What My Cat Taught Me About Household Toxins


Several years ago, we adopted a shelter cat named Zoe, after our 19 year old cat died. Zoe is sweet and despite our best efforts, overweight. Consequently, her clumsy but determined rush to the food bowl can sometimes result in an unexpected collision. One day I tripped over her mid-sprint on the stairs, and with my arms full of groceries I went down hard. Needless to say, I ended up with a concussion. Months after the accident, I was still suffering from what I assumed were concussion-related symptoms. But as the months progressed, I seemed to be adding new symptoms to the list. Unbeknownst to me, though maybe obvious in retrospect, I was actually experiencing ailment after ailment that were linked to years of an unhealthy lifestyle. The concussion was simply the last straw. Daily stress and a poor diet were clear culprits - but after speaking with my doctor, I learned that exposure to certain chemicals can actually cause chronic and in some cases debilitating health problems.


Luckily, I worked with my physician and slowly recovered. Together, we developed a health plan that prioritized diet, sleep, exercise, stress reduction, and reducing my exposure to environmental toxins.

Household Toxins Weren’t On My Radar
To be honest, worrying about environmental toxins was not on my radar. When my doctor advised me to reduce my exposure to toxic chemicals in my home, I was surprised and wondered if household toxins could really be hurting my health. I listened carefully to what she had to say and decided she had a point.


Under her direction, I began eating healthier, organic foods and switched to safe cleaning, laundry and personal care products. At first, it was overwhelming. I enlisted the help of my husband, and we began the journey together.

Personal Care Products - Untested & Some Unsafe
To start, we read the labels on our products and were shocked to discover the array of toxins they contained. Since I had chemical sensitivities and was being bothered by perfumed products, I started by emptying the house of the most obvious fragranced products including air fresheners, perfumes, scented candles, and dryer sheets.


I learned that fragranced products can contain any of 3,000 ingredients many untested, unregulated, and some toxic. The problem is that manufacturers do not need to disclose what’s in the fragrance, so the fragrance could contain phthalates, a known carcinogen or other toxic chemicals that disrupt hormones.


As we continued to do more research, I realized that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no authority to require companies to do product safety testing; and the FDA has only banned a handful of harmful chemicals from being used in US products while continuing to allow manufacturers to use chemicals which are classified as known or probable carcinogens or hormone disruptors.


It took months to replace my personal care products during which I became knowledgeable about which ingredients to avoid and how to read labels. I avoided products with fragrance and steered clear of many ingredients that can be found on the FlowsToBay Challenge Inventory sheet.

The Story is Even Worse for Cleaning & Laundry Products
After I finished cleaning out my personal care products, I turned my attention to cleaning and laundry products. I was shocked to find that it’s even harder to uncover the contents of your products as ingredients aren’t listed on cleaning and laundry products, as they are regulated by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Unlike the FDA which requires that all ingredients be listed with the exception of revealing the details of the fragrance, the CPSC does not require that manufacturers list all of the ingredients on product labels.

It’s Not All Or Nothing
In the beginning, I set aggressive goals for cleaning up my household toxins, which backfired because I became overwhelmed. Instead of moving forward, I just stopped, paralyzed. I learned that it’s better to take a slower approach recognizing that it’s not “all or nothing.” Any step toward creating a healthier home will pay off.


Essentially, it’s up to you to determine if your cleaning and laundry products are safe and you must do this without the benefit of a complete ingredient list. I also discovered that the terms “all natural” or “green” don’t guarantee a safer, all natural product. Why? Because no governmental body regulates these terms for marketing purposes. As a result, your products labeled as “green” and “all natural” can contain substances that are harmful to your health and the environment.


In the end, I’m happy with my changes. I switched from toxic dryer sheets to wool dryer balls, began using white vinegar in the rinse cycle as a softener, and found several laundry soaps that had only a handful of safe ingredients without harmful fragrances. The cleaning products were a challenge but ultimately we found vinegar and castile soap based products that do a good job of cleaning and disinfecting.


With my health restored, I became grateful to my cat for the push to wellness. The accident forced me reconsider every aspect of my life and to create a pure living space at home.

Carol Trimmer Bio
Carol is helping to make the world a healthier, happier place by sharing easy ways to live better in this sometimes toxic place we live in. As founder of Pure Living Space, she’s on a mission to discover the best and safest home and personal care products. When she’s not researching safe products or writing articles, you can find her growing kale or whipping up that perfect smoothie.