Top 10 Toxic Products You Don’t Need
By Margie Kelly
Advertisers spent an astonishing $144 billion in 2011 to entice you to buy more and more stuff, so it’s not surprising that you have a home full of things you don’t need. Here’s a list of 10 toxic products you absolutely don’t need; you can get rid of them right away! Not only will your home be less cluttered, your health will improve by eliminating everyday items that contain toxic chemicals that contaminate your air, food and body.
1. Vinyl plastic: Vinyl is the worst plastic for the environment. Banned in more than 14 countries and the European Union, PVC, also known as vinyl, is found in floors, wall coverings, and toys. Vinyl leaches phthalates (linked to hormone disruption) and lead (a potent neurotoxicant)—contaminating air, dust, and eventually you. Go PVC-free by reading packages and avoiding the #3 in the chasing arrows symbol (usually found on the bottom of a product).
2. Fragrance products: Chemical fragrances found in everyday products like air fresheners, dryer sheets, and perfumes can trigger asthma. Some of the chemicals mimic estrogen, a process that may increase the risk of breast cancer. For example, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is absorbed through the skin and can accumulate in human fat tissue. Phthalates are suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors that are increasingly being linked to reproductive disorders. To be safe, choose fragrance-free products or use those scented with natural fragrances like essential oils.
3. Canned food: It’s probably shocking to find a food item on a toxic product list, but it’s no mistake. Food cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA). Most experts believe this is our main source of exposure to BPA, which has been linked to early puberty, cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression in young girls and much more. Many food brands have gone BPA free, including Campbell’s Soup. But beware: some companies have switched to BPS, BPA’s chemical cousin, which has been linked many of the same health effects. To be safe, opt for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred foods.
4. Dirty cleaners: Admit it: it’s a bit odd to wipe toxic chemicals all over your oven, floors, counters, and toilets to get them “clean.” Corrosive or caustic cleaners, such as the lye and acids found in drain cleaners, oven cleaners and acid-based toilet bowl cleaners are the most dangerous cleaning products because they burn skin, eyes and internal tissue easily. It’s simple and effective to use non-toxic cleaners or to make your own. You won’t miss the toxic fumes in your home either.
5. Pesticides: This is a huge category of products, but they deserve inclusion in their entirety because of how extremely toxic they are. They’re made to be. That’s how they kill things. But, solving your pest problem may leave you with another problem—residual poisons that linger on surfaces, contaminate air, and get tracked onto carpet from the bottom of shoes. There are so many non-toxic ways to eliminate pests and weeds. Next time, get on the offense without chemicals.
6. Bottled water: Americans buy half a billion bottles of water every week, according to the film The Story of Bottled Water. Most people buy bottled water thinking they’re avoiding any contaminants that may be present in their tap water. For the most part, they’re wrong. Bottled water can be just as, or even more, contaminated than tap water. In fact, some bottled water IS tap water – just packaged (in plastic that can leach chemicals into the water) and over-priced. Also, from manufacture to disposal, bottled water creates an enormous amount of pollution, making our water even less drinkable. Do yourself and the world a favor and invest in a reusable stainless steel water bottle and a water filter.
7. Lead lipstick: Can you believe lead, a known neurotoxin that has no safe level of exposure, is found in women’s lipsticks? A study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered lead in 400 lipsticks tested, at levels two times higher than found in a previous FDA study. There is no safe level of lead exposure. Pregnant women and children are at special risk, as lead can interfere with normal brain development. To find a safe lipstick, as well as other personal care products like shampoo and lotion, check out the Skin Deep Database.
8. Nonstick Cookware: Studies show that perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which make products stain-and stick resistant, are linked to cancer and low birth weights. They are incredibly persistent and can now be found all over the globe, including in the bodies of polar bears. Not only are PFCs found in cookware, but microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, some dental flosses, furniture and clothing. To steer clear of PFCs, avoid products made with Teflon or list ingredients beginning with “fluoro” or “perfluoro.”
9. Triclosan: This antibacterial agent is found in soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, deodorants, and even clothing. Studies have found triclosan may harm the human immune system, which makes people more likely to develop allergies, and reduces muscle strength in humans and animals. The FDA warns consumers to read labels for triclosan and recommends using plain soap to clean up. Instead of using antibacterial hand sanitizers made with triclosan, choose an alternative made with at least 60 percent alcohol.
10. Oil-based paints and finishes: There are 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens potentially present in oil-based paint, according to a John Hopkins University study. Still interested in coating your walls and furniture with this gunk? I hope not. Look for water-based options—ideally those that are low- or no-VOC. You could also explore natural finishes like milk paint and vegetable or wax-based wood finishes.What’s at the top of your list of toxic products you don’t need?
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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