Where to start when you want to cut your toxic load

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We are surrounded by chemicals in our immediate environment. Be it toiletries, home cleaning products, insecticide, plastic containers, flame retardants on our furniture and furnishings, even in the upholstery in our homes, cars and offices, our cookware, and toys for our pets and children. The list goes on, it is everywhere. So where do we draw the line when it comes to health and safety for ourselves and our loved ones, and where do we start ?

We have not had as many chemicals in circulation as we have today, so how can we all cut our exposure so that these chemicals don’t leech into the bodies of ourselves, families’ and pets’, into the air, water and earth? After all, it will certainly come full circle and affect our wellbeing. If we were just looking at a single product, the chemicals might not affect our health as much, but because we are using several products together over decades, we need to err on the side of caution and question its long term effects.

The way to start is of course, by reading up on nasty chemicals that we are most exposed to, which can be at home, work, in our food, and our personal care products. But that’s a lot of research, I know. The entire journey is a process and could take years, but the important thing is to keep an open mind, and start to slowly rid these chemicals from your life. Here are some quick ways you can do so:

  1. One immediate way to cut your toxic load is to buy organic food where possible. It’s very costly to make the switch at one go, but you could start with the Dirty Dozen Plus guide, which highlights the fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amount of toxins.
  2. Cut down on shellfish, crustaceans and seafood known to have mercury. Avoid shark, swordfish, and tuna as much as possible.
  3. Buy personal care products with organic ingredients, and go for clean products with a simple ingredients list. For starters, you could switch your deodorant and toothpaste and anything that is relatively inexpensive. Also, ditch your synthetic perfume/cologne, because fragrances can be relatively toxic, go for natural ones instead. Perfume/cologne ingredients such as phthalates have been linked to hormone, reproductive issues, kidney and liver failure.
  4. Learn to make your own. Havaroma and Little Green Dot have upcoming workshops on making your own skincare products.
  5. Watch documentaries like Chemerical and The Human Experiment, and the short clip, The Story of Cosmetics – to quickly learn the issues of using toxic chemicals. What needs to be clarified is that European standards are more strict than US standards, and in Singapore, our standards also differ, we are definitely stricter than the US but there is room for improvement.
  6. Download the Think Dirty app or the Skin Deep mobile app, which tells you how clean or dirty personal care products are. You can do this by scanning the bar code or keying in the brand and product name. You might wish to also visit Environment Working Group’s (EWG) cosmetics database to do your research on the health effects of different toxic ingredients.
  7. Want a quick list of ingredients to avoid when personal care product shopping? Refer to this Dirty Dozen Backgrounder by David Suzuki Foundation, or Treehugger’s list of 20 toxic ingredients to avoid when buying body care products and cosmetics.

Soon, we will be releasing our guide on healthy, safer products in Singapore. Look out for it!

Image from iStock

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