Household Toxins – What to do about them

Nathan Brammeier and Ralphie laying on carpet - CrossFit Redux Household Toxins

With so many pollutants and toxins in our environment, who wouldn’t want to shut themselves indoors and escape? The only problem is that with so many household toxins, you’ll be doing yourself even more harm.

Let’s face it, toxins are now a part of our every day life. Environmental and household toxins are impossible to get away from. All that we can do is raise our awareness and give our body the best chance to deal with them.

So let’s first find out where all these household toxins are hiding. Some we can get rid of. Others are just a fact of life. But it’s always best to be aware of these household toxins in order to avoid them when possible.

Household Toxins


The active ingredient in mothballs is naphthalene, which is carcinogenic and highly neurotoxic. Many think that as long as they pack the mothballs up tightly and don’t expose themselves to the smell, they’ll be okay. But they forget that the chemicals get on their clothes!

So when you unpack the winter clothes and start wearing them again, you’ll be breathing in those chemicals all day long.

Here is a natural alternative from Simple Steps:

     2 ounces each of dried rosemary and mint
     1 ounce each of dried thyme and ginseng
     8 ounces whole cloves

     Combine spices and fill a sachet or muslin tea bag.


Whether it’s ants, bacteria, roaches, viruses, spiders, or other creepy crawlies, we just don’t like them. That is evidenced by the fact that 90% of households in the United States use some form of pesticide. And with the popularity of pesticides comes the inherent dangers. In 2006, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received nearly 46,000 calls because of exposure to children under 5 years old.

If you use pesticides, you must be careful! Or find more natural alternatives. Like this list from the Global Healing Center. Amy and I like the citrus oil/cayenne pepper mix for indoors for ants and the chile pepper/diatomaceous earth mixture outdoors for the bigger bugs.


As far as household toxins go, you may not realize that receipts are some of the worst. By now, we’ve all heard of BPA. We go to great lengths to avoid plastic water bottles because of the BPA. And we feel good about ourselves for doing so.

But the BPA that we are exposed to from every day purchases could be even worse than the BPA in cans and bottles. The BPA in cans and bottles are bound. Other molecule must break down for a person to absorb the chemical.

But the BPA on receipts is a loose powder, which leaves a high concentration on your fingers.

Receipts are printed on thermal paper. A thin coating of BPA helps develop the dyes as it’s heated. This is why receipts feel different than normal paper. They have a slight powdery feel to them.

Umm . . . that’s BPA. Wash your hands.

Carpets and Cars

We all love that new car smell. And the smell of new carpeting? Forget about it! You’re in heaven!!

Well, you may be if you breath too much of it.

It turns out that the off-gassing from new cars and carpets are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Unfortunately, exposure to VOCs are unavoidable. But you can help to clear the air by leaving windows open and not trapping the chemicals inside your home or your car.

On a side note, I am all too familiar with VOCs given my past life as an organic chemist. My exposure to VOCs is the main reason I detox on a regular basis.


Seriously, right? First I tell you receipts are toxic and now printers?! You just can’t get away from this stuff!

It turns out that some laser and ink-jet printers can release VOCs and ozone particulates. Both of these have been linked to heart and lung disease. Also, some laser printers give off ultra-fine particles. You know what else is an ultra-fine particle? Asbestos.

Now, obviously your exposure to these ultra-fine particles from laser printers is going to be much less than from a home that used asbestos for insulation. But it would still be a good idea to avoid too much exposure if you do a lot of printing. Just keep your printer in a room with good ventilation. And if you’re printing a lot, leave the room until it’s done and the room is ventilated.

Air Fresheners and Cleaning Solutions

These are what we most often think of when we think of household toxins. Yes, we all love the small of “clean”. I’ll admit it – it’s a great smell! But unfortunately, more often than not, that smell is not good for you.

It turns out that most air fresheners and cleaning solutions contain ethylene-based glycol ethers and terpenes. The EPA regards the ethers as toxic. The terpenes, when mixed with ozone in the air, becomes toxic. Air fresheners are particularly nasty because they also contain a whole range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The reason I combined these two is because with one natural product, you can make an all-purpose cleaning solution as well as an air freshener. And you can vary the scent depending on what essential oils you use. One of my favorite natural resource, Wellness Mama, shares a DIY Natural All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe.

In a pinch, Amy and I use vinegar . . . admittedly not the best air freshener.

Flame Retardants

Sigh, this one really frustrates me. Flame retardants are in nearly everything. Especially anything for babies, which only serves to increase their exposure. And, in my opinion, the small number of fires that may have been prevented doesn’t even come close to justifying the resulting health issues.

You’ll find flame retardants in mattresses, upholstery, TV and computer casings, drapes, baby clothes, etc. They use polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). In 2004, two forms of PBDEs were phased out in manufacturing because of health concerns. But many of us still have items from before then that we’re still exposed to.

PBDEs have been linked to learning and memory problems, lowered sperm counts, and poor thyroid functioning. Other studies have linked PBDEs to cancer, though it hasn’t been confirmed.

Again, the best we can do with flame retardants is to ventilate our homes.

Cosmetics and Other Personal Care Products

I covered cosmetics and other personal care products in my previous post. As far as household toxins, these can be the most dangerous. There are so many chemicals in these products and we use so many of them.

To check on the products you use, find out what you can do about it, and discover more natural sources, read my previous blog post.

And hey, you get to see me put on lipstick. That’s gotta count for something!

What we can do about Household Toxins

With some toxins (mothballs, pesticides, air fresheners, and cleansers), there are natural alternatives that we can easily make ourselves.

With others, we just do the best we can. Frequent hand washing (with natural, non-antibacterial soap!) and making sure your home and car are well-ventilated is the best you can do.

In any case, I continue to recommend going through a quality detox program at least twice per year. Click on the button below to check out the detox kit we use to detoxify.

If you know of any other household toxins or natural alternatives, please share in the comments.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

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About the Author

Nathan Brammeier

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I dream of living in a world where Doritos dipped in Frito Lays Nacho Cheese Dip is the answer to all of our health problems. But until that day, I'll continue to deliver the absolute best nutrition and lifestyle advice.

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