Your household products are harming you and the planet

Kara Weekes Apr 2022

Cosmetics and household cleaning products can be deadly; not only for aquatic life and biodiversity, but also for us as humans - and not for the reasons you might think.

Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is a real problem. Worldwide, we use about 5 trillion plastic bags per year, and the US alone throws away enough plastic bottles in a *week* to encircle the entire planet 5 times over. Of the plastics that have ever been produced, only 9% have been recycled. Of the remaining 91%, 79% have ended up in landfill and in our oceans - where they’ll be for the next millennium... And even then, much of this plastic will only “photo-degrade”, which essentially means it will transform into toxic air pollution instead. Yay!


In March 2022, microplastics were found in human blood and major organs for the first time, including in human placentas. While the exact effects of this are unknown, scientists fear that microplastics have the potential to kill cells and become lodged in vital organs. Given that plastic production only started just over 100 years ago, we’re in real trouble - and it’s only set to get worse.

Deadly chemicals

Sadly, their plastic exterior is only part of the problem when it comes to mainstream cosmetic and household products. Another major concern is the chemicals that these products are made from - which are often damaging to human, animal and planetary health. Researchers have found that phthalates, which are a common ingredient found in shampoos, face washes and in plastic food packaging, can lead to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, neurodevelopmental and fertility issues, and sadly, many more health implications. Moreover, there are dozens more regularly used chemicals for concern, many of which are proven to be carcinogenic, hormone disruptors. You can see a fuller list of key chemicals for concern here, and sites such as the EWG’s Skin Deep Database can give you a full toxicology report on key cosmetic products.

These chemicals are also damaging marine life. For example, Hawaii has banned sunscreens which contain oxybenzone and octinoxate - both of which are toxic to coral reefs and have been found to be harmful to humans (oh, the irony).

So, what can be done?

While this is all scary stuff, there are steps we can take to mitigate the risk that these products pose.

Firstly, we can eliminate plastic wherever possible - and we’re not just talking about heading to your local zero-waste store, though that is one solution. We would also suggest making your own household cleaning and cosmetic products. Check out this article from Good Housekeeping which features recipes for toxic-free products (which are often cheaper than traditional alternatives). You can also store your food in reused glass jars instead of in plastic containers.


Try to use natural products on your skin where possible, for example using olive and raspberry seed oils to moisturise your hair and skin, and natural beeswax balm to keep your lips hydrated.

But, most importantly, try not to get overwhelmed. We know that switching to safe and environmentally-friendly products can be time consuming and expensive, so try to swap products as they run out, rather than rushing to buy a whole new set of products. This will help to ensure that the products you already have are used up completely, which will save you money and help to reduce waste.

Lastly, you can sign this petition is you’re based in the US to eliminate the use of unsafe cosmetic ingredients. For more tips on how to live a more healthy and sustainable life, download the pilot version of #viaGood today.