Completely avoiding our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals on a daily basis is literally impossible, especially if you live in a big city. In addition, the majority of the 85,000 chemicals registered for production under the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) were grandfathered in with little or no health and safety testing. Unfortunately, there are many medical conditions which have been linked to toxic chemicals. The following lists will help you dramatically reduce your exposure (even if you follow half of it).
Ways to Reduce Dietary Exposure To Chemicals
1. Choose USDA organic animal products (dairy, eggs and meat).
2. Choose cooking methods that are low-char (unlike bbq) and that allow animal fats to drip away. Opt for slower, indirect-heat methods of cooking such as poaching, stewing, braising or steaming.
3. Consult local wildlife agencies before eating “freshwater” fish. It does not mean that it is necessarily healthier, as they could still contain PCBs, dioxins and PBDEs.
4. Never eat farmed salmon (even if it claims to be organic). Also, avoid eating larger carnivorous fish and use the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Good Seafood Guide (they will make a custom list for you) and Monterey Bay’s Seafood Guide Card (a cut-out to put in your wallet). A great place to order fish is Vital Choice.
5. Use only glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers for heating and storing hot food.
6. Avoid plastic water bottles, travel mugs and bladder-style hydration reservoirs. Do not wash plastic beverage containers under high heat.
7. Avoid using cling wrap for your food.
8. Avoid canned food whenever possible. If necessary, buy canned foods that are BPA-free.
9. Read the ingredients! Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and rice syrup in your foods, as well as processed foods (which often contain BHT, BHA, benzoate, sulfites, artificial colorants and sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol, sweet n low, etc.)
10. Choose local, seasonal, and organic produce whenever possible. You may do this easily by shopping at your local farmer’s market. The Seasonal Food Guide app is also a great resource. Wash all fruits and vegetables.
11. Choose organic versions of the EWG “Dirty Dozen” list of high-pesticide produce. This year the list includes, in order, strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.
Reducing Home & Office Chemical Exposure
1. Consult the EWG Drinking Water Database. If you are living in NYC, you are likely aware that our tap water is better than most places. However, this does not make it good. Instead of using a Brita pitcher, use their faucet filter which not only filters out more but also keeps you safe from mold growing inside of the pitcher. You may want to consider testing your water supply. Use a NSF-certified water filter if indicated.
2. Should you ever decide to drink tap water, first clear water that has been standing overnight out of plumbing lines in your home or office by flushing the toilet and/or letting the tap run for several minutes before pouring out tap water for consumption.
3. Filter shower water (get ready for better hair) and avoid using new vinyl shower curtains.
4. Filter air in your bedroom and office using filters, ionizers or plants. However, you must change your HVAC filters every three months. Plants can be both low-maintenance and great for cleaning the air, such as the Peace Lilly or Garden Mum (prettiest options) and Aloe Vera (most useful option). The Spider Plant is probably the easiest. (One famous NASA experiment from 1989 found that indoor plants can scrub the air of cancer-causing volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene.)
5. Cover or replace older foam furniture and consider removing old carpeting and padding.
6. Remove the shoes you have worn outside when entering your home.
7. Clean up broken thermometers and fluorescent bulbs by gentle sweeping and wiping up with gloves anddisposable materials. Never vacuum it.
8.Choose fragrance- and solvent-free detergents and cleaning agents. Consult the EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
9. Avoid non-stick pots and pans. Opt for stainless steel and/or cast iron.
10. Do not buy stain-resistant clothing, carpet or furniture.
11. Avoid products made with particleboard or medium-density fiberboard. Natural wood is always better.
12. Remove or paint over older pressure-treated wood.
13. Use low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, glues, sealants, etc.
14. With new construction, consider “baking” out noxious fumes by vacating your people, plants and animals. Then set the house heat at maximum for at least one 24-hour cycle, followed by ventilation and rechecking for fumes (solvents and other toxic chemicals).
15. Do not buy or use secondhand toys for your children.
Reducing Health Care & Personal Care Chemical Exposure
1. Stay well hydrated and consume alcohol in moderation, if at all!
2. Avoid acetaminophen for pain relief (especially after alcohol).
3. Try to not take multiple over-the-counter and prescription drugs simultaneously.
4. Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
5. Choose unscented, fragrance-free personal care products and avoid antiperspirant deodorant. There are some great organic soap options. Perfumes and colognes as well as certain makeup and creams can be particularly toxic. But, you can find plenty of non-toxic alternatives. Check out the EWG Cosmetics Database.
6. Choose composite over metallic dental fillings. Be sure that your dentist follows all of the recommended IAOMT procedures when removing silver fillings (Hg). You can search for a proper dentist to do the job here.
7. Avoid the flu shot or make sure that it is one without Thimerisol.
8. Definitely avoid having two different metals (such as both mercury and gold) in your mouth. It can create low-voltage electric currents, which accelerates metal degradation.
9. Avoid dry-cleaning your clothes or air out your dry-cleaned clothes outside with the plastic off of it before bringing them inside.
10. Use organic, soy-based candles. The standard types can be as allergenic as cigarette smoke.
Side note: New cars can be very toxic. I would highly recommend considering a used one or buying one instead in the warmer weather and leaving the windows down, especially if you have a baby.