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6 Common Environmental Toxins and How to Avoid Them: A Shortlist

You might be exposed more than you think


1. Air pollution: a mixture of natural and synthetic substances in the air we breathe.

  • Indoor air pollution can be reduced by making sure that your building is well ventilated and regularly cleaned to avoid the buildup of mold and dust.
  • Exposure to outdoor air pollution can be reduced by checking your city’s air quality monitors and avoiding heavy traffic and second-hand tobacco smoke.

2. Bisphenol A (BPA): a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics. To reduce your exposure:

  • Avoid microwaving polycarbonate plastic food containers.
  • Opt for glass, porcelain, or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are glass or stainless steel.
  • Be wary of BPA plastic alternatives such as bisphenol S (BPS), as these substances may cause similar health effects.

 3. Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): manufactured chemicals widely used in everyday items, including certain types of nonstick pans and waterproof clothing. If possible, avoid purchasing PFAS-containing products.

4. Pesticides: agricultural chemicals in food production. Choose organic produce, and make sure to give all fruits and veggies a good wash.

5. Phthalates: a group of chemicals used to make plastics (such as those in packaging and children’s toys) more flexible and harder to break; also used in cosmetics and fragrances. Avoid putting your food in phthalate-containing plastic, and avoid artificial fragrances.

6. Triclosan: an antibacterial chemical sometimes found in toothpastes, hand sanitizers, and deodorants. Look for all-natural alternatives and read labels carefully if a product claims to be “antibacterial.”

For more information, check out Environmental Defence’s printable pocket guide to common environmental toxins.



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD