Photo: The ABCs of avoiding everyday pollutants

Did you know that triclosan is less common in bar soaps than in hand soaps? (Credit: Linda Mackie)

The accumulation of toxic chemicals you inhale, ingest and absorb through your skin every day is called "body burden".

Don't get paralyzed by anger, guilt, or powerlessness! Follow these simple ABCs to reduce pollutants in you, your family and your home.

Consider these questions:

  1. How do you feel about your current exposure to toxics in the environment and in your home?
  2. What are you already doing to lower your exposure?
  3. Where would you like do more?

Subscribe to the Queen of Green digest

A is for air fresheners. They actually only mask odor problems and worsen air quality. Open a window or turn on a fan!

B is for baby. Choose eco-friendlier products made from wool, silicone and plant waste for the little ones in your life.

C is for couch, carpets and curtains. These items — your T.V., furniture and electronics, too — shed toxics every day. Solution: dust!

D is for Dirty Dozen. Check your shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and shaving cream for these Dirty Dozen ingredients to avoid.

E is for environment. Correct household hazardous waste (HHW) disposal keeps chemicals out of our soil, air and water. Find a nearby depot!

F is for formaldehyde. It's colourless, preserves frogs, coats pillow cases and impregnates "no-iron" shirts. Reduce your exposure — wash new clothes BEFORE wearing.

G is for "green" sex. Keep parabens out of your sex life.

H is for hair dye. They contain ammonia, petrochemicals, sulfates, phthalates, and P-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause cancer and be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain. Choose safer products.

I is for indoor air quality. Select house plants to improve indoor air quality in your home or office!

J is for jojoba oil. Make massage oil. Add one tablespoon each of jojoba, sweet almond and olive oils to a bottle and shake to blend. Optional: add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.

K is for killing germs. Use white vinegar to deodorize, cut grease and disinfect against household bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and other "gram-negative" bacteria!

L is for lemons. Use lemon juice to treat a fruit or wine stain on fabric. Add juice, let dry in the sun and then wash with eco-friendly laundry soap.

M is for mosquitoes. Avoid DEET — a registered pesticide. Instead, make yourself and your home unattractive to mosquitoes!

N is for naphthalene. If you smell them mothballs, you're inhaling pesticide. They're made of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene — both carcinogenic. Use cedar chips, balls or hangers instead.

O is for off-gassing. Choose an eco-friendlier mattress. Avoid VOCs, fire retardants and stain-resistant finishes.

P is for preventing static cling. Dryer sheets (one more disposable product the world doesn't need) and liquid fabric softeners both contain synthetic, fabric-coating chemicals.

Q is for quats. Found in bathroom and all-purpose cleaners and fabric softeners, quats can induce a human allergic response and are toxic to aquatic organisms. Choose products that disclose a full list of plant-based ingredients.

R is for reclaim. Keep old paint out of the landfill. Reclaim (or recycle) what you can. Properly dispose of the rest.

S is for sunscreen. Scientists think ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreens — parabens, cinnamate, benzophenone and camphor derivatives — are killing coral reefs around the world. Choose safer options!

T is for triclosan. It's on Health Canada's Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, but still in more than 1,600 Canadian products. Make your own two-ingredient hand soap instead.

U is for unscented. Even "unscented" products may contain ingredients to mask odors from other chemicals. Read labels carefully. Avoid "fragrance" or "parfum", which can trigger allergies and asthma.

V is for vinegar. Short of solving world hunger, this super substance is practically unstoppable, especially when it comes to cleaning!

W is for wet cleaning. It uses environmentally-friendly, 100 per cent biodegradable soaps and conditioners to remove tough stains and treat "dry clean only" items without harmful solvents.

X is for xeriscaping. Use up to 50 per cent less water by landscaping with native plants better adapted to your area. And you won't need pesticides!

Y is for yuck! Try one, or nine simple green cleaning recipes to clean the toilet, tub, drain, mold and mildew without toxic chemicals.

Z is for zzzs. Rest easy with pillows made from natural rubber (renewable and biodegradable), kapok (flower seeds) or organic cotton, organic wool.

What did I miss?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

June 9, 2014

Read more

Post a comment


Jun 13, 2014
2:51 PM

You did not list baking soda, and it’s uses. Is there a reason, as I use a lot of it for different things, and by the way I do almost all the things on the list except natural pillows — never see them.

Jun 11, 2014
11:31 AM

To avoid formaldehyde you need to do a lot more than worry about wrinkle free clothes. I developed an allergy to this and discovered it’s in most body washes, shampoos (but not listed, it develops in these products when they have formaldehyde releasers like Quaternium 15 and a few others found in most body wash. It’s also in ALL wheat products (wheat is sprayed with formaldehyde to stop it from going moldy according to the doctor who gave me the list of things to avoid).

Jun 09, 2014
6:35 PM

You missed menstrual products! The tissues in the vagina are very absorbant, therefore chemicals/undisclosed ingredient and processes are very bad! Otherwise very good list though. =)

Jun 10, 2014
2:53 PM

I should see how I can work an eco-friendly period into this alphabet!

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »