.Part 3: Nutrition & the Environment: Toxic Exposure; Cleaning and Personal Care Products.

via The New Yorker

How do toxins enter our body?

There are three main ways that toxins enter our body. One is through the lungs via inhalation, for example, exhaust, smog, aerosols, scents, fresheners, and dust. Toxins enter the body through the digestive system via indigestion, for example, food additives and agricultural toxins, toothpaste, mouthwash, residue from dish soap and cosmetics. Toxins also enter the body through our skin via absorption, for example, cosmetics, body care products, oral hygiene products, deodorants and antiperspirant, hair products, cleaning products and the residue of laundry detergent.

What do toxins do in our body?

Toxins work as hormone disruptive chemicals that interfere, block or mimic natural hormones (estrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormones); as carcinogens like cancer-causing or aggravating neurotoxins or as respiratory toxins that affect the respiratory system and may cause bronchitis, emphysema, and other breathing problems.

Clean house sounds good but how clean ?

Advertisements and commercials lead us to believe that we have to kill every germ and should have spotless homes. Anti-bacterial products do not distinguish between the good bacteria and the bad, they kill everything; this suppresses our immune system! Over 95% of bacteria are harmless. We should not disinfect unless someone is ill or if an animal poops inside. If a product has a warning label or skull and crossbones, do you actually really want to you it?

Labelling in Canada

The labeling of household cleaning products in Canada falls under the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations (2001). Under these regulations, all manufacturers, distributors, and importers of cleaning products sold to Canadian consumers must assess the risks of each product they sell, then display hazard symbols, warning statements, instructions and first-aid treatment on their products’ containers. Canadian law does not require cleaning products and many cosmetic to feature a complete ingredient list. It limits the labeling of ingredients to protect the safety of Canadian workers, meaning that only industrial cleaners have to list all their ingredients.

How save are “cleaning” products

In an Environmental Defence study, 14 volunteers homes were tested before and after cleaning with conventional cleaning products. Post-cleaning 12 of the 14 had levels of VOCs that were higher than the German recommended levels for exposure!

VOC’s: A large group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate (or “off-gas”) at room temperature. There are thousands of different VOCs – both naturally occurring and human-made. Most scents or odors are made of VOCs. Common VOCs include acetone, benzene, and formaldehyde. In homes, VOCs can emanate from building materials (flooring, paint), furniture (plastic, wood finishes in cheap furniture), exhaled cigarette smoke and products like air fresheners and cleaning supplies. Typically, VOCs have short-term and long-term health effects. Because the concentrations of VOCs are usually relatively low and long-term effects slowly, research on the health impacts of indoor air quality and VOCs is still developing.

Cleaning Products to Avoid

Asthma Triggers

Ammonia compounds (benzalkonium chloride): Found often in fabric softeners and antibacterial cleaners. Ethanolamines in detergents. Bleach and ammonia: separately can trigger asthma, if mixed together create chlorine gas which can cause asthma in a single, large dose

Natural Alternatives

Not all natural products are safe. Do your research and use tools like ewg.org/cleaners and Environmental Defence. Natural and homemade cleaners are just as effective as synthetic chemicals. Not only does this make you healthier, but it also keeps our waterways cleaner. Canadians pour 3 million pounds of household cleaners down the drain every day.

Use these instead: Green Cleaning Recipes

Baking Soda: A fantastic abrasive that won’t scratch the surface, cuts grease, whitens and absorbs bad odors

Washing Soda: More alkaline than baking soda for a stronger cleaning agent. Great for degreasing, removing tough stains and cleaning grout

White vinegar: Antibacterial (kills 80% of germs), cuts through grease, adds shine (great for windows and glass) and deororizes

Hydrogen peroxide: Water with an added oxygen molecule is a strong germ killer. Wipe with hydrogen peroxide (3%), then follow with vinegar spray and leave it to evaporate for strongest germ-killing

Essential oils: Disinfect, deodorize and cut grease. Infuse citrus peels into spray cleaners or fill juiced shell with baking soda for a scrubber

Castile soap: Cuts grease and lifts dirt. Use for dishes, floors, textiles. Is highly concentrated, dilute properly before use (avoid palm oil if possible).


Women use an average of 15 products; men about 6 or 7. Up to 60% of what you put on your skin is in your bloodstream within 15 minutes! The FDA has authorized the cosmetics industry to police itself through its Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIP) panel. In its more than 30-year history, the CIR had declared only 11 ingredients or chemical groups to be unsafe. In comparison, the EU had declared thousands. 57% of skincare products contain “penetration enhancers” – chemicals like propylene glycol and sodium lauryl sulfate that bypass the skin and enter the bloodstream. Marketing claims have little meaning. Terms like “natural”, “unsentenced“, “hypoallergenic” and “dermatologist-tested” are meaningless. Even products labeled as organic are not necessarily safe. “Organic” products can contain petrochemicals, and even those “certified organic” can contain as little as 10% organic ingredients by weight or volume. Companies are not required to list ingredients that are “trade secrets”, fragrance components, or nanomaterials.

Dirty Dozen to Avoid and to look out for on labels

Avoid these ingredients in cosmetic products: 1,4 Diozane, Artificial musks, BHA & BHT, Coal-tar derived colour and PPD, Formaldehyde-releasing agents, Triclosane, Petrolatum, Phthalates, Silicon chemicals, Mineral oils, Ethylene oxide, Parabens

Hormone Disrupting Chemicals (EDSs or HDCs)

HDC’s are substances that interfere with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body. Hormones are important regulators responsible for the maintenance fo the body’s homeostasis (balance), including optimal metabolism and elimination, reproduction, development and brain and nerve function.

Major Concerns of HDC’s

The main endocrine systems affected are the thyroid, the adrenals and the reproductive glands, resulting in 1) Reprodutive and developmental effects (1 in 6 couples struggle to conceive), 2) Neurological, behavioral and cognitive imbalances, 3) metabloic effects, 4) Immunological and carcinogenic effects, and 5) effects on the stress and sugar metablolism regulation.

Tips: What can be done

Clean indoor air and dust regularly. Eat organic (especially for meats and dairy, choose low mercury fish). Choose natural personal care products. Avoid harmful plastics and BPA. Avoid toxic cleaning products. Avoid toxic lawn care products. Avoid non-stick coatings and get a cast-iron pan to make epic omelets (for the cottage!) instead. Use natural materials for food storage such as wax papers, glass containers, etc. Avoid antibacterial products and cleaners. Avoid stain repellents and flame retardants.

Stay Happy. Stay Healthy.

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