In 2020, we understandably retreated to the safety and sanctuary of our homes. We explored new ways of learning and working from home, tackled long-overdue household projects, and enjoyed the beauty of our own backyards.
But because we’re spending more time than ever at home, it makes sense to consider the products and chemicals we bring into it. Could potentially dangerous toxins be lurking in cabinets and under sinks?
Hazardous Chemicals Hiding in Your Home
Our homes often contain toxic chemicals, especially when it comes to cleaning and personal care products we use every day.
While many of the substances contained in these materials and products are approved for consumer use by government agencies – like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – that does not necessarily mean you’d want to risk exposure.
Using natural, eco-friendly products is one easy and effective way to reduce your exposure to harsh chemicals and the health problems they cause.
1. Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenol A (commonly known as BPA) has been around since the 1960s. Used to produce different types of resins and plastics, this chemical has a wide range of industrial uses. But as useful as BPA is, this controversial substance comes with significant potential health risks.
BPA in plastics can leach into the food and liquids they contain and be ingested by humans. This is especially true when BPA-containing items are heated. Research on the health risks of BPA show a link between exposure and endocrine disorders, infertility, and certain types of cancers.
Where BPA Is Found
BPA is found in all types of items. This includes medical devices, the lining of canned food and drinks, and in plastic containers used to store food and drinks.
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Which Plastics Are BPA-Free?
Fortunately, many BPA-free alternatives are widely-available and easy to find. Avoid items with the “recycle number” 7, which may contain bisphenol A. Instead, choose safe plastics numbered 1, 2, 4 or 5. Even better, make the choice to avoid plastics whenever possible. Instead, opt for safe, reusable items made from glass, stainless steel, and wood.
When it comes to #7, it has more than one type of material. In our case, we use a combination of BPA-free plastic and vinyl for our refill pouches. While it isn't as easy to recycle, it is still possible with certain municipalities. Contact your local government office to learn more.
Phthalates (or plasticizers) are a group of synthetic chemicals primarily used to make plastics more flexible and tougher to break. Phthalates are also used as dissolving agents for other chemicals.
When it comes to cosmetics, products containing phthalates are fairly easy to identify. Look for the following acronyms that identity their chemical structure:
- DBP: dibutyl phthalate
- DEP: diethyl phthalate
- DMP: dimethyl phthalate
Are Phthalates Bad for You?
Much is still unknown about how phthalates affect the human body. Certain phthalates, however, have been linked to altered hormone levels and cause birth defects in rodents.
Where Phthalates Are Found
Phthalates are used in hundreds of different consumer goods including:
- Cosmetics and personal care products (like soaps, lotions, and shampoos)
- Household cleaners
- Food wraps and containers
- Children’s toys
- Medical devices
- Vinyl wall and floor coverings
How to Find Phthalate-Free Products
Because manufacturers are not required to disclose ingredients in a product’s “fragrance,” phthalates may be hiding in some products (like cups, bottles, and food storage containers). To be safe, look for labels that say “phthalate-free” or use this handy chart to identify safe plastics by number:
Phthalate-free soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions are now widely available. From our body care to natural cleaning products, Puracy is committed to producing phthalate-free items, including synthetic fragrances and perfumes.
Formaldehyde is a highly-flammable, colorless chemical used in a wide range of household products.
What Formaldehyde Does to the Body
Humans come into contact with formaldehyde by inhaling fumes, absorbing it through the skin, or through ingesting foods and drinks that contain it.
In 2011, the government classified formaldehyde as a carcinogen. Research on workers exposed to formaldehyde on a regular basis shows that exposure can lead to a host of health problems including:
- Eye, nose, and upper respiratory irritation
- Nerve palsy
- Cancers including leukemia and
- Decreased white blood cell counts
Where Formaldehyde Is Found
Formaldehyde is used to make different home building materials like cabinets, furniture, and paneling. Used as an antibacterial agent and preservative to make products last longer, formaldehyde can be found in nail polishes, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and body lotions.
Tobacco smoke also contains formaldehyde, posing a risk to smokers and secondhand smokers alike. The human body also naturally produces small (but safe) amounts of formaldehyde as well.
Reduce Your Exposure to Formaldehyde
Choose wood products that are CARB-compliant (either phase 1 or 2), or made with ULEF (ultra-low-emitting-formaldehyde) or NAF (no-added-formaldehyde).
If exposure is unavoidable, increase ventilation by opening windows and running fans. Humidifiers and air conditioning units should also be used to reduce humidity and maintain cooler temps, as heat increases emissions from formaldehyde-containing materials.
4. Synthetic Pesticides
Pesticides are a group of compounds used to kill or repel unwanted insects (and other organisms) that are considered to be harmful to cultivated animals and/or plants. In some cases, organic, naturally-derived substances work well to remove fungus, bugs, and rodents. When those aren’t effective, synthetic chemical pesticides are introduced.
What Are Synthetic Pesticides Made from?
Synthetic pesticides were first used in the United States back in the 1930s. Once farmers realized how much larger their crop yield could be by using chemical pesticides, they became the most commonly used method to reduce pests.
The most common types of synthetic pesticides are:
- Carbamates: made from carbamic acid
- Organochlorines: contain chlorinated aromatic molecules
- Organophosphates: produced by the reaction of alcohols and phosphoric acid
- Pyrethroids: manmade pesticides that mimic botanical pyrethrins derived from flowers
Are Synthetic Pesticides Harmful?
Toxicity to humans depends on the specific synthetic pesticides used and the exposure level. However, certain common pesticides have been linked to serious, chronic health problems including:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Birth defects in pregnant women
- Leukemia (and other cancers)
- Parkinson’s Disease
Synthetic Pesticides Are Commonly Found on Produce
Fruits and veggies are the most common sources of synthetic pesticides. To reduce exposure to pesticides, buy local and organically grown produce whenever possible. Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating, especially the “dirty dozen.” These include apples, strawberries, grapes, and other foods that contain high levels of pesticide residue.
How to Avoid Synthetic Pesticides
Besides making sure your produce is pesticide-free, consider growing your own by using natural pest control. If you’re trying to control pests in the home, avoid toxic sprays and powders, and opt for insect bait or traps instead. Need to use pesticides outside of your home? Do so with a pump and wand sprayer when there is little-to-no wind. To cut down on unwanted pests entering your home, focus on the base/corners of exterior doors and windows to keep these chemicals outside (and avoid exposure).
Research shows weed killers and other pesticides applied to grass and gardens can be tracked in on our shoes, so it’s also a good idea to leave your shoes at the door.
Dimethicone is a man-made silicone oil used to make products smoother and more spreadable. It adds moisture without feeling heavy, and gives many beauty and hair care products that “soft-to-the-touch” feeling.
Is Dimethicone Safe?
Currently, there is no research suggesting that dimethicone is unsafe for topical use, and it’s FDA-approved for use as intended (in certain concentrations).
However, there are environmental concerns about dimethicone use, especially because it isn’t biodegradable. The National Center for Biotechnology recommends reducing the use of dimethicone and other low molecular weight silicones.
Where Dimethicone Is Found
Dimethicone can be found in a variety of cosmetic products such as
- Bath oils and soaps
- BB creams
- Hair dyes
- Anti-aging creams
Look for products that contain biodegradable ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter, and aloe vera that nourish and smooth skin naturally.
One of the greatest challenges we faced in reformulating our Natural Shampoo was creating the best dimethicone- and silicone-free shampoo. LexFeel N5 is an innovative, plant-based ingredient that enhances hair texture and shine with no harmful impact on people or the planet.
Parabens are typically used as preservative agents in various beauty products. Cheap and effective, they help prevent the growth of mold and other organisms, thus extending the shelf life of hair, skin, and body products.
Where Parabens Are Found
You can find parabens in a wide variety of products, including:
- Hair care products
- Shaving creams
- Skin cleansers
- Preserved foods
To help identify parabens, look for the four most common in ingredient lists: butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben.
Are Parabens Safe?
Research on the health risks of paraben exposure is still limited. However, there are increasing concerns about the risks of paraben exposure, especially for women. While researchers are still working to evaluate the relationship between parabens and breast tissue tumors, early data suggests that selecting paraben-free products makes sense.
How to Avoid Parabens
While parabens are preservatives, avoiding them doesn’t have to mean buying products with shorter shelf lives. Puracy home and body products (including our paraben and phthalate-free body wash) contain the following non-toxic, naturally-sourced preservatives:
- caprylyl glycol: a coconut-based preservative
- gluconolactone: a food-grade preservative
- propanediol: a plant-based preservative
7. Glycol Ethers
Glycol ethers are a group of solvents or substances that dissolve other substances to form a solution. Both colorless and flammable, glycol ethers are used as colorants, plasticizers, and lubricants.
Are Glycol Ethers Safe?
There are certain risks of exposure to glycol ethers in home and beauty products. According to the EPA, glycol exposure can cause both acute and chronic health problems, including:
- Liver and kidney damage
- Pulmonary edema
Where Glycol Ethers Are Found
Glycol ethers are used as solvents in a variety of products including paints, lacquers, dyes, perfumes, liquid soaps, and cosmetics.
Check ingredient lists to avoid three of the most commonly used glycol ethers: 2-Methoxyethanol, 2-Ethoxyethanol, and 2-Butoxyethanol.
8. PFOS and PFOA
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are two widely-used perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). PFCs are synthetic flurocarbon-based acids used in coatings to resist grease, oil, water, and stains.
What Products Contain PFOS and PFOA?
Many waterproof, stain-resistant, or nonstick items around your home utilize PFOS and PFOA. From baking pans and pizza boxes to stain-resistant carpeting and waterproof clothing, chances are they contain at least one of these substances
Are PFOS and PFOA Safe?
Human exposure to PFOA and PFOS occurs through ingestion of food and water containing these chemicals, as well as inhalation of soil and dust containing PFCs. The EPA has issued health advisories alerting consumers to the possible risks. In lab animals, these manmade chemicals have been shown to cause liver damage as well as impact growth, development, and reproduction.
How to Avoid PFOS and PFOA
PFCs should be avoided whenever possible, at least until more research is done to determine their exact effects on human health. There are, however, a few simple ways to avoid PFOS and PFOA: When cooking, opt for cast-iron skillets and copper, ceramic, stainless steel, and glass dishes, pans, and pots.
Filtering your water is another way to reduce exposure to PFCs. Try a convenient water pitcher with a replaceable filter or invest in an under-the-sink reverse osmosis water filtration system that continuously monitors your water quality.
Ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) is a colorless gas with a distinct, pungent odor. It is corrosive and, when compressed, forms a clear liquid.
Where Ammonia Is Found
Most ammonia is produced for fertilizers, but it can also be used in plastics, textiles, and dyes. In the home, it's typically found in oven cleaners, glass and window cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners.
Is Ammonia Safe for the Body?
Although ammonia is a naturally occurring substance, in high concentrations, exposure to ammonia can result in:
- Burning of the nose, throat, and respiratory tract (when inhaled)
- Corrosive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach (if ingested)
- Skin and eye irritation (upon contact)
Additionally, mixing ammonia with other substances can be highly dangerous. For example, when ammonia and bleach are combined, chlorine gas is formed. At high levels of exposure, a person could suffer respiratory system damage and even death.
Safe Ammonia Alternatives
There are plenty of “green” alternatives to ammonia. For a gentle but effective cleaner that’s safe for every surface, try Puracy Natural Multi-Purpose Cleaner. Free of harsh chemicals, this all-purpose cleaning spray makes quick work of dirt and grime in every room of the house.
A hydrogen peroxide disinfecting spray can also be used to kill more than 99.9% of germs on surfaces, including tubs, toilets, and sinks – without toxic ingredients. When using an eco-friendly ammonia alternative, always check to make sure it’s safe for the surface at hand.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent added to many different consumer products. It’s commonly found in body washes, toothpastes, cosmetics, and dishwashing liquids. Some clothing, toys, and furniture also contain triclosan.
In recent years, the most common triclosan-containing products have been antibacterial hand soaps and hand sanitizers.
Is Triclosan Safe?
Humans are exposed to triclosan through contact with products containing the chemical. It is generally absorbed in small amounts through the mouth or skin. Short-term animal studies show the risks of high exposure to triclosan include altered hormone regulation and immune system disruption. It also was determined to aid in the creation of antibiotic-resistant germs.
In 2017, the FDA determined that triclosan is not generally shown to be safe or effective for antiseptic products used in hospitals and other health care settings. The agency went a step further to ban antiseptic washes, lotions, and gels containing triclosan from being marketed to consumers, though these products can still be found.
Safe Triclosan Alternatives
Natural hand soap and water are a safer alternative to triclosan-containing antibacterial soaps. When soap and water aren’t available, keep a natural hand sanitizer around to kill more than 99.9% of germs while you’re on the go.
Choose Natural Home & Body Products You Can Trust
You don’t need to spend hours scrutinizing ingredient lists: None of these potentially harmful chemicals are used in our cleaning, baby, or personal care products.
Puracy products are hypoallergenic, biodegradable, child-safe, and pet-safe – that’s the Puracy Promise.