In this toxic world, I find it a bit of a useless act to try and avoid being exposed to anything potentially harmful to my health. I know there’s heavy metals in my water. I totally get that I inhale benzene, lead and carbon monoxide from the cars that drive by on my way to work. But I can’t really avoid breathing, or showering in City of Toronto water.
So what’s a health conscious city girl to do?
Instead of agonizing about those exposures I can’t change, I dare to ask what are the top 5 (fairly avoidable) toxic habits? If you’re interested in simply cutting down on the sources and amount of toxic exposure you get on a daily basis, this is for you.
Without further rambling, here are my top 5 somewhat controllable toxic habits:
1. Smoking: Surprised? I bet not. Smoking has picked up a public bad rap since sometime in the 1990s when the tobacco companies finally admitted to the evidence of harm for their products. There are about 4000 chemicals in a cigarette, hundreds of which are toxic and cancer-causing (carcinogenic). The effects of smoking are widespread since what you inhale easily crosses into the bloodstream and is sent throughout your body (including into your brain). Smoking causes several different types of cancer, destroys the alveoli in your lungs, causes hardening of your arteries (atherosclerosis), reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood, and makes you heal slower and age faster. Need I say more? What to do about it: Butt out (haha).
2. Using Air Fresheners: Ok. So I’m definitely guilty of wanting that fresh-rainfall-new-cotton-linen-mountain-whatever scent filling the house at all times. Those Febreze commercials hook me with the fresh bubbles that sweep up those ugly stinky clouds and burst into thin air. Magic! But seriously. Most air and fabric sprays, plug-ins and other air fresheners are not the way to go when trying to keep your house smelling fresh. They smell great, but they actually contribute to indoor air pollution as they often contain phthalates, formaldehyde and aerosol. These chemicals can cause respiratory problems, skin lesions, and increase your risk of cancer.
What to do about it: As an alternative I burn a Lampe Berger, an effusion lamp that naturally cleans the air of your home while it safely and gently scents.
3. Talking On The Phone: No, this is not an excuse to screen all of your mother’s calls. But cell phones emit harmful radiation that we apparently love to hold right next to our brains. More than a dozen studies have linked EMFs to development of brain tumors and acoustic neuromas. One particular study even linked cell phone use to lowered sperm counts in men. Umm..
What to do about it: A good rule of thumb is to keep your cell phone at least a basketball-sized gap away from you at all times. When you do have to make a call, a headset will emit less of these EMFs than the phone itself. And if you want to be super trendy, pick yourself up one of these awesome handsets from Novophone and show the world how truly retro you are.
4. Using Anti-Perspirant: Most anti-perspirants contain aluminum, which is the active agent that clogs the pores under your arms to prevent sweating and control body odour. Aluminum toxicity has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, impaired functioning of the central nervous system, poor kidney function and digestive system issues. More than this it literally prevents you from sweating, which is one of our bodies’ natural detoxification mechanisms.
What to do about it: The best solution would be to gently cleanse your underarms with soap and water throughout the day, but if this isn’t feasible (I get it) there are some safer choices. Choose a ‘deodorant‘ as opposed to an ‘anti-perspirant,’ preferably formulated from natural ingredients. I personally like Nivea’s newest option.
5. B-e-a-utifying: So often we forget that our skin is the largest organ of our bodies. Although it serves an important barrier role, our skin is quite porous and also allows a lot of things in. In fact, the Herb Research Foundation claims that skin absorbs 60% of what you apply. It is said that before leaving the house in the morning, the average person has exposed themselves to over 100 chemicals, mainly in the products we use to clean, prep and beautify ourselves. Often we think we’re doing good for our skin by buying products that contain vitamin E, aloe or shea butter, but we fail to notice that they also contain petroleum jelly, mineral oil and paraffin. In case you haven’t heard, petroleum jelly and mineral oil are products of fossil fuels. Further, cosmetics aren’t subject to the same oversight as food and pharmaceuticals by the FDA and often contain ingredients linked to cancer, organ failure and birth defects.
What to do about it: Use the Environmental Working Group’s amazing Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to look up all of your personal care products. Choose those with the lowest overall hazard rating, and continue to look gorgeous because you are, gorgeous.
So, to recap. Don’t forget to read the labels on the things that you put on your body and spread throughout your home, just as you read the labels on foods you buy. Quit smoking (in case you haven’t heard that one yet) and keep that cell phone out of your front pocket and away from.. well you know what’s located there. But most importantly, don’t freak yourself out about all of this. There are toxins everywhere, ya? Just keep conscious and cut back as you can.