People have become increasingly aware in recent years that several of the most common home and personal care products pose dangers to people and our environment. With harmful chemicals either on the ingredient list or used to create these products, it’s easy to inadvertently put your family’s health at risk, as well as having a negative impact on the planet.

When considered individually, the dangers posed by such products might seem insignificant. But these things (and their toxicity) add up. Here are some of the regular products you should swap for their healthier alternative.

Insect repellent

Most insect repellents contain a worrisome chemical – the pesticide “DEET.” Scientists have found that DEET can cause damage to your central nervous system and impair functioning in parts of the brain resulting in problems with muscle coordination, muscle weakness, cognition, and memory. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, DEET has also been linked to seizures in children.

There are natural alternatives out there that can keep mosquitoes away and avoid damaging your child’s health. Lemon eucalyptus oil is the safest and most effective natural insect repellent. Several studies have found it to be as effective as DEET. It is even recommended by the CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention) as an alternative to DEET. Other natural repellents that contain neem oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, and cinnamon oil are pretty effective and are especially safe for infants and children.

Switch to:  Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent or Ecosmart Organic Insect Repellent.

Toothpaste

Most conventional toothpastes contain sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), a detergent used to make the paste foam, has been linked to a number of health and environmental concerns. The manufacturing process releases volatile carcinogenic compounds into the environment. It’s also registered as an insecticide and has toxic effects on marine life. Finally, SLS can irritate the gums and cause recurring canker sores in those who are prone to them. 

Switch to: Natural and herbal toothpastes contain safe ingredients like mint and do not contain detergents, preservatives, or additives, making them better options for your family. Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint All-One Toothpaste is organic and detergent free. Another great option is Dr. Collins Natural Toothpaste.

Cotton

Cotton represents nearly half of all the fabric used worldwide. It is conventionally grown as a very pesticide-intensive plant. These chemicals not only eliminate pests but also their natural enemies and this interference with the ecosystem greatly reduces biodiversity.

Researchers have found that the fertilizers used to grow cotton are severely detrimental to the environment because they run off into freshwater habitats and groundwater and cause oxygen-free dead zones in water bodies. The nitrogen oxides formed during the production and use of these fertilizers also contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the agricultural sector.

Switch to: Choosing organic cotton ensures that you don’t compromise the environment and, in turn, your family’s health. Organic cotton farming eschews synthetic chemicals in favor of natural methods to ward off pests and maintain soil fertility. Naturapedic’s Organic Cotton Crib Sheets are a good and sustainable choice for your children. The Organic Trade Association can help you find other organic cotton products.

Hand sanitizer

You have bottles of it everywhere: in the bathroom, the kitchen, and even your diaper bag. The main ingredient in hand sanitizers is triclosan – which offers no benefit over soap and water. In contrast, research has shown that triclosan can disrupt the endocrine system, amplifying testosterone. It may also harm the immune system.

Switch to: A natural hand sanitizer can help protect the well-being of your children. When shopping for them, choose products that contain plant-based ingredients and essential oils. Hand sanitizers like EO Lavender Hand Sanitizer Gel and Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Spray are not only safer options, they smell wonderful, too.

Cleaning agents

Manufacturers of these kinds of products are not required by law to list the ingredients they use in making them – which makes choosing safe products a little more difficult. Several cleaning products commonly contain dangerous quantities of chemicals like 2-Butoxyethanol, which can cause kidney and liver damage, and chlorine which is poisonous and can negatively affect the lungs. By stocking natural cleaning products in your home, you no longer have to worry so much about your child accidentally getting ahold of them.

Switch to: J.R Watkins All-Purpose Cleaner rids your home of grime and dirt without using harsh toxins. Try Method Spearmint Antibacterial Toilet Cleaner, too.

Non-stick cookware

Chances are good that at least one of the pans in your home is non-stick. Regular non-stick pans are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene, which is also known as Teflon. The toxins released from Teflon pots and pans at high temperatures can cause flu-like symptoms (Teflon flu) in people exposed to it and can also kill pet birds. Teflon manufacturing also poses great risk to the environment and wildlife.

Switch to: Traditional cookware made of ceramic and stainless steel is the best option, but if you’re not willing to let go of the ease and convenience of non-stick products, GreenPan offers non-stick cookware made without Teflon.

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