Chapter 10: Beyond Your Diet, Week 7: Detoxifying and the World around You – Environmental Issues

This week’s chapter focuses on environmental toxins which are not really something that we can do much about but the statistics are staggering.  For example, Alex states that in 2002 the EPA reported that mercury emissions had increased 10% with lead levels up 3% and dioxin levels up 5%.  This was in 2002 so I can only imagine the stats 10 years later.  She suggests detoxifying your home by limiting use of plastic in the forms of food containers, plastic food wrap and appliances. Chemicals used in these plastics can leach into your food and have a devastating effect  after many years.  One such chemical called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short, is added to storage containers for food, can interfere with the production, release, transport, metabolism, binding, action or elimination of natural hormones in the body responsible for maintaining internal balances and the regulation of the development process.  Additionally, the chemicals in plastics become even more toxic when heated, so try to avoid reheating food in a plastic container and remove any plastic wrap on top of reheated food because those items can leak chemicals into your food.  It’s better to use glass, ceramic and non active metals for your food items.  

Alex also goes over the safety of pots and pans you’ll be using to cook your food.  She suggests staying away from aluminum cookware as there are known links between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.  Nonstick Teflon is also damaging as it uses PFOA, a fluorochmical that never breaks down and has been linked to birth defects.  The safest pots and pans to use are those made out of stainless steel, cast iron, copper, clay or glass.

Chemicals in items we use to clean our houses can also be toxic.  Asthma, headaches, memory loss, ringing in the ears, nausea, eczema, depression, chronic flu like symptoms, watery eyes, and exhaustion are all symptoms of environmental poisoning.  And over exposure to harmful chemical toxins can cause a number of the above health issues.  Alex states that the average American home uses and stores approximately 60 potential hazardous household products at any given time.   These can include window, tile, drain and carpet cleaners as well as bleach, polishes and weed killer.  Toxic laundry cleaning solution comes in contact with our skin daily and household cleaning products can cause respiratory issues.  There have been links with household cleaning products and cancers and endocrine system disruptors.  The most hazardous chemicals found in household products include toluene, styrene, xylenes, and trichloroethylene which can be found in aerosols, dry cleaned clothing, paints, varnishes, glues, art supplies, cleaners, spot removers, floor waxes and air fresheners.    Oven cleaner is particularly harmful and think about how much we food we cook in our ovens!  Stay away from oven cleaner.  It’s easiest to just take some soapy water and clean out your oven.  Reconsider where you are storing bleach in your home which omits toxins into the aire.  Alex suggests the following brands of toxin-free cleaners:  Earth Friendly, Citra-Solv, Bi-O-Kleen, and Seventh Generation.  Also, Whole Foods has some nice non-toxic cleaning products as well. 

You may want to switch out your paper towels, toilet paper, and coffee filters to unbleached products so you reduce the amount of dioxins in your home. 

The Consumer Protection Agency has estimated there are over 150 chemicals found in homes which are connected to allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological disorders.  Products that are in our households include cushions made of polyurethane plastic covered in acrylic, polyester, or polyvinyl chloride.  furniture that is made from plywood and particle board can be treated with formaldehyde and can seep into the air up to 5 years after they are manufactured. 

So what can we all do to protect ourselves from these household toxins?  Open the windows and allow for fresh air, purchase candles that are made with beeswax, clean with non toxic home cleaners, use natural cleaners made out of vinegar and baking soda, use products that are natural and non toxic.

Check out this handout on 10 Synthetic Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid

Check out this handout on The Top 20 Toxic Ingredients in Cleaning Products


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