The Surprising Toxicity of Everyday Products

The products Americans purchase are expected to be non-toxic and perfectly safe. However, this isn’t the case for a surprising number of products. In fact, over 150 chemicals found in the average American home have been linked to allergies, psychological disorders, birth defects, and cancers. Toxin exposure is also linked to autoimmune conditions.  


Fibers made from non-organic or man-made materials can contain dangerous toxins.

Cotton is one of the most commonly used fibers in American apparel. It’s also one of the most toxic because cotton uses more pesticides during its growth cycle than any other crop in the United States. In fact, cotton uses 16 to 25% of the nation’s plant-growing chemicals. One of these chemicals includes Roundup, an herbicide linked to hormone disruption, cancer and resistance to antibiotics. Cotton has also been known to contain chlorine bleach and formaldehyde—a carcinogen linked to a 30% increased risk of lung cancer.

What’s The Alternative?

To ensure your clothes doesn’t contain pesticides and herbicides, purchase organic clothing. Also, look for companies that sell clothes using other materials and fibers such as bamboo, cork, hemp, and wool.

Baby Products


Babies eat four times the amount of food per pound of body weight. They also breathe two times the amount of air per pound of body weight compared to the average adult. This makes infants more vulnerable to food and air contaminants; however, food and contaminated air aren’t the only things affecting a baby’s health.

Conventional disposable diapers release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs include chemicals such as xylene, ethylbenzene, toluene and dipentene. When these chemicals contact a child’s skin, they can cause long-term health problems such as childhood asthma and cancer.

What’s The Alternative?

Organic cotton cloth diapers have been making a comeback in recent years. If cloth diapers aren’t a manageable option, look for companies that offer safer disposable diapers free from heavy metals, lead, latex, chlorine, lotions and fragrance.

PBTs in Children’s Toys

Persistent Bio accumulative Toxic (PBT) chemicals have been regularly found in playmats and plastic children’s toys in recent years. PBTs such as cadmium, have been known to cause serious helath issues such as damage to the kidneys, lungs, and bones. It’s also a common cause of cancer.

Children’s toys have been known to contain Brominated Flame Retardants, or BFRs, as well as arsenic. BFRs have been shown to cause delayed physical and mental development and thyroid problems. Exposure to arsenic also reduces cognitive function while raising the risk of fetal mortality.

What’s The Alternative?

It’s surprisingly easy to cut out plastic toys from your child’s playtime. Choose toys made from natural, unfinished wood so you don’t have to worry about your child gnawing on BFRs or phthalates. For softer toys like stuffed animals and dolls, consider organic options, which will help keep pesticides off your child’s hands and out of their mouth.

Personal Care Products


Parabens are commonly used as an antimicrobial preservatives in makeup, lip balm, perfume, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shaving cream, facial and shower cleansers and scrubs (and more!). However, they’re a synthetic version of estrogen, and are considered a major endocrine disruptor. They’re absorbed through your skin, blood and digestive system, and are linked to detrimental health issues such as hormone-related cancers, reproductive problems, skin allergic reactions and dermatitis.

What’s The Alternative?

Look for “paraben free” on the label of the beauty and skin products you purchase (ie: lotion, deodorant, lip balms, shampoo, conditioner, makeup, etc.). Try DIY, and reduce the number of personal care products you use each day.

Heavy Metals in Makeup

Lip color products, as well as eye shadow, concealer, blush, and sunscreen have been known to include heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, zinc, lead, chromium, and arsenic.

What’s The Alternative?

Avoiding heavy metals can be difficult because they aren’t always listed on the label of every personal care product. Choose from products that use natural ingredients such as beeswax and vegetable wax. You can also check for safer personal care products on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

Household Cleaning Products

All-Purpose Cleaners

All-purpose cleaners do their job, but they also damage the eyes and lungs. It’s because all-purpose cleaners typically contain chemicals like ammonia, ethylene glycol monobutyl acetate, and sodium hypochlorite. These chemicals can cause anything from skin rashes to brain and kidney damage. And, when mixed with other cleaning solutions such as ammonia and chlorine, these chemicals can go from dangerous to outright deadly.

What’s The Alternative?

Try plant-based cleaning products or use ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon. These products use enzymes that break down stains and odors. In fact, baking soda and water used together in a DIY recipe can remove everyday stains.

Air Freshener Aerosol Spray

Air fresheners may make your home smell nice, but they also contaminate the air with over 100 different chemicals, including VOCs (terpenes such as limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene; terpenoids such as linalool and alpha-terpineol; ethanol, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene) and semi-volatile organic compounds (such as phthalates).

These fumes can cause earaches, headaches, diarrhea, respiratory & reproductive problems and even brain damage.

Many air fresheners have also been known to contain petroleum distillates.

What’s The Alternative?

Essential oil diffusers make a great-smelling alternative.


If I were to add a nutrition recommendation for attempting to detox this junk from my body, I would recommend a product that supports overall liver detoxification and contains DIM. I use Dim-X because it's a blend of important nutrients the liver needs for phase 1 and phase 2 detox.

Please leave me a comment if you have any questions.

Kelly Harrington, MS, RD

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

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