Springtime gives us a sense of freshness and renewal. Now is a great time to take stock of the state of our environment, not just outside but also inside our homes.
Every day we are all exposed to a multitude of toxins. Toxins came in the foods we eat, water we drink, air we breathe, furnishings in our homes and workplaces, cooking utensils, cleaning products, fragrances, clothes, products we apply to our skin, pesticides and herbicides, cigarettes, alcohol, etc, as well as from the normal metabolic processes in our body.
Our bodies have mechanisms to reduce the effects of toxins. It’s the liver job to process toxins into less harmful substances and get them ready to be eliminated by the body. So it’s important to eat a healthy diet (lots of fresh vegetables), maintain a healthy body weight (toxins are stored in our fat), and to have lots of water (filtered hopefully) to help flush out the waste products. But even when our liver is doing a great job the amount of toxins we exposed it to can overwhelm it’s best efforts.
It’s not possible to eliminate our exposure to toxins, but we can reduce our exposure by the choices we make. Simply not wearing shoes in the house significantly reduces the transfer of pollutants from the ground into the house (herbicides, pesticides, traffic residues). Whenever possible, open windows to let in some fresh air. Indoor air can be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air from fumes given off by furnishings, mould, aerosols and cleaning products.
The products we buy can increase our toxic burden. Our personal care products like shampoo, deodorants, toothpaste, and make-up usually contain chemicals that are toxic. Not only can they irritate our skin they can increase our risk of developing serious health conditions like cancer. There are now many less toxic products available, you can even easily make your own. Have a look at the ingredients list on your products, it probably reads like a chemistry lab inventory.
Metals commonly found in the home can be highly toxic. Aluminium is a neurotoxin, linked to dementia, so opt for glass or stainless steel saucepans and drinking bottles. Aluminium is found in most deodorants. Mercury is also highly toxic to the nervous system. It is used in the fluorescent tubes and the new compact fluorescent light bulbs. Whilst they may last longer and be cheaper to run, when they break you need to clean them up very carefully. If you look up the suggested cleanup routine you may reconsider buying them – google ‘safe disposal of CFL bulbs’. They should be taken to the tip for safe disposal, not put in the bin, as mercury is an environmental toxin. A better alternative is the new LED light globes, they last longer and are more efficient.
Plastics are used just about everywhere. They usually contain toxic compounds linked to health concerns, particularly as disruptors of our hormones and as carcinogens. Try to avoid PET bottles with numbers 1, 3, 6, and 7. Use glass wherever possible and don’t heat food/drinks in plastic containers or leave them in plastics in hot cars. Avoid Styrofoam cups for hot drinks, take your own travel cup instead. Choose canned foods without the white BPA lining inside the can (not easy!).
Inform yourself about better options and where the dangers lie, we’ve only touched the surface here. Ignorance is definitely NOT bliss. Infants and children are particularly at risk of developing health problems from toxin exposure, please carefully consider everything they come into contact with.
See Ecology Center's factsheets for information and tips on eliminating plastics, air quality in the home, safe pest control and more. Google toxic plastics, household toxins, etc. Visit Safe Cosmetics Australia to find toxin free make-up brands.