Back in July I began to discuss some of the things that those of us with MTHFR want to avoid around the house. Since then I’ve been going room by room, looking for products and substances that I want to eradicate from our lives. Additionally, I’ve added houseplants and switched to organic products where necessary. Why? Remember that if you have MTHFR gene mutations your body already struggles to detoxify. You don’t want to contribute to the problem. And never mind that anyway. Everyone should be looking to reduce their toxic load as many known carcinogens are lurking in products we commonly find at the store and in our cabinets. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some that I never thought about before.
In the Laundry Room
1. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets.
Scented laundry products emit harmful carcinogens like benzene and acetaldehyde. Dryer sheets contain toxic chemicals that are transferred directly to your clothes. The list of chemicals is a long one, pretty much demonstrating the pointlessness of washing your clothes if you’re only then going to soak them in chemicals that will later be absorbed right through the skin.
2. Switch to non-toxic laundry detergent.
While you’re at it, take a look at the ingredients in your laundry detergent. Here we have a literal laundry list of ingredients that you don’t want next to your skin. Some tips for cleaning up your detergent toxicity profile can be found in this article (sorry, I can’t resist a good pun!)
3. Wash all new clothes before wearing them.
Never mind the fact that many “new” clothes are crawling with bacteria, the process of creating the garments leaves toxic substances on the surface of most fabrics, even the so-called natural ones. Cotton crops, for example, require some of the most toxic pesticides available. Other materials may be contaminated with formaldehyde, nonylphenol ehtoxylate (NPE), perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), p-Phenylenediamine (PPD) and others. The linked Greenpeace study is truly sobering.
4. Buy organic clothing.
Organic clothing is especially important for babies and children, but what’s to stop you from outfitting your entire family in safer attire? Hemp, flax (linen), organic wool, organic cotton are excellent natural fiber alternatives.
5. Stop dry-cleaning your clothes.
Perchloroethylene (PCE) is a known carcinogen that scientists have found to linger on dry-cleaned clothing. Polyester, cotton and wool retain the highest levels of this dangerous substance. Try these alternatives to dry cleaning instead.
In the Utility Room
6. Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products (or make your own!)
If you have chemical sensitivities you are probably already aware of the need to eliminate toxic cleaning products from the home. But indoor air pollution is a hidden danger, one that you can easily mitigate by choosing natural alternatives for cleaning. Hundreds of hazardous ingredients lurk in regular household cleaning products. There’s actually no need to purchase cleaning products from the store at all as you can make your own with simple recipes.
7. Cleaning products aren’t the only problem.
The US Department Of Health and Human Services maintains lists of toxic substances that should be avoided. Be sure to always use chemical based products in a well-ventilated area and preferably not at all.
8. Protect yourself when cleaning.
If you’re still using conventional cleaning products or any other type of chemicals (basically anything with an odor is a danger), be sure to protect yourself. Wear thick rubber gloves and a face mask and always open the windows when you are cleaning. I’m eliminating chemical products as I use up the ones we already have but I always wear a face mask when using any sort of chemicals.
In the Kitchen
9. Be careful when you open the dishwasher.
That waft of steam may be inviting but beware: steam from the dishwasher contains super-heated chlorine, which is actually chloroform, combined with detergent. Turn off the dry cycle and give the machine some time before opening it after it finishes.
10. Watch out for plastics.
We all know about bisphenol-A (BPA) by now, especially in plastics, but be wary of sneaky places that this toxin can hide. That white coating in the lining of cans, for example, contains BPA and it can leach into fatty and acidic products like canned tomatoes. Even non-BPA plastic can become harmful. Try not to use plastic cooking utensils or storage containers and never heat food in plastic containers in the microwave.
Melamine, a popular picnic staple when it comes to durable outdoor food service is also a no-no. This substance also releases harmful toxins into food. Cling-wrap should also be avoided, especially when storing fatty foods like cheese
11. Be careful with metal pots and pans.
Stainless steel cookware is a good option, but be sure to keep it in good shape. Nicks and pits in the metal can allow metals like nickel and chromium to enter your food when cooking. The same goes for aluminum pans – even the coating on anodized aluminum can break down over time.
In the Bathroom
12. Be vigilant about what products you put in and onto your body.
Back in 2007 a biochemist named Richard Bence estimated that the average woman absorbs five pounds of chemicals through her skin. I cannot find any recent studies to back this claim up, however, I do know that toxins in beauty and personal care products are prevalent. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has found that “more than 1 in 5 personal care products contain chemicals linked to cancer, 80 percent contain ingredients that commonly contain hazardous impurities, and 56 percent contain penetration enhancers that help deliver ingredients deeper into the skin.” This goes for both men’s and women’s products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does little to regulate what goes into our personal care products. The toxins include known carcinogens like benzene, ethylene oxide, parabens and urethane.
Check out the labels on your nail, hair, tooth and skin products as well as those of your fragrances and cosmetics. Run the names your favorite products through the Skin Deep database. We have dramatically cut down on the amount of personal care products we are using and have switched to organic soap, toothpaste and shampoo. I rarely wear makeup anymore and have disposed of all my perfumes.
13. Get rid of antibacterial products with triclosan.
Antibacterial is all the rage these days. I’ve given this one a lot of thought and am pretty concerned about the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Our bodies are being taught not to fight off germs. Instead everything is disinfected and sterilized. And this is unnecessary.
Triclosan is a harmful pesticide that shows up not only in antibacterial products but also in personal care products like toothpaste and body lotion. It’s a potent endocrine disruptor that should be avoided.
Elsewhere Around the House
14. Push out phthalates.
Ninety-five per cent of US residents have these toxic chemical compounds in our urine. They lurk not only in personal care products but also in carpet, medical devices, vinyl flooring and shower curtains, raincoats, plastic toys, meats, cheeses and in the car (ever wonder what that “new car smell” is?) As you may have already guessed, these are going to be difficult to eliminate completely but check out this article for some tips.
15. Forget flame retardant materials.
Finally, yet another hazardous yet omnipresent material to eliminate. As good as these chemicals sound in theory, flame retardant chemicals like PDBE are powerful endocrine disruptors that can also affect thyroid function and neurological development in infants and children. Be especially careful when purchasing furniture and children’s clothes and be sure to limit your exposure to these substances during pregnancy.
What substances have you eliminated from your home for safety reasons?