Before I was diagnosed with cancer at age 21, I was doing my best to live a natural and nontoxic life. I was about 19 when I made the decision to remove leads, aluminums, and sulfates from my daily routines and household products. At the same time, I was also discovering the benefits of a nontoxic and whole-food diet, so I decided to remove MSG, food coloring, and high-fructose corn syrup. I was in the process of continuing to educate myself on toxic beauty/household/food products and how to make a total transition into a completely nontoxic home.
After being diagnosed with lymphoma, I had a lot of motivation and understanding of how these products can directly correlate to my health and their long-term side effects even more than I thought I did before.
I don’t necessarily believe that if one lives 100% nontoxic, they won’t get cancer, but I believe that it will affect how they handle the treatment and their long-term side effects, including secondary cancers and chances of relapse. These nontoxic products will not just protect us from cancers but will also protect us from countless other health concerns like acne, insomnia, allergic reactions, and much more. I can also 100% say that I notice an immediate difference in my day-to-day life when I’m exposed to toxic chemicals.
A common mistake people make when they start this transition into nontoxic is that they try to go down just an all-natural route. While it’s important to consume natural products, it’s important to know that not all natural products are nontoxic!
But here are eight toxic products that I consistently make sure to avoid (and products you should buy instead)!
Glyphosate is a main ingredient in the world’s most-used weed killer, Roundup by Monsanto. A big issue is that the glyphosate used on fields is hard to get completely off food ingredients. Certain brands like Quaker Oats and Cheerios have recently been found to still have some amount of the chemical on the finished product. Lawsuits are currently being won by lymphoma patients, as glyphosate has been proven to be a correlation to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and a few other cancers as well.
One of the earliest things I absolutely cut out of my diet was food coloring. Food coloring has so many side effects, depending on the specific colors. Not all food coloring carries the same dangers. For instance, Blue Dye #1 and #2 are known to cause brain tumors and chromosomal damage, while Red Dye #40, the most commonly used artificial dye, is known to cause lymphomas, chromosomal damage, and hyperactivity. Yellow #5’s health concerns scare me the most. This list consists of lymphomas, hyperactivity, chromosomal damage, insomnia, aggression, asthma, thyroid tumors, etc.
The list of other dyes continues, and it is quite scary that many of these dyes are banned in other countries but not in America. There are so many wonderful alternatives to these dyes that are nontoxic and found in organic food right at the supermarket.
When I released my wedding registry last year, a friend of mine pointed out that the pans I added were covered in Teflon, a nonstick coating. I remember her clearly telling me about Teflon, as she knew that I strive to lead a nontoxic life, and how it is known to be extremely toxic. With Teflon pans, if they were scratched, some of the nonstick coating might get in your food. Teflon contains particles called PFAS, which over 200 scientists have agreed are carcinogenic. Studies found that not only is Teflon dangerous when directly ingested, but it actually releases PFAS into the air when heated.
Pans that had been on the stove for as little as five minutes released the particles into the air. When looking for cookware, I make sure to look for products that specifically say PFAS-free and avoid anything with the Teflon name or Chemours coatings listed. I am currently loving the brand Neoflam.
Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, which is a known category for causing major health problems. According to the EPA, “Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers.” When mixed with water, it’s called methylene glycol, and it can be found in many products, most notably in hair products. Formaldehyde is also found in tobacco, so if someone is smoking a cigarette in your presence, you will be exposed to this carcinogen.
Fragrances have all been linked to different health problems. They have links to everything from skin and eye irritation to cancer and endocrine disruption. Fragrances can be full of dangerous or toxic perfume chemicals, or contain mystery ingredients you can’t discover. Scented items that use fragrance range from perfumes to laundry detergent to sanitary pads and chemical mixtures such as scented candles and air fresheners that can contribute to toxic overload for us and our loved ones.
Metals such as lead have been linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity. Lead has been proven to be a neurotoxin. Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal occurring naturally in the Earth’s crust. It's found in all parts of the environment, primarily deriving from such human activities as mining, manufacturing, and burning fossil fuels. This is one of the ingredients that I mentioned are natural but toxic.
Parabens are found in beauty products such as makeup, moisturizer, shaving cream, shampoo, and spray-tan products. The FDA currently acknowledges several studies linking parabens, which mimic estrogen, to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count. When shopping for beauty products, I make sure to look for ingredients with the suffix “-paraben” as well. In most cases, paraben-free products will be labeled.
Found in shampoo, body wash, foundation, face wash, mouthwash, and toothpaste, SLS has been shown to cause or contribute to skin irritation, canker sores, disruptions of skin’s natural oil balance, and eye damage. It is also believed to be a major contributor to acne around the mouth and chin.
Next up: nine beauty ingredients that are banned overseas (but legal in the U.S.).