The Busy Mom’s Guide to Reducing Chemical Exposures
July 29, 2019

When I first learned of my son’s extremely high toxin load at the age of 5, I took immediate action to remove cleaning chemicals from my home.  And then over the course of years, I’ve gradually shifted many other items and products.  It can seem VERY overwhelming to think of all of the chemicals we have in our homes and I want you to know that feeling that way is normal.  I don’t, however, want you to feel hopeless or stuck so I’ve outlined below some very simple and doable shifts to help you navigate your way to a cleaner life! 

As a reminder, in Part 1 of this blog series, I outlined what the endocrine system is and why it’s so important to good health.  In Part 2 I outlined what endocrine-disrupting chemicals and substances were and where they are found and how they can lead to disease and chronic illness.  This installment is your roadmap to reducing your exposures!

In 2019, it’s likely that every room in your house could use a chemical detox – from electronics to furniture, to carpets and flooring, to cleaning products – we are quite literally swamped with chemicals.  Every exposure reduced or eliminated however is a “win” for your endocrine system and while you may not be able to “feel” much of a difference when you start modifying your lifestyle, please know that your body and systems are cheering you on because they are experiencing LESS STRESS and BURDEN and can then focus on their real work – keep you healthy and thriving.  Full disclosure:  Some of the links to products are affiliate links and we receive a small commission for anything purchased through that link however I only recommend products I use personally!

Yard:  Pesticides and Herbicides as we learned in Part 2 are neurotoxic, particularly for developing brains!  I don’t use anything on my yard and I pull “offensive” weeds by hand.  For weeds growing in the driveway, I spray them with vinegar.  Vinegar changes the pH of the soil so nothing will grow there which is why you don’t want to use on your lawn.  For insects, you can sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around the perimeter of the house and in the garden and some essential oils help keep other bugs away. 

Cleaning products for the house.  When I gathered up all of my chemical cleaners to get them out of my house, I was amazed at how many different products I had.  The nice thing about “going green” is that the solution is simple and practical. 

Here are some basic options:  1) Equal parts vinegar and water or 2) equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water or 3) Norwex cloths.  Vinegar, of course, has a smell and some people have a hard time getting past that even though the odor evaporates fairly quickly.  You just need a spray bottle and a supply of white vinegar.  I feel like hydrogen peroxide and water cleans up grease better than vinegar and that is the solution I have on hand.  You will need a dark-colored spray bottle for the hydrogen peroxide as light degrades the potency.  You can clean all surfaces – even windows with either of these solutions. 

Norwex cloths have been great for my house and I love all of the products.  It seems strange that this cloth and water are all you need but it truly works!  If you’re curious about the brand and want to try one, I’d suggest starting with the Envirocloth as it’s an all-purpose cleaning cloth.  Yes, they are more expensive than other cloths, however, you buy ONE and it lasts pretty much forever so you are actually saving a lot of money with this option.  For scouring or toilet bowls, I use Bon Ami powder but you can also make your own with salt/baking soda.  WellnessMama has a great recipe to start.

Kitchen:  To reduce the chemicals we consume in our foods, we can also look at our cookware and food storage system.  I recommend stainless steel pots/pans and I use cast iron skillets   The non-stick surface of many pans is what you want to avoid if you are looking to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.  I also use parchment paper for anything I’m baking and that way the food is touching the paper, not the cooking sheet.  For food storage, I use glass containers like these. Dishware and glasses can be tricky because some brands and types can have high levels of lead.  Eating organic as much as possible will also reduce your exposure to chemicals that are harmful to the body.  If you want to dive even further, you can look to installing a water filtration system to clean the chemicals in your tap water.

Personal Care Items:  These products are often changed by manufacturers so I will just refer you to the Environmental Working Group’s page on these products.  First and foremost, read the ingredient labels and at the very least, avoid anything with Parabens or Phthalates.  Most items with added “Fragrance” means it’s a chemical addition.  For soap, I like to stick with a bar soap such as this one.  Even menstrual care products need to be considered here since most will have fragrance and/or cotton that has been treated with herbicides and pesticides.  Menstrual cups are a great alternative and after a few months, save you money too!!

Whole House Considerations:  Household dust can actually be quite toxic because of the electronic equipment in the house.  To combat this, dust regularly with a microfiber cloth and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.  Air filters are great to have in the bedrooms and don’t underestimate the value of plants for helping keep your air clean!

Laundry:  Dryer sheets while convenient are actually top offenders when it comes to leaching chemicals.  They are designed to coat clothing so that static electricity doesn’t build up.  And remember what I said about fragrance?  I ditched mine completely and after a few washings, my clothes no longer gathered static electricity.  Sometimes certain fabrics like polyester are best when air-dried so I hung a clothesline in my laundry room for those items.  If you just can’t go without something in the dryer, an excellent option are dryer balls and you can add some essential oils to them to add some fragrance.  Laundry soap can be made from scratch or you can check out the EWG site for the “cleanest” commercial product.

Baby Products:  Diapers, wipes, bottles, sippy cups, creams, salves – let’s face it, our babies are drenched in chemicals from the get-go.  I would start with diapers since they are in them 24/7.  Cloth diapers are the best option for avoiding chemicals but they are not for everyone and if your baby is in childcare, they might require disposables during that time.  So again, look to the EWG website for best baby care products as there are always new products and product changes so I hesitate to list a specific one here as that information will likely change in the coming months.

Some deeper challenges in terms of removing endocrine-disrupting chemicals and substances in your house involve flame retardants in furniture and mattresses, memory foam mattress toppers and pillows, flooring (off-gassing and retention in the carpet of toxic dust). 

As I mentioned, I’ve been at this for over a decade and I’m still finding products that I can replace with cleaner and less toxic options.  Don’t drive yourself crazy over all of this – just take the first few steps and keep at it.  If you could only do one thing from all of the options I’ve listed here, I would recommend replacing your cleaning products.  With some practice at being more intentional about your purchases in regards to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, you’ll become more confident about making more and more changes and your body’s overall toxin burden will lessen which is only good news!