4 common household toxins that could be affecting your health

The advance of civilisation and convenience of modern lifestyle has resulted in the development of more than 144,000 human-made chemicals as estimated by The European Chemicals Agency. 

In 2017, the US Department of Health estimated that 2000 new chemicals are being released every year. Most have not been tested for safety, particularly for long term safety.

A baby has 180 toxic chemicals in its body before it takes its first breath!

Isn’t that a shocking statistic?

Impact of toxins on the immune system

Toxins have weakened our immune system. A measure of the competency of the immune system is the number and activity of NK cells. NK cells seek out microscopic cancer cells to destroy them and also target invading viruses.  Modern man has much lower numbers of the critical NK immune cells compared to past generations that lead a much simpler life without many modern conveniences. 

4 common household toxins

1. Phthalates 

Phthalates are human-made chemical compounds developed in the last century for use in the manufacture of plastics, solvents and personal care products.

Phthalates are plasticisers and are the substance that gives some types of plastic bottle flexibility, transparency and durability. Phthalates are often added to personal care products, such as nail polish, perfumes, deodorants, hair gels, shampoos, soaps, hair sprays and body lotions, to help lubricate other substances in the formula and to make fragrances last longer.

How do phthalates get into your body?

Because of widespread usage, the general population has phthalates in their system. Phthalates can leach from food storage containers and food wrap into foods (particularly those foods that are oily or that have a high-fat content. They can be ingested, inhaled and absorbed through the skin.

Health dangers of phthalates

Researchers have linked phthalates to altered reproductive development, male fertility issues, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, asthma and neurodevelopment issues.

What practical steps can you take?

  • Do not use plastic bottles to fill up your water. Use metal bottles instead. 
  • Store your food in the refrigerator and freezer in glass containers. 
  • Use paper wrap instead of plastic wrap. 
  • For personal care products, check whether the ingredient list contains phthalates.
2. Teflon coating in cooking utensils

Teflon coating is used so that food doesn't stick to the pan. When pans are scratched, some of the nonstick coatings can flake into your food, releasing toxic compounds. Ceramic, stainless steel and cast iron are alternatives to using Teflon coated pots and pans.

3. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Have you had your walls painted or had new furniture such as kitchen cabinets installed? Maybe you bought new carpets or had your new lounge scotch guarded? Did you know that these can release toxic fumes? These gases are known as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. Inhaling a number of them can cause dizziness, allergic reactions — even asthma. Long-term exposure might lead to liver damage, kidney damage or cancer.

List of Volatile Organic Compounds

Some common VOCs are:

  • Acetone, found in nail polish, wallpaper and furniture polish
  • Benzene, found in paint, glue and carpeting
  • Butanal from emissions from the stove and burning candles
  • Carbon Disulfide found in chlorinated tap water
  • Dichlorobenzene found in mothballs and deodorisers
  • Ethanol common in glass cleaner
  • Methylene Chloride common in paint removers and aerosol solvents
  • Formaldehyde found in floor lacquers and certain plastics
  • Terpene found in fragrant soaps and detergents
  • Toulene found in paint 

What can you do to minimise reaction to VOCs?

  • Ensure fresh air goes throughout the house
  • Stay clear from the affected areas
  • Grow some indoor plants to reduce indoor pollution.

In the 1980s, NASA scientists investigated houseplants’ ability to cleanse the air of VOCs and found that all of the tested plants pulled out at least some VOCs. Vadoud Niri, a chemist at the State University of New York at Oswego, followed on from the NASA study. He exposed a bromeliad, Caribbean tree cactus, dracaena, jade plant and spider plant to eight common VOCs. Certain plants were better than others at removing a particular VOC. All five plants removed acetone, found in nail polish remover. After 12 hours, the dracaena had cleared out 94 per cent of this gas, more than any of the other plants. However, the bromeliad came out tops removing more VOCs from the air than any other plant. Pretty impressive plants!

4. Air Fresheners

Air fresheners are commonly used in cars and toilets. However, many commercial air fresheners contain carcinogens, VOCs and phthalates in their formula which pose a health risk particularly to babies and young children. Using essential oils in a diffuser is an excellent alternative to store-bought air freshener. 

Did any of these “household toxins” surprise you?

With knowledge about what is potentially harmful, you can start taking some action to reduce the harmful toxins that may be affecting your health. 

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