If you’re like most people, you don’t give toxic substances a second thought. They seem to lurk in the background of daily life, so subtle and pervasive that they barely register. But there are many ways toxins sneak into our lives regularly-in the food we eat or the household products we use to clean our homes. And those tiny doses can have significant consequences for your health: exposure to even small amounts of some toxins may be enough to trigger serious illnesses such as cancer or infertility. Here are some ways to avoid these substances.
1. Choose organic agricultural produce.
Some pesticides used in farming are toxic, and traces can remain in your food, especially in uncooked vegetables used in salads. Choose to purchase from eco-conscious entrepreneurs that sell products from sources that use organic and safe substances in farm spraying.
2. Educate yourself on food labeling.
The USDA has a set of guidelines that all foods must meet to be considered organic. These include no use of synthetic pesticides, no irradiation, and no genetic engineering. If a food is labeled as “100% organic,” all ingredients and processes used to make the food are certified organic.
3. Know which foods are most likely to be contaminated with pesticides.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes data from the USDA Pesticide Data Program to develop an annual list of the 12 types of produce that contain the highest levels of pesticide residues. In 2021, those items were bell peppers, celery, tomatoes, pears, cherries, peaches, grapes, apples, nectarines, kale, spinach, and strawberries.
4. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
Even if you buy organic produce, it’s still a good idea to wash all your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before you eat them. That will help get rid of any dirt or bacteria on the surface of the food.
5. Be careful with non-organic packaged foods.
Many processed and packaged foods contain additives and preservatives that can be toxic. Read the labels on these products carefully and choose those with the fewest ingredients. Avoid anything with “partially hydrogenated” oils, which are high in trans fats, and artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which have been linked to cancer.
6. Avoid using artificial fragrances.
Many household products, from air fresheners to laundry detergent, contain synthetic fragrances that can be toxic. Choose fragrance-free options or those that use natural essential oils instead.
7. Be cautious with home cleaning products.
Some common household cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that can damage your lungs and skin. When using these products, be sure to open the windows for ventilation and wear gloves and a mask if possible.
8. Do not use chemical-based insecticides in your home.
These products can be harmful to you and your pets if used indoors. If you have an insect problem, try using traps or natural methods like diatomaceous earth.
9. Use natural personal care products.
Many conventional personal care products, such as shampoos, conditioners, and lotions, contain harmful chemicals that you can absorb through the skin. Choose natural alternatives with ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and essential oils.
10. Be careful with exposure to heavy metals.
Some jobs or hobbies (such as welding) may expose you to high levels of heavy metals like lead or mercury. If you work with these materials, wear proper protective gear and wash your hands thoroughly after exposure.
11. Avoid using plastic containers for food storage.
Plastic containers can leach harmful chemicals into your food, especially if heated in the microwave. Use glass or stainless steel containers instead.
12. Do not drink from plastic water bottles.
Plastic water bottles can also leach harmful chemicals into your water, like plastic containers. Invest in a reusable water bottle made from glass or stainless steel and fill it up from the tap.
13. Get rid of household products that contain mercury.
Mercury is a toxic heavy metal found in some older thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs, and mercury fever thermometers. If you have any of these products in your home, dispose of them properly at a local hazardous waste facility.
14. Avoid using synthetic pesticides in your garden.
Pesticides can be harmful to both you and the environment. If you must use them, choose those made from natural ingredients like neem oil or rosemary oil.
15. Be careful with power lines and electrical devices.
High levels of electromagnetic radiation from power lines and electrical devices have been linked to cancer. Try to keep these items at least three feet (one meter)away from your body and avoid sleeping near them.
These are just a few of the many things you can do to protect yourself from toxic substances daily. Stay vigilant and take these simple precautions. You can significantly reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and keep yourself healthy.
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