Toxics in Our Home

Speaker: Muhannad MalasWritten by: Sheena Jain & Esha Jain

Toxins exist throughout our homes; whether they are in our living room floors, our furniture or even in our cooking ware, they can be present all around us without us even knowing. Regardless of how cautious we may be toxins can be hard to escape. Many times we may be bringing harmful toxins into our homes without even realizing. This can occur due to either not knowing which products are detrimental to our health, or because of toxic ingredients not being listed on product labels. For instance, flame retardants which were originally developed as an industrial gimmick as a result of tobacco industries being blamed for causing fires. In order to overcome these accusations, tobacco companies collaborated with the furniture industry and created furniture soaked in flame retardants intended to delay the onset of fires. Unlike the U.S, Canadian policies have not mandated that flame retardants be included in product labels, in order to prevent an economic decline amongst furniture industries. This has resulted in many Canadian consumers being unaware of their presence when purchasing furniture; thereby unknowingly introducing harmful toxins into their homes. Additionally, many products include an ingredient labelled “*Fragrance”, which encompasses many toxic ingredients one of which includes phthalates. However companies are not required to include the specific chemicals that make up this ingredient on product labels. Although policies have been passed, to eliminate the use of toxins in some products, they do not necessarily prevent its use within other products. This has been demonstrated by the previous ban of BPA use in baby bottles but its continual presence in 2/3rds of Canadian cans.

Many toxins are known to be carcinogenic, and can be attributed to the development of a wide range of cancers. Other toxins are known as endocrine disruptors which affect the function of natural hormones in our body, potentially leading to reproductive problems, diabetes and obesity, among many others. Not only are toxins damaging to our health but they can also negatively impact our environment, including polluting our water and soil. In addition to polluting our environment, toxins can be present within these areas for long periods of time and can also travel long distances throughout our environment, which can be harmful to our wildlife. Studies have demonstrated toxins affecting the seal population in the arctic; this in turn introduces these detrimental chemicals into the Inuit population, as they commonly ingest seals as part of their staple diet. An example of this is flame retardants which have a high affinity for fatty tissue. Therefore pregnant women consuming contaminated seal meat can pass the toxin to their children through the process of breastfeeding.

(I.e. Flame retardants enter environment → Contaminate seals → Contaminated seals consumed by Inuit population → Flame retardants deposit in fatty tissue of these Inuit women → Thus toxins passed on to breastfed infant).


Some common toxins that are present within our homes and in household products include the following:

Bisphenol A & Similar Compounds


- Food cans

 → BPA used in lining of

      aluminum cans & in lids    

      of some glass jars

→  BPA can come out of

     some of the food cans

     and contaminate foods

→  More acidic and hotter

     foods (i.e. canned soups)

     contain & release more

     BPA in food   

- Plastic containers

- Plastic Reusable Bottles

- Cash Register Receipts

  → BPA makes plastics harder

- Endocrine/Hormone


- BPA linked to Breast Cancer

Flame Retardants


- Couches

- Office Chairs

- Mattresses

- Nail Polish

 →  flame retardants (i.e. PBDEs,  

        chlorinated organophosphate

        types, brominated diphenyl

        ethers) are widely used in

        polyurethane foam, upholstered

        furniture (i.e.couch foam) &

        carpets, delay the onset of fire  

- Hormone Disruptors

- PBDEs can impact fetal brain


- Cancer

- Low IQ in children

Phthalates & Parabens - Nail Polish

- Parfum/Fragrance

- Makeup

- Personal Care Products

- Vinyl Floors (Phthalates)

  →  Phthalates make plastics more


- Hormone Disruptors

- Reproductive Toxicants

- Allergens

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

(Terpenes, Toluene)

- Cleaning Products

- Air Freshener Sprays

- Air Pollutants

- Contribute to smog

- Some VOCs increase cancer   


Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)


- Non-Stick (Teflon) Cookware

- Water & Stain Resistant

  Clothing & Furniture

- Hormone Disruptors

- Some PFCs are carcinogenic

- Persistent Environmental

  Pollutants (POPs)

Triclosan - Often used as “Antibacterial”

- Toothpaste

- Hand Sanitizers

- Deodorants

- Hormone Disruptors

- Toxic to Aquatic Ecosystems

 (i.e. fish)

Lead - Makeup

- Imported Plumbing Supplies

- Old Paint

- Solder

- Reproductive toxicant

- Neurotoxic

- Environmental Pollutant

- No safe exposure level for children

Mercury - Compact Fluorescent Bulb

- Batteries

- Risk of exposure when

 bulbs/batteries break

 Proper disposal is important

- Neurotoxic; affects child


Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) - Fluorescent Bulbs

- Oil-Based Paint

- Caulking

- Most uses banned but can still

 be found in old electronic

 equipment & building material

- Hormone disruptors

- Carcinogens & Neurotoxins

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) - Coal Tar Driveway Sealants  &

 Roofing Materials

- Cosmetics & Shampoos

 containing Coal Tar

- Highly Carcinogenic

- Hormone disruptors

- Pollute streams & lakes   

  through rainwater runoff

The toxins present within our homes were demonstrated by Mr. Malas, who isolated individual toxins present in different rooms within our homes and addressed various ways to manage these harmful chemicals.

Location Common Toxins in those areas Some Solutions
Living Room Flame Retardants:

- Couch

- In old & worn out furniture

 flame retardants can seep  

 through the furniture material,

 speeding up the process of


- Electronics


- Paint


- Paint in houses painted >20

  years ago


- Older electronics

 → PVC’s are used to insulate



(formaldehyde contaminate created through the process of gassing when chemicals are released into the air)

- Laminate Flooring

- Look at labels

 →  For curtains, carpets or

       upholstery choose

       untreated, naturally

       flame-resistant textiles like


- Air out new furniture before

 placing it in your home or open

 windows to air out new


- Remove dust regularly with

 damp cloth, by dusting &/or     

 vacuuming because flame  

 retardants attach to dust

- Bring out household plants to

  naturally remove toxins

- Throw out old/worn out


Kitchen HFCs


- Refrigerator


PFOA, PFOS (e.g. Teflon):

- Non-stick cookware (i.e. pans)


- Cooking utensils (if plastic)

- Food Cans

- Plastic packaging materials of




(Formaldehyde created when toxins released and react with ozone)

 → carcinogenic

- Cooking utensils (if plastic)

- Cleaning Products


- Pipes

Pesticide Residue :

- Foods

- Purchase and eat fresh, frozen

 & dried foods

- Do not heat frozen foods in

 plastic containers/packaging

- Purchase foods in glass or BPA

 free containers

- Look for foods that are free of

 BPA & BPA alternatives  

- Use ceramic, stainless steel or

 cast iron

- Avoid scratching non-stick

 cookware or using on high


- Avoid using plastic utensils for

 cooking. Use wooden utensils.

Bathroom Phthalates, Parabens:

- Personal Care Products

- Cosmetics

- Shampoo/Conditioners


- Personal Care Products


- Toothpaste

- Deodorant

- Hand Soaps

- Clothing

Flame Retardants:

- Nail polish


- Shower Curtain (if plastic)

- Look at labels

- Avoid labels that include the

terms “parfum” or “fragrance”

- Make own products

- Look for eco-certified products

- Use natural ingredients and


- Use BCAQ’s lists of toxic 20

- Avoid using plastic shower


  → If can’t avoid using plastic

       shower curtain, then air out

  → It can take up to 3 weeks to

       completely air out the

       toxins present in plastic

       shower curtains

As demonstrated, many small components of household products and material contain some type of toxin. On a larger scale, each of these individual chemicals has contributed to the massive amount of toxins we have present within our homes and their synergistic effects with one another. In order to prevent or at least reduce their negative effects, the first step is to be aware of what is present in the products around us. We must make a conscious effort to purchase materials that are known to be free of toxins and continue to educate ourselves about the ingredients in newer and previously used products.


1)  What is Toxic Home Syndrome? How is it caused and what can be done to prevent it?

Toxic home syndrome is the household equivalent to Sick Building Syndrome. Toxic home syndrome occurs when the polluted air within people’s homes causes their health to deteriorate. This essentially increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, asthma and cancer.  Toxic Home Syndrome affects over 15 million homes, when common household practises such as gas stove cooking, or the use of a dryer emits toxins detrimental to our health into our homes. Additionally organisms and chemicals can seep through basement floors especially when insufficient ventilation prevents the dilution of contaminants. This further introduces harmful toxins into our household air such as mold spores, carbon monoxide, VOCs and radon.   

            Inadequately ventilated homes have higher carbon dioxide levels which can cause feelings of fatigue, lethargy and congestion.  Low to moderately high levels of contaminants can cause the following symptoms to present: coughing, sneezing, dizziness and watery eyes. At severely high levels, symptoms exhibited can include: nose bleeds, wheezing, asthma, lung disease, muscle pain and rashes.  

            Toxic Home Syndrome can develop from exposure to the following contaminants due to some common household practises:  

Household Practises/Contamination Toxins/Contaminants Released Health Effects
Mold Contamination - Mold Spores & Fungal Particulates

- Toxigenic Molds may release       



- Allergic Rhinitis

- Asthma  

Drying Laundry - VOCs

 → Acetaldehyde & Benzene

      can be off- gassed by washing &

      drying clothes indoors


- Lung Irritation

- Headache

- Nausea

Acetaldehyde & Benzene:

- Carcinogenic

Using Fireplace - Particle pollution in smoke - Damage Lung tissue

- Respiratory problems

Carpeted Homes - Dust mites, fungus, dirt, dander &  

    pet hair can potentially hide in


- Triggers asthma attacks

- Severe allergic reactions

- Lung irritation

Cooking with Gas stove - Nitrogen Dioxide

- Formaldehyde

- Acrolein

- Carbon Monoxide

- Cancer

- Respiratory symptoms

Using Basement - Radon

 →  by-product released when     

         uranium in soil and rock breaks   


 →  Seeps in through cracks in

         basement floors, walls or

         foundations and enters home

- Lung Cancer

Increasing ventilation within homes has been shown to reduce the negative effects of Toxic Home Syndrome by as much as 38%. This can be achieved by checking HVAC systems, opening windows, or using a blower/fan indoors. Other ways to improve household air quality include:

  •  Drying clothes outdoors using a clothing line or opening laundry room windows
  • Using hardwood flooring instead of carpet
  • Keeping shoes off indoors, as shoes can introduce outdoor dirt, pollen and soil as well as spread contaminants and debris into homes
  • When painting homes, use low VOC painting products, open window to remove

             contaminants from paint and avoid using room until paint has completely dried

  • Ensure that vent fan above gas stove is functioning and is adequately venting to outside the home

2) What specific toxins can different plant species clear from our homes?

  •  Golden Pothos: Formaldehyde, other VOCs
  •  Ficus Alii: General air purifier
  •  Spider Plant: Benzene, Formaldehyde, Carbon Monoxide, Xylene
  •  Lady Palm: General air purifier
  •  Snake Plant: Formaldehyde
  • Aloe: Formaldehyde, Benzene
  • Moth Orchid: Formaldehyde
  • Dwarf Pygmy Date Palm: Formaldehyde, Xylene
  • Chinese Evergreen: Air Pollutants, Toxins
  • Chrysanthemum: Benzene
  • Gerber Daisy: Trichloroethylene, Benzene
  • Red-Edged Dracaena: Xylene, Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde
  • Weeping Fig: Formaldehyde, Benzene, Trichloroethylene
  • English Ivy: Airborne fecal-matter particles
  • Azalea: Formaldehyde
  • Heart Leaf Philodendron: Formaldehyde, many other air pollutants
  • Warneck Dracaena: Pollutants associated with varnishes & oils
  • Boston Fern: Formaldehyde
  • Bamboo Palm: Benzene, Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde
  • Peace Lily: Formaldehyde, Benzene, Trichloroethylene, Toluene, Xylene

3)  What are common toxins found in the tap water within our homes and what illnesses have been linked to its exposure?

Tap water has been shown to contain over 700 chemicals including cadmium, barium, lead, perfluorochemicals and polychlorinated biphenyls/PCBs to name a few. These toxins initially pollute soil, which in turn contaminates groundwater, and this eventually leads to their presence within tap water. Some of the negative effects of toxins present in tap water have been linked to such illnesses as: cancer, hypothyroidism and damage to the immune system. In higher concentrations some tap water contaminants can potentially lead to brain, liver and kidney damage in addition to various cancers.

When tap water contaminants are heated, they can become inhalable gasses, which can be inhaled while showering. Chloramines and chlorine, two chemicals commonly used in the treatment of drinking water are typically vaporized and inhaled while showering, increasing the risk of bladder cancer, hypertension, allergies and lung damage.  

Using a showerhead filter can prevent the exposure of inhalable gasses and chemicals. These showerheads filters can remove the following contaminants: chlorine, chloramines, barium, lead and mercury. This can prevent the development of the detrimental health conditions related to these toxins.


1)      "20 Houseplants That Clear Toxins From Your Home." 20 Houseplants To Clear Toxins From The Air In Your Home! N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. (

2)      Admin. "Hidden Toxins in Your Home | Bottom Line Inc." Bottom Line Inc. N.p., 01 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. (

3)      Admin, By. "Toxic Home Syndrome: Could Your Home Be Making You Ill?" Air Quality Testing by Air Quality Solutions 1844AIR TEST. N.p., 09 Apr. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. (


Balancing Exposure to Pesticides in Food

Speaker: Skye Vanderberg from TD Friends of the Environment FoundationWritten by: Sheena Jain & Esha Jain

            Not only is food necessary to sustain life and provide nutrition but it also gives people a sense of comfort, security and sovereignty.  Food security can be described as all people regardless of socioeconomic status, having access to food to meet their dietary needs. It is the ability to access appropriate food. Food sovereignty refers to people’s rights to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through economically sound and sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems. Although food is culturally, traditionally, environmentally, and physically important to us all, we must adapt and alter our food choices to ensure that we reduce our pesticide and toxin intake.

            Unlike organic food, conventional foods are grown using pesticides and fertilizers. Although organically grown foods are more expensive, the pesticides sprayed on food are harmful to our health and to the environment. The “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen” were lists that were established to provide information on safe and harmful foods based on their pesticide exposure. Specifically, the “Clean 15” includes crops with a hard outer shell, making it more difficult for pesticides to penetrate through their skin. Therefore the “Clean 15” provides a list of conventionally grown foods that are safe to purchase. The “Dirty Dozen” on the other hand provides a list of crops that are exposed to larger quantities of pesticides, making them more harmful to our health. The “Dirty Dozen” provides a list, in which it is important to choose foods that are grown organically instead of conventionally. These lists provide consumers with the information needed to make healthy dietary choices when purchasing food. 

1)   Avocados 1)   Strawberries
2)   Sweet Corn 2)   Apples
3)   Pineapples 3)   Nectarines
4)   Cabbage 4)   Peaches
5)   Sweet Peas 5)   Celery
6)   Onions 6)   Grapes
7)   Asparagus 7)   Cherries
8)   Mangos 8)   Spinach
9)   Papayas 9)   Tomatoes
10) Kiwi 10) Sweet Bell Peppers
11) Eggplant 11) Cherry Tomatoes
12) Honeydew Melon 12) Cucumbers
13) Grapefruit
14) Cantaloupe NOTE: Green Beans & Kale are increasing in pesticide exposure
15) Cauliflower

            In addition to pesticide exposure many crops grown in North America are also genetically modified. Genetically modified crops grown on Canadian soil include: canola, corn, soy and sugar beet. Genetically modified foods that are imported from the United States consist of: papaya from Hawaii, milk products, yellow crookneck squash and cottonseed oil. Food items that do not contain any of these products or are labelled as “Non GMO” are not genetically modified.

            Many precautious can be taken to ensure increased food security and sovereignty. In addition to spending more money buying organically grown crops present on the dirty dozen list, you can also devote more time purchasing and preparing food. You can achieve this by turning food preparation into a hobby, date night or social event. Another tactic is to focus your funds on dietary staples. This can be done by going to inexpensive places to purchase dietary staples, stocking up during sales of non-perishables and freezing excess vegetables in order to maintain their nutritional content. Lastly gardening and growing your own foods, can create more optimal growth conditions to ensure ingestion of safer food products.




Short-term impacts - Headaches

- Nausea

Acute dangers - Nerve irritation/damage

- Skin irritation/damage

- Eye irritation/damage  

- Headaches

- Dizziness

- Nausea

- Fatigue

- Systemic Poisoning: is occasionally fatal

Cancers - Leukemia

- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

- Brain Cancer

- Bone Cancer

- Breast Cancer

- Ovarian Cancer

- Prostate Cancer

- Testicular Cancer

- Liver Cancer

Endocrine disruption

(Some examples of endocrine disrupting chemicals in pesticides include:

DDT, Lindane, Atrazine, Carbaryl, Parathion)

- Reproductive harm

 → Infertility

- Harmful effects on embryonic development

 → Birth defects

 → Developmental defects in offspring

      (i.e. hormonal imbalance, incomplete sexual

      development,impaired brain development,

      behavioural disorders)

 → Growth issues in fetuses (i.e. low birth weight)

 → Fewer nerve cells in fetuses

Central Nervous System Effects - Memory loss

- Loss of coordination

- Reduced Visual ability

- Uncontrolled Mood

- Uncontrolled Behavioural issues

- 70% increased risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / Environmental Illness

(a medical condition in which the body is unable to tolerate relatively lower levels of chemical exposure)

- Dizziness

- Cardiovascular Problems

- Depression

- Muscle aches/pains

- Joint aches/pains


Compared to adults, children are particularly more susceptible to pesticide exposure. This is due to children having a greater skin surface area relative to their small body stature, making it easier for pesticides to penetrate through their skin.  Additionally children have the tendency to play outside in the dirt and put anything in their mouth, potentially causing direct contact with these chemicals. Children having increased exposure to pesticides along with having immature immune systems, make the impact of these toxins even greater.  

Since the human brain has not fully developed until the age of 12, pesticide exposure in children can cause negative effects on their central nervous system. Previous studies have shown that even lower concentrations of pesticides can impact a child’s brain chemistry, causing effects on behaviour, learning and attention. Pesticide exposure has been linked to the development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. A study conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in February 2009 showed the development of brain cancer in children living in homes where pesticides are used.



Some alternatives methods to avoid the use of pesticides are:

Integrated Pest Management - Growing pest-resistant crops

- Killing plant-eating pests using predatory insects

- Using mechanical pest traps

- Plowing underneath harvested crops in order to  eliminate pest   

 nesting areas

- Pesticides are only used as a last resort

Crop Rotation & Other Growing Techniques - Crop Rotation: planting crops in different locations every season

  → This allows the replenishing of soil that previously had their

       nutrients removed by plants

- Intercropping: planting crops in close proximities

These techniques prevent the infestation of pests and insects by:

- Allowing soil to replenish themselves, naturally

- Breaking pest cycles

- Reducing the growth of weeds

- Allowing for plant diversity



1)  Chai, Carmen. "The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen: 2016's List of Fruits, Vegetables with the Most Pesticides." Global News The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen 2016s List of Fruits Vegetables with the Most Pesticides. N.p., 19 Apr. 2016. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. (

2)  Foundation, GRACE Communications. "Pesticides." GRACE Communications Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. (

3)  "Organophosphates." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. (

4)  "Protecting Your Health from Pesticides." David Suzuki Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. (

5)  Thammishetti, Srikar. "Neurotoxins, Poisons, and Pesticides." N.p., 01 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2016. (

6) "The Problem with Pesticides." Communities In Action. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. (


Herbs for Self-Care

Speaker: Dr. Mahalia Freed, NDWritten by: Sheena & Esha Jain


The importance of herbs to our health is so significant. Herbs contain many key elements that can be used for curing purposes, providing us with a variety of natural sources that can be used for treatment. Most herbs have multi-purpose uses further having beneficial effects. In order for us to use these herbs we must have knowledge about their effects, as well as modes in which they can be consumed. The following includes some key herbs that are commonly used for self-treatment.

Name Mechanism of Action Health Benefits Mode of Consumption

(Tilia spp.)

- Nervine sedative

- Antispasmodic

- Digestion

- Diaphoretic

- Antioxidants

- Demulcent (relieves inflammation)

- Hypotensive

- Flu: Antipyretic & speeds healing

- Bathe in flower

- Tea

  → combined with peppermint &    

      yarrow when used as antipyretic


(Taraxacum Officinale)

- Dandelion is a bitter

-  There are many   

  bitter receptors

  throughout the

  body for dandelion

  to bind to

- Controls blood sugar

- Regulates appetite

  →  indicates when we are full

-  Digestion

  → ↑ digestive enzyme production

  → ↑ digestive acids

  → ↑ peristalsis

- Resolves bloating

- Leaf: Kidney Tonic

- Liver & Gallbladder tonic

- Root: effective in killing lymphoma


- Sauteed Greens

- Roasted Root Coffee

- Tea of dried root (simmered)

- Tea of dried leaf (steeped)

Red Raspberry Leaf

(Rubus idaeus)

- Calcium rich

 → therefore helps

      support smooth

      muscles in uterus

      & intestines

     (astringent effects)   

- Uterine Tonic

 →  traditionally used in 2nd & 3rd

   trimester pregnancies

 →  causes shorter & more efficient


- Helps with diarrhea & constipation

- Contains many flavonoids:

 Nutritive & Antioxidant

- Herbal Vinegar

- Infusion of single herb or in

 combination with nettle

Stinging Nettle

(Urtica Dioica)

- Nutrient Rich: ↑ Iron, Calcium &

                             trace minerals

- Blood Cleanser

- Abundant source of Chlorophyll:

 Detox, source of energy

- Antihistamine

  →  helpful with seasonal allergies

- Kidney Tonic, Diuretic

- Central ingredient in prenatal tea

- Pesto

- Juice/Tea

  → especially when used for seasonal


- Blood building infusions

   → used in Iron deficiency patients

   →  Can be combined with Raspberry

Lemon Balm

(Melissa Offcinalis)

- Calming and uplifting to nervous


- Digestion:

   → Helps relieve spasms, gas & pain

   in the digestive tract

- Antiviral

  →  effective against Herpes & some

   types of Influenza

- ↑ HDL cholesterol

- ↓ AST (Liver Enzyme)

- Tea with fresh/Dried Leaf

  →  Antiviral effects in tea form

St John’s Wart - Antiviral

- Wound healing

- Depression

Herbs are available in a variety of forms including, capsular supplements and natural plant form. According to Dr. Freed, herbs in the capsular form are less effective than in the natural plant form due to their inability to preserve the herb. Therefore in order to obtain these optimal benefits one should ingest the herb in its natural state; in the form of a tea, or by direct consumption of the greens itself. When used for medicinal purposes, herb consumption in the form of tinctures is recommended due to its ability to concentrate active constituents in the herb. Tinctures are herbs, extracted as liquids in alcohol or non-alcohol based forms (i.e. apple cider vinegar and vegetable glycerin).

            Overall the abundant availability of herbs, provides us with such easy access to them. Obtaining knowledge about the effects these herbs have to improving our health and mental state can allow us to take full advantage of their beneficial effects.


1)  "Herb Lore." Tinctures. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016. (


Toxins in Our Consumer Products & What To Do About it

Speaker: Muhannad MalasWriters: Esha & Sheena Jain


        Toxins are present in a variety of consumer products such as cosmetics, food packaging, household furniture, cleaning products etc. Over 84 000 toxins are used in products throughout North America, however only a small fraction are assessed and reported. Studies have shown that at the time of birth, neonates have already been exposed to approximately 55-121 toxic compounds that are linked to cancer and other health conditions.  

Many of these toxins are classified as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, which are known to mimic the effects of hormones. Some examples include:

Bisphenol A (BPA) used in: food cans, plastic reusable bottles & cash register receipts

o   BPA mimics estrogen, which can be detrimental to breastfeeding mothers and their children and has been linked to breast cancer.

Flame Retardants – used in: Furniture (i.e. couches, office chairs, mattresses) & nail polish

o   Flame retardants can impact fetal brain development and has been linked to ADHD

Phthalates & Parabensused in: Nail polish perfume/fragrance, makeup, personal care products & vinyl floors

o   Parabens mimic estrogen making them toxic to the reproductive system.

There are specific stages throughout development, in which one is most susceptible to toxin exposure. This can have a cumulative effect and increase their chances of developing various health conditions in the future. These include:


o   Since fetuses are small with low weight, any amount of chemical exposure can have an effect on them. Although as a general rule effects are independent of a dose to weight ratio. The effect varies based on individual susceptibility and genetic makeup.

After Birth

o   Breastfed Infants are exposed to chemicals present in maternal fat tissue through breastmilk.

Children & Adolescence

o   This group is exposed to chemicals from the products that they use (i.e. Axe spray, cosmetics). Individuals in this age group lack the ability to understand label warnings and how these chemicals can be detrimental to their health.


o   Even exposure to chemicals in adulthood can increase an adult’s chances of developing health conditions.

Toxins not only affect the health of the population but it also impacts our environment as a whole. Toxins such as dry cleaning solvents like siloxane, Perc, or cosmetic products are released into our environment and are polluting Lake Ontario. These toxins have the same effects in aquatic organisms as in humans (i.e. Phthalates and Parabens found in cosmetic products can also affect the reproductive system in aquatic animals, and flame retardants can also have neurologic effects on aquatic organisms.) Once these toxins are released into the environment, they enter the food chain. Fish exposed to toxins in polluted lakes are eaten by birds. By consuming fish these birds have gained toxin exposure and are then consumed by seals. These now exposed seals are highly consumed by the Inuit population in North America causing a low IQ in the Inuit population.

        Overall, the ultimate goal is to prevent individuals from developing these conditions by reducing their exposure to products with harmful toxins. This can be achieved by 2 approaches:

The “Right to Know” Approach

Community “right to know” bylaw – population pushing the right to know about the toxins in their communities. The goal is to mandate manufacturing companies to disclose information regarding the toxic chemicals used in their products. This approach will allow consumers to be aware of the chemicals in their products and allow them decide which products to use, and which to avoid. For example, many families of low socioeconomic status buy canned foods but are unaware of the use of BPA used in food cans, with the rights to know approach, these individuals will gain knowledge about which food products to avoid.

Precautionary Approach

The main focus of this approach is to take some preventive measures when there is evidence regarding products of concern. This is done  in order to avoid negative health effects in advance. The logic behind this approach is that in most cases once some harm is found in a product, chances are more harmful effects will be discovered in the future. Therefore precautionary measures should be taken before toxic substances have detrimental effect to an individual’s health.

Discussion Questions:

1)   What are common consumer product toxins found in pregnant women and how do they affect the mother and/or fetus?

Toxins Products Toxins are Used in Maternal/Fetal Effects Preventative Measures to Avoid Toxin Exposure
Phthalates Plasticizers and fragrance products found in:

- Shower curtains

- Shampoos

- Soaps

- Reproductive issues

- Asthma

- Avoid consumption of processed


 Often handed by workers wearing plastic


- Do not heat food in plastic   


- Avoid cosmetic and personal care

 products with phthalate or have

 “fragrances” listed in the ingredient list

- Keep offices and homes well ventilated

- Limit child’s exposure to vinyl tires,

 imitation leather furniture, soft plastic toys

Bisphenol-A (BPA) - Polycarbonate plastics

- Lining of food cans

- Cancer

- Early Puberty

- Diabetes

- Obesity

- Reproductive Issues

- Avoid canned foods, instead use products in

 glass or cardboard

- Consume fresh and frozen fruits & vegetables

- Find BPA-free plastic products

- Avoid handling receipts

Teflon - Stain-protection products

- Non-stick cookware

- Low birth weight

- Obesity

- Cancer

- While using Teflon/non-stick cookware, keep

  stove temperature low

- Use cast iron or stainless steel cooking pans

Mercury - Appliances

- Automotive parts

- Electronics, Batteries

- Thermometers

- Dental amalgam,  

- Medications, Skin creams

- Vaccines

- Jewellery

- Light bulbs

- Impairs neurological


- Avoid consuming fish high in mercury

2)   Are most toxins in consumer products included on the product’s label/ingredient list?

Toxins present in cleaning products are not mandated by the federal law to be included in the list of ingredients regardless of how harmful it is to one’s health. Some cleaning product manufacturers include a more detailed list of product ingredients on their websites, which are not included on the in store product label. However, the ingredient list found online remains vague and includes unspecific chemical groups as opposed to the individual chemical ingredients found in these products.

The chemicals responsible for creating the products scent is made up of over 3000 chemical products, many of which are toxic. However these chemicals are not all individually included but instead in many cases are simply listed as “fragrances” under the list of ingredients.  

The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2011, has required cleaning product manufacturers to include all ingredients, contaminants and each fragrance-creating chemicals online and on product labels. The federal Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 is mainly concerned with chemicals newly created, putting less emphasis on toxic ingredients that are already being used in consumer products and cleaning supplies.

Stricter regulations are placed on antibacterial and mold-fighting cleaning products because they contain pesticides. Therefore manufacturers of these products are required to disclose each pesticide the product contains and their amount in percentage on product labels. However the disclosure of other toxic ingredients are not required in these products.  

3)   Are there any correlations between toxin exposure and the development of certain autoimmune diseases?

Toxin Correlating Autoimmune Disease
Mercury Poisoning ·         Multiple Sclerosis

·         Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Silica, Asbestos, Dioxin, Lead ·         Rheumatoid Arthritis

·         Spondyloarthritis

·         Inflammatory Myositis

·         SLE

Excitotoxin Poisoning

(from aspartame in diet sodas)

·         Multiple Sclerosis
Pesticides ·         Rheumatoid Arthritis

·         SLE

·         Systemic Sclerosis


"Cleaning Supplies: Secret Ingredients, Hidden Hazards." EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 June 2016.(

"Top 5 Autoimmune Triggers - Part 3: Toxins - Healing Is Freedom."Healing Is Freedom. N.p., 02 June 2015. Web. 03 June 2016. (

"Mercury in Consumer Products." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 03 June 2016. (

"Toxic Chemicals, Fertility, and Pregnancy." ConsumerAffairs. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 June 2016. (

"Toxic Chemicals to Avoid During Pregnancy." Womens Voices for the Earth. N.p., 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 03 June 2016.(


Plastic Sex Toys & Safer Alternatives

Speaker: Tracey TiefWritten by: Esha & Sheena Jain


Sexual pleasure is a topic that society considers taboo. According to Tracy TieF, a certified natural health practitioner, she believes that sexual pleasure is our birthright. She urges people to be aware of toxic sex toys and the potentially harmful effects of their materials. The sex toy industry is unregulated and so many are unaware of the potential health risks associated with the use of these products.

The main concern is the use of phthalates, a chemical used in adhesives, paint, insect repellents, polyvinyl chloride plastic, children’s toys and cosmetics such as nail polish and perfumes. Phthalates, also known as plasticizers, are added to the plastic sex toy to make the toy softer and more flexible. Overtime these added phthalates leak out in a process called "off-gassing", which may be ultimately absorbed into the body.

According to Tracey, plastics can modify the fats and oils in our bodies. Fats are necessary for energy storage and act as a cushion for the brain. The argument is that if they were to be ingested or absorbed into the bloodstream, the off-gassing could modify these fats, potentially contributing to hormonal and neuronal disruptions. She believes that the hormonal disruption can contribute to reproductive issues, such as polyps and ovarian cysts, and are linked with the usage of sex toys due to the effects of phthalates and the permeability of the vaginal wall. Human studies are limited on the effects that these materials have.

What has been found is that these materials do have an overwhelmingly reproductive inhibiting effect. One study conducted by Hans Ulrich Krieg in 2000, a German chemist, found 10 chemicals emitted out of sex toys that were available in Europe. Of the chemicals found, diethylhexyl phthalates was among them and contained concentrations as high as 243,000 ppm, a value that was considered 'off the charts'. Phthalates are lipophilic substances, and therefore are drawn to fats. The theory is that the fat could aid in drawing the phthalates out of the plastic, and would be absorbed into the mucous membrane of the vaginal canal and rectum and eventually even be absorbed by the liver or kidney. In another study led by Greenpeace Netherlands, in 2006 found that vaginal or rectal exposure to these chemicals would cause endocrine disruption, fertility issues and may lead to certain types of cancer. The American FDA cites phthalates as a probable human carcinogen. Animal studies found that high doses of phthalates cause cancer in rats. In lower doses, the rats displayed problems with genital and fetal development, producing stillborn rats. Regardless of the limited studies, based on what evidence is presented, the FDA and Greenpeace state that these chemicals do pose a health risk to the population.

Currently, North America and the European Union have been able to take actions that restrict the use of phthalates in children’s toys; however the issue still remains to exist for adult toys. According to Tracey, the loop hole lies in semantics. The packaging labels these products as “novelty” products, which means not intended for actual use. This allows manufacturers to avoid legal responsibility for what health risks may occur contributed to by the potentially harmful materials, and this industry labeling practice enables manufacturers to sidestep the need for government regulations. Therefore, manufacturers are not obligated to provide product lists of chemicals and materials used.

So what would a toxic-free, safer sex toy look like?

Firstly, the toy would not contain any strong chemical odours. If the toy is held over a flame it should not burn or melt. If it did burn, some percentage of plastic exists.  Additionally, it would not contain any plastic, rubbery or jelly-like material and there should not be any expiration dates on the packaging. If the material is more porous, it could create space that may allow for bacteria to become trapped. Tracey also noted that porous toys cannot be sterilized and should be used with a condom. A non-porous toy is likely a stainless steel that is smooth with an impermeable surface and does not harbor bacteria in its surface. It can be sterilized with boiling water or through a dishwasher. Finally, alternate materials that can be safely used are as follows: wood, stone, metal, glass, non-porous, medical grade silicone, ceramics and crystal.


Discussion Questions

  1.       What are plasticizers and why are they used in cosmetics?

Plasticizers make plastics more flexible. It’s used to make the fragrance in cosmetics, personal care products and baby products last longer.

  1.       Why is Bisphenol A added to plastic products?

BPA aids in making plastic clear and shatter proof.

  1.       What are the effects of Bisphenol A (BPA) and Phthalates on children when ingested?

Children’s products such as teethers, sippy cups, toys and cleansing baby products contain BPA and Phthalates. When children put these items in their mouth the chemical has the potential to leak from the product to the child. Animal studies have shown that BPA can have developmental effects and adverse effects on reproduction. Animal studies show that phthalate exposure can cause liver, kidney, male and female reproductive system adverse effects. Specifically when phthalates were exposed to fetuses in the mother’s womb, it caused decreased sperm activity, decreased concentration, early puberty in females and testicular cancer. According to Tracey, it can contribute to asthma, autism and learning disorders in children. Unfortunately, the evidence is taken from mostly animal studies and human studies are limited.    


"Bisphenol-A (BPA)." Westchester N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016. (

Canadian Cancer Society. "Phthalates - Canadian Cancer Society." N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016. ( )

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015. Web. 24 June 2016. (

Chemical Substances. Phthalate Substance Grouping. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016.


Denning, Burke. "The Safety Dance: Sex Toy Safety for a New Generation." Kinsey Confidential RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016. (

Gertz, Emily. "Ever Thought about the Toxins in Your Sex Toys?" Grist. N.p., 2005. Web. 24 June 2016.

"Plasticisers (phthalates) and Bisphenol A (BPA)." BabyCenter Canada. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016.