Melbourne Functional Medicine
Medically reviewed by:
Many of us are aware of the health effects of food and exercise. What you might not consider are the products you use in your home every day.
Potentially, there are many environmental toxins in your home lurking in everyday items. These chemicals can cause a variety of symptoms and even lead to disease. Thankfully, there are some smart switches you can make to reduce your exposure to these compounds.
The correct term for environmental toxins is ‘toxicants’. Simply put, toxicants are substances that have the potential to cause some form of harm to the body.
Toxic substances can be human-made or naturally occurring. However, the majority that we are exposed to are human-made. You’ll often see human-made toxicants referred to as ‘chemicals’.
As there are millions of toxicants and chemicals in the world, there’s no one specific way that they can affect your health.
Some of the most concerning effects of specific compounds include increased inflammation and cancer risk, reducing fertility in both men and women and impairing growth and development in foetuses, infants and young children.
Many chronic health conditions can be caused or exacerbated by exposure to toxins. Toxins have been linked to:
However, this may be just the tip of the iceberg. Many human-made chemicals are not tested for their impact on human health, so there could be further links that researchers are yet to uncover.
Exposure to toxic substances could also lead to more subtle symptoms such as low energy levels, digestive symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain, weight gain and recurring infections. As many can cause inflammation, they could also contribute to flare-ups in chronic conditions.
If you have any health concerns or a chronic condition, reducing toxins is an essential step for your long-term health.
You might think that environmental toxins are mostly found outside; however, many toxins can be found right at home. Some of the most common sources of toxins at home include:
As you can see, there are dozens of products in the average home that could contain compounds that are detrimental to your health! Thankfully, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure.
For a healthier home, reduce potentially harmful chemicals and use natural alternatives. Let’s take a look at some simple changes and swaps you can make to reduce toxins in your home.
Switch to natural household cleaning and laundry products
Unfortunately, there is no requirement for household and cleaning products to have a list of ingredients. If the label contains a warning sign such as ‘Poison’, ‘Toxic’, ‘Corrosive’ or ‘Caution’, it is likely to contain toxic ingredients. There are also many products that contain potentially harmful ingredients that don’t have warning labels.
So how can you avoid using toxic household products? Look for all-natural options that are transparent about the ingredients that they use.
One brand we recommend is Abode. Abode uses plant and mineral-based ingredients, and their products are free of toxic ingredients including phthalates, petrochemicals and artificial fragrances. Their range includes all products that you use in the home such as laundry detergent, fabric softener, disinfectant, bathroom cleaner, surface cleaner, toilet cleaner, mould treatment and floor cleaner.
You can find Abode products at your local health food store, or online.
Pick personal care products that are all-natural
The average person uses 9 personal care products per day. Little regulation exists when it comes to personal care and cosmetic products in Australia, and many products contain toxic substances. To reduce your exposure, opt for products with ingredients that have been tested for their safety.
A great option for personal care products is Dr Bronner’s range. The Castile soap range can be used for face, body, hair and even pets! Their products are free of synthetic ingredients, and many ingredients are organic and/or fair-trade. You can find their range here.
Want to explore how safe your current cosmetic products are? You can search for ingredients, brands and products via the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.
Use natural fragrance options
Do you use perfume, candles, room sprays, air fresheners or reed diffusers? If so, you’re probably filling the air with toxins from artificial fragrances.
There are hundreds of chemicals found in scented products that are linked to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and even allergic reactions. Many are also classified as hormone disruptors.
A good indicator of a product containing these chemicals is seeing the word ‘fragrance’ in the ingredients list. Fragrances are often produced using a combination of several different chemicals, along with phthalates - a known endocrine disruptor that prolongs the duration of a fragrance.
Instead, opt for natural options. Use essential oils in a diffuser to scent the house. Beware of popular brands that say ‘with essential oils’ on their packaging. A closer look tends to reveal that they also use artificial fragrances to bolster the scent.
You can also use baking soda to eliminate any unpleasant odours. Even opening the door or window on a nice day can make the house smell fresh – plus it also helps to reduce indoor air pollution.
Ditch the non-stick cookware
Non-stick cookware contains PFOAs that repel water and oil. PFOAs are classified as hormone-disrupting chemicals, obesogens and ‘likely carcinogenic’. These chemicals can leach into food, especially the longer you use them.
There are a few safer alternatives for non-stick cookware. Stainless steel and cast-iron are good options for pots and pans. For baking, you can use ceramic, stone, heatproof glass or Pyrex dishes.
Add some plants to your home
Did you know that indoor air is typically 5 times more polluted than outdoor air? This is because of poor ventilation of modern houses, combined with the off-gassing of toxic chemicals like formaldehyde used to treat furniture, carpets and soft furnishings.
It’s inevitable that you will have some level of indoor air pollution in your house. Many people turn to air filtration systems and purifiers as a solution. Unfortunately, most filters do not address all air pollutants, and can even increase levels of some pollutants like ozone. However, there are some air filters that are deemed safer.
A more cost-effective solution would be to consider adding some house plants throughout your home. Plants remove carbon dioxide and return oxygen to the air. They can also metabolise some toxic chemicals and trap others in their tissues.
One assessment found that the top 10 options for house plants that clean the air are:
Some plants are more effective than others at addressing specific pollution concerns. For example, ferns have been found to be most effective at removing formaldehyde.
If you have pets in the home, make sure you check the safety of each plant variety for your pet first. Many plants can be toxic, even lethal, to cats in particular, especially lily varieties.
The strategies above can make a world of difference to the health of your home environment, and therefore, your health. Time for a spring clean?
Being unwell is frustrating and exhausting. Finding solutions and getting the right support can be too. Our unique model of care - functional medicine combined with health coaching - was designed with you in mind. Find out how here.