Chemical Half-Lives

Toxin exposure isn’t just the moment we smell a fragrance, eat a piece of pesticide-sprayed produce or take a nap on a couch treated with flame retardants. When chemicals enter our body by breathing them in, eating or drinking them or putting a product on our skin, there is an amount of time – from hours to years – until there is half of the chemical traceable in our bodies and that is known as its half-life. The chemicals we carry in our bodies is called our body burden and we all have one to varying degrees. 

You could say to yourself that many of our everyday exposures like paints, plastics, fragrances and pesticides have a relatively short half-life so where’s the real problem? The issue is in cumulative exposure

If it were one lotion, one apple, or one candle, that would be ONE thing. But think of all the exposures you have to various toxins throughout one day – the dozens of products you use or are around in 24 hours might be gone in a few hours or days but you are likely using them or being exposed to them daily so they don’t diminish easily. 

That mattress you or your child sleep on made of foam that off-gases might stay in your body mere hours, but every night you lay right back down on it, in close contact, and re-up your chemical load.

Then, factor in those chemicals with longer half-lives. That car seat for baby coated in flame retardants will be in their bodies for 1-12 years or the couch and carpet with stain-resistant spray is in your body 3-8 years

You can see where taking a bit more time to find options without these chemicals, both with longer and shorter half-lives, will impact your body burden just as they impacted mine in OVERLOAD.

Don’t let this overwhelm you. Let this inspire you to make a few meaningful, but simple changes. There are guides on my site and online to help you. That is why I started this page. To give you the shortcuts and solutions I have spent time finding. 

This is where it is impactful to be mindful of cleaner and greener options, of progress over perfection. The Pareto Principle is something I ascribe to when I first discuss making a change in products and lifestyle choices with people. It asserts that 80% of impact is done by 20% of our actions. If you can isolate 20% of your actions that create toxins exposures to you (and your family), you can create a huge impact on your health and the health of the planet and future generations.

Where I suggest making changes first:

  • Do not heat or store hot foods in plastic (use glass)
  • Eat organic versions of the Dirty Dozen
  • Minimize use of products with “fragrance” in the ingredient list 
  • Swap out your personal care and cleaning products for cleaner versions as your finish them (use one of the buying guides on our site if this feels overwhelming)

Then move on to:

For more ideas of ways you can impact what you carry in your body, check out our post 10 Ways to Minimize Your Overload.

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