Chemicals Lurking In Your Cabinets, Makeup, & Cleaning Supplies
Author: Laura Vasquez, MSN, APRN, NP-C
“A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.”
-Rachel Carson from the book Silent Spring.
Our modern-day world is full of advertisements for new products from cleaning to cosmetics that stock the store shelves and find their way into our shopping carts and cabinets. Most of these products promise to make our lives easier through convenience. Companies design and market these products touting they will make your dishes shine more, help your laundry smell fresher than before, and reverse your aging while enhancing your skin’s glow. The flashy advertisements, bright, colorful packaging, and catchy jingles capture our attention and entice consumers to buy and try these products. From dishwasher detergent to body lotion, these products are often made with synthetic chemicals that are TOXIC and harmful to your health.
In 1976, the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) granted the United States Environmental Protection Agency the authority to create a regulatory framework and collect data on industrial chemicals. However, the act does not adequately protect the public against consumer products. The TSCA does not monitor substances used in cosmetic formulas that are exempt from regulations. Companies are not mandated by federal law to report certain ingredients on the product’s label. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found that the average home
has over 150 chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, psychological abnormalities, and allergies. Beware that some cleaners have been labeled “green or natural.” However in 2010, an environmental consulting firm, TerraChoice, found that 95% of products making these claims had at least one toxic compound in the ingredients. These chemical names are often long and difficult to pronounce, but their presence is insidious in our modern-day homes. They can be linked to neurocognitive decline, hormone imbalances, allergies, and liver and kidney damage. Many of these chemicals are potentially carcinogenic, especially when combined.
Below are some of the chemicals linked to toxicity that are commonly found under our kitchen cabinets, laundry room shelves, and in our bathrooms.
Phthalates are commonly found in fragrances, air fresheners, plastic wrap, dish soap, and toilet paper. Laws govern that labels do not need to include phthalates, making this chemical harder to detect. However, this chemical has been implicated in hormone disruption and lowered sperm count in men.
Perchloroethylene ‘Perc’ is found in dry-cleaning solutions and spot removers (carpet and upholstery). The EPA has classified this compound as a possible carcinogen.
Triclosan is used in antibacterial products such as dish soap and even certain brands of cutting boards as an antibacterial agent. The FDA has removed this offending agent from some antibacterial soaps, but it is still found in many products.
2-Butoxyethanol is a petrochemical solvent found in oven cleaners and glass cleaners. The vapors from this chemical have been implicated in causing respiratory irritation, liver, and kidney damage.
Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) are often found in nonstick coatings such as pans, pots, fast food wrappers, and the inside of popcorn bags. These can cause endocrine disruption and reproductive problems.
Bisphenol (BPA) is found in plastic food and beverage containers and canned foods. These are hormone disruptors contributing to thyroid and reproductive dysfunction, obesity, heart disease, and elevated cancer risks.
Now that we have discussed some of the chemicals lurking in your home, what is the next step to ensure you create a healthy, non-toxic living environment? First, become educated by learning the names and brands which may not be environmentally friendly. A great resource is the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG’s website and Healthy Living App combines Skin Deep, Food Scores, and the Guide to Healthy Living Cleaners with more than 120,000 food and personal care product ratings. Second, eliminate any toxic cleaners or beauty products by using the EWG app to confirm ingredients while cleaning out your cabinets. Third, make a plan to go Green by choosing one area of your home to tackle at a time. For example, perhaps you choose to get rid of toxic cookware, focus on greener cleaning products, or make your own. It’s a process of education and preparation, but the long-term health benefits outweigh the risks. Here are some health-conscious brands and ideas for creating a space that is clean and free of toxic substances.
Natural Cleaning Product Brands
- Branch Basics
- Thrive Market
- PUR Home
- Common Good
- Grove Collaborative
You can also make your own cleaning products. Alternatives to commercial cleaning ingredients include baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and Borax. There are many recipes to creating your own cleaning products. For example, Good Housekeeping shared a recipe for a scented all-purpose cleaner.
ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER RECIPE
One part white vinegar
One part water
Combine all ingredients into a glass spray bottle, shake and let infuse for one week before using. You can use teh scented all-purpose cleaner on all surfaces except granite.
Clean and Non-toxic Personal Care Products
Biossance is 100% vegan and verified by EWG as clean skincare.
The Activist Skincare brand is eco-friendly, using only botanical ingredients.
Apoterra is a non-toxic brand using plants for its ingredients.
True Botanicals is certified organic and free of fillers and chemicals.
Beautycounter is a non-toxic makeup and skincare line. These products are free from over 1,500 chemicals used in traditional makeup brands.
100% PURE only uses plants, vegetables, tea, and fruits to pigment their makeup and skincare lines.
Honest Beauty has a variety of products, from diapers to foundations. They have banned nearly 3,000 chemicals from their line, and are eco-friendly and organic.
Additional Ideas for a Non-toxic Environment
- Add plants to your home to detoxify the air, and bonus, they look beautiful! Some of the best purifying plants are English Ivy or Devils Ivy, Spider Plant, Boston Fern, Chrysanthemums, and Aloe Vera.
- Use glass food containers instead of plastic and buy foods that are in glass containers versus plastic when possible.
- Cook in ceramic, cast iron, or stainless steel pots and pans.
- My personal favorite drinking water filtration brand is Berkey. The Berkey filtration system is a countertop, stainless steel barrel that uses a carbon filter to remove 99.999% of viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals. It also comes in a variety of sizes.
- If you want to ensure all the water in your home is reduced of contaminants, not just your drinking water, then opt for a whole home water filtration system. A reputable brand is Aquasana.
We are exposed to toxic chemicals daily through our drinking water, cookware, cleaning, or personal care products without even realizing the impact and repercussions. A little exposure over time can cause significant damage to our health and environment. Since our government has failed to take the appropriate steps to protect consumers, we must be our own advocates by choosing greener, more sustainable, and non-toxic products. Thankfully there are many eco-conscious brands available today. Every day we have a chance to make a better choice for our health and environment.
- “Cleaning Supplies: Secret Ingredients, Hidden ” Environmental Working Group, https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/weak_regulation/.
- A. Boyter, “Toxic Substances Control Act.” Environmental Aspects of Textile Dyeing, 2007, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/toxic-sub– stances-control-act.
- Newman, “12 hidden toxins you may not know are in your kitchen.” Mediafeed, 23 May 2018, https://mediafeed.org/12-hidden-tox- ins-you-may-not-know-are-in-your-kitchen/.
- Smith “8 Homemade Cleaners That Actually Work, According to Our Cleaning Expert.” Good Housekeeping, 18 Feb 2021,
- https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning/tips/a24885/– make-at-home-cleaner/.
- Hizer, “Chemicals in the House.” Environmental Alternatives, http://www.envi-roalternatives.com/nontoxichome.html.