Personal Care
Top 10 Toxic Products You Don’t Need

Top 10 Toxic Products You Don’t Need

September 10, 2012

By Healthy Child Staff

Advertisers spent an astonishing $144 billion in 2011 to entice shoppers to buy more and more stuff. So it’s not surprising that our homes are full of things we don’t even use—or like.

So why not purge what isn’t necessary?

Start with this top 10 list of toxic products you absolutely don’t need. We compiled the list with the input of our knowledgeable Facebook community (thank you!). Not only will your apartment or house be less cluttered, but your health will also improve as you eliminate common everyday items containing toxic chemicals that contaminate your food, air, and body.

The Top 10 Toxic Products No One Needs (listed in no particular order):

1. Vinyl: By far the worst plastic for the environment, vinyl, also known as PVC, is banned in over 14 countries and the European Union. Unfortunately it’s still legally sold by U.S. retailers even though it threatens environmental and consumer health at every stage of its product life cycle, according to the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ). PVC can leach phthalates (linked to hormone disruption) and lead (a potent neurotoxicant), contaminating indoor air, dust, and eventually you. Go PVC-free by reading packages; look out for a #3 in the recycling chasing arrows symbol typically found on the bottom of a product. If a plastic is not labeled, call its manufacturer. You can also often smell check for PVC; it has that unique new shower curtain scent.

2. Fragrance: Healthy Child’s Facebook fans repeatedly cited dryer sheets as a toxic product they’d be more than happy to live without (many wished their neighbors would stop using them, too). This is because the synthetic fragrances found in everyday products like air fresheners, cosmetics, and perfumes can trigger asthma. Some of the chemicals synthetic fragrances contain may mimic estrogen and exposure to them has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Though exact fragrance formulas are protected as trade secrets, many contain diethyl phthalate (DEP), which can be absorbed through the skin and accumulate in human fat tissue. Phthalates are both suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors increasingly linked to reproductive disorders. Unfortunately phthalates are rarely listed on product ingredient lists, making them tricky to avoid; trade secret formulas are exempt from federal labeling requirements. Until the law changes, consumers can choose fragrance-free products or use those scented with natural essential oils.

3. Canned food: It’s probably a little shocking to find food on a toxic product list, but it’s no mistake. Most cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been linked to early puberty, cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression in young girls, and much more. Many experts say cans are our main source of exposure to BPA. Eden Foods was the first company to eschew BPA, but many other brands have since gone BPA-free. Still others have pledged to go BPA-free in the future but haven’t yet, including Campbell’s Soup. Buyers beware: some companies have switched to BPS, BPA’s chemical cousin, which has been linked many of the same health effects. To be safe, opt for fresh, frozen, dried, or jarred foods.

4. Dirty cleaners: Admit it: it’s odd to wipe toxic chemicals all over your oven, floors, counters, and toilets in order to get them “clean.” But that’s just what the majority of us do with conventional cleaners. Corrosive or caustic chemicals, such as the lye and acids found in drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acid-based toilet bowl cleaners, are among the most dangerous ingredients because they burn skin, eyes, and internal tissue easily. Unfortunately it’s difficult for anyone to know what their cleaner contains as cleaning product formulas, like fragrances, are currently government protected trade secrets. Either opt for products from a company voluntarily disclosing their natural, non-toxic ingredients. Or make your own. You won’t miss the toxic fumes or residues in your home!

5. Pesticides: This is a huge category of products, but they deserve inclusion in their entirety because of how extremely toxic they are. They’re made to be. That’s how they kill things. Unfortunately, solving a pest problem may leave you with another problem: Residual poisons that linger on surfaces, contaminate air, and get tracked onto floors and carpet from the bottom of shoes. There are so many non-toxic ways to eliminate both pests and weeds. Next time you need to get on the offense, check out the recommendations at Beyond Pesticides.

6. Bottled water: According to the short film The Story of Bottled Water, Americans buy a half a billion bottles of water every week. Most people do so thinking they’re avoiding the contaminants that may be present in tap water. For the most part, they’re wrong. Bottled water can be just as—or even more—contaminated than tap water. In fact, some bottled water is tap water—packaged (in plastic that can leach its chemical components into the H20) and overpriced. Also, from manufacture to disposal bottled water creates an enormous amount of pollution, ultimately making our water even less drinkable. Do yourself and the world a favor and invest in a reusable stainless steel water bottle. Then fill it with filtered tap water.

7. Leaded lipstick: Can you believe lead, a known neurotoxin that has no safe level of exposure, is found in lipstick? A study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered lead in 400 lipsticks tested, at levels two times higher than found in a previous FDA study. Pregnant women and children are especially at risk since lead can interfere with normal brain development. To find a safe lipstick, as well as other personal care products like shampoo and lotion, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Keep in mind that lead may also be found in varying levels in lipsticks containing natural mineral pigments as it’s a naturally occurring element.

8. Nonstick Cookware: Get this stuff out of your kitchen. Now. Studies have linked the perfluorinated chemical (PFC) typically used to make pots and pans stick resistant to cancer and infertility. PFCs contaminate and persist in the environment and have been found in low levels in the blood of 98 percent of Americans as well as all over the globe—including in the bodies of polar bears. In addition to cookware, PFCs can also be found in microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, some dental flosses, stain-guarded furniture, and clothing. Replace nonstick cookware with tried and true safer materials like cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, and stainless steel.

9. Triclosan: This antibacterial agent is everywhere. It’s found in soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, and even clothing. Studies have found it can contribute to drug resistant bacteria (i.e. superbugs) as well as harm the human immune system, which makes us more likely to develop allergies. It also contaminates our waterways when it washes down the drain and can even reduce muscle strength in humans and animals. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns consumers to read labels for triclosan and recommends using just plain soap and water to clean up.  If you still prefer to use an antibacterial hand sanitizer, avoid those made with triclosan and opt for one with at least 60 percent alcohol.

10. Oil-based paints and finishes: There are 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens potentially present in oil-based paint, according to a John Hopkins University study. Still interested in coating your walls and furniture with this gunk? We didn’t think so. Instead, choose a water-based paint that is no- or at least low-VOC. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, gases emitted from various products like paint. VOCs can include variety of chemicals that may have adverse health effects. Natural finishes like milk paint and vegetable or wax based wood finishes are other good alternatives.

What’s at the top of your list of toxic products you don’t need?

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