Healthier Home, Healthier Life: Why are Toxins So Bad?

Every day we come into contact with thousands of chemicals, from the lotions we rub on our skin to the carpet under our feet. Even the air we breathe can become toxic as we spray cleaners onto kitchen counters. Absorbed into the skin, inhaled by our lungs, even ingested, toxins have a profound effect on our bodies and health.

Why Are Toxins So Bad?

Although the toxin level in our everyday hand lotions and spray cleaners may (or may not) be small, they can have a huge impact on our health. That small amount of toxins in your kitchen cleaners, laundry detergent, floor cleaners, and other products you use daily adds up. But some household products contain toxins which are far worse than others.

Which toxins should you avoid?

When dealing with toxins you will encounter some side effects. The severity and frequency of these side effects will depend on the level of exposure. These side effects will also depend on your level of sensitivity to any of these toxins. It is also important to note that not all symptoms are obvious and some will fly under the radar. Here are a few of the side effects you can expect when dealing with toxins within your home.

What are side effects of these toxins?

  • Difficult Breathing - The inhalation of chemical gases, fumes, or vapors can lead to irritation of the nose and air passages and even affect the lungs. Continued breathing of chemicals can lead to asthma or cause permanent lung damage.
  • Poor Sleep - Inhalation of dust and irritants causes irritation and swelling of nasal membranes and bronchial airways. Airway irritants impede breathing and inhibit the body from REM and restorative sleep. Fatigue, feeling tired, lack of mental sharpness increase dramatically with a lack of restorative sleep.
  • Poor Digestion - Ingestion of toxic chemicals can cause severe stomach upset. The digestive tract, along with the liver, are one of your body’s main ways to detoxify, but even this defense can fail if overloaded with too many toxins.
  • Irritated Eyes - Eyes are especially sensitive to many toxic chemicals, which can cause redness, swelling, and even blindness in the most extreme cases. Paints, all-purpose cleaners, and even bleach can be potentially harmful to your eyesight.
  • Inflammation - Inflammation is one way the body tries to heal itself, but too much inflammation can open the body to diseases. Pain, heat, redness, swelling, and the eventual loss of function are all signs of inflammation that can be caused by toxins.
  • Skin Irritation - Skin irritation, redness and swelling, and even skin rashes can be signs of contact with toxic chemicals. The skin can recover but, in rare cases, the damage of cutaneous toxicity can be potentially permanent.

When dealing with toxins it is important to understand how you are exposed to them. Not all toxins enter the body in the same way. While there may be some crossover between toxins and how they enter the body, some will only enter in one way. Having a basic understanding of how toxins are passed to you can help you to protect yourself and your family. Here are a few of the ways toxins are typically passed to us.

How are toxins passed to us?

  • Ingestion - Despite childproof packaging and other steps to prevent accidental poisoning, there are hundreds of household products that are dangerous to our children and pets and other family members. From prescription and over the counter medications to common household cleaners, your bathroom, garage, and kitchen are potential accidents waiting to happen.
  • Breathing - Your everyday household cleaners seem innocent enough, but when sprayed into the air, they can create toxic mists. As a result, coughing, difficulty breathing, and even red eyes and skin can occur. And, even more potentially harmful is the mixing of chemicals, such as ammonia and bleach, which can create deadly fumes.
  • Touching - Accidents spills happen but those corrosive cleaners can cause irritation or even chemical burns. And even seemingly innocent cleaners like laundry softeners or detergents can still be absorbed through the skin and become toxic. Even the fragrances we use can contain potentially toxic ingredients.

When understanding toxins, it’s not just important to know how they enter the body but where they enter from. There are many areas in your home that hold toxins you may not have considered. When looking at your home to check on toxins there are a few important areas to keep in mind. Removing toxins from these areas can have a positive impact on your home and health.

Where are these toxins found?

Where are toxins coming from?

While toxins might hide in certain locations in the house, there also areas they can hide that you might not consider. Not every toxin is obvious to the naked eye. In fact, there are some toxins you are exposed to in your day to day life without realizing it. Having a better understanding of these toxins can help you to switch to safer options that are not going to expose you to harmful toxins.

What parts of your house are poisoning you?

  • Residues - Hard & soft surfaces, Carpet, Counter, Sheets, Upholstery, Dishes, Sponge, Appliances, and, Toilet Paper
  • Air - Candles, Dust, and Allergens
  • Objects - Mops, Vents, Ceilings, Fans, Walls, Jewelry, Phones, Doors, and Air Vents (Returns)
  • Digital - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, EMFs, and Blue Light
  • Water - Tap Water, Showers, and Filters
  • Yard - Fertilizers, Bug spray, Pest & insect, Pesticides, Lead (tracked in on shoes)
  • Hand Sanitizer - Absorbed through touch, Intentional ingestion to get drunk, Contains ‘denaturants’ i.e. poison, Strips away skin’s natural oils, Helps create antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Decreases good bacteria that can fight the bad bacteria, Flammable, poisonous, intoxicating, Skin and eye irritant
  • Beauty Products/Makeup - Absorbed through skin, Not regulated by FDA, Contains parabens that have been linked to breast cancer, Often contain synthetic colors which are known carcinogens, Undefined fragrances with unknown ingredients linked to allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system
  • Lotion - Absorbed through the skin, Contain BHA’s which have been identified as carcinogenic, Have Formaldehyde which irritates eyes and skin, Phthalates are linked to endocrine disruptors, and toxic to organ systems

Toxins can hide in common areas but they can also hide in products you have come to love. Without knowing, you might be using products in your home that could be working against your health. The great thing about this is that these items can be easily exchanged for healthier alternatives. We have put together a simple list of products to be careful with when trying to avoid toxins. Here are a few products to be careful with when removing toxins.

What products should you be careful with?

  • Glass Cleaner - Ammonia is often used as the main ingredient in glass cleaners. It is a powerful eye irritant, respiratory irritant that may trigger asthma or even chronic effects such as bronchitis.
  • All-Purpose Cleaner - Most store-bought, all-purpose cleaners contain chemicals that can trigger asthma. Asthma attacks and other respiratory issues might be triggered as well.
  • Hand Sanitizer - Alcohol-based sanitizers strip skin oils - instantly drying and damaging the skin. They are also intoxicating, flammable, and poisonous.
  • Beauty Products/Nail Polish Remover - Acetone based nail polish remover are highly volatile and flammable. They are easily absorbed by the skin and ingested by breathing vapors.
  • Bleach - Chlorine bleach is a corrosive substance. When aerosolized bleach is inhaled, it may cause a variety of health problems. Bleach is very Irritating and corrosive to the skin, lungs and eyes.

How do you dispose of harmful toxins?

Call the fire / police departments to see how they do it. When in doubt, call your local garbage disposal services for the correct way to dispose of Household Hazardous Waste. Although we buy and store common household cleaners and products as if they were safe for our family and the environment, disposing of these chemicals in your regular garbage service is not only unsafe it is often illegal.

Paints and wood stain are two common products we have left-over to store or dispose of. Paints can actually last up to 15 years if stored properly, so you might consider storing in a cool, dry place for touch-ups later on. You can also donate your leftover paint to nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity to use. For those paints and stains you need to dispose of, call your local garbage collection service for the proper hazardous waste collection center.

Most household cleaning supplies contain harsh ingredients that shouldn’t just be tossed in the trash. Check the back of each bottle to see if there are disposal instructions. Products with hazardous chemicals like oven cleaners should be taken to a local waste disposal location. The best way to help the environment, though, is getting rid of hazardous cleaning products in favor of natural or homemade products.

While some leftover medications can be flushed down the toilet, others should be saved until the next “clean sweep” or medication take-back program in your area. Most towns or counties will host at least one such event a year. Fluorescent lightbulbs, gardening and automotive products, and even batteries should be taken to your local Household Hazardous Waste collection center.

The EPA website and earth911.com both include information on where to take hazardous waste and other obscure items that are hard to dispose of. Check with your local municipality if you have any questions about product disposal.

Did you know you can make some of your own cleaners?

  • Basic sink cleanser - Combine 1⁄2 cup baking soda with six drops of essential oil (such as lavender, rosemary, lemon, lime or orange). Rinse sink well with hot water. Sprinkle combination into sink and pour 1⁄4 cup vinegar over top. After the fizz settles, scrub with a damp sponge or cloth. Rinse again with hot water. (From The Naturally Clean Home, by Karyn Siegel-Maier).
  • Oven cleanser - Put a heatproof dish filled with water in the oven. Turn on the heat to let the steam soften any baked-on grease. Once the oven is cool, apply a paste of equal parts salt, baking soda, and vinegar, and scrub. (From Super Natural Home, by Beth Greer).
  • Bathroom mildew remover - Good ventilation helps prevent mildew and mold. When they do occur, make a spray with 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon each of tea-tree and lavender oil. Shake first and spray on trouble spots. The oils break down the mildew so there’s no need to wipe it down. (From Green Interior Design, by Lori Dennis).
  • Carpet shampoo - Mix 3 cups water, 3⁄4 cup vegetable-based liquid soap, and 10 drops peppermint essential oil. Rub the foam into soiled areas with a damp sponge. Let dry thoroughly and then vacuum. (From The Naturally Clean Home).
  • Laundry soap — Try “soap nuts” made from the dried fruit of the Chinese soapberry tree. Available in natural groceries and online, the reusable soap nuts come in a cotton sack that goes into the washing machine with clothes.
  • Dusting — Skip the furniture polishes. Instead, use a microfiber cloth. Made from synthetic fibers that are then split into hundreds of smaller microfibers, they capture dust more efficiently than regular rags. If necessary, a little olive oil makes a fine polishing agent.