Plastic-Free Living

April 2022 - Community & Environment

It is the season for all things detox, and therefore time to take a closer look into how we can bring this practice beyond our bodies and into our homes.

There are over 85,000 chemicals currently being used in an array of commercial products from paints to cosmetics. But only a handful have been properly studied to know their full impact on our health. Most of the time, chemicals are innocent until proven otherwise, and even though the future results could be incriminating, they often find shelter in the “dosage” prerogative, meaning these now “harmful chemicals” are only harmful if used in high quantities.

But the information available regarding the accumulative effects of use over time or interactions between chemicals in our bodies is small—not to mention the regulations and laws on this topic are still dismal, leaving consumers to rely on the trust they put on certain brands, retailers, or their own research. But it is not all gloomy and worrisome; there are proactive choices and changes you can make to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.

One of the ways chemicals are being introduced into our everyday life is through plastic. It was after World War II that the production of plastic and the variety of its convenient uses started to inundate our homes and lifestyle habits. These everyday chemicals are literally everywhere, and it takes a trained eye and a strong will to eradicate their effect and limit their use in our homes. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.

Phthalates
Colourless and odourless, these are added to plastic to make it pliable and soft in the same way that they are added to cosmetics to make their fragrance last longer. These chemicals are easily transferable by heat, agitation, or prolonged storage.

Bisphenol A (BPA)
This is used in the production of polycarbonate plastic, which is used to make hard plastic items such as reusable water bottles, baby bottles, and food and storage containers. It is also used as a protective coating on metal equipment, food cans, and in non-stick coating.

Flame-retardants
Not a plastic compound per se, but certainly a chemical that is widely present in our homes as it has been steadily added since 1970 to furniture, mattresses, carpets, computers, and even children’s clothing to, as its name states, slow down the propagation of fire.

Pesticides
It would be impossible to talk about toxins as chemicals without talking about pesticides. Pesticides are man-made synthetic substances in several categories such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, wood preservatives, and garden and house chemicals. These substances have been studied and known to have a negative effect on human health, especially when it comes to endocrine and reproductive health.
All of the chemicals mentioned above are known to be endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) that enter our bodies when we breathe, ingest, or absorb them through the skin. EDCs can mimic the very detailed communication that our natural hormones deliver to the body, which in turn causes an interference in how our hormones carry out their specific functions.

Our bodies can only process a limited amount of chemicals, and once that threshold is reached we begin to see disruptions in our health, as they inhibit the proper function of organs and tissues. And even though we all respond differently to these chemical exposures, it is important for everyone to limit them in our lives.

What Can You Do?
While the overall message about chemical exposure is a scary one, with small lifestyle changes you can make a big impact in reducing your exposure.

Diet
Cilantro: Coriandrum sativum has been linked to helping detoxify the body from heavy metals. It has also been studied regarding the reduction of pain and inflammation in the body.

Broccoli and cruciferous vegetables: Cauliflower, radish, kale, Brussels sprouts, watercress, and cabbage are rich in metabolites such as glucosinolates and S-methylcysteine sulfoxide. These have been linked to anti-cancer properties, antioxidant effect, improved estrogen metabolism, and heart health.

Protein: Consuming proper amounts of protein, which can be plant- or animal-based, is key for immune system functioning. Protein helps regulate the immune system by assisting with the production of antibodies and also with the activation of specific white blood cells that in turn help fight and clear abnormal cell growth.

Water quality matters: Regularly change the water filter in your fridge or other devices. Avoid drinking water that has been stored in plastic.

In the Kitchen
Ditch the plastic food storage container. Use glass containers, silicone bags, or stainless steal bento boxes for snacks and lunches.

At all cost, avoid heating or reheating food in plastic containers.

Replace your Teflon or non-stick cookware with cast iron, stainless steel, or non-toxic cookware.
Transfer spices and food from their original plastic bags to glass or stainless steel containers.

Replace plastic water bottles with stainless steel or glass options. When possible, avoid plastic straw inserts.

These are a few examples of how to inexpensively make sustainable changes that can help you reduce the chemical load you and your family are exposed to daily. Little, consistent steps can generate great results. 

Laura Spencer is one of Nature’s Fare Markets’ vitamin specialists and a passionate foodie. She believes we can be as happy, healthier, and fulfilled as we allow ourselves to be. As a certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant, she works with people to help them achieve a healthy lifestyle by focusing on modifying behaviours and eating habits that are not working.

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