The industrialisation of society has led us to be exposed to increasing levels of toxins, many of which are known to be harmful over time. Whilst everyone hasvarying responses to toxins depending on factors including genetics, gut health and detox capacity, there’s no doubt that excess toxin exposure can be vastly damaging to our health. This blog series is going to going to assist you in reducing your toxic burden. Part 1 will focus on reducing your toxin exposure whilst part 2 will focus on ways in which you can improve your detoxification capacity to minimise the effects of unavoidable toxin exposure.
Reducing environmental toxin exposure
Many of the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis originate from the home environment and this represents an area that you have a lot of control over. Toxins can reside in commonly-used products such as cleaning products, food storage containers and personal care products. Whilst it can seem overwhelming to change every product that you use in the household, if you take it in steps starting with the easiest changes to make or those which you believe will make the biggest difference, you will soon find yourself effortlessly living in a toxin-free environment.
Toxins in Cosmetic and Personal Care Products
The products we apply to the skin may be more important than what we consume. When it’s working properly, the gut is generally quite effective at blocking toxin absorption. Products applied to the skin, however, can readily reach the bloodstream and this can have detrimental effects on our health. In fact, many commonly used products are linked to allergies, endocrine disruption and cancer, yet they continue to be sold and used by millions.
Below are some examples of harmful ingredients found in personal care products that should be avoided:
- Triclocarban and triclosan in toothpaste and soaps.
- Aluminium in deodorants.
- Phthalates, parabens, and retinoids in moisturising creams.
- PEGs, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and siloxanes in make-up products.
- Formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) in nail polish
- Oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate in sunscreens.
- BHA and boric acid in diaper cream.
If possible, search out and purchase organic and chemical-free personal care products. If this is not possible, avoiding the ingredients in the list above is a great place to start/
Toxins in Home-cleaning Products
Many conventional home-cleaning products contain carcinogens, irritate the respiratory system and contribute to allergies. This can include numerous products including air fresheners, bathroom cleaners, laundry products, dish soap, dishwasher detergent, floor care, furniture cleaner, and all-purpose cleaning products.
According to research, 50 per cent of commonly used products don’t adequately disclose ingredients, 75 per cent contain ingredients that have worrisome respiratory health effects, and 25 percent contain ingredients or impurities that may be linked to cancer.
Where possible, search out organic and chemical-free cleaning products. Alternatively, you may want to consider making your own home-cleaning products. Most are easy to make and can often end up being cheaper than store-bought options. There are various websites that can guide you on the process of making your own home-cleaning products.
Toxins in Food
The food we eat can be a bountiful source of toxins. These toxins may be purposely added in the food production process or they could be added by contamination during the processing and packaging stages. The biggest offenders are discussed below.
Pesticides.The best way to avoid pesticides and herbicides in food is to choose organic and locally grown produce. However, if you are unable to afford all organic produce, the EWG publishes lists for the vegetables and fruits that have the highest pesticide levels, called the ‘Dirty Dozen’, and for those with the lowest levels, called the ‘Clean Fifteen’.
Antibiotics. Antibiotics are commonly found in conventional meats. Purchasing organic and grass-fed meatwill not only save you from consuming antibiotics and growth hormones, but it will also provide a nutritionally superior option in comparison to conventional meats.
Heavy metals.While the levels of mercury in fish are questionable, I recommend avoiding varieties such as shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel because they can contain far more mercury than selenium. Arsenic in rice (and products made with rice flour) is also a concern. I recommend that adults limit rice intake to a few servings a week and that pregnant women and children under the age of two avoid rice altogether.
Food additives.Food additives are abundant in numerous processed and packaged foods. The number one way, therefore, to avoid food additives is to avoid processed food completely.
BPA and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals. BPA is found in everyday plastics and its toxic and endocrine-disrupting effects are well renowned. BPA however, isn’t the only toxin lurking in everyday plastics. In fact, even BPA-free plastics can contain other bisphenols that may be equally as hazardous. Here are some tips for avoiding BPA and other endocrine disruptors:
- Use stainless steel, glass, or aluminium water bottles and food containers.
- Use parchment paper, beeswax, or recycled aluminium foil instead of plastic wrap.
- Avoid canned food products and canned soft-drinks.
- Keep plastic out of the dishwasher, freezer, and microwaves.
- Choose wood or cloth toys over plastic toys for kids.
Toxins in Drinking Water
Australia does have one of the safest drinking water systems in the world, but contamination still does occur. The public water supply has been identified as containing 316 contaminants, 202 of which are unregulated. Infants, young people, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised are disproportionately affected by contaminated water. Some of the toxins of concern include:
- Pathogens (bacteria, parasites, viruses)
- Heavy metals (copper and lead)
- Nitrate (from chemical fertilizers and smoke)
- Radon (radioactive gas)
Ensuring access to clean water by choosing filtered water is one of the most important steps you can take to reduce your toxin exposure. Water filter types vary, from containers that sit on the counter to tanks under the sink to whole-house filtration systems so you are sure to be able to find one that suits your needs.
Toxins in Indoor Air
A prominent source of indoor air pollution comes from water damage. Once water damage occurs, mould can grow in 24 to 48 hours. Bacteria, actinomycetes, endotoxins, and microbial volatile organic compounds are also of concern. Air filters and purifiers are two ways to improve the quality of indoor air. A HEPA or charcoal filter will remove ultrafine particles like dust, and viruses from the air, while an air purifier will remove allergens, odours, and germs, as well as mould.
Whilst it’s impossible to eliminate all toxin exposure from our lives, any steps you can take to reduce your exposure in one or multiple of these areas will be vastly beneficial for your health. Unfortunately, regardless of our best efforts, we will unavoidably be exposed to toxins on a daily basis. We must therefore find ways to reduce the damage caused by such toxins. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series which will discuss ways in which you can improve your detoxification capacity to minimise the effects of unavoidable toxin exposure.