Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Household Toxins to Avoid

Since this is the time of year for spring cleaning, I found the below article appropriate.  We all should avoid toxic overload, and avoid purchasing products with potentially harmful ingredients.  I have made it my mission to rid our kitchen and bathroom cabinets of products with harmful ingredients--and especially since we have a 3 year-old daughter and a baby on the way--and have replaced them with healthier options.

After reading the article, I found that I need to purchase a new shower curtain, because everytime I take a shower, I smell the PVC and phalate--my sense of smell is heightened due to being pregnant.  Actually, the smell of the shower curtain bothers me so much that I cannot wait to get out of the shower.

"Mainstream medical literature generally agrees that many of the chemicals we have put into our environment are linked to myriad illnesses. These toxic effects occur at very low exposure levels, so it’s important to learn how to reduce our exposure to the chemicals that already are part of our daily lives.

John Hibbs, ND, is a senior faculty supervisor at Bastyr Center who teaches environmental medicine and toxicology curriculum at Bastyr University. “The most important thing you can do to prevent illness from chronic exposure to chemicals is to stop the exposure,” says Dr. Hibbs.

He points out that reducing exposure to household toxins need not be expensive or time-consuming, especially considering that household dust is a major culprit in spreading many chemicals. “Take your shoes off at the door when you come in from outside and vacuum more often,” says Dr. Hibbs. “You’ll see real gain in removing toxic exposure from the home.”

As you go about your spring cleaning this year, consider these five sources of toxicity. While not a comprehensive list of common household toxins, these are some of the most dangerous and surprising offenders:

1. Mercury
Chronic exposure to mercury can lead to brain problems such as Parkinson’s disease, lowered immunity and hormonal disruptions. Common sources of mercury exposure include fish and florescent light bulbs. Dr. Hibbs advises following the
EPA fish advisory, and also explains that eating fiber with fish can reduce exposure. “If you eat fiber with your fish – eat an apple or some whole grain, or beans – it binds with the mercury that was in the fish in the intestines and takes it on out with the stool, keeping most of the mercury from being absorbed in the first place,” he says. Dr. Hibbs acknowledges the energy-saving benefit of newer florescent bulbs, but cautions that they still contain mercury and must be handled with care. “When a florescent bulb breaks, that actually represents a very significant toxic hazard,” he says. “Ventilate like crazy and then stay out of there for a few hours before cleaning up.”

2. Aluminum
Aluminum is a neurotoxin that has been proved to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other issues with cognition and memory. Aluminum is extremely common and is frequently found in beverage containers and cooking pots and pans. “My advice is to stop using aluminum cookware – pots, pans, baking dishes and so forth – especially at high heat and especially when cooking acidic materials,” Dr. Hibbs says. He also recommends against using aluminum foil in high-heat cooking, as the aluminum can vaporize into the air and into the food.

3. Benzene, Toluene and Xylene
These volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are associated with many health issues including nervous system problems and especially with bone marrow toxicity, leading to injury and leukemia. “When I have a patient with chronic leukemia in my practice, one of the first things I do is check their body load of benzene, toluene, etc., and talk to them about an effective cleansing regimen – and it usually helps,” Dr. Hibbs says. These compounds are commonly found in outside dirt, so the best way to reduce exposure is to remove shoes when entering the home and vacuum carpets often.

4. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), Alklyphenol ethoxylates (APEs) and Propylene Glycol
These chemicals, found in many household cleaners, are also VOCs associated with many of the same health issues listed above, including reduced function in the nervous system, immune system, and the liver and kidneys. In addition to household cleaners, these chemicals may be found in degreasers, mothballs, cosmetics and at commercial dry cleaners. To reduce exposure, Dr. Hibbs recommends cleaning with simple ingredients like soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and elbow grease. “I’m not a fan of dry-cleaning,” says Dr. Hibbs, “but if I need to dry-clean a blanket or a jacket, what I’ll do is hang it in the garage for a few days and let it off-gas before I bring it into the house.”

5. Phalates (plastic) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
“These chemicals are measurable in all of our bodies, all over the world,” says Dr. Hibbs. Phalates and PVC are toxic to the liver, kidney and lungs and may cause birth defects and fertility issues. They are extremely common in household items including food containers, flooring, vinyl and adhesives. “That stuff you smell when you open up a new vinyl shower curtain – that’s PVC and phalate,” Dr. HibbsHibbs. “They’re not perfect but they’re a whole lot better. I still wouldn’t heat them, as it will increase their volatilization.”"