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Toxic Products

  1. Always recycle batteries – even the smallest ones add up. Changing batteries in smoke/carbon monoxide alarms is widely encouraged in the autumn, and there are many reasons to recycle all batteries. Some contain toxic elements such as the carcinogen cadmium, that can leach from landfills. “Greener” energy sources require storage, and specialized chemicals in rechargable batteries are limited resources with significant environmental footprint to mine and process – recycling is best!
  2. Avoid toxic cleaning products when natural alternatives exist! Use simple solutions and water for general cleaning, cutting grease and polishing metal. For heavy-duty cleaning, protect your eyes and skin and try hydrogen peroxide (“green” or “oxygen” bleach) as a powerful alternative to chlorine bleach. Peroxide leaves no toxic residue or smell.
  3. Beware of “greenwashing” and do your homework before you go shopping! Many “eco” products are available that are low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and free of fragrance, chlorine and other toxins. Use these rather than conventional brands whenever possible. Learn more about eco labels (and what they mean) here and visit the ecolabel index here.
  4. Say no to GMO. Avoid genetically engineered (a.k.a. “modified”) organisms (GMOs) and their associated pesticides because they are increasingly suspected of causing cancers and other conditions such as kidney disease. 100% organic foods do not contain GMOs, but unless other foods are labelled you can only guess what is in them. GMOs (particularly corn and soy) are common in processed foods, and labelling initiatives are fought by corporate interests.
  5. Moderate your salt intake. Many people eat more salt than is necessary or healthy. Research shows that higher incidence of stomach, esophagus, and bladder cancer among populations with high salt intake is due to salt-preserved foods (e.g. processed meats and pickled foods) and the saltshaker, and is worsened with H. pylori infection. Clearly excessive salt contributes to cancer as well as other chronic diseases, so it is best used with greater restraint. Other seasonings such as vinegar, garlic, herbs and spices are tasty substitutes for salt.
  6. Avoid processed meats. The World Health Organization declared that bacon, sausages and other processed meats are as strong a cancer threat as cigarettes. In your body, the nitrate preservative forms carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. For example, research shows higher risks of childhood leukemia with intake of hot dogs, and bladder cancer with intake of bacon. Prolonged boiling of hot dogs will leach some of the nitrate.
  7. Use non-toxic cookware, made of glass, stainless steel and cast iron (not made with recycled metals). Avoid non-stick coated cookware. Even low levels of fluorinated coating materials can interfere with hormone actions, and promote cancer.
  8. Avoid deodorants and antiperspirants containing aluminum, fragrances, aerosol propellants and antibacterials such as triclosan (especially for women who shave their underarms, as this facilitates the penetration of harmful substances).PCN has busted the myth-busters! Baking soda is a safer option. Shaving is a good practice to reduce body odour. Bacteria stuck to the skin, and especially to the hair, cause the smell.
  9. Use 100% organic cotton, linen, wool and hemp. Other fabrics may be doused with pesticides, bleached with chlorine, dyed with toxic heavy metals and aromatic amines, made wrinkle-free with formaldehyde based resins, and made stain resistant with hormone-mimicking fluorinated chemicals.
  10. Paradichlorobenzene (PDB) is a possible carcinogen found in “pucks” for diaper pails and urinals, mothballs and, ironically, “deodorizers.” PDB has a strong odour and may pollute the air in an entire building. Avoid these products, and if you come across them in public places, inform management that they should not be used.
  11. Chemical fragrance stinks. Avoid purchasing goods containing artificial “fragrance”. Thousands of undisclosed chemicals go into cosmetics and consumer goods—and some are pretty nasty.
  12. Go fragrance-free and ditch the perfumes and scented personal care products. The “fragrance” is generally a toxic mixture of many chemicals (some of which have been linked to cancer and neurotoxicity). Phthalates, chemicals to make the scent last longer, have been shown to disrupt the human endocrine (hormonal) system. This can contribute to breast and prostate cancers – the most common cancers in women and men respectively.
  13. Reduce or limit your exposure to toxic elements such as lead, chromium and cadmium in ceramic glazes, stained-glass materials, leaded crystal, and many pigments in oil-based paints. Lead may be in old house paint and plumbing.
  14. Avoid the antibacterial chemicals triclosan and triclocarban. Washing your hands with plain soap is just as effective — and plain soap does NOT promote antibiotic-resistant germs! Triclosan and triclocarban are in many products including antibacterial detergents, soaps, creams, toothpaste, mouthwash, clothing, shopping bags, counter tops and even plastics (e.g. microban®). These hormone-mimicking chemicals can pass through the skin and promote cancers. Sewage plants don’t completely remove these chemicals, and in waterways triclosan forms dioxins (that can also cause cancer). Triclosan is commonly found in Canadians’ urine . Watch for “triclo…” ingredients, and purchase alternative products.
  15. Avoid talc and talcum powder. Talc is a soft mineral that can also contain asbestos. This potent carcinogen has been found in lung cancers in talc users. As well, the risk of ovarian cancer is increased with the genital use of talc. Contact local pediatricians and hospitals to find out if they have a policy on the use of talc on infants. If they don’t, take action to educate them.
  16. Dress smart! Try alternatives to toxic dry-cleaning. If you must dry-clean your clothes, be sure to air out your garments for several hours or days (preferably outdoors) before wearing! This will reduce your exposure to the toxic perchloroethylene (tetrachloroethene) used in conventional dry-cleaning.
  17. Avoid common commercial fabric softeners as they contain toxic chemicals that may cause nervous system damage, respiratory problems and cancer. The raw ingredients (made from rendered animal remains) smell unpleasant, so fragrances (over 1000 possible chemicals) and neurotoxic agents are added to dull the sense of smell. Phthalates (endocrine disruptors) are added to make the fragrances last longer. Liquid fabric softeners contribute toxic chemicals to the waterways, while dryer sheets pollute the air. Instead, skip “softening” clothes altogether, buy a set of re-usable dryer balls, or add a quarter-cup of vinegar to your wash cycle.
  18. New clothes should always be washed before being worn. Contrary to popular belief, even the cleanest, freshest looking new garments aren’t really clean and often contain chemicals including dyes and formaldehyde resin.
  19. Rather than toxic insecticides to get rid of aphids, spray plants thoroughly with soap and water (80 parts water to 1 part liquid dish soap). Be sure to spray both sides of leaves! Rinse with water after about 10 minutes to avoid burning the leaves. Works best on dry days.
  20. Don’t purchase goods made of PVC plastic (polyvinyl chloride, recycling symbol 3), or packaged in tough, clear packaging. PVC is not easily recycled. It is the most toxic plastic to manufacture, it requires hormone-mimicking plasticizers to be flexible, it contains potentially toxic stabilizers, and forms dioxins (very toxic chemicals) when burned. PVC from China is made using a process that releases mercury – a global pollutant that migrates north and pollutes Canada’s bears, fish and whales.
  21. Avoid PVC packaging.
  22. Tell store managers and manufacturers (call the number on the product, or via their website) that you want minimal packaging with no PVC. Recycled cardboard may be a good option.
  23. Tell your politicians that they should ban this type of packaging.
  24. Consider organizing take-back-the-package events at local stores.
    • Learn more about recycling plastic