Safer Shopping Tips

by Ms. S on February 7, 2009

Please note that this section contains my personal notes from my readings on this topic.


According to author Randall Fitzgerald, while we may never be able to totally eliminate our risk of exposure to harmful chemicals, we can manage those risks and reduce our chances of harm. In his book The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health, Randall challenges the myths established and perpetuated by the food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, and takes a provocative look at what is really in our food, water, vitamins, prescription drugs, childhood vaccines, cosmetics and homes.

Practical Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself from Illness:

  • Study the labels: On every product with an ingredient label—food, medicine or household items—familiarize yourself with the chemical names by comparing them to a list of toxins. The more toxins you identify, the more determined you should be to reject that item.
  • Replace home pesticides: A wide range of natural, nontoxic remedies exist for common household pests. For example, the neem tree from India provides a natural insecticide for plants and gardens, while baking soda mixed with powdered sugar helps to repel cockroaches.
  • Drink wheatgrass juice: To help strengthen your immune system and cleanse your body of toxins, drink wheatgrass as often as you can.
  • Do intermittent fasting: By eating only every other day (once in awhile!) or juice-fasting one day a week, you stress the cells of your body in a manner that aids its secretion of chemical toxins from the body’s tissues and organs.
  • Detox with saunas: When combined with vigorous exercise, saunas can aid your body in squeezing out, through sweat, the more deeply embedded chemical toxins.
  • Eat organic foods: Whenever you can, purchase organic foods and eat at organic restaurants. The pesticide residues on these foods are much lower than nonorganics.
  • Choose nutritious organics: Consuming raw foods three to four times per week will support your liver’s detox functions and produce immune agents in your body to fight infection. Try these: broccoli, garlic, spinach, cabbage, sprouts, blueberries, ginger, curcumin.
  • Compile a Personal Toxins List: Write out a list of synthetic chemicals you consume each day from your foods and medications, and post it prominently in your home. Make a conscious effort to limit your intake of these chemicals.

From the Environmental Working Group:

  1. Use our What Not To Buy list to avoid especially problematic ingredients — like mercury, lead, and placenta — and the products that contain them.
  2. Use fewer products. Is there something you can cut from your daily routine, or a product you can use less often? By cutting down on the number of chemicals contacting your skin every day, you will reduce any potential health risks associated with your products.
  3. Use the “Advanced Search” feature of Skin Deep to find products that have fewer potential health issues. Choose a product category and exclude the hazardous ingredients — carcinogens and neurotoxins, for instance — and Skin Deep will generate a custom shopping list for you.
  4. Read labels. Marketing claims on personal care products are not defined under the law, and can mean anything or nothing at all, including claims like organic, natural, hypoallergenic, animal cruelty free, and fragrance free. Read the ingredient label carefully to find evidence that the claims are true.
  5. Use milder soaps. Soap removes dirt and grease from the surface of your skin, but also strips away your body’s own natural skin oils. Choosing a milder soap may reduce skin dryness and your need for moisturizers to replace oils your skin can provide naturally.
  6. Minimize your use of dark hair dyes. Many contain coal tar ingredients that have been linked to cancer in some studies.
  7. Cut down on your use of powders; avoid the use of baby powder on newborns and infants. A number of ingredients common in powder have been linked to cancer and other lung problems when they are inhaled. FDA warns that powders may cause lung damage if inhaled regularly.
  8. Choose products that are “fragrance”-free. Fragrances can cause allergic reactions. Products that claim to be “fragrance free” on the packaging may not be. They could contain masking fragrances that give off a neutral odor. Read the ingredient label — in products truly free of fragrance, the word “fragrance” will not appear there. Find “fragrance”-free products with our advanced search.
  9. Reduce your use of nail polish. It’s one of the few types of products that routinely contains ingredients linked to birth defects. Paint your toenails and skip the fingernails. Paint nails in a well-ventilated room, or outside, or avoid using nail polish altogether, particularly when you are pregnant. Browse our custom shopping guide for advice on nail polishes that contain fewer ingredients of concern.

Below are some informative YouTube videos that may help you when you shop:


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