What are we really putting on—and in—to our bodies? INVISIBLE, NOISELESS AND SOMETIMES LACKING EVEN A DISTINCT ODOR ARE the numerous toxins and chemicals we expose ourselves to every day. After picking up our necessities at the store, we trust our purchases will keep our families healthy or, at the least, not present a danger. That blind trust includes an unending list of foreign ingredients found in deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, detergents, seemingly everything. We cannot avoid exposure to these ingredients altogether. In small doses and in most cases, our health isn’t impacted severely. However, here are four products to watch out for: By Lindsey Heale
Vinyl Shower Curtains After unwrapping a new shower curtain from its packaging, we’re struck by the scent of newness. It’s fresh but distinctly chemical, we realize, as we hook the curtain through the shower’s rings. That chemical odor comes from more than a hundred different volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A number of these are toxic, notably phthalates. Phthalates are used to soften plastics and help scents and chemicals bind together. That means, even after the new smell dissipates, phthalates are still present. Phthalates are known to be endocrine disruptors, therefore affecting adolescent children the most. In fact, six types were routinely found in children's toys such as rattles, pacifiers and teething rings before they were deemed unsafe and banned by Congress. Studies also suggest that phthalates cause asthma and negatively affect the kidneys and male reproductive system. To avoid phthalates, invest in curtains made of natural fibers such as cotton, hemp or linen, hydrophobic curtains made of nylon or polyester, or simply use a glass door instead.
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With tampons, women might not know what they’re putting into their bodies. Since the FDA considers tampons medical devices, companies aren’t obligated to disclose a full list of their ingredients. Yet, according to experts’ claims, tampons are potentially hazardous to the body because of phthalates and dioxins, which are highly toxic and known human carcinogens, states the World Health Organization. Ami Zota, assistant professor of environmental health at George Washington University, reports that the chemicals found in tampons are easily absorbed by the vaginal mucosa. They then enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Sometimes, small fibers break off when tampons are removed, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. This can lead to the deadly toxic shock syndrome. When it comes to feminine care, look for transparency in ingredients and composition. Avoid fragranced powders, tampons and vaginal douches, as well.