What do you think of when you see spirals of black smoke in the air? What do you think of when you see a tube of deodorant? The term “environmental toxin” often conjures an image of a large factory spewing out smog or a traffic jam on a crammed city highway. However, most of us do not have to look further than our own homes to discover that we live in a ticking toxic timebomb. Yes, household toxins are just as dangerous as chemical factories.
The chemicals that lurk under our kitchen sinks and in our bathroom drawers can negatively affect our hearts. Even our indoor air may be harming us! Read on to discover several ways your home may be hurting your heart and ways to fix the problem.
Who is protecting you from household toxins?
When considering the heart, we often think of food and exercise as the most important factors impacting our health. However, while diet and exercise are vital to heart health, we can’t overlook the chemicals surrounding us.
A healthy heart starts at home, and unfortunately, that can be a dangerous place. Numerous toxins lurk in most homes, hiding in products or places we wouldn’t normally consider. After all, aren’t the products that we purchase tested and safe? Sadly, the answer is no.
Various agencies in the United States are tasked with overseeing the safety of the items that make their way into our homes. For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) watches over water, medications, cosmetics, and personal care products, such as hand sanitizers and soap. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) governs chemicals used in certain products, such as cleaning disinfectants. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates clothing, mattresses, rugs, and other household products.
While these agencies aim to protect consumers, the sad truth is that they cannot do so effectively. Archaic laws and lack of resources prohibit these agencies from doing their job thoroughly. For example, the EPA has only ever banned nine of the 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States! As a result, consumers must do the work necessary to protect themselves, as the government can not be relied on when it comes to safety.
How household toxins impact health
The average American spends approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. While we often think of pollution as something that occurs outside, indoor air pollution is a significant problem that negatively impacts health. Indoor air pollution occurs due to toxins from various sources in the home. The World Health Organization estimates that indoor air pollution takes the lives of over 3.8 million people each year.
No system in the body is protected from the indoor environment. From our skin to the endocrine system, toxins impact every cell in our body. Sadly, even unborn babies are not safe. Multiple studies have highlighted the dangers of toxins for a fetus in its mother’s womb.
Harmful toxins enter the body in several ways. Exposure can occur through direct contact with skin or eyes, ingestion through food, or simply through the air we breathe. These toxins’ impact is influenced by the amount of substance that enters the body and the length of exposure. Chronic exposure to the same chemical over and over again can wreak havoc on the body.
Nearly any health symptom can signify that toxins have invaded the body. Gastrointestinal upset, brain fog, hormone imbalances, rashes, autoimmune disease, asthma, and heart disease can all occur after exposure.
Can household toxins cause arrhythmia?
Toxic chemicals impact the heart in a multitude of ways. While household toxin exposure can cause structural damage to the organ, it more frequently contributes to functional disorders. For example, scientists have discovered that toxins, such as chemicals in water bottles, can cause electrical disturbances in the heart. So perhaps those extra heartbeats you feel are a result of the chemicals in your environment.
Numerous studies have linked deodorizers, laundry detergents, and even drinking water to cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that individuals with high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in their blood, a chemical found in carpets, paint, cookware, and food packaging, were at higher risk for heart disease. Those with the highest levels of PFOA had twice the risk of heart attack and stroke compared to those with the lowest levels.
Where are these chemicals hiding in my home?
It’s scary to know that toxins in the home may be contributing to poor health, but knowledge is power that enables change. Below are nine things in your home that you want to watch out for and ways to make them safer:
Personal care products
The skin is our largest organ, and although it provides a layer of protection, it is permeable. Chemicals from soaps, cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, and deodorants can all be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. Parabens, BHAs, and even Formaldehyde are common ingredients in everyday personal care products.
A recent study found that exposure to phthalates, a chemical used in everything from shampoo to perfume, was linked to premature death caused by heart disease.
Some personal care products, such as deodorant, also contain dangerous heavy metals, such as aluminum. Studies have found that even a tiny amount of heavy metal exposure can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Try this: It can feel overwhelming to overhaul your entire skin and bath routine at once. Instead, start by eliminating a few items at a time, especially those you use daily. For instance, replace your fragranced lotion with coconut oil scented with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Great natural products are also available, including deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and more.
Cleaning products can be hazardous for several reasons. Many cleaning products release volatile organics compounds (VOCs). VOCs are chemicals that vaporize easily, making you more likely to inhale dangerous substances. VOCs cause pulmonary and cardiac problems, among many other health issues.
The list of chemicals in cleaning products is long. Plus, constant exposure makes these household toxins even more dangerous. One study concluded that routine use of chemical-laden cleaning products was as harmful to the lungs as smoking multiple cigarettes a day.
Try this: Mixing a little bit of soap with warm water is enough to get things clean in most instances. White vinegar and baking soda are also great natural alternatives when cleaning. You can also purchase toxic-free cleaners that get the job done!
Food storage containers
Most people have heard of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in rigid plastic containers such as baby bottles and sippy cups. BPA has been linked to hormone disruptions, heart problems, and cancer. While BPA has been banned in many plastic products, the alternatives are not known to be safer. Studies continue to find dangerous toxins in plastic products.
Storing food in aluminum foil is not a good alternative either. Research has found that food absorbs heavy metals, especially when heated.
Try this: Cook and store your food in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel, avoiding plastics at all costs. Never heat your food in plastics or aluminum foil. Also, do your best to avoid store-bought products packaged in plastic. Doing this saves your health and the environment.
Many people invest effort in choosing healthy, organic food, yet most don’t consider the cookware they are using. Until 2013, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) coated most nonstick pans. When heated, the PFOA coating breaks down and leaches chemicals into food and the air, causing a host of health problems. While PFOA is no longer used in nonstick pans, the alternatives are not less likely to damage the body.
Try this: Swap out your nonstick pans for ceramic, stainless steel, or cast iron pans. Cast iron might be a good alternative for those deficient in this crucial mineral. However, use with caution as iron overload can be a problem for some.
Not only do carpets trap dust mites, pesticides, dirt, and toxins, but the materials used to make carpets and the padding that sits beneath them are saturated with chemicals. For example, xylene, benzene, and Formaldehyde are all typically present in carpet, and the off-gassing of these products leads to an array of health problems. Also, most carpets are treated with toxic stain repellents and flame retardants.
Try this: While the market is beginning to respond to consumer demand for safer home products, very few safe carpets are available. If untreated and undyed, wool carpeting can be a good choice. However, it might be best to eliminate carpets in your home altogether.
Mattresses and bedding
The average person spends approximately one-third of their life asleep, yet we often give very little thought to the toxins that lurk under (or in) our pillows. Most mattresses contain numerous toxins, including polyurethane foam, a petroleum chemical that emits VOCs. Also, because they are highly flammable, most beds are treated with high doses of fire retardant chemicals.
Try this: Swap out your toxic mattress for one made with organic cotton, natural latex, or wool. While you are at it, change out your bedding for organic cotton as well.
While aiming to consume half of your body weight in ounces of water each day, be certain that the water you drink is healthy. Typical drinking water contains numerous harmful substances, including heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, fluoride, and chloroform. And if you think that bottled water is a better solution, think again! Most plastic water bottles contain toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) compounds, as well as heavy metals.
Try this: Consider installing a water filtration system in your home. While it may be a bit expensive, it’s an investment in your health that will save your health down the road.
If you feel overwhelmed by the many household toxins around you, try not to worry. Instead, begin to make changes, one item at a time. Before you know it, your home will be a toxin-free sanctuary, and your health will thank you!
Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well
Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD