How to Reduce Your Chemical Exposure

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I just finished reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, by Rick Smith. It is a great read, especially if you have kids. The book shows that we are accumulating toxic chemicals in our bodies and in our children’s bodies by using everyday household products that we consider harmless.

The chemicals most discussed in the book are endocrine disruptors. According to the authors, “If toxic chemicals mimic hormones, the chemicals will actually alter what genes get turned on or off at different times.” These toxic chemicals can cross a pregnant woman’s placenta and affect the neurological development, reproductive development, and organ development of her fetus.

Some very positive things have came out of this book, however. Canada banned bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, and many other companies followed suit by voluntarily taking BPA out of their plastics. Plus, new legislation regarding chemical safety has been changed. In the past, chemicals had to be proven toxic to be removed from use with food products; now, until a chemical can be proven safe, it won’t be allowed. In the United States, it is still a work in progress, but there is promise as states like Massachusetts have banned BPA in baby bottles.

Another endocrine disruptor is a group of chemicals called phthalates, used to make plastics soft and flexible. Researchers believe that the greater the mother’s exposure to phthalates, the greater the chance that male children will develop testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS). The good news is that phthalates break down pretty quickly in the environment and in our bodies, so changes in our lifestyle and decreasing our contact with products containing phthalates can make a difference.

Here is a list of the seven toxic chemicals that are found in our households and that most of us use everyday.

Toxic Chemical






Shower curtains

Air fresheners

  • Avoid soft rubbery plastics
  • Purchase new toys that are phthalate-free
  • Buy organic
  • Buy products made of natural fibers
  • Unplug and stop spraying air fresheners
  • Use baking soda to kill odors

Phthalates (DEP)

Personal care products

  • Avoid fragrance and parfum on ingredient list
  • Use unscented


Antibacterial agent

  • Use antibaterical agents that contain alcohol
  • Clean your home with baking soda, lemon and vinegar


Non-stick coatings

Fast food wrappings

Stain repellents

  • Use cast iron or ceramic coated cookware instead of non-stick cookware
  • Limit fast food
  • Avoid pizza boxes, hamburger wrappers and microwaveable popcorn bags
  • Avoid products that claim they are stain-resistant (clothing, furniture, carpet)


Large fish

  • Avoid large predatory fish, especially albacore tuna

Pesticides and Herbicides

Lawn fertilizers, weed products

Fruits and vegetables

  • Many places have now banned the use of pesticides
  • Use an eco-friendly lawn care company
  • Pull the weeds
  • Wash very well

Adapted from Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, by Rick Smith.

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January 2023