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Top Tips to Keep Toxic Chemicals at Bay

Posted on February 10, 2011

Top tips to keep toxic chemicals at bay You wouldn’t knowingly eat spoiled food or jump into a river that was clearly polluted. It’s easy to avoid something harmful if you can see it with your own eyes. But what about the things you can’t see, like the toxic chemicals lurking in everyday products? As we go about our daily routines, we are exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals that are compromising our health in a big way. Until the seriously outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is revised, we must learn to how to limit chemical exposures on our own. Follow these tips to create a cleaner, safer world for you and your loved ones:


  • Go Organic – Choose organic as often as possible to avoid ingestion of pesticide residue. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides to guide you toward the produce most likely to be contaminated. Look for the USDA Organic seal on packaged goods.
  • Buy Cleaner Meat – Meat and poultry raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones is better for animals, the planet and people.
  • Filter Your Drinking Water – Remove common contaminants like arsenic and lead from your drinking water by filtering with either a faucet unit or a water pitcher.
  • Limit Canned Food – Most cans used for food products are lined with a resin that contains bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor. Eden Organics uses a BPA-free liner for its canned beans and offers tomato products in glass jars as an alternative to cans.
  • Pop Corn the Old-Fashioned Way – Microwave popcorn bags are lined with toxic perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This possible carcinogen shows up in french fry cups and pizza boxes as well.

Cooking & Food Storage

  • Buy BPA-Free - When purchasing plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles or food storage containers, make sure they say BPA-free on the label. Better yet, look for glass or stainless steel alternatives.
  • Toss Your Teflon – Most non-stick cookware is made using PFOAs – a toxic chemical linked to cancer and other health issues. Choose stainless steel, cast iron or enameled pots and pans instead.
  • Don’t Microwave Plastic – Heat causes chemicals to leach out of plastic containers and into food. Be on the safe side and avoid plastic in the microwave completely.

Keeping House

  • Remove Your Shoes - Take your shoes off at the door to keep pesticides and other chemicals from spreading around your home.
  • Switch to Natural Cleaning Products – Conventional cleaning products are loaded with chemicals that may do more harm than good. Look for products made with plant-based ingredients and that disclose all ingredients on the label.
  • Dust, Vacuum & Mop Frequently – While these may not be your favorite activities, they do cut down on chemicals that accumulate in household dust.
  • Take Care with Upholstery – Most upholstery contains flame retardant chemicals and many of them are quite toxic. Reduce exposure by getting rid of old furniture that has stuffing falling out. Consider new furniture stuffed with wool, jute or cotton materials that are naturally flame retardant and may require fewer chemicals to meet flammability requirements.
  • Skip the Stain Protectors – Stain resistant chemicals used on carpets and upholstery contain toxic PFOAs that accumulate in household dust.
  • Avoid VOCs – The acronym stands for volatile organic compounds and they are something you don’t want to breathe. VOCs are found in paints, air fresheners, solvents and many other household products. They are also used in conventional dry cleaning processes.


  • Avoid Phthalates - When purchasing toys for your child avoid the words vinyl, PVC and the #3 recycling code. They most likely contain toxic phthalates used to soften the plastic. That “plasticky” smell is another dead giveaway.
  • Choose Wood Carefully – Wooden toys are classic but if they are treated with petrochemical sealants they can be toxic for little mouths to chew on. Look for wood treated with non-toxic finishes like beeswax or linseed oil instead. Choose solid wood over manufactured wood that may release toxic formaldehyde fumes.
  • Buy non-toxic craft supplies – Say no to oil-based paints that give off dangerous fumes and polymer clay made with phthalates. Say yes to water-based play paints, natural fabric dyes and homemade play dough.

Personal Care

  • Clean Up Your Beauty Routine – Choose products made with plant-based ingredients rather than petrochemicals. Check the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database for safety ratings on your favorite products.
  • Go Fragrance Free – Artificial fragrances contain phthalates which are known to disrupt the endocrine system. Unscented products or those scented with plant-based essential oils are much safer.
  • Look for Certification – Seals of approval such as USDA Organic, Natural Products Association Certified and Whole Foods Market Premium Body Care help guide you toward safer products.
  • Make Your Own – Homemade beauty products are surprisingly easy to make and recipes are abundant both on the web and in books. The best part – you control the ingredients!


  • Refuse Receipts – The powdery coating on the surface of most paper receipts contains BPA. Minimize contact by taking only those receipts you really need. Wash hands after shopping to reduce cross-contamination.
  • Read labels – Look for key words like BPA-free, lead-free, USDA Organic and non-toxic to guide your purchase decisions. Scour ingredient lists for chemicals of concern. Avoid product labeled poison or danger.
Take action!

Would you prefer not to have to worry about toxic chemicals in everyday life? Join us in asking the big ten retailers to get tough on toxic chemicals! Together we can really start to move the marketplace towards safer chemicals.


Thank you for this post. I am including this guide in a packet of information that will be handed out to our audience at our screening of Unacceptable Levels next week. I am also including your organization in my speech as one that has been extremely helpful in my research in the past few years. Thank you for all you do!

Posted by: Sarah Verke | Oct 13, 2013 10:27:29 AM

Great article! I linked to it on my blog and included your badge. Thanks so much!

Posted by: Sara | May 5, 2012 5:43:05 AM

These tips are amazing! Copied it to be put on our fridge! These are so helpful. And AMEN to making own beauty products!

Posted by: Rugs Cheap Sandra | Apr 6, 2012 9:12:41 AM

what a wonderful website! So many things that I had never thought about. I will be looking at glass containers rather than cans and I always enjoyed popping popcorn the old fashioned way now I have an excuse to do it that way. thanks for all the great tips.

Posted by: mamajacs | Feb 15, 2012 5:36:28 PM

Thanks for the great information, really helpfull!

Posted by: Carpets Online | Jan 19, 2012 5:59:51 AM

Great info here. We need to start standing up for cleaner products! Anything with a new product smell, whether plastic, neoprene or others are just plain dangerous! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Dacie | Nov 17, 2011 11:22:13 AM

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Posted by: mbt | Sep 21, 2011 12:50:32 AM

This is amazing information for new mums like myself! We don't get alot of this info in Australia but it is becoming more and more widespread now and these tips definately help me to reduce the risk to my family and friends...

Posted by: Katie | Aug 18, 2011 7:46:53 PM

Good advice! I would only like to add one more thing to your list, concerning VOCs. Before you buy or rent a home, be sure it was never used to make methamphetamine. The process of "cooking meth" fills a home with highly toxic chemicals, including VOCs, that remain on all surfaces within the home until they are removed through proper decontamination methods. People who have unknowingly rented or bought former meth lab homes have become ill after their chronic exposure to the chemicals in their home. The chemicals in meth lab homes are particularly dangerous to infants and young children, pregnant women, and the elderly, although anyone who breathes in these invisible toxins is subject to becoming ill from them. To learn more about this problem, please visit my website.

Posted by: Dawn | Jun 22, 2011 10:12:13 AM

Thank you for this informative, detailed, and practical primer on steps (not always so simple) that I can take to better protect my family and myself. Just as I found reducing sodium harder than reducing sugar, it's sometimes overwhelming once you recognize both the prevalence and danger of toxic chemicals that seem to surround us in our 21st century lives. This list, however, gives me a clear starting point. I will definitely share!

Posted by: Eric Roth | May 21, 2011 2:36:17 AM

I have always had people take their shoes off when they come to our house. Before having a baby, it was mainly to keep our floors looking nice, as we can't afford to replace worn flooring at just any time. It was also to avoid transferring the nasty things that can be on the bottom of shoes, which is the main reason now that our baby is crawling all over the house. When asked to take their shoes off, sometimes people would say that there wasn't anything on the bottom of their shoes. I would remind them that, although you can't see anything, shoes always have something dirty on the bottom. Afterall, think of all the places your shoes go!

Posted by: Amanda | May 17, 2011 8:23:59 AM

It's true that filtering with a faucet unit can remove common contaminants like arsenic and lead from drinking water. Beside that, people should choose the best faucet for their home in order it can be used for long time. Don't forget to fix and replace the faucet when it's rusty because it's dangerous to drink the water like that. So people should pay attention when to fix and replace their faucets.

Posted by: Kitchen Faucet | May 15, 2011 6:37:12 AM

Thanks for the handy list. I have a lot of info on many of the things you have mentioned here but they are all scattered about - so this is great! I plan to share with others that may not be informed as well. :) Keep on educating!

Posted by: Summer | May 12, 2011 8:04:31 PM

If you are pregnant or have small children you have to be even more of a chemical sleuth! Even items like lids in organic baby food contain BPA or other leaching plastics! No iron clothing is coated with have to get educated to protect your family! Thanks for the great blog!

Posted by: Organic Baby University | Mar 27, 2011 1:49:17 PM

Pollution is very vast today. It is one of the disadvantages that technology brought to us. Toxic chemicals that present in water resources are come from factories which don't have any concern to their environment. Good thing that you have shared these tips. Even with a little things we could try this in our place.

Posted by: ball chair | Mar 23, 2011 7:40:23 PM

This is SUCH a great resource. Sometimes, avoiding toxic chemicals feels overwhelming and this kind of information really helps me to make changes in my everyday life. Thanks!

Posted by: Kimberly Inez McGuire | Mar 22, 2011 2:55:49 PM

As a cancer survivor, I love information like this. I want to stay in remission and protect my friends and family from the horrors of cancer. THANKS!

Posted by: Michelle | Mar 17, 2011 3:44:23 PM

Great Information!! This is up my ally in promoting a 100% Certified Organic facelift product. Yep, no chemicals or animal testing!! See for yourselves!!

To Our Successful Organic Lifestyle Together!!

Posted by: Ogay Ugorji | Feb 16, 2011 3:33:25 PM


Posted by: Sarah | Feb 15, 2011 3:07:31 PM

Thanks for bundling all this info into a tidy package! Perfect for circulating to friends and family.

Posted by: Susie Frank | Feb 11, 2011 10:24:20 AM

Awesome list! Thank you so much!
To improve your indoor air (which is often more polluted than the air outside) air out your home frequently and get some house plants that filter the air.

Posted by: Beate | Feb 11, 2011 7:45:31 AM

Great information! I've already printed it to share with my students at the school where I work.
Why doesn't the government do something about the chemicals that are doing more harm to all of us.
I will forward this information to friends and neighbors.

Thank you so much!
Keep the public informed.
I wish that I were younger, I would become a caring politician!

Posted by: Sly | Feb 11, 2011 5:12:45 AM

Ack--I'm sitting on an office chair right now that's losing its stuffing! But this ia a great overview--thanks!

Posted by: Kathleen Christensen | Feb 10, 2011 11:54:41 PM

Great post, Micaela...Does this mean I have an excuse not to do taxes? (All those receipts, Mr Tax Man, it was a health issue...!)


Posted by: Lynn from | Feb 10, 2011 1:41:06 PM

Excellent information!

Posted by: Liz Amason | Feb 10, 2011 10:46:33 AM

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