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Are You Living Clean? :: Getting Started on a Non-Toxic Journey

You may have been here. You’re reading a headline on your smartphone that’s daring you to find out what is lurking in a common household item. You click on it and get through paragraph two before clicking on a link to another doomsday storyline strategically placed just before paragraph three. That link then leads you to a product website, and you realize you didn’t finish the first story that originally had your attention, and for whatever reason, the left arrow button isn’t helping you find your way back.

The clean living rabbit hole can quickly become information overload leaving you feeling exhausted to the point you throw caution to the wind forgetting your whole goal of switching to safer. Here’s hoping this post cuts to the chase and gives you some actionable nuggets you can take with you and go about your carefree day.

Mom of Two + Toxin Expert

Several moms and grandmoms met last month for an evening of wine sipping and collective conversation about all things healthy living. Leah Kennelly, a toxin-free consultant and owner of Simple Baby, shared her tried and true ways of making smart decisions for the things we put IN our bodies, ON our bodies, AROUND our bodies, and not to forget the other little bodies we love so much!

Many ladies asked for a recap of what we talked about so they could share with their friends and family while also having a checklist that they could refer back. I’ve personally taken much of Leah’s advice over the years and gladly share what’s worked my family of four.

 Beyond the Dirty Dozen

We’ve probably heard which fruits and veggies are best to buy organic including your apples, spinach, and berries. But making an effort to purchase dairy, meats and most fruits and vegetables organic will reduce the amount of chemicals including hormones and pesticides and bonus – it’s a whole lot kinder on our planet, too.


Another tip is to avoid cans whether it has your favorite diet soda or the oh so convenient vegetable selection for tonight’s dinner. Cans have Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to protect food from metal corrosion and bacteria and is linked to endocrine disorders, heart disease, and cancer. Sodium and sulfites are also served with your side of canned green beans so best to avoid the whole package when possible.

Alternative: Buy fresh or frozen (preferably organic) and finally kick that soda habit for a fruit-infused water.

Heat & Plastic Should Not Meet Up

We learned from Mom to check before popping something in the microwave to make sure the container is microwave-safe first. Studies are showing that our best bet is to avoid mixing anything hot with plastic. The reason is heat can cause harmful chemicals from plastic to leach out.

Want extra brownie points? Avoid plastic altogether. I know this seems like a monumental feat for our throw-away adored society, but there are sturdy, relatively easy ways to nix plastic. Besides, brownies can be just as gooey cooked in glass.


Photo Credit: Leah Kennelly

Another big no-no regarding heat is anything non-stick. Teflon and other non-stick cookware can emit toxic fumes when overheated. Stainless steel and cast iron are the much safer bet.

Alternative to plastic: Store food in glass, such as Pyrex or Anchor Hocking, which are both microwave or better yet, oven-safe! Lunch boxes are also a good place to clean up plastic with stainless steel and glass substitutes. If you’re going to use a plastic container, make sure the food cools off before putting it inside.

Cleaning Up Your Cleaning

Not too recently we had a crawler amidst my household, and that was when I took a closer look at the cleaning products I was using. I feared the chemicals that were undoubtedly leaving residue on those little hands and scuffed up knees. The thought of those hands reaching that forever teething mouth made me make the switch. Common cleaning ingredients can be laced with carcinogenic ingredients and lead to the development of asthma and other respiratory problems.


Photo Credit: Leah Kennelly

Alternative: You’ll be happy to know there are cheaper and safer ways that actually keep your home and toy box clean. All my cleaning is done with three items. My first glass amber bottle is fifty, fifty part organic vinegar and water, and is my go-to for wiping down countertops, slobbery toys and even fruits and vegetables. My second bottle is hydrogen peroxide and does a fine job on soap scum and places that need a good disinfectant. The third item is the replacement for my coveted soft scrub that is chock-full of not so lovely chemicals you should avoid. Bon Ami is next to Bar Keeper’s Friend but the much better choice and has been around since 1886 – a time when many chemicals found in products today did not exist.

Protection from More than the Sun

Living in the sunshine state, we know the importance of slathering the sunscreen on ourselves and especially our kids. Our skin is our largest organ, and much of what we put on it gets absorbed right into the bloodstream. The scary part comes in when you learn the United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products (think soaps, lotions, cosmetics, etc.) since 1938.

And while the European Union has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in the product formulas of personal care products, the United States has only partially banned 11 to date. So that means it is on us as consumers to take a closer look at the products we use – especially those we use every day on our skin and the delicate skin of our children. A powerful resource is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Consumer Guide. Check out some of the products you use every day and see how they rate.


Photo Credit: Leah Kennelly

Alternative: In an effort to help you avoid that particular rabbit hole that I have personally been down, I will tell you my journey for safer skincare and cosmetics lead me to Beautycounter because all of their products are EWG approved and are high performing. I had the darnedest time finding a non-toxic sunscreen that worked on my children’s Scandinavian skin but one that wasn’t pasty and thus impossible to get rubbed in on squirmy bodies. Beautycounter’s sunscreen lotion and stick are both dreams come true for the outdoor lifestyle that I cherish so much. I also use Beautycounter’s skincare and cosmetics for me and their kids line on my little people.

The truth is decades of studies indicate that serious health issues (including but not limited to asthma, cancer, and infertility) are on the rise and are due in some part to our ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals—whether it’s in the shower, on our commute, while eating lunch, or when cleaning our kitchens. It’s impossible to worry about every single potential toxin lurking in every corner of the world we visit. But there are corners that we frequent where safer options do exist. Start by powering your decisions with a little bit of cautionary information and begin in your kitchen and bathroom.

And remember, a little change goes a long way.

About the Author

KatrineKatrine Strickland is mom to Finnley and Stein and owner of Cerulean Communications where she helps brands connect with their audiences in meaningful ways through marketing, public relations, social media and content generation. A sentimentalist at heart, she has a passion for documenting the moments that matter and noticing the simple pleasures that make life sweet. She blogs at about a journey along the path of mindfulness and savoring life’s moments. She loves traveling to new places, family runs exploring Nocatee and paddle boarding. Katrine is also part of the movement toward safer beauty through education and shifting public policy by fighting for stronger laws on cosmetic ingredients as a consultant for Beautycounter.

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