Simple Strategies for Making Healthier Choices When Shopping

My grandmother lived to the rip old age of 103. She grew up in a time where very few chemicals were invented, let alone used. Fast forward to today. Chemicals are used in every facet of our lives. Pregnant women, infants and those with medical conditions are especially susceptible to the dangers of the numerous chemicals being used to produce the products that we buy. Lets briefly examine some of the areas of concern in our homes:

A common activity that soon-to-be parents engage in, is "Painting the Nursery" in preparation for their new arrival. The majority of paints use "Volatile Organic Compounds" otherwise known as VOC. They are chemicals that are emitted that are likely to cause both short and long term health concerns. They are not limited to paints, but can be found in cleaning supplies, furnishings, glues etc. What can you do, please consider selecting Zero VOC/low VOC emission paints. In addition, paints may contain other harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde. The Scientific American Magazine reports that a crawling baby inhales the equivalent of 4 cigarettes per day as a result of out-gassing from conventional paints? . For the sake of your children, please buy non-toxic paints and use them throughout your house. Ask for a Materials Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS) before purchasing any paints.

Cleaning Products
Unfortunately, household cleaning products are notorious for being laden with toxic chemicals. Please seek out chemical free household cleaning products. You can choose to make your own cleaning products that are free of harmful chemicals and are even more effective at cleaning your home compared with their toxic sisters.

Body Products
Since our skin is out largest organ, many experts believe that what we put onto our skins, could potentially be more important than what we put into our mouths. There are a growing number of companies that produce chemical free body products, including for baby. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients the better particularly where baby is concerned. This way, if baby should develop an allergy, it will easier to narrow down the culprit. If an ingredient is difficult to pronounce, chances are it is a potentially toxic chemical.

The cosmetics industry is notorious for putting a large variety of harmful chemicals into our make-up etc. Think for a moment about your lipstick. I am certain that you have tasted your lipstick by accident. Doesn't it taste just awful? The chemicals used in your lipstick are potentially being ingested by you. Mascara and eye liner are in such close proximity to your eyes that they are bound to be absorbed by your body. There are alternatives on the market which are available worldwide.

What is organic food you may ask? Different countries may have their own certification process of organic food items. In the USA, the United State Department of Agriculture is the certifying body (USDA) Organic food is basically food that is grown without the use of harmful pesticides. Buying organic whenever possible, will reduce your exposure to pesticides as well as help our environment. Another advantage of buying organic food is that you will be avoiding products that are genetically engineered. In addition, I have read some studies which suggest that organic produce is more nutritious than non-organic. I can personally attest to the fact that my organic produce lasts longer in the refrigerator and when I am cutting my fruit and veggies, I can notice the vibrant colors of the organic product compared with the dull colors of the non-organic. The more colorful the food, in general, the more nutritious.

This is a large topic that we will most certainly touch upon in the months to come. I used to re-use my Clear Plastic Water Bottle until I read the label which says "do not reuse". Certain types of plastics are designed to be reused, while others have a "single use" function. In general, I do not recommend that you heat any type of plastic in the microwave. Use a glass container, designed to withstand the heat of the microwave and dishwasher, as glass is the only material that has been found to be safe. You can always transfer the food into a more kids friendly container after it has been heated in the glass.

Check out the "Smart Plastic Guide" for Parents and Children for an explanation of the different types of plastic (by recycling number) and how they relate to child and adult health. In addition, visit the Ecology Center for a list of the various types of plastic and the different types of chemicals each one can leach: The Ecology Center

Look for toys that are "PVC and Phthalate Free", if you do buy plastic/receive as a gift.


There have been documented cases of toys that have been found to contain dangerous substances such as lead, arsenic etc? How does this happen? Most toys are produced in foreign countries such as Asia that do not have strict standards with regard to manufacturing. Choose toys with non-toxic finishes and make it a point to find out where the toys you buy are being produced.

We probably all have Teflon coated cooking utensils in our home. Please consider discarding them. If you are concerned about lowering your fat content, there are many alternative ways to fry using water instead of oil. Teflon, particularly at high heat has been shown to off gas toxic chemicals which routinely kill birds that are kept in the kitchen. This clearly indicates a concern. Teflon is also found in the form of a coating on carpets and furniture to repel dirt and stains. This can be a potential problem when baby starts crawling. Avoid Teflon in all forms.

Please be aware that if a product is labeled "Organic" or "Natural", this does not guarantee that it is free from harmful chemicals. A quick scan of the ingredient list will help you decide if the product is free of harmful chemicals.

Stay tuned for a few resources for the above listed items.


Kate said...

Fantastic overview. I am looking forward to seeing some resources as well. Thank you

Jessica said...

I am learning so much...thank you for sharing.

David said...

Yes, I buy Organic whenever possible. Thankfully that is often. It is really really scary how much toxins a child gets as mentioned in the Sci. Amer. article. Wow. One must really re-think what we have been taught in America and elsewhere.