Over the last century it’s thought that over 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our daily lives. They are toxic and they are everywhere… in the atmosphere, in our cleaning products, in food and drink, cans and bottles, in our toiletries, furniture, toys, clothes, house paint, drinking water and even in our computers. We actually even make toxins ourselves through our own stress.
This highly toxic environment had prompted the existence of a “clean living” movement, whereby people adopt a simpler way of living and try to eliminate as many chemicals from their daily lives as possible.
These daily chemicals are thought to be linked to issues such as lower IQ, cancer and reproductive problems and could well play a part in all sorts of illnesses. We simply don’t know what their effects are.
And while some of these chemicals are known, and legislated to a certain extent, toxins such as mercury, lead and BPA (found in plastics), there are countless other unknown toxins that we simply have no idea we’re ingesting and that are completely unregulated.
We’re actually exposed to chemicals from within the womb. They travel across the placenta and into the foetus. In ABC’s Catalyst programme last week, Dr Maryanne Demasi investigated the chemicals found in everyday products.
She particularly looked at how toxins can affect or disrupt our endocrine system, our hormones, which are essential for development. Even low levels of chemicals can affect brain development at a very basic level. No one actually knows what these do to our bodies.
While chemicals in food products that are designed to be ingested are governed to a certain extent and in some cases, banned, chemicals in things like packaging, water bottles and other plastic containers are completely unregulated.
In recent years one of the key toxins found in plastics, BPA (Bisphenol A) has come into scrutiny, because it exhibits hormone-like properties (endocrine disruptors) that raise concern about its suitability in some consumer products and food containers.
Since 2008, several governments have investigated its safety, which prompted some retailers to withdraw polycarbonate products. The FDA has ended its authorization of the use of BPA in baby bottles and infant formula packaging, based on market abandonment, not safety. The European Union and Canada have banned BPA use in baby bottles. A later report identified possible hazards to foetuses, infants and young children. However an FDA assessment released in March 2013 said that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. The thing is, we just don’t know, and should we even risk it?
So surely the sensible option is simply to try to avoid products we know to contain BPA. And this goes for other known chemicals too. This is where the idea of cleaning your life comes into play. It’s simply saying, I’ll try to eliminate rubbish and unnecessary toxins that I know to be there.
Sarah Wilson, who was interviewed on the ABC show, talked about how she has tried to reduce the toxicity of her daily life through “cleaning” the way she lives, said that it’s a minefield, that labels are really difficult to decipher unless you really know what you’re looking for, but that the best approach is simply to try to adopt a cleaner approach to everyday life.
For Sarah this means using fewer cosmetic products, trying to use single ingredient toiletries, avoiding canned foods and plastic containers, shampoos, conditioners and toiletries that contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS). She has also changed her cleaning products to use more natural alternatives.
As Sarah says, just try to make a difference. “The less guff you have in your life, the better it can be”.
And we can all do that. It’s not too hard. According to One Green Planet, there are many ways we can reduce toxins in our lives.
At the end of the day, clean living isn’t rocket science and in fact you could say it’s simply returning to life as it was before chemicals. You don’t have to go and live in the middle of nowhere and become some sort of “hippy”, you simply have to be sensible and aware of what you’re doing and what you’re using and eating and try to choose the more natural products that haven’t gone through a chemical process to preserve it.
Easy tips for living a cleaner life
- Use a botanical/natural insect repellents or essential oils like Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender and mint.
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home – things like orange oil, eucalyptus and tea tree oils are great and easy to come by in Australia. They are now fairly easy to buy or actually pretty easy to make your own.
- Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances as they can pollute the air you are breathing – you can simply use a couple of drops of an organic essential oil instead. One tiny bottle lasts for ages.
- Switch over to natural brands of toiletries and cosmetics – you simply do not need to use chemical products on your face and hair! You’ll look and feel a lot better.
- Use essential oils as perfumes – they are just as good and actually smell a lot nicer!
- Buy and eat organic produce as much as possible. This can be expensive, but even if you don’t buy organic, simply buy fresh and give fruit and veggies a good wash before using – this will remove most of the residual chemicals.
- Avoid processed foods. Things don’t need to be in packets. Fresh meat and veggies, proper cheese and ham from the counter instead of the packet is far tastier and doesn’t have to be more expensive either. Use butter instead of margarine. Make homemade chips (chips that have been designed for oven baking have been sprayed with all sorts of rubbish) or just cut up and fry some boiled potatoes instead. Remember that packet/long life food has been processed with chemicals to make it last longer and look better or spread more easily.
- Avoid artificial food additives of all kind, including artificial sweeteners and MSG. This can be hard as it’s not easy to decipher ingredients labels.
- Use a water filter on all your taps (even those in your shower or bath).
- Avoid “topping up” at the petrol pumps – do one big fill to limit the number of times you’re exposed to petrol fumes.
While taking these measures won’t completely eliminate chemicals from your life, it will reduce them. It’s doing something and the more you can do, the better. Educate yourself. Do what you can. It simply makes sense and we have to start somewhere!
For more information see the following sites:
Written and published for CareforKids.com.au on May 27 2015