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Non-Toxic vs. Toxic-Free: Which One Is Better For Your Health?

Non-Toxic vs. Toxic-Free: Which One Is Better For Your Health?

What Every Parent Should Know About The Difference Between Toxic, Non-Toxic, and Toxic-Free

As parents, we all want to ensure that we're choosing wholesome and safe products. Unfortunately, not all products are as safe or as wholesome as their labels would lead us to believe. That's why you need to understand the subtle but important differences between non-toxic and toxic-free.

What Does Non-Toxic Mean?

If you check just about any dictionary, you’ll find that “non-toxic” means a substance is “not poisonous or does not contain poisonous substances,” and it has a similar meaning as “harmless” or “safe.” (Oxford Languages Dictionary)

But just because a substance is not poisonous or does not contain poisonous ingredients does not make it harmless or safe!

And it’s significant that the term “non-toxic” is not legally defined by any regulatory body like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC).

We’ll talk more about that in a minute. For now, it’s just important to understand that “non-toxic” really means that a product is not toxic.

If you’re like me, then your next question is…

What Does Toxic Mean?

The Federal Hazardous Substances Act defines various types of hazardous substances and establishes labeling guidelines for manufacturers of products that contain hazardous ingredients. Under this federal regulation, a product is considered toxic if it can cause “personal injury or illness to humans if it is inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin.” Products are also considered toxic if they “can cause long-term or chronic problems such as cancer or birth defects.”

When a term is legally defined, it usually means there is government oversight of the use of the term to ensure compliance with regulations. In the case of hazardous substances, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is responsible for overseeing compliance with the Hazardous Substances Act and the use of terms defined in the Act.

If a product does not contain a known toxic chemical, it can be labeled non-toxic. To be even more straightforward, a product has to be proven to cause illness when inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed to be classified as toxic. But proving a substance to be toxic can be challenging.

We are exposed to numerous chemicals every day in varying amounts, and some negative health effects can take years to appear, making organizations hesitant to label an ingredient as proven toxic. There are ingredients that the FDA won’t state are “safe” but also will not state are “unsafe.” Ultimately, regulation is very loose, and terms are difficult to define concretely.

The Problem With The Term “Non-Toxic”

There are multiple problems with the term “non-toxic,” but one of the biggest is that the term itself is totally misleading. The term “non-toxic” carries no guarantee of product safety because there is no regulatory oversight of the use of this term.

Without regulatory oversight, consumers must rely on the word of the company manufacturing or marketing a product. And their bias and monetary interests in the success of their products may make them an unreliable source.

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission requires some products to display hazard labeling, it conducts no enforcement of the use of the term “non-toxic.” Instead, it is up to consumers or consumer advocacy groups, like the Environmental Working Group, to prove that a product is hazardous. So products that are labeled “non-toxic” are not necessarily safe to use.

NO. The FDA does not certify organic or toxic-free personal care, household cleaning, or cosmetic products.

Examples of Non-Toxic Products That Aren’t Good For Your Health

There are so many “non-toxic” products that actually aren’t good for our health - like food additives, dyes, artificial flavors, and sugar, for starters. Most commercially-available personal care products contain a wide variety of chemicals that are considered safe but, in reality, are not. And we should not rely on the words on the FRONT of the label to guide us in our purchases because manufacturers and suppliers are not held accountable for unregulated marketing terms used on their product labels.

Ingredients that are considered safe but, in fact, are known to cause cancer, hormone disruption, obesity, and many other medical issues include:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • DEA, MEA, & TEA
  • Formaldehyde
  • FD&C Color & Pigments
  • Synthetic Fragrances
  • Polyethylene Glycol
  • PEG's
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Propylene & Butylene Glycol
  • Quaternium 15
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • SLS
  • SLES
  • Avobenzone
  • Benzophenone
  • Methoxycinnamate

And many of these can be present in non-toxic products like:

  • the hormones in birth control pills;
  • antacids;
  • diaper creams;
  • chalk, pencils, crayons, and ink pens;
  • dog and cat food;
  • potting soil and vermiculite;
  • Styrofoam
  • personal care products like soaps, lotions, toothpaste, makeup, and more
  • artificially colored and flavored food and supplements

Non-Toxic vs. Toxic-Free: Key Differences Parents Should Know

Non-toxic means that a product may contain harmful chemicals and be sold to consumers as long as the product has not been proven to cause illness when inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed.

Certified toxic-free products are made from 100% natural ingredients, completely free of harmful chemicals, and manufactured sustainably, so they’re safe for you and the environment.

Let me share a little bit more about toxic-free certification and what it means for you.

Toxic-Free Certification: The Key To Finding Truly Wholesome Products

You may be wondering how to find better products if we can’t trust the non-toxic label. Enter The ToxicFree Foundation, a private non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the toxic ingredients in personal care, cosmetics, household cleaning products, and more. They have no interest in the outcome and work for the benefit of the consumers.

Toxic Free Foundation

TOXIC FREE certified products are guaranteed to be:

  • SAFE: completely free from harmful chemicals.
  • NATURAL: contain only 100% natural ingredients from the earth.
  • ECO FRIENDLY: manufactured sustainably and safe for the environment.

How Toxic-Free Certification Benefits Consumers

The ToxicFree foundation’s certification lets consumers know that products and manufacturing facilities are FREE from the harmful chemicals mentioned above. Products and companies are vetted and tested to be sure that all ingredients are safe and that the manufacturing facility uses best practices in equipment.

The Bottom Line

As consumers, it’s important to find trusted brands that match our values. Unfortunately, greenwashing is a really big problem. That means that products LOOK safe and healthy on the outside with pretty packaging and promising words like toxin-free, natural, clean, and even organic.

While some companies have been held accountable for these misleading tactics, there are countless that haven’t. When smaller brands are bought out, changes are often made that the consumer isn’t aware of, so a trusted product becomes a hazard without warning.

As consumers, we can trust the ToxicFree foundation’s certification to help us dig through empty promises on labels and discover truly wholesome and safe products.