by Tracy Rohland

The world is filled with potentially harmful substances. Most people do not pay attention to this fact and do not realize that many toxins surround us in our daily lives. But by understanding where and how they exist, it is often possible to avoid them.

The average American is constantly exposed to hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. These chemicals are present in everything from personal care products and household cleaners, to food and drinks, and to plant and garden products. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only a fraction of the more than 75,000 registered chemicals have gone through complete testing for human health concerns. Most are derived from petroleum and tar (two major sources of cancer-causing carcinogens) and have not undergone rigorous safety testing.

According to the AAPCC, the greatest number of poisonings in 1993 was due to cleaning products. Children are especially at risk as they crawl on floors, put things in their mouths, and have vulnerable immune systems. Pets are also at risk as they are prone to drink from puddles or toilets or even mop water.

In the kitchen and living room, some major sources of toxins include all-purpose cleansers, ammonia-based cleansers, bleach, brass or other metal polishes, dish detergent, floor wax or polish, and glass cleaner.

Numerous cosmetics and personal hygiene products contain hazardous substances. Examples include propylene glycol and sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (which are common in shampoos), and aluminum chlorhydrate (often found in antiperspirants, deodorants, and aerosol propellants). Fragrance and colors in lotions and soaps also pose a threat.

Some of these toxins have immediate negative effects such as nausea, headache or skin irritation. Others build up in the body over a period of years and can lead to such diseases as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s.

Several studies illustrate a link between aluminum buildup in the body and the development of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Aluminum is found in food, in the air, in makeup, and in aluminum foil and aluminum pans. Stainless steel pots and pans are safer cooking alternatives.

Plastic wrap and plastic containers can also be a concern. When food is heated up in plastic containers, the pores in the plastic open, releasing cancer-causing petro-chemicals (chemicals derived from petroleum) into your food. Using plastic wrap to cover hot, fatty or wet food has the same effect. It is best to use ceramic or glass containers to hold food.

Eliminating toxins from your everyday life can seem overwhelming. While it may be next to impossible to make your environment toxin-free, every little step you take toward reducing these toxins can ensure the health and safety of you and your loved ones. There are many safe and natural alternatives that you can buy at Down to Earth. Be sure to check the Health Tips section of the website for ideas.