5 Common Household Toxins to Avoid

Mainstream medical literature generally agrees that many of the chemicals we have put into our environment are linked to a myriad of illnesses. These toxic effects occur at very low exposure levels, so it’s important to learn how to reduce our exposure to the chemicals that are already a part of our daily lives.

John Hibbs, ND, senior faculty supervisor at Bastyr Center for Natural Health points out that reducing exposure to household toxins need not be expensive or time-consuming, especially considering that household dust is a major culprit in spreading many chemicals. “Take your shoes off at the door when you come in from outside, and vacuum more often”, says Dr. Hibbs. You’ll see real gain in removing toxic exposure from the home.

As you go about your spring-cleaning this year, consider these five sources of toxicity. While this isn’t a comprehensive list of common household toxins, these are some of the most dangerous and surprising offenders:

1. Mercury Chronic exposure to mercury can lead to brain problems such as Parkinsons disease, lowered immunity, and hormonal disruptions. Common sources of mercury exposure include fish and florescent light bulbs.Dr. Hibbs advises following the EPA fish advisory, and explains that eating fiber with fish can reduce exposure. If you eat an apple, whole grains, or beans, it binds with the mercury that was in the intestines of the fish, and takes it out with the stool.This keeps most of the mercury from being absorbed in the first place, he says.

2. Aluminum is a neurotoxin that has been proven to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other issues with cognition and memory. Aluminum is extremely common, and is frequently found in beverage containers and cooking pots and pans. “My advice is to stop using aluminum cookware pots, pans, baking dishes and so forth especially at high heat and especially when cooking acidic materials”, Dr. Hibbs says. He also recommends against using aluminum foil in high-heat cooking, as the aluminum can vaporize into the air and into the food.

3. Benzene, Toluene and Xylene These volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are associated with many health issues including: nervous system problems and especially with bone marrow toxicity, leading to injury and leukemia. “When I have a patient with chronic leukemia in my practice, one of the first things I do is check their body load of benzene, toluene, etc., and talk to them about an effective cleansing regimen and it usually helps”, Dr. Hibbs says. These compounds are commonly found in outside dirt, so the best way to reduce exposure is to remove shoes when entering the home and vacuum carpets often.

4. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), Alklyphenol ethoxylates (APEs) and Propylene Glycol These chemicals are found in many household cleaners. Also known as VOCs, they are associated with many of the same health issues listed above. These include reduced function in the nervous system, immune system, the liver and kidneys. In addition to household cleaners, these chemicals may be found in degreasers, mothballs, cosmetics, and at commercial dry cleaners. To reduce exposure, Dr. Hibbs recommends cleaning with simple ingredients like soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and elbow grease.

5. Phalates (plastic) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) These chemicals are measurable in all of our bodies, all over the world, says Dr. Hibbs. Phalates and PVC are toxic to the liver, kidney, lungs, and may cause birth defects and fertility issues. They are extremely common in household items including food containers, flooring, vinyl, and adhesives. One method to reduce exposure to plastic toxicity is, to cook and store foods and beverages in glass containers as much as possible. Less toxic plastic containers, if you do use them, are the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 5, says Dr. Hibbs. “They’re not perfect but they’re a whole lot better. I still wouldn’t heat them, as it will increase their volatilization.”