13 Simple Ways to Avoid Toxic Chemicals

Due to our broken federal safety system, toxic chemicals and ingredients are commonly used in our everyday products. As a result, consumers are left to face a complex and confusing marketplace.

There is a growing movement of individuals and health professionals who are concerned about unregulated toxic chemicals in everyday consumer products. This guide will help you get started on that path with simple, easy steps to avoid toxic chemicals in your home. There are things within your reach to reduce protect your health.

First and foremost, we need Congress to reform our federal laws on toxic chemicals and cosmetics so we can have confidence in the products we purchase. In the meantime…

Please note I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase from some of the links below. Thank you in advance!

Avoid Scented Products, Perfumes, Musk & Colognes

I know you love your perfume (so did I), but one of the best ways to reduce your chemical exposure is to avoid fragrance and perfumes. These contain a host of allergens and toxic chemicals including phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Skip Canned Food When Possible

The hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) is found in many canned goods and canned food consumption is considered our largest exposure pathway. Choose fresh and frozen food when possible.

Avoid Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals

Flame retardants sound like a good thing, but they don’t help slow the spread of fires and they are linked to a host of adverse health effects.

Children’s products: The Center for Environmental Health has a great website that lists which children’s product manufacturers are free of toxic flame retardants.

Couches & Mattresses: As of January 2015 new couches will be required to label whether or not they contain toxic flame retardants. This is a big deal! If you have a couch you can send the foam in for testing at Duke University, or purchase a couch that was made before 1970. You can also buy flame-retardant free mattresses for adults and baby, there are great companies like Naturpedic paving the way for safe mattresses. Check out for safer car seat options.

Dust & Vacuum Frequently

Dust is a major route of exposure for many of the chemicals we come into contact with everyday and toxic chemical exposure can often come by indoor air pollution from our building materials and products. Dust with microfiber cloths (I like the New Hampshire based E-Cloth company) and vacuuming with a HEPA filter. More about indoor air pollution and cleaning suggestions. 

Find Safer Food storage and Cookware

I dedicated an entire article to this very topic, which you can read about here. I prefer stainless steel cookware for pots and pans; avoid non-stick pans when possible, and read this before buying so-called “safe” non-stick cookware. When you are looking for food storage containers, you can purchase glass containers at most major retailers. And if you want a lighter option you can get stainless steel for kid’s school lunches.

Know Your Plastics

If a product looks or smells like vinyl, skip it. Vinyl is sometimes identified by a #3 recycling symbol and is nicknamed the “poison plastic”. Some harmful chemical additives are pumped into vinyl like hormone-disrupting phthalates and heavy metals. Instead pick a cloth or non-PVC shower curtain, ask for vinyl-free flooring when remodeling and choose wooden or cloth toys for children. In general, avoid plastic when possible.

safer plastics

Use Safer Household Cleaners & Laundry Products

There are some great companies making safer household cleaners, many of which are readily available at your local retailer. Read about allergens and chemicals in cleaners from Women’s Voices for the Earth. If you’re on a budget or feeling ambitious, make your own cleaners.

Choose brands of safer laundry detergent like Molly’s Suds and Seventh Generation. Avoid “dry cleaning only” clothes when possible, and if you need to dry clean clothes, find a place that does “wet cleaning“. More on safe laundry and dry cleaning.

Find Safer Skin Care & Cosmetics

Did you know the last time Congress passed a law on cosmetic safety was 1938? Even worse the law does very little to protect consumers from toxic chemicals in lotions, shampoos and cosmetics. I work for Beautycounter, an incredible brand working to put safe products into the hands of everyone. Check out their safe, beautiful and elegant products here. You can also try some simple DIY home beauty products with ingredients like coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils.

Drink Filtered Tap Water

Carbon filters are affordable and do a great job of filtering pesticides, VOCs and harmful bacteria. Skip bottled water, which has fewer safety requirements than tap water and creates excessive plastic waste. Fill up a glass or stainless steel water bottle with your carbon filtered tap water and you’ll be good to go!

Find Safer Building Materials When Remodeling

Building materials continue to be one of our biggest routes of exposure to toxic chemicals and can be one of the hardest things to control. Anna Hackman from Green Talk is considered an expert in the field of safer, less toxic home remodeling and building products. In this summary post, she covers everything from what to look for like low VOC paint. To get started check out a great non-toxic home improvement infographic. More tips for tackling lead from unexpected places like old bathtubs.

Advocate for a Better System

In order to fully protect our families we must advocate for strong laws on toxic chemicals and ask retailers to be apart of the solution. Together we can create a healthy, safe and vibrant future. Already we can see the fruits of our labor. States have taken action on certain toxic chemicals and Target and Walmart have started to lead the market towards safer products.

Take action now to let major retailers know you want them to act on toxic chemicals!

Recommended reading: How to avoid toxic chemicals 201, or browse my ongoing series about how to avoid toxic chemicals in your home.

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