Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Nutrition and Health Coach.
With so much emphasis being placed on eating healthy, watching dangerous and questionable ingredients in our foods and products, and maintaining wellness habits, sometimes we are completely oblivious to dangerous and health-hazardous situations right under our own noses. Here is a run-down of some places in and around your home that you may or may not be aware of that toxins can be lurking and what you can do to avoid them.
Cash register receipts and thermal paper – Were you aware that each time you grab a cash register or ATM receipt, you are swiping BPA all over your hands? Think about where these receipts go many times as well – right into your grocery bag full of food. This hormone disrupting chemical that normally appears in plastics and linings of cans seems to be more and more prevalent, exposing us to levels on a daily basis. In the thermal receipts now routinely given out by stores, BPA is often used as a color developer for the printing dye. These receipts have a thermal-sensitive layer that produces color when heated. You can also find high levels of BPA in the thermal paper used to make baggage destination tags, cigarette filters, and bus, train and lottery tickets. Pay extra attention to your children wanting to grab or play with these receipts as well, for you want to limit their exposure even more since their developing bodies are more sensitive to this chemical. Sadly enough, about 30 percent of the thermal paper enters the paper recycling stream, which can introduce BPA into products like toilet paper, napkins and food packaging. HOW TO BEST AVOID EXPOSURE: First and foremost, if you don’t need a receipt, leave it — and ask the cashier not to print it if possible. For many small purchases and unless you’re purchasing something you may want to take back, a receipt is unnecessary. If you need the receipt, ask the cashier to place it in the bag. When you get home, remove receipts from all bags, place them in a drawer or space on your desk just for the receipts, and avoid further unnecessary contact. Be sure to wash your hands well after handling receipts. Do not place receipts in bags with food items, especially items you eat raw.
Household Dust- Believe it or not, household dust can contain an insane amount of toxins, as so many chemicals are used throughout products in and out of our home and then accumulate in dust that settles on floors and furniture. According to the EPA, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors between home and offices; the air we’re breathing tends to be five times more polluted with organic pollutants than the air we breathe outside. Additionally, think about how many chemicals and germs are tracked into our homes from the soles of our shoes? The amount of pesticides alone that can be picked up on the bottoms of our shoes from crossing over lawns and grassy areas is enough to raise concern. Many of us do not realize this upon entering a home or establishment, and if you have carpets in your home, this compounds the problem even further, as these particles get trapped in the carpet piling. Dust mites, microscopic pathogens and chemical fragments accumulate in household dust and then settle on everything from furniture to bedding to nooks and crannies on shelves and floors. Think about where kids spend most of their time in the home – rubbing against things and playing on the floor, where they are exposed to inhaling higher doses of this dust than one may realize. HOW TO BEST AVOID EXPOSURE: Simply removing your shoes upon entering the house and requiring guests to do the same will cut back on an enormous amount of these toxins and dirt are traipsed into your home, not to mention it will cut down on how often you will need to clean up messes (which in turn, cuts down on cleaning products, etc.). Better yet, keep shoes someone outside of the immediate living area – either outdoors, in a mudroom, or garage. Vacuum or sweep often and steam clean your hard-surface floors to disinfect without needing products. Shake rugs out often and air out outside. Dust at least once a week without the use of chemical cleaners (natural oils work great or vinegar and water on a rag). Vacuum furniture, reduce clutter, and wash bedding at least once a week. Place comforters, pillows, and other fabrics in the dryer on high heat if possible, or a low temperature setting to remove dust as best as possible. Change air unit filters every 3-4 months to cut back on how much dust and particles are flowing through your ventilation system.
Clothes that have been dry-cleaned (including the “green”/”organic” versions!) – While maintaining gentle-care clothing has limited options, please be aware that the common method of dry-cleaning is so dangerous to our health. 90% of dry cleaners use highly toxic chemicals, and these chemicals remain in your clothes, which then rub off onto your skin all day long that you wear this clothing (or get hung-up in your closet where they emit these gases and then rub off onto other clothes). Additionally, these chemicals contaminate the air and water. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens and can cause many other health problems, which is why some dry cleaners have tried to use creative marketing by stating that their products are “green” or “organic,” which you still need to be aware of because on many occasions, these labels mean absolutely nothing. For example, Hydrocarbons are chemicals are found in petroleum-based solvents, they are “organic” solvents, but are nonetheless human carcinogens. Some of the most common chemicals used are: PERC – About 90% of dry cleaners use perchloroethylene and this chemical is toxic to humans & the environment. People exposed to high levels of perc, even for brief periods, may experience serious symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, headaches, confusion, nausea, and skin, lung, eye and mucous membrane irritation. Repeated exposure to high levels can also irritate the skin, eyes, nose and mouth, and can cause liver damage and respiratory failure. HOW TO BEST AVOID EXPOSURE: See if any of your clothing can forgo the dry-cleaning route, and if not, then try and locate a genuine eco-friendly dry cleaner in your area that uses steam or non-toxic products – but you have to ask what is used and make sure that false claims are not being used to appear eco-friendly. If you do not have the option to go to an eco-friendly dry cleaner and absolutely need to have something conventionally dry-cleaned, be sure to remove the article of clothing out of the plastic bag and let it air out and hang outdoors for as long as possible to prevent the off-gassing of the chemicals in your immediate indoor environment. Try and avoid getting children’s clothes dry-cleaned as much as possible.
Cell phones, wireless routers, computers, home electronics, and wireless devices – Have you ever heard of EMF? (…and no, I’m not talking about the 90s band…) This is a topic that would require its own article for me to go into greater detail, but the long and short of it is with the increased use of electronic and tech-savvy products and devices in our homes and offices, we are increasingly exposing ourselves to higher and higher levels of EMFs – electromagnetic fields and RFs – radio frequency emissions. Things such as cell-phones, wireless routers, computers, lamps, alarm clocks, baby monitors, vacuum cleaners, electric blankets, etc. all produce some sort of frequency. Mobile phones expose us to intense levels of RF radiation that are significantly higher than those found naturally in the environment. These frequencies easily penetrate your central nervous system, the tissues of the brain, and other organs. Other wireless communication devices such as iPads, SmartPhone devices, WiFi, laptops, etc. are similar and create the same signals. Why should we be concerned about this, especially with how frequently our kids are now using portable devices and tablets to watch shows and play games on the internet? Scientific research states that the human body responds to these energy fields as invading pathogens, setting off a cascade of biochemical reactions that cause the release of damaging free radicals, alter the blood-brain barrier, creates an onset of inflammatory responses, and disrupt cellular communications throughout the body. HOW TO BEST AVOID EXPOSURE: While it’s nearly impossible to avoid such exposure as these devices are used EVERYWHERE, you can take precautions to limit your exposure. If you speak on a cell phone often, you should use a hands-free device that is wire-based (not Bluetooth, as this still uses wireless technology) and not hold or store the cell phone anywhere near your body (think 3 feet). Limit how much children touch devices that transmit Wi-Fi signals (or turn the Wi-Fi option off if children use devices with downloaded games, etc.). If you have Wi-Fi in your home, keep the unit far away from bedrooms or areas of the house where people are exposed to it frequently, as these waves will transmit more frequently. It seems crazy to think of limiting exposure to these devices that have made our lives so easy, but taking precautionary measures is advised.
Take-out containers and Styrofoam egg containers – Let’s face it: many of us do not make meals at home 100% of the time and occasionally (or more than occasionally) eat out or buy prepared foods to take home. Many times, these foods are placed in containers that we have no idea what they are made or lined with. Even “more natural” containers made from cardboard can be lined with harmful chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – and all of these substances are directly touching your food. The worst offender is Styrofoam, and it surprises me how much this material is still used in food containers. Styrene (the building-block for polystyrene, which Styrofoam is made from) is categorized by the EPA as a suspected carcinogen and a suspected toxin to the gastrointestinal, kidney, and respiratory systems. Foods and beverages that touch this material receive immediate exposure, as leaching rates are high – the leaching of styrene may not even require heat. Fatty foods fare even worse, as fats eat away at the chemical and creates greater exposure. Does your family eat eggs? A study conducted by Louisiana State University showed that eggs still in their shells stored in Styrofoam containers expressed seven time more ethylbenzene and styrene than eggs not stored in Styrofoam containers. Scary to know that these chemicals are strong enough to even permeate the shells of eggs! HOW TO BEST AVOID EXPOSURE: Before taking home a doggy bag of left-overs or buying a take-out meal, ask what the containers are made out of. Also, try buying your eggs in a container other than Styrofoam. If the restaurant or store uses Styrofoam, as if there is anything else the food can be placed in, or better yet, as crazy as it sounds, bring or provide your own container. There is a restaurant that I really like, but they use Styrofoam for their soup, so I bring my own and ask for them to use that instead when I order take-out and it’s no problem at all.
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching, LLC. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods, products, and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Megan on Twitter and like her on Facebook