturals, BeeCeuticals, HoneybeeGardens, Giovanni Organics, and Dr. Bronners Soaps.
Armpits was a conundrum for me, as every smear-on deodorant was high in metals like Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY that actually work by irritating the skin to close the sweat pores so that you are unable to sweat from your armpits. Aluminum Zirconium is a metal that is a human nervous system toxicant. This metal is the most common ingredient in antiperspirants like Axe, Dove, Secret, etc. These products often also contain fillers like PROPYLENE GLYCOL, BHT, CYCLOPENTASILOXANE , and PPG-14 BUTYL ETHER.
My goal was to avoid these harsh chemicals, so we experimented with brands like Toms of Maine and others, but those sticks just served to mask the stinky smell, not get rid of it. FINALLY, we discovered Crystal! It is a salt stick that you apply when your armpit is damp, just out of the shower. It works by creating a salty environment where armpit bacteria cannot survive. The cause of armpit stink is not sweat, but rather it is the odor given off by bacteria living in your armpit that feast on your sweat. Crystal got to the root of the problem by killing the bacteria with nature’s most basic antibiotic: salt. You may still perspire, but it will not smell like anything. Best of all, you can share a Crystal stick with your husband (or wife) without worry. It also lasts forever.
THE FORBIDDEN LIST:
All Parabens (SLS “Sodium Laurel Sulfate”) methylparaben (E number E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216) and butylparaben. Less common parabens include isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, benzylparaben and their sodium salts
Polyethylene glycol, better known by its acronym, PEG (say PEG-4 or PEG-100; the lower the number, the more easily the compound is absorbed into the skin)
STEP 2: NOTHING WORKS The next step was to experiment with a facial cleansing system that did not require lots of product or chemicals like benzene to deal with the occasional blemish. My “Nothing Works” method has proved flawless for over four years now, and has actually helped to clear up all of my adult acne issues. The revelation for this method came when I recognized that I wasn’t letting my body naturally heal and protect the skin on my face. Only in the last 60 years have so many products been marketed to women as being a “necessary” part of having beautiful skin. You have a system in place already that gets you the most beautiful skin, you just need to stay out of it’s way.
STEP 3: CLEANERS After dealing with the basics of my bathroom, I moved on to the kitchen and cleaning supplies closet. This was the easiest to throw out, as most household cleaners use very harsh chemicals, lots of bleach and some toxins they don’t even have to disclose because the solution is considered a “trade secret”. Everything but plain Vinegar went in the trash (NOT DOWN THE DRAIN). We replaced all our household cleaners with 6 simple solutions: J.R. Watkins Lemon Cleaner, Vinegar for toilet cleaning, Better Life’s “Dish It Out” Dish Soap, Mrs. Myers Dishwasher detergent, SSeventh Generation Laundry Detergent, and common white Vinegar mixed with water for really tough surface grease and floor cleaning. We went through many brands and trials to find products that passed the Forbidden List, but also did the job well. JR Watkins is a very basic recipe that always smells fresh. Mrs. Myers Dishwasher detergent was THE ONLY brand we could find that successfully washed the dishes without leaving that white scratchy look on the clear glass wear.
For simple hand washing, we chose to use Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soaps for awhile, because the bar soap lasted much longer than the liquid soap. However, we soon decided to make our own soap and did so for pennies per bar. We whipped up a batch of soap that lasted about 10 months. It cost about $1/pound to make vegan soap with orange oil for scent.
STEP 4: TEETH Moving from things that contact our skin to things that go in our mouth… toothpaste. After some research on how harmful flouride is to your system, and all the PEGs and parabens in most toothpastes, we hunted around for an alternative. After much trial and error, we fell in love with Periobrite toothpaste and mouthwash. It is the glamorous version of clay toothpaste and has natural mint and other herbs that really feel and taste great. Our household has been using it for almost 4 years and everyone has been to the dentist twice a year with no cavities. The true key to no cavities is to cut out simple sugars and to brush right after eating acidic foods like grapes. For floss and toothbrushes, we found the Radius brand to be the most environmental and mouth friendly option.
STEP 5: PBDEs Lastly, we discovered that our bedding, furniture and carpet was likely coated in Flame Retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). After 1970, PBDE’s have been commonly used in mattresses, furniture, foam items, carpeting and bedding. It is not clear how PBDEs interfer with fertility, but reserach has suggested they effect hormone levels. Household dust from foam, couches, curtains, sheets, and mattresses is the main culprit for human absorbtion of PBDEs. Tempurpedic beds, most IKEA foam products and Naturepedic baby mattresses do not contain PBDEs. We switched from a traditional spring mattress to a PVC-free Aerobed until we could afford a Tempurpedic bed. We also swapped out our Polyester pillows for organic cotton, down filled pillows and wool filled pillows. We switched to organic bedsheets and a wool duvet from Shepherd’s Dream.
FOR WOMEN ONLY: So first of all, we have that monthly visitor to conted with. But how do we approach periods with a sustainable, chemical free method? For those who prefer tampons, there is a reusable menstral cup option called the Diva Cup. The Diva Cup is a flexible insert made from surgery grade silicone and does not leach any BPAs or chemicals. After each period, you can sterilize your cup in boiling water. It costs under $40, comes in different sizes and will ultimately save you hundreds of dollars each year on disposable tampons. You’ll be saving some trees and your own green with this little cup. Best of all, you don’t have to carry loads of supplies with you when you are on your period. You simply empty the cup, wash it and re-insert.
Another aspect of the period to examine is what pads you use. Some women switch to reusable cotton, and wash the reusable pads much like you would wash a load of cloth baby diapers. Most name brand pads and tampons use chlorine and other chemicals in their product to make the pads look white. These chemicals may contribute to irritation and yeast infections. Some women use Seventh Generation pantiliners for extra protection while wearing the Diva Cup (and for those light days at the end of each period). SG uses organic cottons that do no have chemicals or chlorine in them. Your vagina is a very private, sensitive area that easily absorbs chemicals. Treat it like you would treat your mouth: don’t put harsh chemicals in or near your vagina.
Finally, consider that Parabens in Pap Smears May Cause Cell Mutation and Irritation. When you have your Pap, you know how the doc smears goo all over her glove and scope before inserting it into your vagina? It turns out the main ingredient in that goop is Methylparaben. Methylparaben, which is currently banned in the EU is also a skin irritant and is known to cause allergic reaction in humans. The EWG states that “one or more animal studies show brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses.” Methylparaben is also known to cause cancer, endocrine disruption, and interference with gene expression. Consider the delicate balance within your vaginal walls. It keeps yeast infections away and protects your lady organs from infections like HIV. Putting a large dose of anti-fungal Methylparaben into your vagina can’t be good for that delicate balance. Next time a doc needs to insert a hand or a tool into your vagina, you have every right to request they leave out the toxic goop. If they insist on lubrication, suggest they use water. If they are very persistent, you can simply state that you are allergic to Methylparaben. They will check their bottle of goop and there it will be listed, and you will have your way. It is your body, you decide what goes into it.
SERIOUS NON-TOXIC: For those who are really serious about going non toxic, here are some further resources and ideas. When new car buying, consult with HealthyCar.org to see how a new car rates for PVC leaking and fire retardant levels. Want the best water filter on the market? The Berkey Water Filters “removes viruses to purification standards, pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites to non detectable levels, harmful or unwanted chemicals to below detectable levels, and reduces toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury without removing the healthful and nutritional minerals needed to support a healthy body.” They also sell a filter add on that removes flouride and arsenic from the water. Make your own hand and body soap, vegan style: Soap Making Fun or DIY Video on Soap Making. If you have a cat, switch to a non toxic litter like Swheat Scoup or Feline Pine or consider potty training her. Your kitty steps on everything (even the counter tops when you aren’t looking). Best to have her paws as natural as possible, not only for her, but for you too! Lastly, you can check all your cosmetics ingredients on the EWG site that rates products and discloses their toxic ingredients.