There’s a problem with the fact that there’s no single over-arching agency within the US government that assesses all chemicals. There’s no agency that makes decisions, establishes rules about labeling, use, and disposal. Overall assessments about chemicals in materials and substances, whether they’re being used to grow our food, build our homes, treat our furniture, or included in our beauty creams and baby balms, do not exist. But regardless of the fact that it may not make any logical sense to a reasonable person, it is the system we exist in today.
The good news is that there are ways you can help inform and educate yourself, and take steps to keep your family safer where the agencies and laws have failed to do it for us. Yes, it’s definitely a burden on parents to have to take this on themselves—but until our systems are overhauled, I’ve provided some simple ways to keep you and your kiddos safer.
10 Tips For Choosing Healthier Products:
- Get to know the companies you are purchasing from.
- Ask yourself:Do they have a commitment to sustainability? Do they include a banned list of chemicals? Do they talk about why their products are different? You can’t always avoid being greenwashed, but you can avoid spending money with companies who are ignoring the impacts of harmful chemicals in their products and the supply chain.
- Look for products from companies that list all their ingredients or materials, no matter if it’s a diaper, a chair, or something edible. Companies that disclose all their ingredients, and especially those who go more deeply into how they source and why, signal that they have nothing to hide within their products and/or formulations.
- Look for meaningful independent third-party certifications that represent values that are important to you.
- Avoid products with pesticides. These can be in surprising places! Anything that claims to kill all germs, bacteria, or be “anti-bacterial” contains a pesticide. We are in the midst of a mass extinction among important small insects (as well as some bird species). So what seems like a small amount of a harmful chemical may be insignificant to us humans but can be deadly to many smaller animals. In light of this, it’s best to save powerful “killers” for serious applications and efforts. Where possible, look for plant-based insect repellents that utilize essential oils like citronella, neem, and thyme over more potent insecticides like DEET, which carry a much higher environmental and health burden.
- Phase out pesticides in your yard. Instead, begin to compost and mulch leaves, use tactics that will promote a healthy and balanced yard. Look into native plants, which are more resistant to bugs inherently, require less maintenance and water, and support the native ecosystem and all the bugs we need within it.
- Avoid clothing or furniture claiming to be “antimicrobial”. These can contain an ingredient known as nanosilver, which has been linked to cell toxicity.
- Eat organic when possible to avoid pesticides on food, try and buy local, which reduces the likelihood for additional contamination on fruits and veggies due to long-distance transport.
- Read labels. Fewer ingredients in a formulation is a good bet for reducing exposure to many chemicals. Recognizable ingredients from natural materials tend to be better from a human health standpoint. Avoid products with “fragrance”, “scent” or “perfume” – all of which are umbrella terms of what can be hundreds of chemicals without appropriate listing on the label.
- Shop for products that don’t rely on plastic packaging. Look for products made without phthalates to avoid toxic plasticizing chemicals.
Using fewer products reduces your exposure to the dozens of different chemicals in each product. Every step you take to protect your family from toxic chemicals, no matter how small, is a good step towards better health!