When most of us pick up receipts or put our leftovers in plastic tupperware, we aren't thinking about how these items might be hurting us. In fact, there are a variety of everyday products that are harmful to our health, but most of us aren't even aware of their dangers, since they seem so commonly used. Unfortunately, many frequently-used products contain chemicals that can have an effect on our wellbeing, so it's important to stay educated on what items to avoid if possible.
"Most products contain a confusing laundry list of unpronounceable words separated by dozens of hyphens," says Anthony DeLuca, holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach over email. "Make sure to check the ingredients list and always look out for the most common harmful chemicals: parabens, phthalates, fragrance, formaldehyde, and benzene. These can impact neurological function, disrupt endocrine balance responsible for hormones, hamper our cells ability to detoxify, cause infertility and even cancer."
If you're concerned about the products you are using, the Environmental Working Group provides a list of products and foods that are free of toxic ingredients. To minimize any unwanted health effects, try to avoid too much contact with these six everyday products that can be harmful to your health.
1. Cleaning Products
"One of the biggest concerns when it comes to exposure to harmful products is our daily interaction with cleaning products," says health and wellness expert and board-certified pharmacist Dr. Avni Mahiji over email. "Because cleaning products are used so frequently, this exposure is fairly common. The fumes from the chemicals found in many cleaning products, such as ammonia or laundry detergent, can be dangerous for one's health."
2. Laundry Detergent
Not all laundry detergent is bad, but many people experience skin sensitivities from the chemicals in detergent, especially kinds that are fragranced. "You could also see signs of skin irritation if you’re allergic to laundry detergent or fabric softener," says RealSelf dermatologist Dr. Joel Schlessinger over email. "If you notice a red, itchy rash on your skin, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your dermatologist to determine the cause."
Every time you pick up your receipt after shopping, you're exposing yourself to bisphenol-A — more commonly known as BPA — which can mimic estrogen and disrupt your hormones. According to a study in The Journal of the Medical Association, picking up receipts can significantly raise levels of BPA in the body, so try to limit contact with the paper to avoid any risks.
"There could be dangerous ingredients lurking in the makeup you wear every day," says Schlessinger. "Makeup with artificial dyes, fragrances, waxes and oils, all of which can clog pores, can cause breakouts and irritate skin." Makeup can also contain ingredients such as parabens and phthalates, which have been linked to possible issues such as disrupted hormones, higher chance of cancer, and metabolic disease, according to The Washington Post.
5. Plastic Containers
Some types of plastic containers contain polycarbonate (plastic #7), which gives off BPA after repeated use, according to Popular Science. To make matters worse, a study from the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that the chemicals used to replace BPA in many types of plastic have the same hormone-disrupting impact on the body. Opt for glass containers instead, and always avoid microwaving plastic, which can release these harmful chemicals.
6. Air Fresheners
You might be tempted to bring in some nice scents into your home with an air freshener, but air fresheners, including candles, emit chemicals such as phthalates that can disrupt the endocrine system, causing issues with birth defects, cancer, and diabetes, according to a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Limited exposure to these items probably isn't cause for alarm, but try to avoid using them as much as feasibly possible to limit any chances of health effects down the line.