Spring cleaning is an opportunity to declutter, organize, and bring new energy into the home. Traditionally, this act is literally physically cleaning; however, you can also take steps to improve your health while choosing less toxic options for your home. Detoxifying the home is something that should make your spring cleaning to-do list. Getting toxins out of your home may be one of the most important things you can do for your health. Let’s explore common toxins found in the home and discover strategies to help reduce your toxic burden and lower your risk for chronic disease.

When your home environment is cluttered with chemical toxins your health is impacted. Often it’s not a single exposure to one chemical that promotes disease, but rather an accumulation of toxic exposures that negatively influences health overtime.

The pantry is a good place to start, likely it contains sources of chemically altered foods. Read foods labels and remove items that contain partially hydrogenated oils (also known as trans fats).

Trans fats are a synthetic fat created by a chemical process that makes liquid vegetable oils more solid. This allows the fat to have a longer shelf life. Trans fats are prominent in packaged food and contribute to inflammation in the body. A state of chronic inflammation in the body is linked to the development of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancers. The body does not need trans fats, so you should avoid these in your diet as much as possible.

Foods containing partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil are of high concern as they also contain high levels of pesticide residue. Pesticides are a variety of chemicals that are used to protect conventionally grown crops from insects, weeds, fungi or rodents. The insecticide class of pesticides work by disrupting the nervous system and energy production of the insect. High levels of pesticide residue are associated with increased risk for cancer, Parkinson’s disease and autoimmune disease. Choosing organic produce as much as possible helps to reduce exposure to pesticide residue.

Focusing on exposure to plastics in the home is important. Plastics are ubiquitous. While most exposures to plastic are obvious, there are several routes of exposure that are less apparent. The amount of plastics used in the home can have a profound influence on health. Research has demonstrated that exposure to plastics influences human health by contributing to the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and disruption of hormone function in the body — some plastics are also known as a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. The alteration of hormones impairs thyroid function, reproductive health and increases the risk for hormone-driven cancers and the onset of early puberty.

Bisphenol A (BPA) was developed as a synthetic estrogen in the 1930’s. It was phased out as a pharmaceutical estrogen, and later used by the plastic industry to make plastics that are clear, lightweight and hard. The food industry added BPA as an epoxy lining to cans to preserve the flavor and freshness of canned products. Foods with a high acid or fat content leach more BPA into the food. Other potential exposure sources of BPA include canned beverages including soda and beer, thermal paper receipts and water bottles. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, and it is associated with increased risk for breast and prostate cancers, infertility, childhood behavioral issues, and malformation of the male infant urogenital tract causing a misplaced opening for urine output — a medical condition called hypospadia. Ways to decrease your exposure to BPA include choosing glass containers over canned whenever possible, avoiding microwaving in plastic, buying frozen vegetables and fruit rather than canned — when you can’t buy fresh, and cooking your own beans. Note that the replacement chemical in BPA-free canned products is showing similar potential health effects in research, so reduce exposure to these too.

Phthalates (pronounced thal-ates) are synthetic chemicals known as plasticizers which are added to plastics to make them flexible or are added to fragrances to make scents last longer. Household sources of phthalates include food wraps and packing, shower curtains and liners, personal care products, detergents, air fresheners, vinyl floorings, and perfumes. Unfortunately, plasticizers can breakdown and migrate out of the plastic and into the environment and the human body. The European Union has banned phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products, but they remain a prevalent ingredient in these products in the United States. Routes of exposure include ingestion, inhalation and absorption through skin. Reduce your exposure by drinking out of glass or stainless steel water bottles, avoiding microwaving in plastic, avoiding plastic wrap directly on food, purchasing meats at the butcher's counter in lieu of pre-wrapped meats, replacing plastics shower curtains with bamboo or fabric and a phthalate free liner, buying personal care products that are labeled phthalate free and fragrance free.

These are just few ideas to reduce exposures to environmental toxins, for more information talk to your naturopathic doctor.

Dr. Stacie Wells, ND, FAAEM is a Naturopathic Doctor & Fellow of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. She practices at the Northwest Center for Optimal Health in  Marysville, WA. Contact her at 360-651-9355 or info@ncoh.net.

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