Family

Toxic Load and Autism

Autism Dietician Brittyn Coleman discusses what it is and how to reduce toxic burden

Increasing levels of toxics are an issue for all of us, but can be especially troublesome for those who may be predisposed to have higher toxic loads and decreased detoxification, such as children with autism. Toxic load refers to the accumulation of different harmful chemicals in our bodies. These toxic chemicals can come from many different sources including our food, water, air pollution, personal care products, household products, and our environment. Susceptibility to toxic overload varies person-to-person and can be impacted by various factors including genetics, environment & lifestyle, diet, gut microbiome composition and diversity, and immune system capacity.

Research suggests that children with autism have increased levels of oxidative stress and lower antioxidant capacity [1]. This can reduce the ability to detox and excrete different chemicals and pollutants from the environment. Glutathione, a master antioxidant, is often decreased in autism which may contribute to overall oxidative stress, immune dysfunction, and may lead to neurodevelopmental abnormalities [2, 3]. Lastly, those with autism also have a higher risk of genetic mutations, such as the MTHFR genetic mutation [4, 5], which plays an important role in detoxification. For these reasons, children and adults with autism should reduce their exposure to different toxics in the environment to ultimately decrease their overall toxic load. While there are many harmful chemicals that should be avoided or reduced, the following three examples are a great place to start:

Glyphosate

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide that is used to kill weeds and grasses. It has been linked to cancer development and other chronic conditions and health conditions, but some associations can also be seen with autism. Findings suggest that an offspring's risk of ASD increases following prenatal exposure to ambient pesticides within 2000 meters (~1.2 miles) of their mother's residence during pregnancy [6]. Infant exposure to pesticides could further increase risks for autism spectrum disorder with comorbid intellectual disability. [6]

The ingestion of glyphosate can also reduce the number of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract [7], which can impact the immune system and contribute to other gastrointestinal issues that may affect behavior and increase core autism symptoms. Glyphosate can be avoided by buying organic produce, especially the 12 "dirtiest" produce found on the EWG's Dirty Dozen list.

Air Pollution

Research suggests that children with autism present higher levels of neuroinflammation and systemic inflammation, which are hallmarks of exposure to traffic-related air pollution. [8]. Air pollution can be associated with an increased risk of autism. [9. 10]

Air purifiers with HEPA filters can be a great way to reduce the amount of particulate matter in your home, especially since the air quality inside your home can be worse than the air quality outside. Traditional cleaning products and artificial fragrances can also contribute to poor air quality, so choosing non-toxic cleaning products and fragrance-free personal care products can be another great way to reduce air pollution in your home.

Artificial Ingredients

While more research needs to be done on the effects of artificial ingredients and autism, at the end of the day, food additives are synthetic (not naturally-occuring) chemicals. There are various research studies that show certain artificial ingredients, such as artificial food dyes, are contraindicated in children with autism and may contribute to sleep disturbances, attention deficit, and behavioral issues [11].

Artificial ingredients can be avoided by consuming whole foods (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, poultry, and fish) or by reading the back of an ingredient label to verify no artificial ingredients have been added.

The Bottom Line

There are many other pollutants and toxic chemicals not listed above that are helpful to avoid to reduce toxic load. Increasing intake of antioxidants in the diet, such as wild blueberries, strawberries, pecans, kale, and dark chocolate can help naturally excrete toxics. Certain supplements may increase detoxification and reduce oxidative stress including NAC and glutathione. Consult your healthcare provider to be sure these are a good fit for your child before implementing diet or supplements changes.

If you're feeling confused about how to introduce diet, supplement, and lifestyle changes for autism, sign up for the Autism Nutrition Library, a one-stop hub for all topics autism and nutrition.


References

[1] Manivasagam T, Arunadevi S, Essa MM, et al. Role of Oxidative Stress and Antioxidants in Autism. Adv Neurobiol. 2020;24:193-206.

[2] Chauhan A, Audhya T, Chauhan V. Brain region-specific glutathione redox imbalance in autism. Neurochem Res. 2012;37(8):1681-9.

[3] Rose S, Melnyk S, Pavliv O, et al. Evidence of oxidative damage and inflammation associated with low glutathione redox status in the autism brain. Transl Psychiatry. 2012;2:e134.

[4] El-Baz F, El-Aal MA, Kamal TM, Sadek AA, Othman AA. Study of the C677T and 1298AC polymorphic genotypes of MTHFR Gene in autism spectrum disorder. Electron Physician. 2017 Sep 25;9(9):5287-5293. doi: 10.19082/5287. PMID: 29038711; PMCID: PMC5633227.

[5] Shaik Mohammad N, Sai Shruti P, Bharathi V, Krishna Prasad C, Hussain T, Alrokayan SA, Naik U, Radha Rama Devi A. Clinical utility of folate pathway genetic polymorphisms in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. Psychiatr Genet. 2016 Dec;26(6):281-286. doi: 10.1097/YPG.0000000000000152. PMID: 27755291.

[6] Von ehrenstein OS, Ling C, Cui X, et al. Prenatal and infant exposure to ambient pesticides and autism spectrum disorder in children: population based case-control study. BMJ. 2019;364:l962.

[7] Argou-cardozo I, Zeidán-chuliá F. Clostridium Bacteria and Autism Spectrum Conditions: A Systematic Review and Hypothetical Contribution of Environmental Glyphosate Levels. Med Sci (Basel). 2018;6(2)

[8] Volk HE, Lurmann F, Penfold B, Hertz-picciotto I, Mcconnell R. Traffic-related air pollution, particulate matter, and autism. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(1):71-7.

[9] Costa LG, Chang YC, Cole TB. Developmental Neurotoxicity of Traffic-Related Air Pollution: Focus of Autism. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2017;4(2):156-165.

[10] Flores-pajot MC, Ofner M, Do MT, Lavigne E, Villeneuve PJ. Childhood autism spectrum disorders and exposure to nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter air pollution: A review and meta-analysis. Environ Res. 2016;151:763-776.

[11] Bakthavachalu P, Kannan SM, Qoronfleh MW. Food Color and Autism: A Meta-Analysis. Adv Neurobiol. 2020;24:481-504.

Food

Homemade Coffee Creamer in 3 Delicious Flavors

Start your morning with sweet creamy coffee that doesn't contain junk ingredients

As much as we want to be that cool person in the coffee shop whose order is just "coffee, black", we always have to have a little creamer in our drink. The touch of creaminess and flavor elevates our black coffee into a real treat (in our humble opinion). It's also so fun to pick out new coffee creamer flavors, especially when we see a seasonal one.

The only problem: coffee creamer from a grocery store usually contains artificial flavors, chemical stabilizers, preservatives, and other bad ingredients. Even though it does make sense that the sugary sweet cereal-flavored, shelf-stable creamer isn't good for us, what should you get instead?!

Luckily, it's super easy to make your own coffee creamer and we've come up with a fool-proof recipe. When you see how fast and simple it is to make your own creamer, you'll never want to use store-bought ever again!

Most coffee creamer recipes call for sweetened condensed milk, but since we always want to avoid BPA-lined cans whenever possible, we use milk (or a milk alternative) instead. When you heat your own milk on the stove, you cook off some of the water, leaving behind an ultra-creamy and sweet concoction. We think this creamer is even better with some fun flavoring, which is why we included the ingredients for cinnamon vanilla, mocha, and fall maple flavors. But feel free to experiment with your own! Why not try honey or peppermint or almond? The flavor combinations are endless!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups milk (either full fat dairy, almond, or coconut milk)
  • ¾ cup sugar (adjust this amount based on how sweet you like your creamer)

Optional Flavorings

  • Cinnamon French Vanilla- ½ tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Mocha- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • Fall Maple- Substitute 1/3 cup maple syrup for ½ cup of sugar

Instructions

  1. Combine the milk and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil at a high simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to about 2 cups.
  2. Turn the heat off and add optional flavoring ingredients and whisk until combined.
  3. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.
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Roundups

Our Favorite Reusable Coffee and Tea Mugs

Stainless steel, ceramic, and glass options for your hot drinks

Whether you like to make it at home or pick it up at your favorite coffee shop, everyone has their favorite hot beverage to get their mornings started. Help make a dent in the amount of trash created by to go cups, and improve your health a little bit in the process. Not to mention that these stainless steel, ceramic, and glass options are better at keeping your drinks hot throughout the morning. These options are highly reviewed and have a variety of shapes and sizes so you can pick your favorite. Also check out our picks for reusable water bottles. Many of the same brands also have insulated and tumbler versions that are perfect for coffee and tea.

a) Pure Zen Tea Tumbler with Infuse

b) Vibrant All in ONE Travel Mug - Tea Infuser Bottle

c) THERMOS Stainless King Vacuum-Insulated Beverage Bottle

d) KeepCup 12oz Reusable Coffee Cup

e) Lenox Butterfly Meadow Thermal Travel Mug

f) Ello Jane Ceramic Travel Mug with Slider Lid

g) JOCO 16oz Glass Reusable Coffee Cup

*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

popular

Is Your Tea Bag Made with Plastic?

Silky pyramids, plastic sealed bags, and what brands are actually fully compostable

Whether you like to pretend you are British all the time, or just have a cold, chances are you are making that cup of tea with a conveniently packaged tea bag. While tea bags are great (and basically everywhere) there's something you should know about that innocent tea bag. Many of them use plastic to keep them sealed shut. Nope, not just on the wrapper the tea bag actually comes in, but the bag itself. The idea of a plastic soaking in boiling hot water just does not sound cozy to us. But thankfully, there are some easy changes you can make if you feel the same way we do.

Keep Reading Show Less

It feels like there's an endless list of things that parents need to do... all the daily stuff like meals and getting ready for school, and then there's the bigger stuff like making sure that your kids are nice to others and can cope with negative feelings. Have you ever wondered if talking to your kids about climate change is another thing we need to add to the list? As a parent, only you can make the decision about when you think it's appropriate to introduce the topic to your kids, but once you've made that decision, how do you talk about it? Where do you even begin, and what's age appropriate? Stick with us for a guide on how to talk to your kids about climate change and a list of the best resources for each age group.

Why Talk about Climate Change

According to the latest IPCC climate change report (1), the effects of climate change are already here. Even if we make drastic changes to our carbon emissions now, climate change will have negative impacts over the next several decades. Many families might already be feeling the impacts of climate change (fire season, hurricane season, and all the rest), and talking about climate change will help kids process what they are already experiencing. And for many other parents, they might want to introduce the topic before their kids hear about it from friends, at school, or in the media or news. Whenever you decide that you want to bring up the topic of climate change, it's important to try to explain the facts and remember that this is probably going to be an ongoing discussion and not just one conversation.

Age Appropriate Answers to the Question: "What is Climate Change?"

Our kids absorb much more than we often are aware of. They're basically little sponges! Even thought it may seem like kids wouldn't understand the nuanced details about something as complex as climate change, kids generally get a lot out of these conversations.

Our first tip is to stick to age appropriate facts with as little jargon as possible. If you don't know where to start, we drafted these sample scripts for different age groups that you can use below. You can alter the sample scripts below to your child's interest, level of understanding and curiosity, and add or subtract other concepts you'd like to introduce.

Ages 2-4: Just like we depend on the Earth for food and water, the way that we treat the Earth also matters. We are all connected. Some things that humans do can even cause the Earth to heat up. We call that climate change. Scientists are learning so much about it and what we can do to be nice to the Earth.

Ages 5-7: People's activities, like driving cars that use gasoline, or burning coal for energy to heat buildings, increase something called greenhouse gases in the sky. These act like a warm blanket between our planet and space. Over time scientists have shown that it is leading to the Earth's temperature getting warmer. This matters because the temperature affects our oceans, land, air, plants, animals, and humans. We all have an effect on one another. We can all make better choices to help take care of our earth by using less fossil fuels and by using only what we need.

Ages 8-12: The Earth's climate is warming up and scientists know that human activities that use fossil fuels like gasoline for cars or burning coal to heat our homes is contributing to climate change. When these fossil fuels are burned they create greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that trap in heat from the sun and create a sort of blanket around our earth, making it warmer. Scientists believe that these warmer temperatures are contributing to more bad weather, which can affect our crops, businesses, health, water resources, and wildlife. People can make better choices to help take care of our Earth by using less fossil fuels and by conserving or using only what we need.

Ages 13+: The Earth's climate changes over time. Sometimes it's hotter to times and it's colder. But changes from natural causes are usually gradual. Some human activities, like burning fossil fuels like gasoline and coal, are speeding things up. Burning fossil fuels increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which trap more heat. As a result, the global climate is becoming warmer. Scientists believe that with global warming, we can expect more bad weather, like hurricanes, wildfires, drought, and floods. These bad weather patterns can affect our crops, economy, health, water resources, and wildlife. We can all work together, as a family and as a community to make better choices and decisions to fight climate change.

How To Continue the Conversation

After the initial explanation of what climate change is, there are several ways to continue the conversation. One of the first follow up conversations should focus on local impacts to make it relevant to your lives. Try something like, "Do you remember how there were some days where it was really really hot this summer that it was almost too hot to go outside?" or "Can you remember the last time it rained?"

The second way to continue the conversation is by spending time as a family outside. You don't have to go far! Even on a walk around the block, you can spend time noticing insects, plants, and the weather. Spending time outside with your kids and engaging their natural curiosity is a great way to learn about your local ecosystem. It is also a great way to learn about how people are dependent on nature and in turn, how people impact the environment. By cultivating a love of being outdoors in nature, it gives your kids a greater reason to want to take care of their environment.

Another important way to continue the conversation on climate change is to put the focus on people. It's very easy to talk about polar bears and other far off places, but it's just as important to start exploring concepts of equity and justice. The impacts of climate change exacerbate existing health and social inequities, so low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected (2). Putting the focus on people, friends, communities, and our interconnectedness is a great lens for inspiring much needed action.

Lastly, it's important to find a support network to help continue the conversation. This can be friends and other family members, neighbors, a community group, or your schools. Whether it's a nature walk with friends or learning how to compost with your neighbors, getting your kids involved is a great way to increase their understanding about climate change. You can also look up local and state environmental groups and get involved locally. This is a great way to find other families with similar interests. And lastly, ask your schools about how they integrate climate change into their curriculum. There are a lot of resources listed below that you can forward to your kids' educators.

Resources for How to Talk to Your Kids about Climate Change


References

  1. https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/
  2. https://www.apha.org/-/media/files/pdf/topics/clim...
Life

How to Talk to Friends and Family About Climate Change

One of the best things you can do to make a real impact

Even though we're all hyper-aware climate change is happening and of the dangers it poses, it's usually the last thing we want to talk about. Some of the time, a conversation about climate change can feel like an uphill battle about a polarizing topic. But most of the time, it just isn't a fun conversation to have. We'd much rather discuss fun birthday parties, travel plans, or the latest show we binge watched!

But according to scientists, one of the best things you can do to combat climate change is to talk about it (1), which is why we put together a guide of helpful resources on how to talk to friends and family (and even a separate guide for kids!) about climate change. These tips and tricks will help make talking about climate change so much easier.

Why we need to talk about it

Even though climate change is a serious international problem, there seems to be a disconnect between knowing about climate change and talking about it. In fact, even though about 71% of adults in America believe global warming is happening and that it will harm future generations, 64% of the same adults rarely discuss it (1). What's worse, only 25% hear about global warming from a media outlet at least once a week. If we're basically all worried about it, why aren't we talking about it more?! Staying silent about a major issue like climate change, makes it easier to pretend the problem won't impact us as individuals. But if everyone is suddenly talking about climate change, it makes it impossible to ignore. Just take a look at Greta Thunberg- what started as her own school strike turned into a global movement with a huge impact. Just by talking about climate change, Greta made the issue impossible to ignore and inspired countless others to advocate and help put pressure on politicians to create real climate change mitigation policies. That's why we think it's so important to continue to discuss climate change; one small conversation can help create meaningful change.

Tips and Tricks

We know that climate change isn't always the easier subject to talk about, which is how our tips and resources come in. And don't forget- practice makes perfect!

1. Lead with personal impacts

When someone is a climate change skeptic or just not interested in the topic, it's often better to have a conversation about the personal impacts of climate change rather than scientific facts or abstract concepts. Personal examples of how climate change is impacting someone's life like "we've been seeing more ticks this summer, which means more bites and more potential for vector-borne illnesses" or ""wildfires went from once in a while to a constant threat every year. We might move. What about you?" can be much more persuasive than melting icebergs thousands of miles away. Personal anecdotes show that issues caused by climate change are real, local, and are already impacting their lives.

2. It's a conversation, not a lecture

When having a conversation about climate change, it's just as important to listen to the other person's thoughts and opinions as it is to discuss your own. A big part of climate change education is understanding where someone is coming from so you can educate without offending core values of beliefs. And even if someone has dramatically different views than your own, you can always try to connect over shared values. Things like nature, outdoor recreation, and wanting a good world for your children are appreciated and wanted by almost everyone. Connecting with shared values like these can drive home the personal impact climate change can have on our daily lives.

3. Keep Trying

Let's be real, you probably won't change someone's mind on climate change after just one conversation. That's why it's so important to continue the conversation about climate change whenever you can. Every conversation can help move the needle forward and change someone's mind about climate change. Persistence is key!

Climate Change Communications Resources

Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2020

"These maps show how Americans' climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support vary at the state, congressional district, metro area, and county levels."

What is Climate Change Communication?

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication is an excellent resource for recent studies and news articles about climate change.

The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it

This TED Talk by Katharine Hayhoe gives a great overview of why climate change can be a polarizing topic, and how to lead a successful conversation with someone whose views differ from yours.

How Do We Talk About Climate Change? – Speaking of STEM

Rutgers University gives a brief overview of climate change communications and how to go beyond politics while discussing the topic

Speaking of Climate Change | Harvard Public Health Magazine | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

C-Change Conversations, whose mission is to discuss climate change with moderate and conservative audiences by meeting them where they are, gives expert advice on how to talk about climate change with someone who has opposing viewpoints.

Persuading Conservatives — Climate Chat

Even though it feels like it shouldn't be a polarizing issue (it's just science, after all), your views towards climate change often align with your politics. Check out this helpful resource for tips on discussing climate change with conservatives.


References

  1. https://www.pnas.org/content/116/30/14804
  2. https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/
Food

Canned Coffee is Convenient, But What About BPA?

Why they should be a treat instead of part of your daily routine

Now that we're all working from home, it's easy to get bored of our everyday homemade coffee routine. Sometimes we just want something different to wake us up in the morning or even a quick pick me up in the afternoon! That's where canned coffee comes into play. It's quick, convenient, and comes in a ton of flavors. But that convenience might come at a cost; there's been concerns surrounding the use of BPA in the lining of canned products. So, does canned coffee pose a risk to health? We looked at the research to find out.

The Problem With BPA in Cans

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a synthetic chemical that acts like estrogen in our bodies and it has been known to screw with important hormones like testosterone and thyroid hormones. Some of the common health problems associated with BPA include breast cancer, reduced sperm production, obesity, reproductive issues, disruption of brain development and function, and damaging effects to the liver (1). To make matters worse, there is more and more scientific evidence that even very low doses of BPA exposure can be harmful, especially for pregnant women and babies. Low doses of BPA exposure have been tied to abnormal liver function, chronic inflammation of the prostate, cysts on the thyroid and pituitary gland, and many more serious health effects during the early stages of life (5).

Even though BPA is definitely not a chemical we want to be exposed to, it's found basically everywhere, including our food. One common place to find BPA is the internal lining of canned foods or beverages. BPA can help prevent corrosion between the metal and the food or drink inside a can, but over time (or if stored under the wrong conditions like high temperatures), it can start to leach out and get into the food or drink (2). Even cans that say BPA free can have nasty BPA alternatives that have been shown to have similar hormone disrupting effects (7).

Studies have shown that canned soft drinks, beers, and energy drinks all had small traces of BPA in them. Beer was found with the highest concentration of BPA, followed by energy drinks. Soft drinks were found to have the lowest concentration of BPA. In order to find out where BPA in these drinks was coming from, researchers compared the canned drinks to the same drinks packaged in glass bottles. They found very little to no traces of BPA in the glass bottled drinks, which means that the source of BPA in the canned drinks was definitely coming from the cans themselves (2,3,4).

Even if there are only small traces of leachable BPA, it can still be harmful if we are consuming canned products on a regular basis.

Is Canned Coffee Safe?

With the recent increase in popularity of cold brew and other canned coffee drinks, there have not been extensive studies on BPA levels in canned coffee. However, one study of canned coffee drinks in Asia, where they have been popular for longer, did find that BPA was leaching into the coffee from the can. Interestingly, they also found that the more caffeine was in the coffee, the more BPA leached from the can into the drink. Meaning the more caffeine, the more BPA! (4,6) Now before you think you can get away with only drinking decaf canned coffee, keep in mind that caffeine only increases the leaching from the can, but it can still happen without it (6).

Even though the levels of BPA found in canned coffee were relatively small, because BPA is all around us in so many common products, we should try to limit our exposure as much as we can. This means that it's probably okay to drink a canned coffee every once in a while, but best practice is to not drink them every day. But if you're in the middle of a road trip and are desperate for some energy, don't get too stressed about grabbing a canned coffee!

Canned Coffee Alternatives

If you're starting to get worried about what coffee to buy when you're out and about or when you want something more than just plain coffee, don't stress! We thought of some easy and fun alternatives for your canned coffee fix that might make you forget all about it!

  1. Swap out the canned coffee for coffee in a glass bottle or tetrapaks whenever possible.
  2. Find some fun new ways to make coffee at home like using a Chemex or a nice French press!
  3. Go get a coffee at your local coffee shop. Support small businesses if you can!
  4. If you like canned coffee because of the flavors, try making your own caramel or mocha sauce at home. It's pretty easy and it saves money! For something icy and refreshing, we are partial to muddling some fresh mint with some cold brew.


References

vom Saal, F. S., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2021). Update on the Health Effects of Bisphenol A: Overwhelming Evidence of Harm. Endocrinology, 162(bqaa171). https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqaa171 (1)

Cao, X.-L., Corriveau, J., & Popovic, S. (2010). Sources of Low Concentrations of Bisphenol A in Canned Beverage Products. Journal of Food Protection, 73(8), 1548–1551. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-73.8.1548 (2)

Determination of BPA, BPB, BPF, BADGE and BFDGE in canned energy drinks by molecularly imprinted polymer cleaning up and UPLC with fluorescence detection. (2017). Food Chemistry, 220, 406–412. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.10.005 (3)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (4)

Prins, G. S., Patisaul, H. B., Belcher, S. M., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2019). CLARITY-BPA academic laboratory studies identify consistent low-dose Bisphenol A effects on multiple organ systems. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 125(S3), 14–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcpt.13125 (5)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (6)

Pelch, K., Wignall, J. A., Goldstone, A. E., Ross, P. K., Blain, R. B., Shapiro, A. J., Holmgren, S. D., Hsieh, J.-H., Svoboda, D., Auerbach, S. S., Parham, F. M., Masten, S. A., Walker, V., Rooney, A., & Thayer, K. A. (2019). A scoping review of the health and toxicological activity of bisphenol A (BPA) structural analogues and functional alternatives. Toxicology, 424, 152235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tox.2019.06.006 (7)

Home

Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Swiffers

Or convert the Swiffer you already have into a non-toxic, planet-friendly option

Who hasn't had a Swiffer before? The promise of an easy-to-use and affordable sweeping, mopping and dusting solution is hard to say no to! While Swiffer products are quite convenient and user friendly, have you ever thought about how much trash those single-use pads generate and what toxic chemicals might be used in their cleaning solutions? Well we're here to give you the low down. If you already have a Swiffer, we have some tips on how to use your Swiffer in a more environmentally conscious way with non-toxic ingredients. And if you don't have one, but want some just as convenient recommendations on mopping and dusting we have you covered too.

Why You Might Want to Think Twice About Swiffers

Ever take a big whiff when you bust open your new package of refillable Swiffer wet pads? Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but those flowery and attractive smells contain fragrances and other harmful ingredients, which often carry phthalates, asthmagens (1) and other chemicals of concern. When these fragrance chemicals vaporize into your household, they can trigger asthma attacks, and aggravate sinus conditions; they can disrupt hormones, cause headaches, eyes, nose and throat irritation, and produce neurotoxic symptoms, like loss of coordination, and forgetfulness (2).

Other ingredients in Swiffer products have also been found to aid in developing resistance to antibiotics over time (3). This means that germs like bacteria and fungi start building the capacity to defeat the drugs that are designed to kill them. When this happens, this can require extended hospital stays, more follow-up visits to the doctor, and other costly and toxic treatment alternatives (4). It's not just humans that are impacted either, these products are also very toxic to aquatic animals (5,6). Makes us think twice about using them all around the house!

Not only is it a good idea to steer clear of these chemicals, but can we talk about the trash? Easy disposal of these toxic, non-biodegradable products, like the refill pads, has resulted in an exorbitant amount of unnecessary waste and has nearly destroyed our environment (7). Refillable Swiffer pads are made from polyester which is derived from fossil fuels (8), and are contributing to the degradation of our ecosystems and wildlife (9). These persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are harmful toxins that will continue to corrode our environment for centuries, as they occupy landfills and slowly leak toxins into soil and water over time (9). What a mess!

The good news is that there are simple alternative methods you can start using that are more protective of our health (and the planet's) well-being. Plus, since you don't have to purchase refill pads, they are great for your budget too. There are even easy hacks to turn the Swiffer product you already have into a non-toxic option.

How to Make Your Swiffer Non-Toxic and Earth-Friendly

Get a reusable washable microfiber pad and ditch the single-use ones. Microfibers are extremely effective at capturing germs and small particles (10). These microfiber mop pads work for both the Swiffer sweepers and WetJet. Here are some we like:

Swiffer Sweeper Compatible Reusable Pads

Easily Greener Microfiber Mop Pads

Turbo Mops Reusable Microfiber Mop Pads

Swiffer Wet Jet Compatible Reusable Pads

Easily Greener Swiffer WetJet Compatible, Microfiber Mop Pads

TurboMops Reusable Microfiber Mop Pads Compatible with Swiffer WetJet

Just throw these reusable option into the washer after you're done using it and it's ready to be used the next time you need it. And if you want a completely free way to do this, you can even try using an old fuzzy sock and wrap that around the bottom of your WetJet and voila, you're all ready to start moppin'.

If you have an old washcloth you can also place that into the corners of the holes of your traditional Swiffer to secure the cloth. You'll want to make sure to dip the cloth into your cleaning solution before you attach it to the mop and/or you can add the cleaning solution to a spray bottle to spray the surface as well.

DIY Your Own Safe and Effective Cleaning Solution

If you've got the Swiffer WetJet, make sure the refill bottle is thoroughly cleaned out with soap and water, then go ahead and add your preferred non-toxic cleaning solution. Here are our recommended non-toxic floor cleaners that are available in stores. But you can also create your own safe and effective floor cleaner with a couple of ingredients you may already have! Here are three options:

  1. Add ½ tsp of liquid soap to each gallon of water
  2. Add ½ cup vinegar to every gallon of water
  3. Add 1 tsp Branch Basics concentrate to every 1 cup of water

When the floors are really dirty use the liquid soap solution to really mop up that grime and dirt. If things have been more chill around the house, use the vinegar solution. We've heard that using the vinegar on hardwood floors is not a problem, but you should check what type of finish your floors have, and do a test sample somewhere out of sight just to be sure.

Convenient, Non-toxic, and Budget Friendly Swiffer Alternatives

If you don't own a Swiffer, bless your heart. Here are our favorite Swiffer alternatives for getting your floor clean.

Spray Mops

Spray mops are super convenient and easy to use on all types of floors, including hardwood and laminate flooring. Plus, no need for any buckets or wringing! Just add your washable/reusable microfiber mop pad and pre-made non-toxic floor cleaning solution to the dispenser and you are ready to have at it! When you're done, throw the reusable mop pad in the laundry machine.

O-Cedar ProMist Microfiber Spray Mop

Steam Mops

Another green alternative you can use is a steam mop. Steam mops work by heating up the water to really high temperatures inside its chamber and dispensing it as steam, which is then dispersed through a cloth or pad. The steam helps to loosen up the dirt and grime from your floors, and the high temps help to kill germs and bacteria on hard surfaces. No harmful chemicals needed!

Steam mops are typically safe to use on vinyl, ceramic, and porcelain tile floors, but you may want to double check with your flooring brand to make sure using steam won't void your floor's warranty. You should also never use steam mops on any unsealed, peeling or unfinished floors, and although manufacturers claim it is safe to do so, use caution with any wood or laminate flooring.

PurSteam Steam Mop Cleaner

Spinning Mop

How about a mop that just simply does the work for you? There are now electric mops that are similar to a commercial orbiter floor machine, but made for residential homes. The reusable and washable rotating mop pads clean your floor for you and all you have to do is guide them along the floors. You control the amount of cleaning solution by spraying as you go. To make this a healthy option, ditch the cleaning product that comes with it and use your own pre-made non-toxic floor cleaning product (either DIY or store bought).

Bissell Spinwave Hard Floor Spin Mop

Microfiber Mop + Spray Bottle

Our last favorite mop is just a microfiber mop that is very similar to Swiffer, but that has a reusable microfiber mop pad. This mop can swivel in all directions and has an extendable sturdy handle. It can easily clean under furniture and clean baseboards. Pair this mop with a spray bottle that contains your favorite DIY or store bought non-toxic floor cleaner and you're good to go!

Turbo Microfiber Mop

References:
  1. https://zsds3.zepinc.com/ehswww/zep/result/direct_link.jsp?P_LANGU=E&P_SYS=2&P_SSN=11337&C001=DISC2&C002=ZCAL&C003=E&C013=AF7231E
  2. https://noharm-uscanada.org/issues/us-canada/fragrance-chemicals
  3. https://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(18)30424-3/pdf
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html
  5. https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/5288-SwifferSweeperWetMoppingClothsOpenWindowFresh/
  6. https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/2819-SwifferWetJetMultiPurposeCleanerOpenWindowFresh/
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/realestate/2005/05/21/disposable-wipes-no-throw-away-issue/22e091b2-7bc9-4b01-a9c3-6ca1c00f9cfc/
  8. https://www.cmu.edu/gelfand/lgc-educational-media/polymers/natural-synthetic-polymers/index.html#:~:text=Synthetic%20polymers%20are%20derived%20from,polyester%2C%20Teflon%2C%20and%20epoxy.&text=Examples%20of%20naturally%20occurring%20polymers,%2C%20DNA%2C%20cellulose%20and%20proteins.
  9. https://sciencing.com/environmental-problems-caused-by-synthetic-polymers-12732046.html
  10. https://archive.epa.gov/region9/waste/archive/web/pdf/mops.pdf
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