Protect Yourself from Everyday Harmful Chemicals

| Well Being

There’s a considerable emphasis on recognizing and avoiding as many chemicals as possible in your day-to-day ventures. In response, you pick up BPA-free this and eco-friendly that, reassuring yourself you’re two steps closer to a long, healthy life. But could you be skipping over some really obvious sources? Other than purchasing products differently, there are some anti-toxin solutions you can do for free — some of which include developing an eye for the chemically charged.


Since BPA was mentioned, let’s start there. Plastic containers like water bottles and sandwich bags are now known for containing BPA, or bisphenol-A. Even some medical devices have been made with it. The problem with BPA is that the threat is present, but unclear. No one likes a dangerous mystery. The FDA suddenly switched gears in 2010, stating it’s “kind of safe, but not totally.” Government-funded research is now underway, exploring the potential side effects of BPA: neurological and hormonal dysfunctions, cardiovascular problems and added sensitivity to young children. Yikes! Nothing is concrete, yet, but it sounds like avoiding BPA is a good route to go.

Would you like your receipt? Once you leave the store with your BPA-friendly sippy cups and baggies, you take your receipt, which just so happens to be coated in BPA. The printer ink reacts with the chemical to adhere to the special receipt paper. So, hop on that eco-friendly go-green train and ask for a digital receipt.

Relax or react? It’s easily assumed that stepping into a nail salon will require you to breathe in some fumes. From the polish remover to the final coat, not only are you breathing them in, but you’re having them applied to your body. Take a look at the chemicals in salons recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

  • Acetone: Present in nail polish and can cause headaches, dizziness, and irritation to the eyes, skin and throat.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): Present in polish and can cause nausea, irritation to the skin, eyes and throat, and long-term exposure is linked to serious health effects.
  • Ethyl methacrylate (EMA): Present in artificial nails and can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and throat and difficulty concentrating. Read more about nail salon exposure here.
  • Toluene: Present in polish and nail glue and can cause dry skin, headaches, numbness, irritation to eyes, nose and throat, damage to liver and kidneys, and harm to unborn children during pregnancy.

Limit your time in the salon and bring your own nail polish that is toxic-free, like NARS, No-Miss, Rescue Beauty Lounge or Piggy Polish for the kids. Ask them to open a window or door. It’s worth going to a higher end salon that will pay for higher quality products. If you work in one, take plenty of fresh-air breaks.

Faux fresh air: There’s nothing more appealing than a house that smells like apple cinnamon tarts or vanilla cupcakes or a warm sea breeze (sigh), even if it comes from a plug-in. Unfortunately, these soothing scents are wrapped in phthalates, which are chemical compounds known to trigger or induce the development of asthma. What’s more is their link to hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive issues. The National Resources Defense Council tested 14 air freshening products for phthalates. The Walgreens and Ozium brands were the worst culprits while Air Wick, Febreze, Glad and Oust followed behind. Renuzit and specifically Febeze Air Effects showed zero phthalates. Other options for safe air fresheners include Essence of Vali Botanical Mists, Aura Cacia, MoSo Natural Air Purifier, and Eco Breeze by Earth Friendly Products. You can also make your own by boiling lemons, dropping orange peels into the garbage disposal or using essential oils.

Note: Air freshener labels are not required to list the chemicals. (via NRDC)

>> DIY: Click here to learn how to make your own air freshener!


Funky furniture: When you’re in college or just starting to furnish your first home, you go for the cheaper furniture. Even though you got a great deal, you might be bringing in a bookshelf or desk that will silently emit formaldehyde day after day. Pressed wood and particle board contain this chemical that is linked to cancer. The Centers for Disease Control state it’s commonly found in higher levels in newer homes and construction. So much for convenience and cost-friendly building choices! Slowly, the emissions level off and fade, but can be boosted by warmer air and humidity. Double check the company from which you’re buying. “Oh no, what about my IKEA furniture?” you ask. No worries. The company states the formaldehyde levels are 50 percent less than the legal maximum.

When in doubt, trust your gut. The cheaper the product, the more likely it is that it was developed with cheap materials like abrasive chemicals. There are so many organic options available even though they may cost a bit more than what you wish you spend. Take the plunge on the top three products you use every day and slowly incorporate the rest. Breathe easy!

>> Read more: Best Plants for Fresh Air In Your Home