The “Clean Life” You Think You’re Living:

5 things you didn’t know were so harmful and healthy alternatives

Photo Credit: ORNELLA BINNI

What’s good or bad for us is not always easy to understand when so many products promise to be “green”, “natural” or “organic” without factually backing it up.

You might also be shocked to know that many day-to-day products that we assume are safe and beneficial are in fact linked to various diseases due to their unnatural and sometimes toxic ingredients. Here are the latest 5 things you didn’t know could be harming you and healthier options to opt for instead:

Household Cleaning Products: There’s irony in the fact that the same sprays and cleaners known to be linked to everything from asthma to cancer are expected to keep our house clean. Some cleaners have been found to be amongst the most toxic products found in a home. Rebecca Sutton, PhD is a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and says that the typical household contains over 62 toxic chemicals.

The Alternative: Look for cleaners with plant based ingredients or products that say “Phthalate Free” or use essential oils. Many brands hide their harmful chemicals behind terms like “fragrance” which can be highly carcinogenic. Instead choose products that use essential oils. Also — avoid ingredients like Triclosan or bleach whenever possible. Seventh Generation’s new #ComeClean campaign is a great example of how companies in the cleaning industry can disclose their full ingredient list right on the package.

Mattresses: You might be horrified to know that you are spending eight to nine hours per night on a toxin-packed mattress. Mattresses are home to flame retardants, petroleum-based foams, plastics, vinyls, fungicide, pesticides and more. Our faces are inches from these materials for up to 50% of lives. What’s worse is that most mattress companies would never tell you that, and for good reason.

The Alternative: Choose a mattress that’s non-toxic. There are numerous options available and the most important thing is to know exactly what materials are used in making your mattress. Jack Dell’Accio, CEO & Founder of Essentia, a mattress company that openly displays everything that goes into its natural memory foam along with special data-driven reports such as a clean air report, as well as allergy testing in relation to latex and dust mites says, “It’s easy to be honest. Every mattress company could provide a clean label to show their transparency but most don’t.”

Skim Milk: Did you know that skim milk is actually cheaper to produce than regular milk, saving dairy manufacturers tons? Skim milk became the face of healthy eating around WWII when many were convinced that large amounts of fat caused heart attacks. So, butter was replaced with cheap margarine made from toxic oils. Today experts are saying sometimes fat is better — especially when it comes to milk. Recent studies have shown that when the fat from milk is removed, so is the array of naturally occurring vitamins that are stripped from skimmed milk.

The Alternative: Opting for whole milk that is 100% organic and grass fed is a better option as are alternatives such as almond, rice or coconut milk. Also, if you’re going to drink milk, you should always look to support the best milk producers in the country.

Synthetic Fragrances: The food and beverages we ingest are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration, so why aren’t the cosmetics and fragrances we absorb through our skin? Fragrances have been found to have up to 3,000 different ingredients and most have not been tested for safety. These are some of the very ingredients associated with cancer and neurotoxicity. Therefore, it doesn’t come as such a surprise that many of these ingredients can be irritating to the skin and eyes, triggering migraines, and asthma symptoms.

The Alternative: Try pure essential oil blends that are free of artificial colors and harmful chemicals and offer an array of fragrance options that you can mix yourself or buy in specially mixed fragrances. Mountain Rose Herbs and Biossance skincare offer pure fragrances and truly non-toxic ingredients. Biossance has a strict set of standards guidelines around ingredients used in their products, including never using artificial/synthetic fragrances or phthalates — you will never see “fragrance” listed on their labels. Any scent in the brand’s products comes from essential oils which often contain other beneficial properties in addition to a pleasing aroma. “Biossance is on a mission to pioneer sustainable solutions in beauty by omitting 2,000+ common cosmetic ingredients that are potentially harmful to you or the planet.” says Caroline Hadfield, SVP of Personal Care at Biossance/Amyris.

Dryer Sheets: Small pieces of fabric that get thrown into the dryer at the last minute may seem harmless. Yet, the EWG says that many fabric softeners, as well as dryer sheets, are made up of hundreds of untested chemicals; some of which have toxic ingredients like phthalates and synthetic musks– both suspected hormone disruptors. Not only do the chemicals bind to our clothing, but they also enter our home through vents when the dryer is on, while we unknowingly breathe in toxic chemicals.

The Alternative: Instead try adding baking soda to the wash-cycle or simply air dry your clothing.

Clean living is an ongoing commitment, but, the more we inquire into how our products are being made and adjust our brand choices accordingly, the more companies will adjust their products.