our unintentionally toxic home

Like many other women, household duties are generally my area of responsibility. From purchasing home products and divvying up tasks, to planning meals and preparing them, I manage the domestic stuff.* As you may expect, I try to make the very best possible choices for us. So, you'll understand my confusion and frustration when I recently came to realize that many of the "trusted" products I use are poisoning us. Literally poisoning us!

You may be more up-and-up on the green scene, but I like many Americans, never even knew I should be asking questions. Over the last month, I've been tumbling down a steep learning curve—I started by looking in to one tiny thing and inadvertently, caused an avalanche.

Major problems to identify first:
- girls are going through puberty younger than ever (see report)
- babies are being born with up to 200 toxins already in their bloodstreams (read more)
- several studies have linked cancer with environmental chemical exposure (see report)
- asthma, allergies, and respiratory disorders are on on a significant rise (read more)
- neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, dyslexia, and ADD/ADHD are on the rise (read more)
- researchers found that on average, women use 160+ chemicals on their bodies each day (read more)

Out of 84,000 chemicals on the market today, only around 1% 
have even been tested for safety. (read more)(and more)

Now for some household cleaner and cosmetics considerations: (learn more)
- sheer volume: many companies get away with toxic ingredients because they are "safe" in nominal or trace 
  amounts...until every cosmetic & cleaner in our home carries the same chemical. It adds up in a big way!
- use of known allergens: can lead to allergies, asthma, respiratory damage, and chronic dermatitis
- fragrances: most artificial fragrances these days are derived from petrochemicals (from petroleum), they are 
  also exempt from ingredient listing regulations...almost anything can simply be listed as "proprietary fragrance 
  blend" (read more)(and more); the question is "what makes us believe that scent = clean?"
- reactionary contaminants: some chemicals may be deemed safe but carry high risks of becoming contaminated 
  with toxic elements when they undergo certain chemical reactions (which can be difficult to control with certainty)
- reproductive toxins & hormone disruptors: certain commonly used chemicals can lead to infertility, 
  miscarriage, and severe birth defects including neurological and developmental damage
- carcinogens: cancer-causers, even formaldehyde and chloroform can frequently be found in our homes
- accidents: spills, ingestion, or inhalation can cause burns or nerve and respiratory damage (In 2010, US poison 
  control centers fielded 116,000+ cleaner accident phone calls involving children under the age of 5. source)
  *If just a few tbsp of a liquid is toxic to a child, does anything really justify having it in the house?*
- disposal: when these chemicals are disposed of down the drain or through the trash into landfills, they pollute
  our drinking water, aquatic life, and soil...which we then re-consume
Despite these concerns, our current regulations do not require companies to even list these ingredients on the labels, much less to disclose their health risks. (read more) Don't we have a right to know?!

I don't know about you, but if I want to make an unhealthy choice (hello Cool Mint Oreos!), I want to know that I'm doing it consciously. I don't want any one else making those choices for me and my family, especially when their reluctance to be transparent earns them billions of dollars in profits each year!

I could go on and on with the infuriating things I've uncovered, but for your sake, I'll get to the good news!

Thankfully, with so many toxins and shady business practices, there is also a huge movement to expose these risks and to demand better regulations. Environmental Working Group is a fantastic non-profit that is doggedly fighting this battle for us consumers and on behalf of the planet.
For detailed info on home cleaners, check out their Healthy Cleaning database.
To do some sleuthing on your cosmetics, visit their Skin Deep database.

That being said, organic/natural housekeeping is a vast and at times confusing universe. A major contributor to the confusion is the FDA's refusal to set definite status restrictions on "natural" products (learn more). So any company with one semi-natural ingredient can claim whatever they like. Third-party certification and manufacturer transparency are the only guarantees. (Which is to say nothing of the 62,000 chemicals were grandfathered in when the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed in 1976. (read more)) What a mess!!

To find out more information, I recommend just sitting down and doing some digging. 
The best way to get a grasp on the issues is to be aware, ask questions, and educate yourself. In addition to EWG, here are some other awesome resources:
- Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck
- Toxic Free by Debra Dadd
- Squeaky Green by Method Clean
- The Story of Cosmetics (short video)
- The Human Experiment (documentary)
- I Read Labels For You (blog)
- EcoWatch, Mother Earth News, TakePart (activist/news sources)

So what can we do right now to start making our homes truly cleaner and healthier (and ourselves, too!)?
EWG has a great list of tips available in pdf here.
Dr. Frank Lipman also shares 20 Ways to Detox Your Home 

And to break down some of the most available & popular green brands, here's my personal comparison chart:
- Cleaner scores are taken directly from EWG's Cleaner Database (as of 7/8/15), dark grey denotes no product available for that category
- Asterisked scores denote products not yet reviewed by EWG; estimates are based on my averaged scores of individual ingredients
- Hand soap is rated based on EWG's Skin Deep Database (scores are 0-10, 0 being best)
- Sustainability score is based on my research into the company as a whole: mission, standards, environmental impact, commitment to sustainability, 
  sourcing, ethical practices, etc. (these grades are based entirely on my opinion)
**Specifically to scrubbing, Bon Ami as well as a simple baking soda paste are two great options.

Don't get me started on the ratings and ingredients from my previously favorite brands...glass cleaner = D, antibacterial wipes = D, dish liquid = D, "free & clear" laundry detergent = F. The list goes sadly on.

BUT— for every good product we bring into our home, it means one less bad one under the sink. 

And if you want to eliminate "extra products" all together, here are some great resources for DIY home cleaner recipes. Though these sources are very reliable, there are others that are less so, so keep a cautious eye:

For the record, my intentions are not to slander any particular brand, nor perpetuate unbased fear-mongering. The information I have researched is all backed by science and not unearthed in haste. Admittedly, I still have a long way to go in transitioning our home and lifestyle to better options, but I believe consumers (especially us wives and moms) deserve to know the truth behind the companies we support and products we use.

At the risk of droning on, I'll just end things here and happily get back to my research. If you have questions or would like to discuss any of this more at length, please just leave a comment below or email me and we can chat.

*Don't get me wrong, my husband is more than happy to purchase products and perform domestic tasks. I enjoy being responsible for this 
aspect of our lives -- it's kinda my thing. I do, however, love that Strider makes our bed daily (I'm terrible at remembering to do that).

None of the above links are affiliates, they are simply good resources I like.

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