1. Trash Conventional Body Care Products
The Problem: More than one-third of all personal care products contain at least one ingredient linked to cancer, and very few products are tested for safety. Some products contain phthalates, which don't appear in the list of a product's ingredients. Instead, they are covered by the general term "fragrance." Other troublesome ingredients include coal tar, which is made from petroleum waste; diethanolamine (DEA); 1,4-Dioxane; and parabens. These toxins may be linked to: endocrine disruptions, skin problems, and cancer.
The Solution: Look for body care products from one of the 600 retailers that have signed the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' Compact. These companies have pledged to phase out the 450 chemicals banned by the European Union in 2005 because they're strongly suspected of being mutagens, carcinogens, or endocrine disrupters. You can also search the EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database to learn about the products on your shelves.
Eco-bonus: Your green body care purchases help stop environmental contamination of our waterways. Buying organic supports sustainable, pesticide-free agriculture.
Visit our National Green Pages™ category on body care
Check out our articles:
What's That on Your Skin?
9 Toxins to Avoid in Personal Care Products
Safer Sunscreen for Summer
Green America’s Sarah and Tracy Talk Green Feminine Products
2. Avoid Chemical Air Fresheners
The problem: Air fresheners can contain dangerous ingredients like dichlorobenzene, naphthalene, and formaldehyde. Conventional scented candles aren't much better. Many are made from petroleum-based paraffin wax, which releases carcinogenic soot when burned, and some have lead-core wicks, which release toxic lead into the air when burned. Linked to: respiratory irritation, cancer.
The solution: Avoid candles and air fresheners with synthetic fragrances. Instead, leave out a bowl of baking soda to absorb odors, and switch from paraffin to 100-percent beeswax or soy candles with cotton wicks. To test a candle wick for lead, rub the tiip on a piece of paper. If it leaves a mark, there's a lead core in the wick. This method doesn't work with candles that have been lit already, so when in doubt, throw them out.
Visit our National Green Pages™ categories: aromatherapy and candles
Check out our article: Are Your Candles Toxic
3. Purge PVC from your Shower Curtain (and elsewhere)
The problem: Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC, or the "vinyl" in your vinyl shower curtain, is a plastic that's dangerous to people and the environment at every stage of its lifecycle. DEHP, an additive used to soften many vinyl products, is a phthalate. These toxins are linked to: endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, and cancer.
The solution: Avoid PVC products for your bathroom or anywhere in your home. PVC is often recognizable by its distinctive odor (think that "new shower curtain" smell). When shopping for a shower curtain, look for a non-vinyl one. Ikea and Vita Futura both make polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA) liners, which are PVC-free. You can also get a hemp curtain from green companies like Rawganique.com and Greenfeet.com. Hemp dries quickly and is resistant to mildew.
Visit our National Green Pages™ categories: hemp, housewares, and toys
Could You Go Plastic-Free?
Updated April 2015, originally published in the Spring 2008 issue