Chances are you’ve heard terms like “toxin-free”, “low-tox”, or “clean” thrown around a time or two when referring to certain products. But what do these terms even mean? And why are they important?
It all boils down to environmental toxins – harmful compounds that are more often than not lurking in many conventional products.
In this blog post, we’re going to explore exactly what environmental toxins are, the grave consequences they can have on your health, and how you’re likely to come into contact with these calamitous compounds. And most importantly, we’ll cover some easy swaps you can make in your life to minimize your exposure to these health-disrupting toxins. Let’s dive in.
Environmental Toxins Defined: What Are Environmental Toxins Anyway?
Environmental toxins are any compounds found within our environment that can have a direct negative effect on our health. There are thousands of different compounds that can technically fall under the classification of “environmental toxin” – some completely natural, some entirely man-made, and some a mix of both. So why are these environmental toxins such a concern?1
To answer that question, just take a peek at a few of these statistics:2,3,4
- Worldwide, it’s estimated that there are anywhere from 100,000 – 150,000 chemicals registered for use. But thanks to loopholes in our federal policy, in the United States, only about 86,000 of these chemicals are actually registered for use in commerce.
- And of these 86,000, roughly 62,000 of these chemicals were grandfathered in when the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed – meaning these 62,000 chemicals were given a free pass and automatically assumed safe with absolutely zero requirements to actually prove their safety.
- And while we do have a policy in the U.S. designed to regulate chemical use in certain products (The Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act) – it hasn’t been updated since 1938.
- With all these untested and unregulated toxins floating around, research has identified over 200 man-made chemicals floating around inside the average person. And what’s worse, we’ve found that many of these toxins can be found in umbilical cord blood – meaning our babies are being polluted with toxins before they are even born!
And elevated exposure to these environmental toxins can have serious consequences for your health.
Health Effects Linked to Environmental Toxins
Accumulated exposure to health-disrupting environmental toxins can contribute to a whole lot of different and serious health conditions like:5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
- Cancer: A whopping 90-95% of cancers are caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. And it’s been well-documented that many of the chemicals and toxins found in our day-to-day environment can trigger changes at the cellular level that can cause cells to become cancerous.
- Hormonal imbalances: Many toxins can mimic the natural hormones produced by your body – essentially tricking your body into responding to these toxins as though they are your own hormones. This can throw any number of hormones out of whack causing anything from estrogen dominance to low thyroid function.
- Metabolic imbalances and weight gain: There is actually an entire class of environmental toxins known as obesogens that are known to trigger weight gain by disrupting metabolism and altering normal hormone production – cueing your body to ramp up fat storage and hold onto fat stores tightly.
- Autoimmune conditions: An accumulation of toxins can contribute to overwhelming and burning out your immune system. This can cause your immune system to malfunction – essentially causing it to begin mistakenly flagging your own cells as a threat and launching an immune attack against your own body.
- Fertility issues: Fertility is declining worldwide at least in part due to exposure to environmental toxins. These toxins can damage fertility by decreasing men’s sperm count, disrupting women’s cycles, impairing implantation, and even increasing the risk of miscarriage.
- Brain and neurological malfunction: Environmental toxins can hinder your brain’s ability to function at full capacity – impairing things like your ability to learn new things, your mood, and the overall health of your brain. In fact, environmental toxins are speculated to be one of the primary causes of intellectual disabilities and progressive neurodegenerative conditions like dementia.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage that accumulated environmental toxins can have. And unfortunately, because environmental toxins are an often overlooked aspect of health, these toxic compounds can continue accumulating and slowly wreak havoc on our bodies.
So, Where Are All of These Environmental Toxins Coming From?
This question is simple and complicated at the same time. It’s simple in the sense that the short answer to where toxins come from is – everywhere. It’s complicated because the answer “everywhere” doesn’t really give us much to work with when it comes to addressing these troublesome toxins. So let’s briefly explore just a handful of the places you’re more than likely encountering environmental toxins:
- Food: Unfortunately, thanks to modern agricultural and food processing practices, much of our food is doused in countless toxic chemicals. From fertilizers and pesticides to antibiotics and heavy metals, even many “healthy” foods can contain a concentrated dose of toxins.
- Water: Water circulates throughout our environment – pouring down to earth in a raindrop, trickling through a mountain creek, flowing through countless man-made water pipes, watering and sustaining our crops – and eventually making its way into our faucets. Throughout this never-ending, cyclical journey, water can pick up a whole slew of invisible health-disrupting compounds and toxins that make their way directly into that cool refreshing glass of tap water.
- The air you breathe: Many toxins come in the form of gaseous molecules being suspended in the air where they can be inhaled directly into your lungs. And these airborne toxins aren’t just a danger outside. In fact, your indoor air can be significantly more polluted and filled with toxins than the air outside.
- Personal care products: The lotions you slather on your skin, the soap or hand sanitizer you use to clean your hands, the perfume you spritz on to smell good – these can all contain a cocktail of contemptible compounds. Because these products come into direct contact with your body and can be loaded with a laundry list of toxins, personal care products are one of the biggest contributors to most people's toxic burden.
- Electronics: Electronics like your cell phone, your laptop, and your television emit low levels of radiation known as electromagnetic fields – or EMFs for short. While EMFs are not technically a chemical, exposure to these invisible fields of energy interact with your body in a way that can negatively impact your health – earning EMFs the title of an environmental toxin.
This is just scratching the surface of where environmental toxins come from. So what on earth can you do about it? The best and most effective solution is to take some deliberate steps to lower your exposure to these toxins.
How to Lower Your Exposure to Environmental Toxins and Reduce Your Toxic Burden
Your toxic burden is simply the accumulation of toxins within your body at any given time. It’s important to understand that you can never lower your toxic burden to zero. We always have been and always will be exposed to toxic compounds on some level. And that’s perfectly okay!
The goal is to minimize the influx of toxins coming in – not stop them completely. Considering environmental toxins are literally everywhere, trying to reduce your exposure can feel daunting and overwhelming at first. But making small shifts can add up in a big way. Simply making swaps and upgrading to less toxic options can go a long way in lowering your total toxic burden.
So let’s dive into some of my favorite low-tox alternatives:
My Favorite Low-Tox Food and Beverage Alternatives
Thanks to the extensive use of chemical-filled fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics used in agriculture operations – your diet is hands down one of the biggest culprits when it comes to environmental toxins. Meaning that the quality of the food and beverages you consume is vitally important.
Some of my favorite low-tox food and beverages include:
- Butcher Box: Butcher Box’s 100% grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, humanely raised pork, and wild-caught seafood is free from many of the toxins that essentially “work their way up the food chain” – leaving you with high-quality, delicious, and good-for-you meat.
- Slanker Grass-Fed Meat: Slanker Ranch is famous for their natural, no added hormones, antibiotic-free, non-GMO, free-range, cage-free, and humanely raised animal products. And best of all, Slanker Ranch feeds their animals an optimal diet – which translates into healthier meats with optimal health-boosting omega-3 fatty acid profiles.
- Vital Choice: Fish and seafood raised in poorly managed farm conditions can accumulate a significant amount of toxins – which eventually end up on your dinner plate and in your body. Vital Choice specializes in delivering only the freshest and most responsibly sourced seafood to ensure you’re getting the healthiest, most nutritionally dense seafood Mother Nature has to offer.
- Purity Coffee: Lower-quality coffee is notorious for being tainted with pesticides and other chemicals and can be chock-full of hidden mold spores. Purity Coffee uses only organic, specialty-grade coffee beans that have been verified mold-free and uses a unique method to roast them for maximum health benefits.
- Pique Tea: Pique Tea sources all of their ingredients from only the finest growers and ensures each one is Triple Toxin Screened for purity and bioavailability to supply you with the purest, tastiest, and most nutrient-dense teas you’ll find on the market.
- Desert Farm Camel Milk: If you love a good splash of cream or milk in your coffee or tea, skip the hormone and toxin-filled grocery store options and try Desert Farm Camels Milk – 100% raw and natural milk collected from pasture-raised, USA-based camels and bottled entirely in America.
These delicious and good-for-you foods and drinks prove that low-tox living is anything but bland and boring.
My Favorite Water Filtration Systems
You simply can’t talk about minimizing exposure to environmental toxins without addressing toxins in tap water. To learn more about the troublesome toxins tainting our tap water and why filtering your water is so critical, be sure to head over and read my article Is Tap Water Safe? Dangerous Toxins That Might Be Lurking in Your Water.
When it comes to water filtration systems, they’re far from created equally. The most effective filtration systems that I love and trust are:
- Aqua Tru’s cutting-edge reverse osmosis water purifiers
- Boroux Filter’s powerful all-natural water filtration systems
- Clearly Filtered’s advanced filtration technology [use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any new filtration system]
Investing in a quality, science-backed water filtration system is one of the best investments you can possibly make in protecting and enhancing your health.
My Favorite Low-Tox Personal Care Products
Your skin is your largest organ – meaning the products you slather on your skin each day can be a major source of toxin exposure if using chemical-filled products. Some of my favorite low-tox beauty and personal care product swaps include:
- Dr. Jill Health Skincare Line: Finding skincare products that are not only non-toxic but also effective, can be a challenge – so I decided to create my own. Whether you’re looking for acne control, anti-aging, or an entire non-toxic skincare regimen, I’ve got you covered. Click here to check out my entire skin care line. Not sure where to start? Here are my absolute favs!
- Dr. Jill Mini Miracle Kit – top rated, best selling all in one anti-aging starter kit
- Biopeptide Beauty Cream – I apply this at night before bed to clean skin
- HA Collagen Booster – living in Colorado my skin is prone to dryness – this is my favorite amazing anti-aging moisturizer.
- Vita CE serum – powerful antioxidant that I use in morning after cleanser & toner
- Annemarie Gianni: This handcrafted, wildcrafted, organic, cruelty-free, and 100% USA-made skin care line delivers beautiful, glowing skin – without any unwanted chemicals.
- FarmHouse Fresh Organics and Naturals: Every one of FarmHouse Fresh’s products are made in the USA using natural ingredients and just-harvested botanicals that are grown fresh right on their farm – supplying your skin with a concentrated dose of revitalizing nutrients.
- Risewell Toothpaste: Risewell’s line up of oral care products are not only 100% clean, safe, and toxin-free, but are also clinically proven to strengthen and protect your teeth.
Be sure to check out my online store – you can snag 10% off your first order of any of the products in my Dr. Jill Health Skincare line by clicking right here.
My Favorite Low-Tox Home Products
Our homes can be bursting at the seams with harmful environmental toxins thanks to a slew of chemicals typically found in cleaning products and the materials we fill our homes with. Here are some of my favorite less toxic alternatives to keep your home fresh, clean and cozy – without the toxins:
- Branch Basics: Branch Basic’s entire line-up of cleaning products are made from plant and mineral-based natural ingredients and are guaranteed free from toxins – making them entirely safe for humans, pets, and the earth
- Happsy: Did you know that conventional mattresses can be chock-full of chemicals like volatile organic compounds, flame retardants, and more? Happsy mattresses are organic and made with natural materials like latex, wool, and cotton with springs – making them squeaky clean and toxin-free.
- Naturepedic: Naturepedic is another stand-out brand that specializes in organic, toxin-free mattresses, sheets, pillows, and sleep accessories for the whole family – from babies to adults and every age in between.
- Micro Balance Health Products: Toxic mold and harmful bacteria can be particularly troublesome environmental toxins. Microbalance’s Mold cleaning and healing products are designed to address mold exposure at the source – eliminating persistent mold spores and restoring balance to your home.
- Vibrant Blue Essential Oils: We all love a fresh, clean-smelling home. But synthetic fragrances can contain a laundry list of toxic chemicals. Swapping out toxic air fresheners and fragrances for all-natural essential oils will leave your home smelling wonderful without the health-disrupting toxins.
While minimizing the amount of toxins coming into your home is a pivotal piece of the puzzle, it can also be beneficial to incorporate some strategies to help your home “detox” from the unavoidable toxins. Here’s what I recommend:
- Air purification: Indoor air can be majorly polluted. Investing in a quality air purification system proven to remove toxic particles from the air can go a long way in reducing the pollutants floating around in your home. Air Doctor and Austin Air are two of the most powerfully effective systems available on the market.
- EMF shielding: Electromagnetic fields – or EMFs – are emitted from technological devices. And while they may not be a chemical, these energy waves are still an environmental toxin – disrupting your health and having serious effects. Investing in EMF shielding devices – like the ones innovated by Aires Tech or Bio-Electric Shield – can help protect you from these harmful rays of energy.
Most of us spend a large proportion of our time within our homes – so taking steps to create a low-tox home is crucial.
Ready to Tackle the Toxins in Your Life?
Exposure to environmental toxins truly is one of the most often overlooked aspects of health.
So being mindful of the environmental toxins that you may be coming into contact with and taking steps to lower your toxic burden can have a monumental impact on your health and well-being. And the best part is, you don’t have to completely overhaul your life or avoid things you love to reap the benefits of lowering your exposure to these health-disrupting toxins.
Simply making small consistent shifts and swapping out toxin-filled products for low-tox alternatives like those listed in this article, can go a long way in supporting and enhancing your health. Especially when you begin “stacking” those tiny shifts in every area of your life – from your diet and exercise habits, to the thoughts and feelings you consistently practice, and everything in-between.
These small shifts are the real “secret” to health, happiness, and longevity. So if you enjoyed this article and are looking for more realistic and easy-to-implement ways you can prioritize and up-level your health, be sure to check out all of the resources available on my blog, my YouTube channel, and in my weekly newsletter (just input your information into the form at the bottom of this page to subscribe).
Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve felt alone or unsure where to turn for answers?
In Unexpected: Finding Resilience through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith, Dr. Jill Carnahan shares her story of facing life-altering illness, fighting for her health, and overcoming sickness using both science and faith so that others can learn to live their own transformative stories.
Dr. Jill’s riveting and compassionate exploration of healing through functional medicine demonstrates how to replace darkness and fear with hope and find profound healing, unconditional love, and unexpected miracles in the process.
- The Role of Public Health in Combating Environmental Toxins (tulane.edu)
- Summary of the Toxic Substances Control Act | US EPA
- Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now (nih.gov)
- Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns | Environmental Working Group (ewg.org)
- Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes – PMC (nih.gov)
- Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) | Endocrine Society
- Endocrine Disruptors (nih.gov)
- Obesogens: An Environmental Link to Obesity – PMC (nih.gov)
- Exposure to Environmental Toxins and Autoimmune Conditions – PMC (nih.gov)
- Environmental Toxins and Infertility – PMC (nih.gov)
- Trends in Neurodevelopmental Disability Burden due to Early Life Chemical Exposure in the USA from 2001 to 2016: A Population-Based Disease Burden and Cost Analysis – PMC (nih.gov)
- Environmental Toxicity and Poor Cognitive Outcomes in Children and Adults – PMC (nih.gov)
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.