Ellen and I made a family decision this January – We’re dedicating 2019 to decreasing our toxic exposure.
This is not our first foray into the world of toxins. For close to two decades we’ve been studying natural medicine and have made sweeping changes in our lives to improve and protect our health. In 2005, I eliminated gluten and dairy (Ellen had already). In 2011, when Ellen and I met, we committed to purchasing only organic food and we grew a huge organic garden. In the years since, we’ve been diligent about using clean products – shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies – in our home, but we know we can do even better.
The arrival of our daughter, Lennon, has again brought the issue of reducing our toxic exposure to the top of our priority list. We want to do everything we can to protect and preserve her health.
The thing is, toxins and chemicals are everywhere. They are on/in the foods we eat, the products we use, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. We can’t avoid exposure but we CAN limit it. I want to share our journey with all of you in the hopes that you can make changes in your own homes.
Here are the things we’ve done so far to reduce our family’s toxic exposure. They were all super easy but did require some investment – both small and kinda big.
We got a Big Berkey water filter. Using a water filter is arguably the most important thing any family can do to reduce toxic exposure. While we’re really lucky to have access to clean water, it still contains chemicals including chlorine, chloramines, and fluoride which are dangerous to our health. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) tests our local water each month for over 120 toxic contaminants. Even small levels of these chemicals take their toll on our health over time, making water filtration an absolute necessity. I love what Dr. Mercola says about water filters: “If you don’t have a water filter, YOU are the filter.” I am not affiliated with Big Berkey but it works for our family.
Here’s why we chose it:
- It cleans our drinking water of chlorine, chloramines, bacteria, heavy metals, pharmaceutical residue, AND fluoride. Fluoride removal is super important to us and the Big Berkey is one of the only water filters around that does it. I encourage everyone to do their own research about the safety of fluoride in our drinking water.
- It’s a countertop unit so we didn’t have to drill any holes or pay anyone to install it and we can take it with us if we decide to move.
- The water is delicious. We had the opportunity to taste the water from a friend’s Berkey before we purchased our own so we knew the water tastes great.
Toxins in the Bathroom
We cleaned up our bathroom. It sounds counterintuitive but bathrooms are loaded with chemicals – chlorine vapors in the air, shower curtains made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), cleaning supplies, and fumes from hair and body care products. It’s like a toxin bomb in a tiny room!
Here’s what we did:
- We got a simple water filter for the shower head.This is inexpensive, super easy to install, and has a big impact. There’s good evidence showing that showering in chlorinated water, and thus inhaling the chlorine vapors, may actually be more dangerous than drinking said chlorinated water. Since a 10 minute shower is equivalent to drinking two liters of water, we’ve got to do something about it. Any shower head filter is better than no filter. We got a cheap one from Whole Foods and installed it in less than five minutes.
- We also add 1000mg of Vitamin C to our bath water. When dissolved in water, vitamin C neutralizes both chlorine and chloramine.
- We got a hemp shower curtain and ditched a liner all together. Traditional shower curtains are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which leach phthalates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. These are endocrine disrupting chemicals and exposure can contribute to infertility, miscarriages, endometriosis, metabolic syndrome, and countless menstrual disorders. It’s so easy to switch old liners out for natural fiber products.
- We continued our commitment to clean products. This one isn’t particularly new to us but I have to note it here because it’s so important, especially now that we have a little babe taking regular baths. I use vinegar and baking soda for a lot of my cleaning but I also use enzyme cleaners, like BioKleen in the kitchen and bathroom. If you’re so inclined, you can make your own cleaning products. A two minute google search will turn up dozens of easy to make alternatives. Check out Meghan Telpner’s amazing list of 10 Non-toxic Home Cleaning Recipes.
We purchased an air filter. The air inside our homes can be far more (sometimes up to 500x more) polluted than the air outdoors. This is because dust and dust mites; cleaning chemicals and detergents; VOCs from furniture, rugs, paint, and hair care products; cooking fumes; pollen; and pet dander get trapped inside our living space. You can spend forever and a day researching air filters. In the end, I chose the Air Doctor because of its high rating for removing VOCs. It’s kinda big but we keep it in the corner and hardly notice it. It’s quiet and does a fantastic job. If I burn something in the kitchen, I pull the Air Doctor into the middle of the room and the smoke is gone in two minutes flat!
Using non-toxic beauty products is especially important because we’re putting them directly on our skin, the largest and most permeable organ of the body. In some cases, chemicals are absorbed through the skin and can make their way directly into your bloodstream. In other cases, we ingest (lipstick) or inhale (perfumes) said toxins. Like the chemicals mentioned above, any amount of exposure is dangerous but Beauty products are especially problematic because we apply them everyday and sometimes multiple times a day. This exposure has serious implications to our health and can lead to increased rates of endometriosis, PCOS, thyroid disease, preterm labor, miscarriage, birth defects, poor sperm health, and cancer.
There are lots of fantastic products out there that are wonderful, safe, and work! Do your own research and experiment to see which products you like best. After years of my own searching and experimenting, I decided to become a Beautycounter representative this year. They are not the only company dedicated to high-quality, non-toxic ingredients and sustainable packaging, but they are my favorite! If you want to know more about why I chose Beautycounter, click here.
The Journey is Not Over
Our quest to reduce toxins is certainly not over but we feel good about the progress we’ve made to protect our family’s health this year. I hope this helps you make changes in your own home to reduce toxic exposure. Even little changes can have a huge impact!