We all deserve to be using non-toxic products on our children, our bodies and in our homes.
However, when we look to find out what is in most of the products we use, we are often met with an incomprehensible list of ingredients. Unfortunately, not all ingredients are equal. There is increasing scientific evidence that some chemicals in common use can have potential negative health effects, from skin irritation and eczema to hormone disruption, reproductive difficulties and asthma.
The Australian Non-Toxic Awards which are in their inaugural year, were established to make it easier, less confusing and quicker for all of us to make the best non-toxic choices.
The Australian Non-Toxic Awards are the only ones of their kind to recognise products which are made with the highest ethics and standards in ingredients and materials. They celebrate the best in non-toxic and socially responsible products, with categories ranging from baby wipes and nappies to drink bottles, skincare, bed linen and cleaning products.
The Australian Non-Toxic Awards were founded by Emily Fletcher.
Emily is a practising Optometrist, mother of two and the Editor in Chief of the website, My Non-Toxic Tribe. Emily has built a large and loyal following through her publishing of in-depth, detailed and very well researched guides to choosing safe products.
Her ability to read scientific research papers and explain her findings clearly, as well as her determination to find truly the best and safest products, has led her to become a powerful influencer in the non-toxic product world.
Emily began her blog when her daughter, now 4, was 4 months old. “One night I was watching Isabella in the bath and I realised that I wasn’t really sure of what was in the plastic of the bath toy she was sucking, and whether it was as safe as I wanted it to be. A little research later and I was horrified to find that her bath toys had chemicals in them that are linked to all sorts of negative long term health effects. I then found myself researching all the other products Isabella came into contact with and scarily, I found these chemicals were also in her other toys, feeding containers, bath mat, the cleaning products in our home and so much more!”
Emily says she is fortunate to have studied a range of advanced science subjects in her Optometry degree at UNSW. “At first, even I found it very tricky to properly decipher ingredients lists and truly analyse scientific articles to determine which ingredients were really important to avoid. I can only begin to imagine how confusing it must be for everyone else.” Emily began her blog as a way to share her findings with her mothers group and friends, however before long, her readership skyrocketed.
Now that she knew what to look for, Emily repeatedly started to find that the words on the packaging of products couldn’t always be trusted. The practice of publishing a purposefully misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product is known as ‘Greenwashing’ and
Emily says this is rife. “A company may put the words ‘organic’, ‘non-toxic’ or ‘natural’ on a product, but this might only refer to a part of the product or even simply the name of the product. I frequently write to companies requesting more information. It’s not uncommon for them to happily write back until they are asked for proof of their organic certifications for example. Then I just get silence.”
Whilst it isn’t easy, Emily explains that it is important to try to choose the products we use on ourselves, our children and in our homes carefully.
“We now understand that some commonly used man-made chemicals, known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, can have an additive effect with our own hormones, as well as each other. Hormones and their signals are critical to the normal functioning of every tissue and organ in our bodies. Effects on these systems can lead to obesity, infertility, learning and memory difficulties, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as a variety of other diseases. Babies, children, teenagers and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to these effects. By making educated and careful choices in the products we use, we can drastically decrease our cumulative exposure to these chemicals.”
Emily believes that we as consumers can affect change on a large scale through making educated choices. “By supporting the businesses truly providing non-toxic excellence, we are sending a powerful message that cannot be ignored. As Anna Lappe says ‘Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.'”
The Australian Non-Toxic Awards winner’s rosettes are a sign of total assurance that a product is safe, of the highest quality, is recommended and can be trusted. These products have been fully researched, scrutinised, tried and tested by experts and shown to be the best of the best in non- toxic ingredients and materials.
Looking at the hundreds of products you use in everyday life with fresh, sceptical eyes can be overwhelming to say the least. Emily says she often has to remind herself of Maya Angelou’s quote “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Emily advises to start small and just take baby steps, swapping each product as it runs out for a non-toxic alternative. “All we can do is to try our best. Every little change we can make is a victory and makes a big difference when you look at cumulative exposure over time. You can’t live a completely toxin free modern life. But it’s great to have knowledge of the things that we are exposed to, so we can find a balance and minimise our exposure. I think if we try to keep a healthy home, then when we’re out, it doesn’t matter when we can’t eat organic or our baby plays with a toy that wasn’t as safe a plastic.”
“We now understand that some types of chemicals can have an additive effect with our own hormones, as well as each other. This means that our cumulative exposure to chemicals from all sources makes a difference.”
Emily believes that we as consumers can affect change on a large scale through making educated choices.
The Finalists for the Australian Non-Toxic Awards have now been announced, see the prestigious recommended lists here.
Winners will be announced on the 17 November.