I hear it all the time - "There's just no way to avoid the chemicals, so why bother?".
Last year I read the famous book, Poisoned Planet, by Julian Cribb and was shocked to discover there is literally nowhere on earth that isn't impacted and contaminated by man-made chemicals. Even polar ice-caps have been found to contain PFAs (per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances known to cause serious health effects, including cancer, endocrine disruption, accelerated puberty, liver and immune system damage, and thyroid changes).
(Image via National Geographic)
Seriously, is there nowhere sacred anymore in this world?! It's a sad state of affairs, but a modern-life reality. So in light of that fact, is there any point in trying to avoid toxic chemicals at all, or should we just lay down on our formaldehyde-processed rug and accept it?
Modest estimates have suggested that we are exposed to more than 700,000 different toxic chemicals on a daily basis, and some researchers suggest it may be as high as 2,100,000! Let me just spell that out for you:
TWO MILLION ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND CHEMICALS EVERY DAY!
Can you even get your head around that?
So while giving up and just going with it is one option, there is no doubt that this kind of exposure will have devastating effects on our health and environment, now and in the long-term. Exposure to this extraordinary number of toxic synthetics that your body was never meant to deal with can impact you in many, many ways, but needless to say your body will respond with disease, discomfort and dysregulation.
We were just never meant to live life this way.
So how can you live well in this crazy chemical world?
Here are my top 5 tips to minimise your exposure to toxic chemicals, and lessen the burden on your body and the environment:
1. Eat organic, grass-fed and sustainable
These are not marketing words; this is the way food was meant to be. Real, uncontaminated, grown within the right seasons for the right amount of time, attended to with care and produced within a whole system that works together to benefit each part. Eating organically is not jumping on a bandwagon - it's the way your body was designed to be nourished. By choosing organic you are minimising your exposure to pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which have a serious impact on your health (including messing with your gut bacteria in a serious way). Eating food that you were designed to eat will go a long way to minimising your risk of cancer, mental health disorders, diabetes, respiratory problems, skin disorders and much more, as well as helping to restore soils and take a more nurturing approach to animal farming.
2. Switch to natural household cleaners.
It might take a little longer to clean your oven naturally than with a toxic oven cleaner, but at least you won't be infusing your lasagne with ethylene chloride (and a few other nasty ingredients).
Switching to natural cleaners means getting rid of the bleach and Spray & Wipe, and either finding a brand of low-tox cleaners you like (I like Eco Store myself), or getting back to basics where possible and using good old fashioned bicarb, white vinegar and a few extras like used lemons (excellent in the dishwasher in place of rinse aid) and clove oil (for mould removal and prevention). Not only will you save your family dozens of toxic chemicals, but going back to basics will likely save you hundreds of dollars a year.
3. Lower your expectations
Seriously, do you need to get your oven clean in 60 seconds? Using natural or lower-tox products means more elbow grease and a little more time will be required, but this is the way it was meant to be!
When it comes to your perfume you need to change your expectations too. Synthetic scents lasts a really long time on the skin for a reason - they contains a long list of synthetic ingredients, including phthalates, which chemically bind to the skin and make your fragrance last. Natural perfumes rely on clever construction and natural fixatives to make them go the distance but you will never get 12 hours from a natural perfume. The trade-off is no risk of side-effects such as endocrine disruption, and the beautiful experience of being close to the true scent of nature.
4. Organic beauty products are amazing!
We are so lucky to live in an era where natural skincare, perfume and makeup is just as good as the chemical stuff. From beautiful packaging to super effective performers, you don't even need to use toxic beauty products any more. If you're just starting to make the switch and need some advice, try Depths of Beauty, Living Pretty Naturally or Organic Bunny for up-to-the-minute, on-trend advice and tips.
Our favourite organic and natural beauty brands at the moment? ONE SEED for perfume (of course), Nudus and Ere Perez for gorgeous lip colour, Edible Beauty for skincare and Yarok for haircare. But there are dozens of phenomenal brands out there!
5. Get rid of the plastic.
This is a hot topic at the moment, not only because plastic (think BPA, PVC, phthalates) is a serious endocrine disruptor and is linked to several cancers, depression, diabetes, immune suppression, obesity and birth defect to name a few, but also because of the huge environmental impact plastic is having. (You can read more about that here).
Practical tips for minimising plastic in your life:
- Use glass for storage in your kitchen instead of plastic. Plastic leaches into the food stored in it, and over time more toxins are released as the plastic ages. Heating it leaches even more.
- Swap cling wrap for beeswax wraps to save environmental burden of single use plastics.
- Swap your family's plastic drink bottles for stainless steel or glass. Same for baby bottles - babies and toddlers are even more prone to the harmful effects of plastic chemicals.
- Filtering your water to reduce your exposure to hundreds of chemicals - I have one of these.
- Buying second-hand furniture instead of new - minimises off gassing of VOCs.
- Get rid of air fresheners and synthetic scented candles and switch to essential oils, good old aromatherapy burners, homemade room sprays and natural candles.
- replace non-stick teflon coated pans with glass or ceramic cookware, or PFOA-free frypans.
The good life is still very do-able with low-tox products. Making the switch is not that difficult once you make a start. And if you want to live well and long, and leave an earth for your children that is still viable and productive, making the choice to use natural alternatives is imperative.
ONE SEED Founder & Nutritionist