Aida Garcia-Toledo founded Non-Toxic Munchkin to make non-toxic living simpler and less overwhelming. I love her philosophy of small steps making a significant impact. There are little things you can do to create a balanced, non-toxic, and healthy home. These are just small steps you can take to make a significant impact.
Aida is the founder of The Nontoxic Munchkin. Her goal is to educate parents about the hazards of daily exposure to toxic chemicals and help them transition to a healthier and less chemically dependent lifestyle without adding stress. Today, on the Heal podcast, we discuss how to make simple changes to reduce your exposure to toxins. You can find Aida on Instagram @nontoxicmunchkin. If you are enjoying the Heal Podcast, I would love for you to subscribe and give a rating. Thanks for listening!
Even though infamous cancer-causing Teflon and its family of chemicals, PFAS, have been eliminated from non-stick pots and pans, the chemicals used in today’s pans can still be harmful. Animal studies have shown that these new chemicals, GenX and PFBS, can harm the immune system, developing fetus, liver, and thyroid. Aida recommends avoiding all non-stick coatings on pans. Aluminum pans look like stainless steel, are lighter in weight, and typically cost less. But Aluminum is a known neurotoxin, so Aida advises to stay clear of these pans as well. Even at low levels, constant exposure to small amounts through cooking can affect the brain. Some ceramic pans contain lead, which can leach into your food as you cook. Low levels of lead can cause developmental issues, seizures, and other health problems in children. Aida believes that even too much of a good thing can be harmful, so the safest bet is to rotate your cookware among the safest materials. Aida’s cabinet of pots and pans includes a cast iron skillet, All-Clad stainless steel, glass, and one small xtrema Ceramic pan. I love this thought process because it lets you change out one pan at a time, rather than buying a full set at once.
Switch out your plastic tuber-ware for glass or stainless steel. Use reusable baggies for your kids’ lunches, snacks, and food storage. If you must use plastic, do not place it in the microwave or dishwasher. When plastic is exposed to heat, it can leech harmful chemicals.
Remove your shoes
Put a little basket or cubby by your front door and make it a habit for everyone in your house to remove their shoes when they come home. Your shoes track in gas, pesticides, fecal matter, and a whole lot more. If you think about where your shoes have been, I can guarantee you will want to start taking off your shoes. Slippers are comfier anyways!
Use a re-usable water bottle. It can be glass or stainless steel. Plastic water bottles exposed to the sun for an extended time can leach chemicals into your water. Even BPA-free plastics have been found to contain harmful chemicals. I love that I can bring my reusable water bottle in the car and not worry about it sitting in the sun. Plus, I can add lemon or cucumber to my bottle to make spa water.
There is a large and growing body of evidence that many ordinary home cleaning supplies, even ones labeled “green” or “natural,” can lead to asthma, other respiratory issues, birth defects, and cancer. Try making your own cleaning supplies for a fun quarantine activity. Aida uses a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water with a few drops of Eucalyptus oil for the smell.
Light a Candle
Use natural beeswax candles instead of air fresheners, plug-ins, or sprays around the house. These can expose your family to hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Buy organic whenever possible, and try to shop more in the produce aisle than anywhere else. Save the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide levels and refer to it when deciding which items to buy organic.
Welcome to Heal, a podcast for all things related to Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses. I’m Mimi MacLean, mom of 5, founder of Lyme 360 and a Lyme Warrior. Tune in each week, to hear from doctors, health practitioners, treatment experts, and Lyme warriors for tips, strategies, and real-life stories to help you on your healing journey. I am here to Heal with you.
Welcome to the Heal Podcast. This is Mimi from Lyme 360. Today we have a special guest, Aida Garcia-Toledo, who is a friend and a nontoxic living expert. She has a website and Instagram called Nontoxic Munchkin. Aida, thank you so much for coming today. We are so excited to have you. So I wanted to bring you here today because I find for Lyme patients, it’s really important to detox your body and your home. I found that I have the MTHFR mutation gene, which means I can’t detox really easily. So I think there are a lot of people I have found that had that problem as well. I would love for you to talk to us today about how to detox your home and your life.
It’s really overwhelming, right? I mean it can be. First of all, thank you for having me on. So nontoxic living, as I say, can be super overwhelming because you’ll find that the more you read about toxins and everyday products, the more you realize that they’re everywhere and they can really be harmful. And cumulatively, you know, when we’re talking about all the little kind of ingredients and chemicals that are in all different products we’re using every day, they really add up in our bodies, in anyone’s body, but when someone has something like Lyme, you are extra vulnerable So I think it’s really important, but the good news is that there’s concrete things and steps that you can take that can make a big impact. Um, so if we’re just talking about like our home, um, you know, let’s start with the easiest, free things that you can do is taking your shoes off when you walk into your house. I know it’s kind of a pain to start doing. But the reason for this is actually when you’re walking around with your shoes all day, you know, think about where you’re going. You’re walking in parking lots, you’re going to the gas station, you’re maybe walking over a lawn in a park or in a school, bathrooms, public bathrooms, I mean everything! And your shoe is trailing all of that into your house. We’re talking about neurotoxins like lead and heavy metals, petrochemicals, pesticides, in addition to, you know, bacteria and all kinds of germs. So just by taking your shoes off, when you walk into your house, you are making sure that all those toxins don’t make it inside the rest of your house. Especially if you have a baby who is always on the floor. Even young children tend to love to play on the floor. But the problem is that even if you don’t have any kids at home, those chemicals will migrate to the dust. And then even if you don’t have kids or even if you’re not sitting on the floor and touching the dust, you’re breathing that dust in. So that’s the route of exposure to those chemicals. It’s small amounts but it can add up. Which actually kind of brings me to the fact that, and I think people are kind of blown away by this, is that the air inside homes, in general, is more polluted. It’s more polluted than the air outside. And the reason for this, there’s many things, but the main culprits are your cleaning products and your furniture, but that is a construction material and that might be harder to deal with. Although if you do have Lyme and you’re moving into a new house, you know, that that could maybe be another podcast in itself because there’s a whole other protocol. But in general, we can start talking about cleaning products if you want.
Like where would you find like really good cleaning products?
That’s super overwhelming because you go to the store and you see all these cleaning products, they all smell really strong. Some of them claim to be green or eco or it’s not concrete. So that’s greenwashing, not all brands or companies or cleaning products or beauty products that say they’re green or a nontoxic will be nontoxic because legally that means nothing. Right. So you really have to understand where to source the good products. There’s a couple places you can turn to. First starting, I like EWG, the Environmental Working Group that we were talking about earlier before the podcast. They have a cleaners database. You can just Google “cleaners, database, EWG” and basically you can plug in the name of any cleaning product that you’re curious about and then it’ll tell you, it’ll give it like a number grade. And the ones that are like one or two are safer to use. They have better ingredients.
Is that different than the EWG skin deep app? So that’s just for cleaning.
Yes, EWG also has skin deep. It’s the same idea, but that’s specifically for cosmetic products and personal care products. I created a list of products on my blog and through my blog you can shop my Amazon. The products that I have there under cleaning or personal care, I’ve looked into them, I’ve made sure they meet my requirements, which are sometimes a little bit stricter than EWG. And those are the ones that I include. There’s also another great certification program, which I really, really like. I would say they’re a little bit stricter than EWG. It’s called Made Safe Certified. What I love about Made Safe Certified is that you can actually go to their website and see what brands, it’s not only beauty products, it’s not only cleaning, they have a long list of um, I guess categories that they include and they certify and they’re pretty strict. I mean they’re really strict. A lot of the products that I use are also Made Safe Certified. If you’re in Amazon for example, and the product is made safe certified, it’ll pop up. It’ll say Made Safe Certified.
Does it have an app or is it just a website?
They don’t have an app yet yet. They have a website and they have social media presence also. But that’s a really good strict one.
Talk to me about air, because you mentioned air quality. What can you do besides opening your windows?
So you should be opening your windows, you know, unless you’re living right next to a very busy highway, you know, then don’t open it during, um, high traffic periods of the day. But otherwise you should be open your windows every day if you can. Additionally, I would say, invest in a good air purifier filter and they’re not all equal. They are expensive, but I can say that I’ve had one of mine for 10 years and still going strong, so that one’s a blue air filter. And then a couple of years ago ago, I bought an Austin air. I would recommend the Austin Air or the IQ air. The IQ Air is physically huge, so if you have the space, it’s amazing. It really takes out all kinds of like really small particles, takes out formaldehyde and VOC that are coming in. These are all chemicals that come out of everything like cleaning products and your home, your furniture. The Austin area is really good. It’s smaller in size, and it’s probably the best one rated for VOCs and formaldehyde. We don’t realize it, but formaldehyde is really common inside our homes and is a known carcinogen. It comes from if you have composite wood, which is like MDF or black plywood and almost everyone has that at home.
You can’t really do anything about it though.
And I mean there’s actually a brand of paint, which is kind of like a sealer that if you had those woods then you could try. It’s just, it’s not easy. It’s kind of clumpy. It’s calledAFM safe coat. I’ll have to confirm that with you, but I do have it on my website. So you can find out there, which if you were to buy a new piece of furniture or something that you knew was made out of plywood and you could smell and it was, you know, bothering you, the smell of the formaldehyde, because that’s what you’re smelling basically. You could also put, you could put like a layer and that would seal it in. If you were chemically sensitive, I would definitely get the filter. Definitely have one in your bedroom where you’re sleeping. Your body needs to detox itself overnight.
Speaking about painting though, I have been using the low VOC paint now. It’s so much more readily available.
Right? It wasn’t.
But is it worth doing that?
Well, here’s the thing. It’s definitely worth it, but it’s not just VOC’s that you need to be looking at. And I actually recently wrote a post on this because I had always looked for the zero VOC. But first of all, I found out that many of the companies that used to like say, “Oh, our paint is zero VOC,” but turns out they actually got sued. It wasn’t zero VOC because when they added the pigments, the pigments had a little bit of VOC. So it was still considered low VOC. But in addition to that, paint can have biocides. It could have antibacterial chemicals. So you have to look at that too.
So what are we looking for?
So I also have that on my website because it’s not an easy, it’s not something that you could just look at and go to the store, you need to research it.
Interesting. Okay. How about also water? I find that really hard because like, even now in my house that we moved into two years ago, I don’t have a built-in system. At my old house, I had an actual system. I haven’t put one in. So right now I’m using what the zero pitcher, who knows if that does anything, right? I’m also using this other one, I can’t even think of it. The water comes out so great. But is it worth it to put in the built-in system? or what should we try to do?
Yeah, I think that when you invest in something that you’re using every single day, it’s, it’s definitely worth it. And we’re all drinking water. So let’s start on water, all municipal tap waters have chemicals. You can find out which ones you have. You can go online, into your city’s water utility website and they should be testing it every year. And that should be public knowledge. In addition, we’re talking about chemicals, there’s antibiotics in the water, there’s pesticides, there’s heavy metals, there’s fluoride, PFS which is chemicals from Teflon. There’s a huge list of chemicals that we’re all drinking. So yes, you definitely want to get a water filter. Depending on your situation, if you’re renting or it’s your own home., Depending on your budget, there’s a range of different styles of water filters. I’d say none of them are cheap, but for example, the Berkey, I don’t know if you know that brand. They’re great. They’re portable. It’s actually something you would have on your kitchen countertop. And it’s, they’re really good at eliminating pretty much all the toxins. That would be, I think the starter one – it might cost around $200-300. Then you can go to something called a Pure Effect Filter, which I personally have. They filter out a huge list of chemicals and that one goes under the sink. You could also get a whole water filter, you know, like a reverse osmosis system or something like that. And those are in the thousands usually. But I would, at a minimum, go with like something like a Berkey. You definitely want to be filtering your water. And a lot of people say well I drink bottled water. So I think it’s safe. But then the bottle water has microplastics in the bottle. Legally, they don’t have to show, they don’t have to be tested, so you don’t know if it is better.
They could be getting water from, the faucet?
Yes, there’s some brands that do. I think it really depends from brand to brand. And you definitely do not want to be ingesting plastics.
Can you talk about what else should you be doing in terms of plastics?
Okay, so plastics – if you can wean yourself from as much exposure to plastics in any part of your life, you’re going to be better off. I always say start with the kitchen, right? I think a lot of us use plastics to store food to reheat food. The problem is that plastics, although there’s different types of plastics and some plastics are a little bit more stable and less likely to, but almost all release chemicals into your food. Almost all plastics when exposed to heat can leach so that they can give out chemicals into the food that we’re eating. And we eat these plastic chemicals. The majority of them are endocrine disrupting chemicals, which means they mimic hormones in our body. You don’t want them in your system. So when you can switch over to glass or switch over to stainless steel. And if you happen to have something that’s plastic, don’t microwave it, don’t put it in the dishwasher cause the dishwasher also exposes it to heat. Hand-wash but slowly start switching the plastic in your kitchen to glass containers. And another thing actually, just really quickly that I think is really important in the kitchen is your pans. You know, the Teflon or even any nonstick pan even if it says Teflon free. You know, if it’s nonstick, chances are it has some sort of coating in the PFS family. There’s newer technologies, but the problem with these new technologies is that they haven’t been tested. So maybe they’re safe, but maybe they’re not safe. I don’t want to be like a test subject.
Mimi: So what kind of do you recommend?
Aida: So I would recommend, a good cast iron pan that will last you generations and that’s safe. Um, actually, I recommend a balance. You know, I think everything in excess is bad. So I recommend balancing between cast iron. You can get stainless steel, high quality stainless steel, and there’s some ceramic pans that are good. With ceramic brands, you just want to make sure that the coating is lead free. So you sometimes have to do your homework. And then use glass for baking and stuff like that.
Mimi: Gosh, the kitchen can be a huge source of really bad chemicals.
Aida: Like these are cancer causing chemicals, that you can avoid by just switching a few things.
Mimi: So what other areas have we not covered that you would say are just easy, like low hanging fruit to just switch out?
Aida: Let’s talk about our laundry because that comes into contact with our skin.
Mimi: Right, so what if you happen to really like using fabric softener detergent or sheets?
Aida: Stop using those immediately. That’s probably the most toxic thing in your house. They’re that bad.
Aida: If you want alternatives, you can buy these wool balls that are great or you can add a little bit of vinegar into your rinse cycle. That helps too. And your clothing will not smell. And then detergents are interesting because I feel like there’s some really well known brands and their laundry detergent isn’t that great. So I’ve recently come across a few small companies that I would recommend and they’re actually both Made Safe Certified. One is called Meliora. They are great and very nontoxic and I would recommend them. You can buy those on Amazon. And then the other one’s called Branch Basics. It’s kind of like a system. It comes as a concentrate, which is very, very, very natural, it’s almost like steel soap type thing. I’d say right now, those are probably the two purest options available. I’d switch those out if you can though. That’s like an easy switch.
Mimi: What is your favorite brand for cleaning in general?
Aida: So I’m kind of old school. I clean a lot with vinegar and water.
Mimi: You do?
Aida: I feel like it does a good job and it can clean almost any surface. I do use that for lots of things. For toilets, I use Bon Ami, which is a powder. It is great and that one’s actually amazing cause you can find it in target, you can find it in Walmart, you can find it on Amazon. So it’s readily available. It’s usually, you know, all the way in the bottom and the corner, but it’s there. And that one you can use on, on bathtubs and toilets and sinks. Those are my main go-tos. I’m trying to think what else. The branch basic system is great. You should look into it. It’s interesting. So the other thing is like the next level. I feel like when someone’s already kind of done the easy stuff and you’re really trying to get to the next level is mattresses and pillows.
Mimi: Yeah. Is it really worth spending that extra money to get the organic mattresses and the organic pillows?
Aida: I mean, it’s a good question because it’s so much more money. Especially with a King size mattress, the difference is huge. I think that if you can buy it, yes, it’s worth it. If not, I would start with a pillow. I’d make sure that you’re not on a, like a Tempurpedic style, you know, like memory foam. Those are the worst culprits in terms of pillows. So you kind of want to avoid that. Better options would be: natural wool, Kapooka or Kapok, I don’t know how to pronounce it, but there’s many, many options for natural and organic pillows. Try to find something that has certified organic cotton if it’s going to have cotton. So I’d start there, and if you can transition to a mattress, yeah, I would do it.
Mimi: I just bought one for Lilly and it was nest. Do you know the nest? Are they good?
Aida: They are.
Mimi: Okay. I was taken back because I liked the product and it was not as expensive as other organic brands, but it comes in the mail. I didn’t realize that, like no one delivered it. It literally came wrapped up that box.
Aida: Oh wait, you’re talking about the mattress?
Mimi: Yeah. The mattress! It was like rolled up. It was fine. I finally got it out and to flatten, but I wasn’t expecting that.
Aida: I think avocado mattress is like that too. I think that’s why they’re able to keep the costs down. So if you’re okay with the mattress being delivered like that then it’s a great option. Other companies are, so there’s nest, there’s avocado mattress, there’s Naturepedic, there’s Happsy. These are all for mattresses and most of them have pillows too. And then there’s a lot of for just pillows. I find there’s a lot of smaller local brands which are kind of cool. So you know, do a search and look for GOTS certified pillows. That’s what you want to search. Or G O L S certified latex. If you want something which is mimicking more of a memory foam type experience.
Mimi: And then, one of the things we can end on. Can you just talk about how important it is about what you’re putting on your body? Because I think a lot of people, they get their food under control. Maybe now they’ve got their cleaning supplies changed out and they never think, wait, my skin is my organ. Right. And it’s absorbing everything.
Aida: Actually yes. So I want to just pre-phase that with saying that, you know, I was just again being reminded yesterday, I was listening to something that in Europe there is over 1,300 chemicals that have been banned from personal care products and in the U S it’s only 11. So wrap your head around that concept that, you know, there’s 1,289 chemicals that are not okay for Europeans, not safe for Europeans, but we can be exposed to them. There is the database, once again, the two databases that we spoke about earlier also are great for cosmetics and personal care products, so that what’s EWG skin deep that you can search online or in their app, and you can input anything, most brands are there. And Made Safe Certified also has a whole list of personal care products that they’ve certified. There’s a lot of greenwashing also in the cosmetic industry and in the personal care industry. So just remember that when you’re in a store and you’re looking to buy something, there are no laws determining what can and cannot be in a personal care or cosmetic product. There’s no laws, there’s no laws around fragrance and chemical disclosure. So you have to be careful. You, you have to really spend a little bit of time researching it. The thing is that if they do list ingredients, it’s ingredients that you can’t pronounce and it takes like a scientist to understand what they are. So that can be really overwhelming. I recommend just having reliable sources. You can come to nontoxic munchkin, EWG, Made Safe and just continually seeing what people are recommending, what they trust because the good news about it is that there’s a lot of new brands and that’s exciting and nowadays you really have options, right? So that’s exciting and that’s good. But that doesn’t mean that everything out there is nontoxic, you know? So it takes a little while to sort through and find the best options.
Mimi: But the other thing I thought of, too, is with Lyme for some reason my smelling sensitivity is insane. I’m affected by anything. Like I can walk into a room now and immediately smell when someone’s using a cleaning supply, they’re not supposed to.
Aida: Yeah. That can be a good thing though because if you’re smelling it, chances are that’s nasty chemicals that you don’t want.
Mimi: I’m super sensitive now. I’m much more aware but like fragrances, like air fresheners, maybe you can touch on that. Let’s talk about that. Cause a lot of people use them.
Mimi: I immediately walk into a room and I start getting high.
Aida: Yeah. I get headaches.
Mimi: A new car smell, you know? Yeah.
Aida: Or you get an Uber or something. I’m always telling Uber drivers. I’m like, do you know what’s in there? So air fresheners, I mean, fragrance in general, there’s a lot. I mean, there’s no laws. It’s lawless. It’s like the wild West for fragrances, you do not have to disclose chemicals and fragrance. You are allowed basically legally to use chemicals that are carcinogenic, that are allergens, that cause asthma. So ideally, for, home fragrances like plugins and sprays, you kind of just want to stop that, you know. Well, you could use any essential oil diffuser, but some essential oils have been shown potentially to be endocrine disrupting chemicals. There’s lavender and tea tree oil and a little bit is okay. But the thing is that the diffuser is pure. So you do have to be careful. The science isn’t strong on that yet. It’s still really being looked into.
Mimi: So how about candles?
Aida: So candles, it’s the same thing. I mean you, you can go with like a natural beeswax candle. You can get soy, but you want to look for GMO free or non GMO soy. I would avoid fragrances also in candle. And I know that’s really hard for some people because I know I’ve had clients where that’s really the hardest thing for them to switch out because they’re that attached to candles.
Aida: There’s some good brands out there, you can, you know, research it but the purer the better. And those are gonna be like your 100% beeswax or something like that.
Mimi: I feel like now this day and age, it’s so much easier to find green stuff than it was when I started on this journey. Even when it comes to now like cleaning up pesticides around your house. Before it’s like you had no other option. But now I can call a “green gardener”, I mean who knows if they’re really green, but at least they are greener.
Aida: No, but definitely, and nail salons, there is like more ecocentric nail salons and there’s so much more. I remember also like 10 years ago I started and, and it was especially makeup also. I feel like that’s the makeup that existed back then that was green was horrible. Like it just wasn’t good. We’ve come a long way and I think the market’s going that way. So I think everyday it’ll be easier for, as for us as consumers, you just have to be an educated consumer. You know, you have to realize not everything is …
Mimi: Start chipping away. Like when you mentioned the beginning of the podcast about build up, I always kind of think of it as like a boiling pot. And it’s like all this toxic stuff you keep throwing it, if it is what you’re eating, f it’s your illness, if it’s the toxic chemicals around your house, at some point it boils over. So the goal is like with the tips that you gave us today to slowly start to remove and bring down that boiling pot to simmer at least. So you’re not in a state of unhealthy overexposure or stress. It’s going to cause stress on your body.
Aida: Yeah, definitely. And we didn’t talk about food, but you know, needless to say, that’s a huge part of your exposure to toxins, chemicals. So yeah. So you know, when you can buy organic, when you can. Also I think the main source of UV exposure, which are endocrine disrupting chemicals. Eating out and ordering takeout is not great mostly because of the packaging and a lot of food workers wear gloves and the food is processed and it’s gnarly that that’s one of the main sources that came out like a couple months ago and I was kind of blown away for the general population. The other one, just to end on this is the receipts.
Mimi: Yes. Right?
Aida: Print receipts. Ask them to send them to email them to you or just don’t take one. That’s it. Really easy switch.
Mimi: What’s on there again?
Aida: BPA, which is also endocrine-disrupting chemical. It is well known, well studied. It’s actually illegal in to put BPA in kids’ bottles. The problem is that it is legal and adult items. So yeah, we know it’s bad. Everyone knows it’s bad and it’s in the receipt and it’s in the cat food and it’s in some hard plastic.
Mimi: I see you have a water bottle there, which do you like the best?
Aida: So I really like this one, Pura. I love it because it has absolutely no plastic. It is all stainless steel because you can’t see it at home. My kids use it too! We have a couple of brands we use: life cycle, which is glass I really like to and it’s covered in a silicone to protect it. I’ve made it a habit and I never leave home without it.
Mimi: That’s great. Is hydroflask a good one too?
Aida: Hydroflask is that like this one? Yes, yes, yes it is.
Mimi: Okay, good. Thank you so much for coming. This has been so helpful. Everyone should go check out her Instagram page, nontoxic munchkin. She also has an amazing website and she does one-on-one consultations either in home or on the phone for anybody who’s not in Los Angeles. And she can help you simplify. Going through the process of greening your house and getting out the toxins, like one by one. It’s easy to do. Once you print it, put your mind to it. It’s easy to do. Costco even now has a bunch of green cleaning supplies and organic food.
Aida: Right, right. Well, thank you so much for having me. I hope this has been helpful for someone. Thank you very much. Thanks.
Outro: Thank you for joining us this week on the Heal podcast. If you enjoyed the podcast, please give a review so others can find us. Remember you can find our community on facebook group Lyme 360 , I am not doctors offering medical advice just a lyme warrior who is fighting the battle while sharing my journey. Please tune in next time for more information to help you on your Lyme journey. Have a fantastic and beautiful day.