What’s in your cleaning products, cosmetics and hygiene products?
Broad Impact Household Chemicals:
Americans use up to $14 billion in cleaning products each year. Cleaning supplies, along with personal care products and pesticides, are the primary source of chemical exposure in American households. Use of these products affects indoor air quality and water quality of our immediate environment. Consequently, these chemicals have a detrimental effect on our health.
Volatile chemicals in cleaning supplies are a significant reason why indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air. Indoor air has higher concentrations of volatile organic chemicals, asthma-causing chemicals and other toxic chemicals.[3,4] After these products are rinsed down the drain, they join our water waste and affect the larger environment. A United States Geological Survey from 2002 found that 70% of streams in US had breakdown products from detergents and 66% had disinfectants. As a result, there are growing health concerns for fish and wildlife that exist downstream from wastewater treatment plants.
Common Chemical Culprits:
Cleaning sprays and disinfectants are a major source of volatile organic chemicals. These compounds are easily aerosolized due to their volatility. These chemicals are Glycol ethers and Alkylphenol ethoxylates.
Glycol ethers are volatile organic chemicals released from our cleaning products. Pregnant women exposed to glycol ethers at work have a greater chance of having children with birth defects like cleft lip and neural tube defects.[7 ]One type called 2-butoxyethanol quickly vaporizes after use, then absorbs through the skin. Exposure resulted in low-birth weight in mice studies, as well as damage to red blood cells—causing anemia.[9,10]
Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APE) are surfactant chemicals that are part of detergents, dish soaps, and surface cleaners. These are the main chemicals that end up in our wastewater sewage, then are passed on to our surface water systems like streams and rivers. When APE’s breakdown, they form more toxic chemicals like Nonylphenol that mimic the activity of Estrogen and suppress testosterone; thus, contributing to problems with reproductive cycle problems in many animals and fish. Nonylphenols and octylphenol also promote the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells.
Phthalates are common softening agents in manufacturing plastics; they are also used in deodorizers, laundry detergents and fabric softeners.[16,17] A 2002 study found that phthalates were also present in more than 65% of our cosmetic supplies. These are often listed as “fragrance” on the ingredients. Animal studies show that exposure can cause birth defects and damage to developing organs. It can also affect the male reproductive cycle, resulting in low sperm count and damage to sperm. In another study, children with allergies were exposed to more phthalates in household dust and surfaces. Phthalates found in air fresheners also contribute to asthma in children.
Air fresheners may contain volatile organic chemicals like ketones, xylenes and aldehydes; as well as benzene and formaldehyde, which are known cancer-causing agents. A study of 14,000 women in the UK found that those exposed to air fresheners and aerosol spray less than once per week had 25% more headaches and 19% more postpartum depression. In children younger than 6 months old, similar exposure can cause 30% more ear infections and 22% more diarrhea.
Cosmetics are also a major source of exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals. A study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that teen females use an average of 17 cosmetic products, compared to adults, who use up to 12 cosmetic products.[24 ] Major toxic Chemicals found in this products and their effects are as follows:
Natural Non-Toxic Options:
Several effective, non-toxic and inexpensive cleaning products can be made at home. Replacing volatile and toxic cleaning products goes a long way toward preventing exposure on a daily basis. It can help lower the risk of allergic reactions and toxicity. Here are some recipes for homemade cleaning supplies from eartheasy.com:
- All-Purpose Cleaner:
Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Add a citrus-based essential oil for fragrance. Put mixture into a spray bottle for convenient use.
- Air Freshener:
- In a small spray bottle, mix 15 to 30 drops of lavender or rose essential oil to 30 ml of water. Shake well before each use… Spray in area that needs refreshing.
- Houseplants are a wonderful source for cleaning indoor air and adding natural fragrance to any space.
- Bathroom Mold Cleaner:
Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using the shower.
- Carpet Cleaner:
- Preparation: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on stain, let sit for several minutes, and clean with a brush or sponge using warm soapy water.
- Lite version: For fresh grease spots, sprinkle cornstarch onto spot and wait 15 to 30 minutes before vacuuming.
- For a heavy duty carpet cleaner: Mix ¼ cup each salt, borax and vinegar. Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours. Vacuum.
Mix 2 teaspoons of borax, 4 tablespoons of vinegar and 3 cups of hot water. For stronger cleaning power, add ¼ teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe mixture with dampened cloth or use non-aerosol spray bottle on surfaces.
- Drain Cleaner:
- For light drain cleaning, mix ½ cup of salt in 4 liters of water, heat (but not to a boil) and pour down the drain.
- For stronger cleaning, pour about ½ cup baking soda down the drain, then ½ cup vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction can break fatty acids down into soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clear residue.
- All-Purpose Cleaner:
These and more ideas for home-made cleaning supplies can be found at eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm. The Environmental Working Group also provides excellent options for commercial products that are non-toxic and even bio-degradable. More information on these can be found at:ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/top_products.
Support Natural Detox of the Body:
Detoxification is a fundamental practice for many natural medicine traditions. In the absence of obstacles (like pollutants, deficiencies, negative emotions, etc.), we recognize a basic truth: our body function naturally begins to lean into balance. For this profound effect, it is important that detoxification occurs at all levels of being—from single cells to the whole body.
Detoxification can be stimulated by our daily diet, lifestyle and activities. Here’s an organ-based detox guide:
Lungs: With every breath, we take in much-needed nutrition and oxygen, and we throw out the toxicant carbon dioxide (CO2) and much more. Deep, full breaths help saturate our airway with oxygen; pressure helps promote healthy gas exchange. This doesn’t just help with CO2 elimination, it also gets rid of aerosolized toxins from our bodies.
To support this process, Ayurveda offers a wide variety of breathing exercises. The most simple of these is deep diaphragmatic breathing. Also called “so-hum” breathing:
- Inhale through your nose, filling your lungs to full capacity.
- Hold the breath for 3 seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth.
- Repeat this exercise 16 times, twice a day.
Liver and Pancreas: These organs support the subtle digestive processes and absorption of nutrients. As a result, these organs are constantly exposed to toxins from our foods and medications. The simplest way of protecting these organs is to eat organic, fresh, whole foods; avoid all processed foods.
An easy way to protect the liver is through the following:
- Eat 2 to 3 servings of green leafy vegetables daily and 2 to 3 servings of colorful seasonal vegetables.
- Eat 1 to 2 servings of seasonal fruits daily.
- Include 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in your diet – olive, coconut, avocado, walnut, hemp, etc.
Gastrointestinal Tract: Health of the gastrointestinal tract is the most common focus for my patients. This is where we are most vulnerable to toxin absorption on a daily basis. The digestive tract is also the home of more than 100 trillion bacteria that protect our health by supporting digestion and enhancing the immune system. Imbalance of the gut bacteria can cause severe inflammatory disease like inflammatory bowel disease.
The best approach for the digestive tract is to protect normal function and regularly replenish the gut bacteria:
- Consume several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily (same used for liver detox).
- Eat regular fermented foods: yogurt, kimchi, sourkraut, sour cream, kefir, etc. This is nutrition for replenishing gut bacteria. You can also add Probiotic 100B before meals.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day.
Kidney and Urinary Tract: The kidney function ensures that we can efficiently get rid of water-soluble toxins from our body. It also helps to maintain electrolyte balance in the body so all our cells can function and communicate with each other. Urinary tract health is compromised when we don’t drink adequate water, alter the pH of our body fluids and have an imbalance of probiotics.
Ideal environment in the kidneys is low sugar, low protein and relatively alkaline pH (pH near 7). Acidic pH can lead to increase urinary tract infections and formation of kidney stones. To support kidney function:
- Eliminate refined sugars from your diet completely—1 to 2 teaspoons of honey daily is enough.
- Drink plenty of water: add lemon slices or mint leaves to alkalinize the water.
- Support probiotic intake: Yogurt, kimchi, sourkraut, sour cream, kefir, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably home grown or picked up from a farmers market; this is the same nutrition for replenishing gut bacteria.
Skin: The health of our skin is an important indicator of toxin buildup in our body. Expressions of acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, etc., demonstrate different forms of imbalances in the body. Therefore, effective support of all detox processes is the first step to promoting skin health.
The main mechanism to eliminate toxins from the skin is sweat. Another way is to shed old skin to prevent buildup of dead materials. Here are some ways to support:
- Sweat regularly:
- Do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times per week;
- Sweat in a sauna or steam room after exercise for 20 to 30 minutes twice per week.
- Skin brush: use a skin brush to gently scrub off old, dead skin. Brushing towards the heart also helps to promote lymph flow. For example: start at the hand and brush towards the shoulder.
- Apply oil: perform self-massage with sesame oil for Vata dominant body type, coconut for Pitta and olive oil for Kapha body types, 2 to 3 times per week, ideally 10 minutes before going in the sauna to sweat. The oil nourishes the skin and sweating helps to pull out fat-soluble toxins from skin layers.
- Sweat regularly:
Mind: The mind is our main interactive organ in social and emotional circumstances. It can become exposed to displeasure, anger, frustration, irritability, emotional pain, trauma, as well as unhealthy thoughts and ideas. Emotional imbalance is often result of inadequate or improper processing of these exposures of the mind.
Peace, solitude and rest are easy ways to help process experiences. Here are some ways to do it:
- Meditate to help quiet the activity of the mind. Regular practice of about 20 minutes twice a day can help to clear the mind and reboot.
- Walking is a moderate level exercise that also gives an opportunity to rest the mind from being engaged. Regular walks in the natural settings, like the woods, have been shown to improve mood, self-esteem and even the immune system.
- Play time with family and friends: whether it is physical activity or creative projects, play time is an ideal way to give the mind a break from the daily grind.
- Sleep 7 to 8 hours every night between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This helps align the hormonal activity in the body and the mind with circadian rhythm—the day-night cycle of nature.
Infusing these simple activities into your daily and weekly routines can help to optimize your natural capacity for detoxification. This helps sustain a good baseline of cleanliness for all your tissues, body and mind.
Herbal Detox Support:
Amla, Emblica officinalis: This Ayurvedic rasayana is included in a class of herbs that have a cleansing and rejuvenating effect on all the tissues of the body. It has been dubbed “the Ayurvedic wonder” for its wide range of healing effects. Some include: antioxidants, antimicrobial, liver support, heavy metal chelation, etc. As an antioxidant, amla helps scavenge free radicals or reactive oxygen species directly and indirectly. Amla helps restore antioxidant powerhouse enzymes like superoxide dismutase, catalase and more. In this way, Amla supports cellular level protection, while maintaining cellular energy metabolism. Amla’s antioxidant activity also extends to the brain. In an experimental study, amla improved levels of brain antioxidant enzymes succinate dehydrogenase, NADH dehydrogenase and others. The protective effects of amla can be attributed to a variety of ascorbate or vitamin C compounds found in the herb.
Studies show that amla is proven to have effective anti-cancer properties. Antioxidants polyphenols have demonstrated DNA protective properties. Research indicates that amla can be used in cancer prevention, as well as supportive cancer treatment. 
Triphala, traditional formula: This formula is one of the most widely used Ayurvedic formulas in the world. It is a combination of three herbs: Amla, Haritaki, and Bibhitaki. This herbal trifecta offers antioxidant, anti-diabetic and anti-obesity effects in the body. The formula is also rich in minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium and zinc. This combination of minerals supports enzymatic activity in blood, brain, hormone production and immune function. Another direct benefit is in the digestive tract. In a clinical study, “triphala was found to have good laxative property, help manage hyperacidity and also improve appetite.” Thus, triphala was found to cleanse the bowels, improve digestion and reduce adverse effects of indigestion.
Guduchi, Tinospora cordifolia: This herb is also called Amrita, meaning “Elixir of Immortality” for the wide range of beneficial effects on our health. Guduchi has been observed to have “anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-oxidant, anti-allergic, anti-stress, anti-leprotic, anti-malarial, hepatoprotective, immune-modulatory and anti-neoplastic (anti-cancer) activities.” In other words, guduchi supports healthy metabolic activity, liver function and enhances immune activity, while protecting the body from inflammatory, allergic and arthritic degradation.
In the detox process, guduchi’s liver-protective and immune-modulatory effects are the main focus. The antioxidant properties aid the detox activity of the liver. This herb restores antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione peroxidase. Experimental studies have shown guduchi directly protects the liver from toxic chemical damage—supporting detox. The immune-modulatory activity helps reduce the immune system’s allergic reactivity. This action protects from unnecessary oxidative stress and tissue damage, reducing toxic burdens in the body.
Punarnava, Boerhaavia diffusa: The name punarnava means “to make new again”—characterizing the rejuvenating effects of this rasayana herb. According to Ayurveda, “Punarnava is bitter, cooling, astringent to bowels, useful in biliousness, blood impurities, leucorrhoea, anemia, inflammations, heart diseases and asthma.” Scientifically-validated anti-aging, rejuvenating benefits of punarnava include: anti-stress activity, antioxidant activity, immune-modulation and brain rejuvenation.
Punarnava’s detoxification effects also come from its supportive activity in the liver and kidneys. In experimental studies, the herb has shown to protect the liver in the presence of toxic chemicals. Taking punarnava can restore liver function and enzymes: “aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, lactate dehydrogenase and gamma glutamyl transferase.” Another experimental study demonstrated punarnava’s renal protective effects. Here, co-administration of punarnava protected the renal system against drug toxicity in diclofenac sodium. Punarnava has beneficial short-term effects on the kidneys, liver and long-term benefits through rejuvenation.
Kutki, Picrorrhiza kurroa: kutki has traditionally been used to treat liver and upper respiratory tract disorders, reduce fevers, as well as cure weak digestion, chronic diarrhea and scorpion sting. Research validates its therapeutic activities including: liver protection, gallbladder stimulant, antioxidant and immune-modulatory.[58,59] Treatment with kutki has shown direct regenerative effects on liver cells after exposure to multiple toxic chemicals like galactosamine, thioacetamide and carbon tetrachloride. Kukti is also protects the kidneys—a very important activity for detoxification and overall health. In animal models, kutki improved kidney function and destruction of the kidney associated with chronic kidney disease. In diabetic models, kutki’s protective effects on the kidneys were as effective as ACE inhibitor drug. The effectiveness of kutki, including cancer prevention, has been attributed to the herb’s powerful antioxidant activity.
We have been bombarded with man-made chemicals in the last century. Thousands of chemicals are manufactured and used without proper testing.
Our bodies are a natural pharmacy, but we must provide a special environment for detoxification. First of all, we need to avoid the use of toxic chemicals. The power is in our hands; if we boycott chemical products, manufacturers will have a clear message to stop producing goods with harmful chemicals. There are plenty of natural alternatives available.
Follow the laws of Mother Nature. Eat and behave according to the seasons. Your body will be in bliss.
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