10 Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship

Relationships are meant to be life giving, challenging and give a sense of connection and belonging. Unfortunately, I see many clients who are stuck in“toxic relationships” that often do the opposite. When I say toxic relationship, I mean any relationship whether it is a significant other, friend, child or family member. Toxic literally means poisonous. It is something that is harmful to us and our health and functioning. Therefore, a toxic relationship will interfere with our mental and emotional health and keep us from thriving. I also use toxic relationships and emotionally abusive relationships synonymously.

Another way to define a toxic relationship is relationships that involve emotional abuse. If a relationship has any kind of physical or sexual abuse, of course it is unhealthy and unsafe. I focus here of emotional abuse, however, because emotional abuse can often be very difficult to identify and is often a precursor to or a part of physical and sexual abuse. Many times emotional abuse can be just as damaging to a person as more overt forms of abuse. One way to define patterns of emotional abuse that characterizes a toxic relationship is any behavior or attitude that emotionally damages another person, regardless of whether there is conscious intent to do so.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that we do not need to demonize those who have hurt us or who we have been in a toxic relationship with. People who emotionally abuse often do so because that was what was modeled to them. They may not even realize that their behaviors or patterns in relationships are harmful and hurtful. This does not excuse their behavior but can help us have more compassion and realize that it’s not all about us. In addition, I often hear people use the term “toxic” in a very dismissive way (ie: Oh she is so toxic), as if that person should be quarantined and ignored forever. It also seems like using this word is a get out of jail free card to not look at ourselves and what part we have played in a toxic relationship. Of course there are cases when someone is so abusive or sick that there is nothing you can do to change things other than leave the relationship completely, other times, however, we can empower ourselves to change our patterns in our unhealthy relationships if we know what to look for and how to respond. If you are concerned that you might be in a toxic relationship or are unsure, read on to learn some common signs and ways to deal.

Identifying Abuse

Before we jump into some very specific forms of emotional abuse, take a moment to check in with yourself and by asking these questions:

How do I feel after spending time with this person?

Have I changed since spending time with this person? How?

What do my trusted friends and loved ones have to say about my relationship with this person?

Do I feel/believe that I have as much to offer them as they offer me?

Do I feel/believe that my opinion, ideas and feelings matter to them?

How do I feel while I am spending time with them? How does my body feel? (Relaxed, tense?)

You may notice that after spending time with certain people you feel peaceful or fulfilled while after spending time with others you feel drained or unsure of yourself. These are important feelings to pay attention to. Of course if you have one negative interaction with someone that makes you feel uneasy, that does not necessarily mean they are toxic and you should end the relationship. We are all imperfect humans and all good relationships have conflict and discomfort at times. However, if you find your interactions with someone consistently result in you feeling down, drained or insecure, there might be some toxic, emotionally abusive dynamics. Since some forms of toxicity in relationships can be so subtle, it can be helpful to check in with ourselves and our feelings. We might feel nervous or tense when we are about to see a certain person but not know why. What is fascinating is that our emotions and bodies can often pick up on emotional abuse before our conscious minds can. One possible reason is that we have been in these kinds of relationships most of our lives and think they are normal. Or the negative patterns started so small and grew at such a gradual pace that we have not realized how toxic our relationship has become. We can build up a tolerance to being treated poorly. And, the very nature of emotional abuse often leads to self doubt in the abused.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse involves clear and consistent patterns that I will list and go over below. These dynamics are destructive and often the intent is to make the other feel badly about him or herself. Remember, emotional abuse is any behavior or attitude that emotionally damages another person, regardless of whether there is conscious intent to do so. It can be overt and very openly demeaning or covert (more subtle). And as the definition says, it can be intentional or unintentional. You may realize there are some very subtle forms of one of these characteristics that simply need to be pointed out in order to make a change. If you identify any of these dynamics in one of your relationships, you do not necessarily need to immediately cut that person out of your life. It may mean that you need to reassess the relationship and make some changes, however.

These 10 types of emotional abuse are described in The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverly Engel.

Domination: attempting to control another’s actions and always have their own way. The abuser may use threats and/or manipulation to get their way.

Verbal Assaults: Berating, belittling, criticizing, humiliating, name-calling, screaming, threatening, excessive blaming, shaming, using sarcasm in a cutting way, verbal abuse disguised as jokes. The abuser may then belittle you for being hurt by their words and taking it so seriously.

Constant Criticism/Continual Blaming: This can be difficult to identify. The person might put you down under the guise of humor, similar to verbal assaults, or claiming they are just trying to help you to be better. Engle describes this dynamic’s effects, saying “When someone is unrelentingly critical of you, always finds fault, can never be pleased, and blames you for everything that goes wrong, it is the insidious nature and cumulative effects of the abuse that do the damage.”

Abusive Expectations: When someone places unreasonable demands on you (ie: expecting a friend or partner to put aside everything in order to satisfy their needs, demanding a partner’s undivided attention, demanding constant sex, or requiring a friend/partner to spend all of his or her time with them.) Usually they react strongly when you do not meet these expectations.

Emotional Blackmail: Coercing another to do what you want by playing into their fear, guilt or compassion (ie: one partner threatening to end the relationship or withholding sex if they don’t get what they want, silent treatment, guilt trips, making you feel selfish when you do something they don’t want you to do, asking you to give something up as a way of proving your love/friendship/loyalty to him/her.) Again, this blackmail may be subtle or overt.

Unpredictable Responses: This is characterized by drastic mood swings, sudden emotional outbursts for no apparent reason and inconsistent responses. They may react to a situation fine one day and then explode at the same situation the next day. This causes others to feel constantly on edge-waiting for the other shoe to drop. This behavior is common with alcohol and drug abusers/addicts or those with various forms of mental illness. This form of emotional abuse keeps you in a hypervigilant state, needing to be ready to respond to the other’s explosions or mood swings.

Constant Chaos/Creating Crisis: This is characterized by continual upheavals and discord. The abuser may deliberately start arguments with you or others or seem to be in constant conflict with others. The phrase “addicted to drama” fits here. This behavior may serve to distract from their own problems, feelings of emptiness or feel more comfortable for those who were raised in chaotic environments.

Character Assasination: Constantly blowing someone’s mistakes out of proportion, humiliating, criticizing, making fun of someone in front of others, or discounting another’s achievements. This can also involve lying about someone to negatively influence others’ opinions of them and gossiping about their mistakes and failures.

Gaslighting: This term comes from the classic movie Gaslight in which a husband uses a variety of insidious techniques to make his wife doubt her perceptions, memory and sanity. The abuser may continually deny that certain events occurred or that he or she said something you both know was said or he or she my insinuate that you are exaggerating or lying. The abusive person may be trying to gain control over you or avoid taking responsibility for his or her actions. This often results in the abused doubting themselves and less likely to speak up when future abuse happens.

Sexual Harassment: This can occur anywhere, even with a romantic partner. Unwelcome sexual advances or any physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature that is uninvited and unwelcome constitutes sexual harassment. The perpetrator may coerce you into becoming sexual against your will or into doing sexual acts you have no desire to do or are even repulsed by. Often other forms of emotional abuse go hand in hand with sexual harassment such as gaslighting or constant criticizing. They may claim that they are helping you to be less repressed and more sexually free and criticize you for being uptight and prudish. Or they may claim they were just being friendly and that you are blowing their actions out of proportion. But if it makes you uncomfortable and is unwanted, it is harassment, no matter their intent.

Now What?

Maybe you are seeing that some of your relationships has one or multiple forms of emotional abuse at play. Maybe you are recognizing that you are the abuser. So now what do you do? If you are identifying yourself as the abuser, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up will not help you become more healthy. Most likely there is a reason you engage in these abusive, toxic behaviors in your relationships and now you can work to discover what that reason is. You can do this within the confines of a safe and empathetic therapeutic relationship. Many people seek therapy over talking to a good friend because there is no judgement and instead there is unconditional positive regard. That means us therapists believe the best about you and that while you may do bad things you are not yourself, bad. If you want to stop being emotionally abusive to people you care about, find a therapist who can help you be more aware of when you are engaging in these behaviors and what is driving them.

If you are seeing that you have been emotionally abused there are multiple helpful ways to respond. First, you probably need to set some boundaries with this person either directly or just in your own mind. This involves being clear about what you will and will not accept. This may be letting the person know that you do not like being talked down to or being called names and if they start doing that again, you will get up and leave. Many times people feel mean when they hold boundaries, but boundaries are not an ultimatum or empty threat. Instead, they are a way to emotionally protect yourself. Boundaries are also loving towards yourself and the other person and not done as a punishment. When you change what you will and will not put up with it gives the other person an opportunity to change for the better as well.

It is also important for you to be aware of how the abuse has twisted your perception of yourself. Most likely you have received countless subtle or overt messages that you are not good enough, incompetent, unattractive or any other number of negative things. This is going to take a toll on your sense of self, so be aware of any negative self talk and ask yourself, “Is this me or this other person’s voice?” Awareness is the first step to taking control over your mind again. From here you can work to rebuild what the abuse tore down: your self esteem, self confidence, passion, silliness, creativity, etc.

While you are recovering from this toxic relationship, it is immensely helpful to surround yourself with safe, supportive people who can remind you of who you really are and want to build you up. Sometimes we need others to remind us of what is true about us before we are able to do it for ourselves. Setting boundaries and changing our own patterns can be very difficult so it’s also helpful to have people cheering you on and reminding you of why you are making these changes.

You also may need to grieve the relationship as you adjust your expectations and hopes for this person or relationship, especially if it is someone very close like a spouse or parent. You may also experience strong anger as you realize how poorly you have been treated. Anger is an appropriate response and will demand to be felt. As you work through your anger you can eventually move toward forgiveness towards yourself for allowing yourself to be treated so poorly and possibly also towards the abuser. Forgiveness does not mean they have to remain in your life or that you think everything they said and did is okay. Forgiving them is releasing them and believing that you will be okay no matter what happens or doesn’t happen to them. Forgiveness is really for your well being, not theirs, though it may have positive effects for them as well.

Finally, rather than kick yourself for not realizing how bad this relationship was sooner, allow this experience to teach you what to look out for in the future so it doesn’t happen again. I work with many people who are struggling to get out of a pattern of toxic relationships. They wonder why they keep choosing emotionally abusive people. Often it is because they just focus on the other people and not themselves. There is something in us that draws us to these kinds of people and until we address that the cycle will continue. We also need to learn to trust our gut when it tells us something is off about this person. When we can use our previous experiences to inform our current actions in relationship we can make different choices that will lead to better relational outcomes.


cleaning up “toxic thoughts”

The great Greek philosopher Epictetus is credited with saying “it is not events that disturb us, but our interpretation of the event”. I love this quote, because it outlines a core concept of cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is a modality of psychotherapy that I draw upon frequently in my practice because it powerfully guides us to identify the connection between what we think, how we feel in response to the thoughts we think, and what we can choose to do behaviorally in response to our thoughts and feelings.


Just as environmental toxins can harm us physically, toxic thought patterns have the power to wreak havoc on our mental/emotional health. So, what can we do? Physically, if I learn that a substance in my lotion is harmful, I can take action. I can remove that product from my shelf and find a cleaner option. Similarly, psychotherapy can be a life-changing process where a person is guided to identify the onset and impact of specific thought patterns in their lives, which helps get to the root of many “problems”/symptoms and identify a way forward toward the changes they may desire to make. We can feel and act differently, which can noticeably improve quality of life!


First, we start with awareness. We act like curious scientists, searching out the “toxic” thoughts that are negative, distorted, untrue, inaccurate, and have potential to powerfully and negatively impact how we view ourselves, the world, and our future.


Let’s say that I recognize some repeating thoughts in my mind are, “If I make mistakes I’ve failed, people will judge me harshly, and I need to be perfect”. In examining the impact, I may realize that these specific thoughts cause me to feel anxious and behaviorally I may keep a guard up in relationship with others. From this step I can work to question the validity of these thoughts and implement/practice new ways of thinking and behaving.


There is so much I could expound upon here.   To simplify it to basics, it comes down to awareness, analysis, and choice.

  1. Awareness: what am I thinking? What thought popped into my mind when I noticed I was experiencing strong emotion?


  1. Analysis: once you have identified the thought, question it. Analyze it and evaluate it for truth. Identify distortions. What is the impact of this thinking on my feelings and behavior? What are the consequences?


  1. Choice: what do I choose to do now with this information? Do I want to keep this pattern? Work to purposefully replace thoughts? Develop truths/affirmations to think on purpose?


With practice and intention, we can change what we think, how we feel, and what we do. We can be transformed through the renewing of our minds.


Resources for further information:


National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists: http://www.nacbt.org/

David Burns website: https://feelinggood.com/



A Clean Sweep: Practical Tips for Home Detox

In last month’s post we explored ways that you can minimize your toxic load with an overhaul of personal care products. This month we’ll expand on that journey by identifying common toxins found in homes and discuss ways that you can protect and enrich the health of your family and the environment.


Many of the TOXIC CHEMICALS IN QUESTION HAVE BEEN LINKED TO VARIOUS CANCERS, REPRODUCTIVE ABNORMALITIES, OBESITY, DIABETES, ASTHMA, ALLERGIES, ECZEMA, HEART AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES AND NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS.  It’s important to note that the effects of many toxins may not be felt or experienced immediately or in the short term. However, long term exposure even in small doses can pose serious health threats.




The EPA estimates that INDOOR AIR CONTAINS 2 TO 5 TIMES MORE POLLUTANTS THAN OUTDOOR AIR due to chemicals in SYNTHETIC CLEANERS, PAINTS, CARPETING AND SMOKE AS WELL AS MOLDS AND VIRUSES just to name a few16.Lest you be tempted to simply mask those unwanted particles a and smells with a scented “Plug in”, spray or candle, beware that most air fresheners and candles don’t’ clean the air but actually contribute to a host of health concerns due to the SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES they contain.

(Read more here: https://kairoscw.com/2019/08/27/cleaning-up-your-personal-care-products/).

In addition, candles are commonly made of PARAFFIN wax, which presents other problems. Paraffin is an unsustainable petroleum byproduct and studies have shown that burning PARAFFIN CANDLES RELEASES TOLULENE AND BENZENE FUMES THAT HAVE BEEN LINKED TO ASTHMA AND LUNG CANCER 6

VENTILATION:Instead of using synthetics to cover up scents, promote clean air in your home by REGULARLY OPENING DOORS AND WINDOWS DAILY, even for a short period of time to allow ventilation.

PLANT POWER:Consider adding air cleaning varieties of plants such as BROMELIADS, DRACAENA, PEACE LILIES, ENGLISH IVY, JADE AND SPIDER PLANTS in all rooms of your home. These plants have been shown to be naturally effective at FILTERING OUT MANY COMMON HARMFUL VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOCS) INCLUDING ACETONE, BENZENE AND FORMALDEHYDE17.

ESSENTIAL OILS AND CANDLES: If you enjoy scents in your space, utilize a DIFFUSER FILLED WITH PURE ESSENTIAL OILS. If burning candles, choose those that are paraffin free. Non – GMO soy candles are safe options but those made of BEESWAX are even better and also support the care and cultivation of our necessary pollinators, bees!

AIR FILTERS:Mold due to water damage, bacteria, germs, dust, dander, viruses and VOCs are common contaminants that can compromise the quality of the air in your home. Utilizing a HEPA FILTER AND/OR AIR SANITIZER can significantly increase air quality and would be recommended especially for INDIVIDUALS WHO STRUGGLE WITH CHRONIC SINUS CONGESTION, ALLERGIES, ASTHMA, HEADACHES, FATIGUE AND INFLAMMATORY CONDITIONS OF THE EYES, MUCOUS MEMBRANES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. You may ALSO CONSIDER PURCHASING AIR FILTRATION SYSTEMS IF YOU LIVE IN A PARTICULARLY COLD CLIMATE which inhibits open window ventilation a good portion of the year.  If you’re in the market for an air filter, Intellipure, IQ Air and Guardian Molekule all offer good quality and highly recommended options.


Word on the street is that we are mostly water, therefore utilizing and protecting clean water as medicine is critical to vibrant health. Tap water quality can vary greatly depending on where you live but even in the United States, with some of the cleanest water supplies, CONTAMINANTS can frequently be found. These most often include LEAD, COPPER, ARSENIC, BACTERIA, VIRUSES, PARASITES, PHARMACEUTICALS, HERBICIDES, PESTICIDES AND RADON. If you are tempted to reach for bottled water in response I’d strongly advise you to turn elsewhere for a solution. BOTTLED WATER has been shown to absorb the ENDORCRINE DISRUPTING CHEMICALS from its plastic containers that can have significant negative impacts on our health and that of the environment.

(Read more here: https://kairoscw.com/2019/07/31/whats-the-problem-with-plastic/).

In addition, consumer watch groups have revealed that in a majority of products, BOTTLED WATER IS SIMPLY BOTTED TAP WATER… JUST SIGNIFICANTLY MORE EXPENSIVE!

A better solution is to invest in a quality WATER FILTER. These come in a variety of forms. If possible installing a whole house water filter is best as it filters not only drinking water but also shower and bath water. If you rent or are unable to purchase a large – scale system, there are plenty of counter or sink mounted filters available to meet your needs.




CURIOUS WHAT’S IN YOUR CLEANERS? EXPLORE THEIR SAFETY rating at the Environmental Working Groups Guide to Cleaners: https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners.  If your products don’t score well then considering switching to one of the EWG.ORG recommended products or reduce your cleaning costs by switching to BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR as your primary cleaners. These two basic components can clean just about anything. You can also ADD QUALITY ESSENTIAL OILS such as lemon or orange to up the cleaning power. In addition, most essential oils have antibacterial and antiviral properties that help kill non- beneficial bacteria on contact.


Everybody seems to love that “clean” smell of their freshly washed clothes and linens but many commonly used detergents and dish soaps contain a variety of harmful CARCINOGENS and ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS also found in personal care products such as SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES, PHTHALATES and PARABENS. Similar to your cleaning arsenal CHECK OUT THE SAFETY OF YOUR LAUNDRY PRODUCTS STACK UP HERE : https://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/9-Laundry

Keep in mind that whatever detergent you wash in will be carried out in the wastewater as well remain in contact with your skin and inhaled during use. Look for POWDERED OR TABLET FORMS OF DETERGENTS AND DISH WASHING SOAP packaged in easily recyclable paper and free of all the offending chemicals and plastic containers. Making your own detergent is also simple and cost effective. Or consider switching to a MAGNETIC LAUNDRY WASHING SYSTEM that requires no detergent at all! If whitening or stain removal is required UTILIZE A HYDROGEN PEROXIDE BLEACH AS OPPOSED TO CHLORINE. Also DITCH THE LAUNDRY SHEETS IMMEDIATELY as they typically contain a host of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors that remain on your clothes and get vented into the air while drying.  Opt instead for WOOL DRYER BALLS which work wonderfully to fluff and soften your clothes and reduce static. Even better, save energy and cash by LETTING CLOTHES AIR DRY outside, or in a well- ventilated area inside.


AVOID pans with PLASTICIZED NON- STICK COATINGS SUCH AS TEFLON and OPT FOR STAINLESS, CAST IRON OR ENAMEL INSTEAD. Teflon is made of the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid(PFOA). PFOA is not a naturally occurring compound and yet it is found in the blood of most people living in industrialized countries. Animal studies with rats and primates have shown that PFOA CAUSES CANCER, LIVER DAMAGE, GROWTH DEFECTS, IMMUNE SYSTEM DAMAGE AND DEATH. PFOA has also been LINKED TO HIGH CHOLESTEROL in humans and an EPA advisory board reported that PFOA IS A “LIKELY” CARCINOGEN IN HUMANS 14. NEWERNON – STICK COOKWARE CONTAINING PFCS (PERFLUORINATED CHEMICALS) ARE ALSO BEST AVOIDED as their use has been linked to CANCERS, HORMONE AND REPRODUCTIVE ABNORMALITIES as well as DISEASES OF THE CARDIOVASCULAR AND IMMUNE SYSTEMS in humans 7.In addition, DITCH PLASTIC CONTAINERS AND BEVERAGE BOTTLES and STORE FOOD IN GLASS OR STAINLESS instead to avoid the toxic effects of chemicals leaching into food and drinks.

(Read more here: https://kairoscw.com/2019/07/31/whats-the-problem-with-plastic/)


AVOID cutting boards made of PLASTIC and those containing the ANTIBACTERIAL CHEMICAL TRICLOSAN which has been banned for use in soaps in the US but still shows up in a variety of other products including home utensils, trash bags and toothpaste ( Read more here: https://kairoscw.com/2019/08/27/cleaning-up-your-personal-care-products/)

TRY UTILIZING GLASS OR CERAMIC as they are easy to sanitize and do not incur the knife damage or pose the health threats that plastic cutting boards do. Cutting boards made of a HARDER WOOD SUCH AS BAMBOO are also good choices as they resist scarring from knives and absorb very little moisture. SEALING YOUR CUTTING BOARDS ONCE PER MONTH helps restore the bacterial and moisture resistance capabilities. When sealing, choose a food grade oil such as rice bran, coconut, lemon oil or beeswax when sealing to prevent introducing toxins to your food. If you’re extra concerned about wood boards harboring bacteria, UC Davis researchers recommend “SANITIZING” small wooden cutting boards in the microwave since they do not tolerate being cleaned in the dishwasher 2.


Did you know that conventional TOILET PAPER, FACIAL TISSUES AND PAPER TOWELS OFTEN EXPOSE YOU TO HARMFUL CHEMICALS EVERY TIME YOU USE THEM?  These include SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES AND LOTIONS as well as FORMALDEHYDE which is used to improve the strength of the paper product and CHLORINE employed to whiten paper products. Minimize your toxic exposure by purchasing products made of 100% RECYCLED, CHLORINE AND BPA FREE PAPER OR MORE SUSTAINABLE BAMBOO PRODUCTS.

When it comes to cleaning, consider utilizing old newspaper instead of paper towels for cleaning mirrors and glass and recycled old clothing cut up into rags for cleaning surfaces.


Getting out and digging in the dirt is good for your soul but synthetic pesticides and herbicides are definitely not! GLYPHOSATE the active component in ROUND UP, a commonly used herbicide on wheat, corn and soy crops as well as home gardening, can now be found widely in air, soil, food, water and human urine 9,13,3  and it’s producer Monsanto is currently in litigation in multiple cases linking the use of Round Up to Non – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In response to the significant health threats Glyphosate poses, Germany and Austria have already banned its use in their countries but at this point the EPA in the United States has failed to follow suit. Protect yourself and your surrounds today by opting for ORGANIC garden products instead. Create your own nutrient dense fertilizer by starting a WORM BIN or COMPOST PILE and thereby keep food waste out of the landfill. Also consider PLANTING NATIVE SPECIES in or around your garden to ATTRACT NATURAL PREDATORS and keep pesky pests at bay as well as ATTRACT NATIVE POLLINATORS to help make your harvest abundant. NOT SURE HOW TO GET STARTED?



We love those critters in our lives and choosing non- toxic products to aid in their care is beneficial for them and for our families.

*IN GENERAL: Start by making quality food and filtered water in non-plastic bowls the base of care. Also keep in mind that the chemicals that negatively affect us as humans also typically have negative effects on our pets. For example, when selecting grooming products, choose those free of chemicals that you would also avoid using on yourself (Read more here: https://kairoscw.com/2019/08/27/cleaning-up-your-personal-care-products/)

*FLEAS: If you live in an area where fleas are common consider utilizing essential oil soaps, sprays and diatomaceous earth preventatively. If you choose to use flea medications on your cat or dog opt for an oral version if your pet is able to handle them as opposed to topical varieties which can be absorbed by family members after touching their pets.

*DOGS:  When headed out on a dog walk choose compostable dog waste bags as most of these are made of plant fibers that break down easily as opposed to plastic that never goes away. Chew and other toys are helpful entertainment for Fido, when purchasing, choose non-toxic options such as rubber, hide, bones, or natural fibers to avoid your pooch getting a stomach full of harmful synthetic chemicals

*CATS: When it comes to litters, avoid most conventional brands as they typically contain HARMFUL SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES AND HIGH LEVELS OF SILICA DUST that have been linked to pulmonary disease 10.Instead choose litter made from natural materials such as WOOD PELLETS, GRAINS OR PUT THOSE OLD PAPER SHREDS to work and make your own!


Carpeting, furniture, mattresses, paint and electronics are just a few home items that are notorious for their ability to “off gas” HARMFUL VOCS such as flame retardants like Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs). PBDEs are abundant in: house dust, water, soil, animals and human tissues and have been shown to be DEVELOPMENTAL NEUROTOXINS AND ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS4. Some VOC off gassing can be easily noticed via phenomenon like that “new carpet smell” but many escape conscious detection. In order to protect yourself from these ubiquitous chemicals, utilize some of the above strategies of proper VENTILATION, AIR CLEANING PLANT SPECIES AND AIR FILTRATION SYSTEMS. In addition, consider REMOVING POTENTIAL KNOWN SOURCES OF TOXICITY. Before buying anything new check out THE HEALTHY LIVING HOME GUIDE AT EWG.ORG FOR TIPS ON WHAT TO AVOID AND HOW TO MINIMIZE VOC EXPOSURE IN NEW PRODUCTS.


Be empowered that you have ample choices in materials and methods that will be beneficial for

Your family and that of the environment. Need a place to start? Check out Green Built Alliance’s homeowners resources here: https://www.greenbuilt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/GreenHomeGuide-Bath.pdf?x95341


As you eliminate hazardous household products such as cleaners or paint please be sure to dispose of them properly to avoid environmental contamination. For a list of guidelines on recycling household products and a resource to locate the nearest facility to your home go to:



It’s virtually impossible to avoid toxins in our current age but the good news is, we are hardwired to detox! IT’S ALSO CLEAR THAT YOUR ABILITY TO DETOX, WHILE SOMEWHAT SUBJECT TO GENETIC VARIATION, CAN LARGELY BE INFLUENCED BY YOUR DIETARY CHOICES!!!  An organic, plant – based diet rich in dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions and at least 25 grams of fiber per day will naturally support your body’s own systems of detox. Adding in dandelion tea or greens and turmeric also directly supports the liver which bears the brunt of detox and is easily overloaded.


Knowledge IS power. Power to change. Power to enrich your life and the lives around you. Power to create a cleaner and more vibrant future…



1.CDHS (California Department of Health Services, now California Department of Public Health). 2007. Glycol Ethers: Fact Sheet: California Department of Health Services, Occupational Health Branch, Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS).

2.Cliver, D. O. (2002). Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards. University of California—Davis Food Safety Laboratory.

3.Conrad, A., Schröter-Kermani, C., Hoppe, H. W., Rüther, M., Pieper, S., & Kolossa-Gehring, M. (2017). Glyphosate in German adults–Time trend (2001 to 2015) of human exposure to a widely used herbicide. International journal of hygiene and environmental health220(1), 8-16.

4.Costa, L. G., Giordano, G., Tagliaferri, S., & Caglieri, A. (2008). Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants: environmental contamination, human body burden and potentialadverse health effects. Acta Bio Medica Atenei Parmensis79(3), 172-183.

5.EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2006. Boric Acid/Sodium Borate Salts: HED Chapter of the Tolerance Reassessment Eligibility Decision Document (TRED). PC Codes: 011001 (boric acid), 011102 (sodium tetraborate decahydrate), 011110 (sodium tetraborate pentahydrate), 011112 (sodium tetraborate anhydrous), 011103 (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate), 011107 (disodium octaborate anhydrous), 011104 (sodium metaborate).

6.Frequent use of certain candles produces unwanted chemicals. (2009, August 24). Retrieved September 27, 2019, from https://www.scsu.edu/news_article.aspx?news_id=832

7.Jogsten, I. E., Nadal, M., van Bavel, B., Lindström, G., & Domingo, J. L. (2012). Per-and polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in house dust and indoor air in Catalonia, Spain: implications for human exposure. Environment international39(1), 172-180.

8.Kano, H., Umeda, Y., Kasai, T., Sasaki, T., Matsumoto, M., Yamazaki, K., … & Fukushima, S. (2009). Carcinogenicity studies of 1, 4-dioxane administered in drinking-water to rats and mice for 2 years. Food and chemical toxicology47(11), 2776-2784.

9.Mercurio, P., Flores, F., Mueller, J. F., Carter, S., & Negri, A. P. (2014). Glyphosate persistence in seawater. Marine pollution bulletin85(2), 385-390.

10.Musk, A. W., Greville, H. W., & Tribe, A. E. (1980). Pulmonary disease from occupational exposure to an artificial aluminium silicate used for cat litter. Occupational and Environmental Medicine37(4), 367-372.

11.Obadia M, Liss GM, Lou W, Purdham J, Tarlo SM. 2009. Relationships between asthma and work exposures among non-domestic cleaners in Ontario. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 52(9): 716-723.

12.Sherriff A, Farrow A, Golding J, Henderson J. 2005. Frequent use of chemical household products is associated with persistent wheezing in pre-school age children. Thorax 60(1): 45-49.

13.Simonetti, E., Cartaud, G., Quinn, R. M., Marotti, I., & Dinelli, G. (2015). An Interlaboratory comparative study on the quantitative determination of glyphosate at low levels in wheat flour. Journal of AOAC International98(6), 1760-1768.

14.Steenland, K., Fletcher, T., & Savitz, D. A. (2010). Epidemiologic evidence on the health effects of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Environmental health perspectives118(8), 1100-1108.

15.Swenberg, J.A, Moeller, B.C, Lu, K., Rager, J. E., Fry, R.C. & Starr, T.B. (2013. Formaldehyde carcinogenicity research: 30 years and counting for mode of action, epidemiology and cancer risk assessment. Toxicologic pathology, 41(2), 181-189.

16.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1987. The total exposure assessment methodology (TEAM) study: Summary and analysis. EPA/600/6-87/002a. Washington, DC.

17.Yang, D. S., Pennisi, S. V., Son, K. C., & Kays, S. J. (2009). Screening indoor plants for volatile organic pollutant removal efficiency. HortScience44(5), 1377-1381.


Cleaning Up Your Personal Care Products


Most of us have a daily routine that includes at least a few personal care products such as deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, cosmetics and perhaps perfume or cologne. The question is: have you ever really looked at the ingredients you’re bathing in each day? Many personal care products, unbeknownst to consumers, are chock full of harmful chemicals that are known to cause various hormone imbalances, respiratory disorders, allergies and cancers. Every time we slather these products on the chemicals they contain get absorbed through our skin, inhaled or ingested. The interesting thing is: most of the time the side effects of these chemicals are very subtle or seemingly non-existent. Some people might occasionally notice that personal care products induce skin irritation, headache or allergies but more often these products pose a more silent danger, compounding their toxicity over long term daily exposure.  In addition, many of these chemicals accumulate in our water supplies causing further hazardous exposure to humans and the rest of creatures that inhabit planet earth

So, if these chemicals are dangerous, why are they still on the market? Well, depending on what country you live in, the standards for regulating cosmetics and personal care products vary greatly. The European Union has already banned the use of over 1000 chemicals in personal care products including all in the
discussion below. Unfortunately, in the United States, the FDA and the EPA do not typically operate on a preventative agenda and tend to favor the manufacturer over public health.  In the US, with the exception of a handful of prohibited ingredients and color additives, cosmetic manufacturers can use just about any material without testing or approval from the FDA. Since 2018 there have been multiple pieces of legislature proposed in the US that would tighten regulations and help remove toxic products from cosmetics and personal care items. While none of these have been signed into law, they have caused the EPA and FDA to take more notice and to call for testing and further studies regarding the chemicals in question.

THE GOOD NEWS is that regardless of your country’s regulations regarding chemicals, YOU CAN MAKE CHANGES TODAY TO REDUCE YOUR TOXIC LOAD AND PREVENT DISEASE.  There are plenty of “clean” products available as well as simple DYI recipes to make your own products AND SAVE MONEY! While it is nearly impossible to list all offending chemicals in personal care products, what follows is a summary of the most commonly used and how they are identified on packaging as well as suggestions for safer alternatives.


  1. FRAGRANCE (PERFUME, PARFUM, AROMA)– these are sneaky and can be found in just about everything including soaps, detergents, shampoos, skin creams and of course perfumes. The generalized term “fragrance” was first utilized to protect proprietary perfume formulations but now often acts as a cover up for a host of chemicals including solvents, stabilizers, preservatives, dyes and UV-absorbers. Research conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that name brand fragrance products contained an average of 14-17 chemicals and none of them were listed on the label. Why is this a problem? Fragrances and the smorgasbord of chemicals within have been linked with a host of diseases including allergies, asthma, migraines, hormone and reproductive abnormalities and cancers3
  2. PHTHALATES– are widely used to soften plastic containers and as solvents in a variety of goods from plastic packaging to cosmetics and beauty care products. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) is used to soften nail polish and Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is widely used in fragrances. Exposure to phthalates have been correlated with endocrine disruption in humans leading to reproductive and developmental abnormalities and neurological toxicity 7, 8.
  3. PARABENS– are preservatives commonly used in a wide array of personal care products, plastics and pharmaceuticals and are known endocrine (hormone) disruptors, mimicking the hormone estrogen. It is best to avoid all products including paraben (methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- and isobutylparaben) but in particular propylparaben and butylparaben have been associated with reduced fertility 17, increased odds of pre-term birth, low birth weight and an increase in breast cancer cell growth 6, 14. These will likely be buried in the list of ingredients in your products so be sure to read the entire product label.
  4. TRICLOSAN AND TRICLOCARBANTRICLOSAN is an anti-bacterial chemical that was formerly used heavily in hand sanitizers and liquid soaps in the United States until the FDA banned it use 2 years ago in these products. Unfortunately, it is still to be found in toothpastes, mouthwash, shaving gels and lotions and household goods. Triclosan is readily absorbed and is a known endocrine disruptor that has been linked to reduced fertility, increased miscarriage, decreased birth size, thyroid disorders, increased risk of asthma, allergies and food sensitivities as well as an increased risk of various cancers in humans TRICLOCARBAN (TCC)isan another antibacterial used in many deodorants, lotions, detergents and wipes and has been shown to negatively affect hormone, reproductive and developmental function in animals and humans 15.
  5. FORMALDEHYDE & FORMALDEHYDE RELEASERS – Shampoos, conditioners, hair straighteners, soaps, lotions, false eyelash glue, baby products and a host of other personal care products often contain formaldehyde (yep, that same substance the frog from anatomy class was preserved in) in order to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. A 2010 study showed that one fifth of personal care products contain a formaldehyde releaser such as DMDM HYDANTOIN, IMIDAZOLIDYNYL UREA, DIAZOLIDYNYL UREA, BRONOPOL AND QUATERNIUM -15 While the human body produces minute amounts of formaldehyde naturally, formaldehyde in personal care products commonly causes allergic skin reactions and is also a known human carcinogen 18.
  6. METALS– High levels of naturally occurring but potentially toxic metals are common in antiperspirants/deodorants, lipsticks, eye shadows and liners and hair dyes. Heavy metals may act directly on the skin, causing dermatitis or be absorbed into the blood and have toxic effects on various organs. ALUMINUM is often added to widely available antiperspirants/deodorants to inhibit the natural process of sweating. Aluminum has been shown to be neurotoxic at very low levels and to produce changes in the brain consistent with Alzheimer’s disease In addition, while the data is not consistent, some studies have shown a link between the use of aluminum containing antiperspirants and breast cancer 9. Lipsticks, eye makeup, talc powders, medicated shampoos and dark hair dyes often contain the highest amounts of potentially toxic metals, particularly LEAD, IRON, COPPER AND ZINC. Heavy metal toxicity has been linkedto dizziness, vomiting, diseases of the kidneys, liver, circulatory system, nervous system and autoimmune conditions 20.
  7. HAIR DYES– Commonly used hair dyes often contain FORMALDEHYDE (DMDM) and PARABENS, LEAD, both discussed above, as well as several other toxic substances including COAL TAR BY PRODUCTS, AMMONIA and RESORCINOL. While study results are inconsistent, personal hair dye use has been linked to non- Hodgkins lymphoma, multiple myeloma, acute leukemia and bladder cancer in humans, with higher cancer rates associated with darker color dye pigments and among hairdressers and barbers COAL TAR BYPRODUCTS (also used in anti-dandruff shampoos) are generally identified by a FIVE DIGIT COLOR- INDEX (C.I) NUMBERor may be listed as “FD&C”or “D&C”followed by a color name and number. PARAPHENYLENEDIAMINE (PPD), AMINOPHENOL AND DIAMINOBENZENE are the most commonly used coal tar ingredients to watch out for. AMMONIA is utilized in hair dye to break down the cuticle to allow absorption of the dye. This is one of the reasons that repeated hair dye use causes the hair to become dry and brittle as the cuticle integrity becomes compromised, no longer allowing the hair to hold in moisture. Ammonia has been identified as a strong allergen and toxin to the human immune and respiratory systems 1.  RESORCINOL is made from the petrochemical benzene and is used in hair dyes to help bond the dye pigment to hair (and also in acne and eczema topical medications). It has been identified as a skin irritant, as toxic to internal organs and has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor causing changes in the thyroid gland in some human case studies and in animal studies with long term usage 12.
  8. SODIUM LAUREL SUFATE (SLS) and POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL (PEG) –  SLS is a surfactant commonly used in soaps, shampoos and toothpastes. In has been shown to be a skin, ocular and mucosal membrane irritant in humans and in animal studies, it is known to cause severe skin mutation, lesions and hair loss. In a recent study with rabbits, the skin changes caused by SLS were so severe the research scientists concluded that all products containing sodium laurel sulfate should be avoided by humans.  PEG is also a surfactant and moisture carrier and has been linked with higher rates of asthma in young children (4).  In addition, both PEG and SLS can be often be contaminated with both ETHYLENE OXIDE a “known human carcinogen” and 1, 4- DIOXANE a “possible carcinogen to humans” as stated by IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) during the manufacturing processes 2.
  9. SUNSCREENS– In addition to PARABENS, PHTHALATES ANDFRAGRANCES, OXYBENZONE, OCTINOXATEand4-METHYLBENZYLIDENE-CAMPHOR (4-MBC) are commonly found UV filters utilized in sunscreen products that have been shown in animal studies to be hormone disruptors, negatively impacting reproductive and developmental health. All three chemicals are readily absorbed in humans, being found in blood, breast milk and urine andare considered “substances of high concern in relation to human risk”. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate have been banned in Hawaii, Key West Florida and the nation of Palau due to their lethal effects on coral reefs and marine life PABAis another UV filter that has been shown to have hormone disrupting effects in animal studies and is also best avoided 13.


 START YOUR PERSONAL CARE PRODUCT OVERHAUL BY IS READING LABELS! Begin with the products you use daily and move on to those used less frequently. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it or it looks like a chemical it’s probably best to avoid! A GREAT TOOL TO EXPLORE THE SAFETY OF YOUR CURRENT PRODUCTS AND SEARCH FOR CLEAN ALTERNATIVES: EWG.ORG. When looking for replacement products it’s best to start at your health food store, farmers market or shop online as many drug or grocery store products are likely to contain a variety of harmful chemicals. In addition, to minimize your exposure to and use of plastics (see last month’s blog post), look for products sold in glass containers, buy in bulk or make your own!

*SCENTS: Get rid of all products with the nebulous “FRAGRANCE, PARFUM, PERFUME or AROMA” on
the label. If you desire scents, opt for organic, therapeutic grade essential oils diluted in a food grade carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil. As a bonus, most essential oils have antibacterial and antifungal properties as well as beneficial effects on mood and stress levels. CAUTION:Essential oils are concentrated and incredibly potent, so it is never recommended that you apply them undiluted to the skin.

*MOISTURIZERS: Use pure oils such as coconut, avocado, olive, sesame or jojoba to moisturize. Oils are often best absorbed by damp skin so applying after a shower or in combination with a hydrosol is helpful. Also, be wary of antiaging creams as many contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids which have been shown to accelerate UV skin damage.

*SOAP, SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER:  Look for products that are free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan, SLS and synthetic fragrances and buy in bulk when possible. Consider switching to bar soap, shampoo and conditioner. Many varieties of chemical free soaps are available at health food stores and are often sold without packaging or come in a paper wrapper that is easily recycled. If purchasing online, look for a company that utilizing compostable packaging and reusable shipping materials if possible. If bar conditioner isn’t quite doing the trick for you, consider switching to a hair oil.

*DEODORANT: Stay away from antiperspirants as they often contain Aluminum and impede your body’s natural process of detoxification through sweating. In addition, look for deodorants that are free of chemicals and synthetic fragrances and use natural deodorants such as baking soda, bentonite clay, charcoal, coconut oil and magnesium… or make your own blend. There are plenty of DYI recipes out there!

*ORAL CARE: Nix the mouthwash as they often contain a host of harmful chemicals including the antibacterial Chlorhexidine, which kills beneficial bacteria in your mouth that aid the start of the digestive process and help maintain healthy teeth and gums. In toothpastes especially avoid Triclosan. Since most toothpaste tubes aren’t really recyclable, consider switching to a store- bought tooth powder or make your own. Tooth powders are often made from some of the same ingredients as deodorants with the addition of things such as calcium carbonate, xylitol and essential oils. Tooth powders help whiten teeth with natural abrasives, help keep bacteria in check that cause tooth decay and bad breath and reportedly can aid in the remineralization of tooth enamel.

*SHAVING AIDS: Choose a shaving soap or oil as they tend to contain the safest ingredients. Avoid commonly found shaving creams and aftershaves as they often contain: synthetic fragrances, oxybenzone, PEGs, parabens, DMDM hydantoin and triclosan. You can easily make your own scented shaving oil by blending a carrier oil like olive, coconut or jojoba oil with a few drops of a quality essential oil such as rosemary, cedarwood, melaleuca or lavender.

* COSMETICS: In the US, the cosmetic industry is the least regulated so do your homework and choose a
clean cosmetics line free of all the aforementioned offenders.
There are plenty out there to choose from online and in health food stores. Ask to see a full disclosure of ingredients, sourcing and environmental impact before purchasing.

*SUNSCREEN: Minimize exposure during the most intense periods of sun (10 am- 4 pm) by covering up with loose layers and a hat. For any exposed areas or while swimming, use NON-NANO PARTICLE MINERAL SUNSCREENS CONTAINING ZINC OXIDE OR TITANIUMdioxide on exposed areas of skin. Non – nano zinc oxide and titanium sunscreens are regarded as safe because they sit on the surface of the skin and are not absorbed. Nano forms of the same minerals can be absorbed in small amounts and have been shown to be harmful to aquatic life. Also opt for cream or lotion – based products as harmful chemicals can be inhaled with spray sunscreens.

*HAIR DYES/STRAIGHTENERS:Especially avoid dark hair color pigments and chemical straighteners. Switch to a henna -based dye. Work with a stylist experienced in “clean” products to help maximize your natural color and texture.

*NAIL CARE: Avoid formaldehyde or formalin, toluene, triphenyl phosphate (TPP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) in nail polishes and products.  Consider just allowing your nails to breathe and go bare. Nourish cuticles with a mix of natural oils such as jojoba, almond or coconut and beeswax instead of store – bought products.


Change tends to happen from the ground up so here are a few ways you can help build a new foundation regarding personal care product safety…Love your hairdresser or esthetician but are concerned about the products they use? Ask them to switch to non – toxic versions for your benefit and theirs! Write your favorite product line and ask for them to reformulate and remove toxic substances. Let your money speak by investing in companies that are transparent with their ingredient lists, utilize plant based, organic, raw materials grown sustainably and avoid using harmful chemicals. Write your politicians and ask them to lobby for more strict regulations on personal and home care products.


As in all things, the closer you can stick to natural rhythms and care products the lower your toxic load will be and the better your health. Also keep in mind that your external state reflects what’s happening internally. In other words, chronic dry, flaky skin or scalp, eczema, brittle nails or bad breath could be helpful warning signs inviting you to address an internal imbalance instead of just treating the symptoms.  As you reflect on the products you use, what external symptom(s) may be trying to teach you something about your internal condition? What tools do you already have to heal and what tools or support do you need? In your journey to address imbalances, never underestimate the power of fresh, plant – based foods, clean water, restorative movement, mindful breaks, connection with community and purposeful work to heal. If you need support in the process, give us a ring! We’d be happy to set up an appointment to help you along the way.


1.AOEC (Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics). 2009. AEOC exposures codes and asthmagen designation.

2. Bondi, C. A., Marks, J. L., Wroblewski, L. B., Raatikainen, H. S., Lenox, S. R., & Gebhardt, K. E. (2015). Human and environmental toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): evidence for safe use in household cleaning products. Environmental health insights9, EHI-S31765.

3. Bridges, B. (2002). Fragrance: emerging health and environmental concerns. Flavour and fragrance journal17(5), 361-371.

4. Choi, H., Schmidbauer, N., Sundell, J., Hasselgren, M., Spengler, J., & Bornehag, C. G. (2010). Common household chemicals and the allergy risks in pre-school age children. PloS one5(10), e13423.

5. De Groot, A. C., & Veenstra, M. (2010). Formaldehyde‐releasers in cosmetics in the USA and in Europe. Contact Dermatitis62(4), 221-224.

6. Geer LA, Pycke BFG, Gee Waxenbaum J, Sherer DM, Abulafia O, Halden RU. Association of birth outcomes with fetal exposure to parabens, triclosan and triclocarban in an immigrant population in Brooklyn, New York. J Hazard Mater 323(Pt A):177-183.

7. Greenspan, L. C., & Lee, M. M. (2018). Endocrine disrupters and pubertal timing. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity25(1), 49-54.

8. Katsikantami, Ioanna, Stavros Sifakis, Manolis N. Tzatzarakis, Elena Vakonaki, Olga-Ioanna Kalantzi, Aristidis M. Tsatsakis, and Apostolos K. Rizos. “A global assessment of phthalates burden and related links to health effects.” Environment international97 (2016): 212-236.

9. Klotz, K., Weistenhöfer, W., Neff, F., Hartwig, A., van Thriel, C., & Drexler, H. (2017). The health effects of aluminum exposure. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International114(39), 653


11. Krause, M., Klit, A., Blomberg Jensen, M., Søeborg, T., Frederiksen, H., Schlumpf, M., … & Drzewiecki, K. T. (2012). Sunscreens: are they beneficial for health? An overview of endocrine disrupting properties of UV‐filters. International journal of andrology35(3), 424-436.

12. Lynch, B. S., Delzell, E. S., & Bechtel, D. H. (2002). Toxicology review and risk assessment of resorcinol: thyroid effects. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology36(2), 198-210.

13. Ozáez, I., Martínez-Guitarte, J. L., & Morcillo, G. (2013). Effects of in vivo exposure to UV filters (4-MBC, OMC, BP-3, 4-HB, OC, OD-PABA) on endocrine signaling genes in the insect Chironomus riparius. Science of the total environment456, 120-126.

14. Pan S, Yuan C, Tagmount A, et al. 2015. Parabens and Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Ligand Cross-Talk in Breast Cancer Cells. Environ Health Perspect 124(5):563–569.

15. Rochester, J. R., Bolden, A. L., Pelch, K. E., & Kwiatkowski, C. F. (2017). Potential developmental and reproductive impacts of triclocarban: a scoping review. Journal of toxicology2017.

16. Rollison, D. E., Helzlsouer, K. J., & Pinney, S. M. (2006). Personal hair dye use and cancer: a systematic literature review and evaluation of exposure assessment in studies published since 1992. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B9(5), 413-439.

17. Smith, K. W., Souter, I., Dimitriadis, I., Ehrlich, S., Williams, P. L., Calafat, A. M., & Hauser, R. (2013). Urinary paraben concentrations and ovarian aging among women from a fertility center. Environmental health perspectives121(11-12), 1299-1305.

18. Swenberg, J. A., Moeller, B. C., Lu, K., Rager, J. E., Fry, R. C., & Starr, T. B. (2013). Formaldehyde carcinogenicity research: 30 years and counting for mode of action, epidemiology, and cancer risk assessment. Toxicologic pathology41(2), 181-189.

19. Tomljenovic, L. (2011). Aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease: after a century of controversy, is there a plausible link? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease23(4), 567-598.

20. Ullah, H., Noreen, S., Rehman, A., Waseem, A., Zubair, S., Adnan, M., & Ahmad, I. (2017). Comparative study of heavy metals content in cosmetic products of different countries marketed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Arabian Journal of Chemistry10(1), 10-18.

21. Weatherly, L. M., & Gosse, J. A. (2017). Triclosan exposure, transformation, and human health effects. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B20(8), 447-469.


What’s the Problem with Plastic?

   What’s the Problem with Plastic?

Plastics have become a ubiquitous part of life and you’ve likely heard at least some rumblings about their health hazards. You may already be on a mission to kick all species of plastic to the curb or you may be blissfully unaware of the effects of that plastic bag cradling your favorite snack. Wherever you find yourself in the conversation, THERE IS REASON TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE HEALTH HAZARDS OF PLASTICS. Based on the evidence thus far, PLASTICS ARE MAKING US AND OUR WORLD SICK. I hope the following will help inform and inspire you to explore ways to reduce your toxic load for the benefit of you, your family and the world we share.

BPA (Bisphenol – A)

BPA, perhaps the most commonly discussed chemical used in plastics, was developed in the 1890s as a synthetic estrogen and studied for its effects on the female reproductive system in rats. BPA entered the mainstream in the 1960s in the manufacture of plastic, in dental resins and in the lining of food cans. Concerns with BPA arose when studies indicated that the chemical could leach from containers into foods and beverages and was subsequently measured in human blood, urine, amniotic fluid, follicular fluid, placental tissue and umbilical cords.This finding prompted further research which has since linked BPA to a range of health problems including: Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma, cancer, liver damage, ADHD, thyroid and immune dysfunction, infertility, miscarriage, endometrial disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), decreased sexual function, and early onset puberty (1)

How Has BPA Been Shown to Contribute to Disease? 

BPA is one of many chemicals used in plastics (phthalates are another common culprit) that are classified as endocrine disruptors. These chemicals interfere with normal endocrine (hormone) function by disrupting a hormone’s signaling pathways. More specifically, chemicals such as BPA are also known to have Estrogenic Activity (EA), mimicking or antagonizing the actions of naturally occurring estrogens 6. In healthy states, hormones, such as estrogen, act in very small amounts at precise times to regulate all of the body’s development, growth, reproduction, metabolism, immunity and behavior. BPA is known to disrupt these normal processes by binding to estrogen receptors resulting in an imbalance of hormone levels. Proper levels of estrogen in particular play a critical role in many processes from bone growth to ovulation to heart function. Alterations in these levels, particularly in utero or during early childhood, can alter brain and organ development, leading to disease later in life. In addition, the endocrine disrupting effects of BPA go beyond estrogen. BPA has also been shown to have disruptive effects on androgen and thyroid hormones and can negatively impact all three hormones even at the very low dosages most humans are exposed to on a daily basis 5. Research also indicates that continuous low dose exposure to BPA can be particularly harmful to pregnant women, the developing fetus and to infants 7. Perhaps even more disturbing is that BPA and two other plastic derived compounds (DEHP and DBP, both phthalates) have been shown to cause genetic changes that promote the inheritance of adult onset diseases such as obesity and diseases of the testes and ovaries in offspring 4.

Are “BPA – Free” Plastics Safe?

In response to concerns over the safety of BPA, the plastics industry has developed an array of “BPA- Free” plastics. But are these really any safer than BPA? A 2014 study put commonly found “BPA- free” objects such as baby bottles, food and beverage containers, assorted bags, “clam shells” and food wraps to the test. Shockingly researchers found that of the BPA alternatives tested, Tritan TM as well as Polystyrene (PS) leached EA chemicals even without a heat stress such as a microwave or UV radiation. As expected, when a heat stress was applied to the same BPA – free plastics, the percentage of EA chemicals leached rose significantly.  The study authors also cautioned that the although the plastic resins, glycol-modified polyethylene terephthalate (PETG), cyclic olefin polymer (COP) or copolymer (COC), did not leach EA chemicals, they should not necessarily be classified as “EA -free”. This is because various resins are not always synthesized using the same chemicals or processing methods and the smallest change in composition can cause the leaching of EA chemicals.

Is it possible then to find plastics that are truly “safe” and “EA- free”? Some plastic manufacturers might claim so, but due to the manufacturing differences mentioned above and the fact that many plastics are proprietary compounds, the exact composition of each plastic product and its effects on health may never be known to the consumer. Troubling.

Environmental Impacts of Plastics…Here Today, Here Tomorrow

Unlike that banana peel you just tossed, plastics never really go away. Plastic items simply break down into tiny particles, or microplastics. Not only do microplastics contain all the same harmful chemicals discussed above, they have also been shown to absorb and harbor several types of bacteria that are harmful to humans and marine life. Research conducted by the National University of Singapore found that among the 400 plus species of bacteria living on microplastic at their local beaches, three were well known species that cause gastroenteritis (Arcobacter) and wound infections (Vibrio) in humans. Among these species was also found a bacterium well known for the bleaching of coral reefs (Photobacterium rosenbergii) 2Which opens the door to a whole other topic ….

Every year 8 million metric tons of plastic debris makes its way into our oceans and increasingly causes harm to marine critters.  Varying sizes of plastic are often mistaken for food and ingested by anything from tiny shrimp to humpback whales.resulting in decreased digestive and reproductive capabilities as well as fatalities. In addition, ingested microplastics, can accumulate with each trophic level on the food chain, providing a concentrated dose of plastic toxins and bacteria for larger predators, including humans. Plastic debris, is also a well- known cause of entanglement for a variety of seabirds, turtles and seals, including some threatened species, and increasingly results in injury and death 3.   And if you have trouble relating to the above, but love your beach getaways, know that a smorgasbord of micro and macroplastics can now be found strewn across even the most remote beaches in the world. How inviting.

Finally, aside from the direct effects on marine life, plastic production is energy intensive and as of late presents a significant recycling challenge. Countries like China, that previously purchased much of the world’s scrap plastic, are enacting their own single use plastic bans and will no longer accept used plastic from other countries.  So as refuse plastics pile up and pollute landfills around the world, the question becomes: what to do with all this used plastic?

 Summary and Recommendations

While there is need for more unbiased research regarding the safety of plastics, here’s a refresher of what we know thus far…

*Exposure to plastics with Estrogenic Activity (EA) has the ability change the structure and function of human cells and organs and has been linked to a host of diseases from diabetes to cancer to reproductive disorders.

*Plastic chemicals with EA have been shown to increase the rates of inherited adult onset diseases and are especially harmful to pregnant women, developing fetuses and infants

*Research indicates that plastic chemicals with EA produce measurable changes within the health and behavior of human populations, even at low doses.

* “BPA-free” plastics have also been shown to have significant EA even without a heat stressor

* Even if a plastic resin tested as “EA-free”, it will likely not always be so due to changes in manufacturing procedures and changes in chemical composition of plastic resins

*Many plastics are proprietary compounds and therefore their exact chemical makeup of and whether they have EA is difficult to determine

*Micro and macro plastics are significant causes of marine animal injury and mortality annually and is an increasing threat to species survival

*Used plastics present a colossal disposal and recycling challenge yet to be solved

Based on the known health and environmental impacts of plastics, WHY WAIT FOR A GOVERNING BODY TO DETERMINE FOR YOU WHAT, IF ANY, PLASTICS ARE “SAFE” WHEN YOU CAN UTILIZE BETTER OPTIONS TODAY?If you desire health for you, your family, the planet and the generations to come, THE STRONG RECOMMENDATION IS TO ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION AND MINIMIZE YOUR EXPOSURE TO AND USE OF PLASTICS.You can start reducing your plastic consumption one step at a time with some of the following strategies….

Tips for Minimizing Your Plastic Exposure

Start by simply by BECOMING AWARE of how often the products you buy most frequently contain plastic. Plastics are sneaky, inhabiting just about every area of our lives. Make obtainable goals by choosing one area each week or month in which you can reduce your plastic usage. If unsure of where to begin, the following are some practical ways to engage in reducing your plastic footprint, one step at a time.

*PUT DOWN THE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLE OR CUP… AND HOLD THE STRAW! Use your own STAINLESS OR GLASS CUPS, BOTTLES OR CONTAINERS when grabbing that next coffee or water refill. If you or your kiddos can’t part with straws PURCHASE A REUSABLE STAINLESS VERSION or at minimum use paper straws. You can also minimize the need for single use plastic utensils by keeping a set of BAMBOO UTENSILS in your backpack, car or purse for easy access.

* FOR KIDDOS: Choose STAINLESS OR BAMBOO BASED BOTTLES, CUPS AND DINING WARE AS WELL AS NATURAL RUBBER PACIFIERS AND WOODEN TOYS. Remember, young ones are especially sensitive and susceptible to the negative health impacts of plastic chemicals.

* SAY NO THANK YOU TO THAT PLASTIC BAG, which on average is only used for 12 minutes! Many cities, states and countries have already outlawed the use of single use plastic bags and require that customers bring their own or pay a fee for a paper bag. Even if this is not the case in your area, get ahead of the curve and BRING YOUR OWN CLOTH BAGS. Keep a stash in your car, backpack or bike pannier for easy access.

* AVOID COOKING OR STORING FOOD IN PLASTIC CONTAINERS OR BAGS. Use alternatives such as GLASS, PORCELAIN OR STAINLESS -STEEL CONTAINERS. Remember that even without a heat stress, plastics have been known to leach disease causing chemicals into their contents.

* BUY UNWRAPPED FRESH, WHOLE, UNPROCESSED ORGANIC FOODS. Not only are these free of harmful plastics but they are also rich in nutrients and fiber necessary to aid your body’s own detoxification processes! Farmers markets provide the freshest, most nutrient dense sources of food and many markets recycle items such as berry or egg containers for future use.


*Plan ahead and BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH rather than purchasing plastic laden “to go” foods. Packing a lunch saves you cash and allows you time to relax or go for a walk to destress with the time you save not driving to get fast food. If you do wish to eat out, choose a “sit down” restaurant that uses reusable silverware and plates as opposed to disposable varieties.


* Use BEESWAX FOOD WRAPS instead of plastic wraps or ziplock bags to cover cut produce, bowls of leftovers and sandwiches

* SAY NO TO THAT CASH REGISTER RECEIPT AS IT TOO CONTAINS PLASTIC! If in need of a receipt, ask if the vendor offers copies via text or email.

* CLOTHE YOURSELF IF NATURAL FIBERS SUCH AS COTTON, WOOL, HEMP AND BAMBOO. Microplastics in synthetic fibers not only have contact with your skin during wear but also are pulled out during washing cycles and released into the water supply.

* BUY HOME AND BODY CARE ITEMS IN BULK AND IN PAPER OR GLASS PACKAGING. More to come on this in next month’s blog post about cleaning up your home and personal care routine!

A Parting Word

While many of the suggestions here are simple, they take time and a reallocation of energy and resources to implement. So, as with all change, be gracious with yourself in the process, knowing that each small step will benefit your health and that of the global community today and in future generations. And don’t be surprised as you weed plastics out and opt for cleaner foods and products that you feel better. Aligning with the natural rhythms has a beautiful way of leading toward health and well-being!


1.Bittner, G. D., Yang, C. Z., & Stoner, M. A. (2014). Estrogenic chemicals often leach from BPA-free plastic products that are replacements for BPA-containing polycarbonate products. Environmental Health13(1), 41.

2. Curren, E., & Leong, S. C. Y. (2019). Profiles of bacterial assemblages from microplastics of tropical coastal environments. Science of the Total Environment655, 313-320.

3. Gall, S. C., & Thompson, R. C. (2015). The impact of debris on marine life. Marine pollution bulletin92(1-2), 170-179.

4. Manikkam, M., Tracey, R., Guerrero-Bosagna, C., & Skinner, M. K. (2013). Plastics derived endocrine disruptors (BPA, DEHP and DBP) induce epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity, reproductive disease and sperm epimutations. PloS one8(1), e55387.

5. Rochester, J. R. (2013). Bisphenol A and human health: a review of the literature. Reproductive toxicology42, 132-155.

6. Vandenberg, L. N., Maffini, M. V., Sonnenschein, C., Rubin, B. S., & Soto, A. M. (2009). Bisphenol-A and the great divide: a review of controversies in the field of endocrine disruption. Endocrine reviews30(1), 75-95.

7. Vom Saal, F. S., VandeVoort, C. A., Taylor, J. A., Welshons, W. V., Toutain, P. L., & Hunt, P. A. (2014). Bisphenol A (BPA) pharmacokinetics with daily oral bolus or continuous exposure via silastic capsules in pregnant rhesus monkeys: Relevance for human exposures. Reproductive Toxicology45, 105-116.



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