UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, May 2015

Toxic Matters:  Six Tips to Protect You and Your Family

CoverUCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) has released Toxic Matters:  Protecting our Families from Toxic Substances, a brochure that offers practical recommendations on how to avoid exposure to common substances encountered in everyday life that can be harmful to reproductive health. Toxic substances are chemicals and metals that can harm our health.  We are all exposed to them everyday, but there are ways to minimize our exposure. 

While important for reproductive health, Toxic Matters provides tips to protect you and your family, focused on five key areas:

  • Prevent exposure at home – A healthy environment starts at home. Read about simple choices you can make in your home life that can have a direct positive impact on you and your family’s health. 

  • Prevent exposure at work – Toxins can be used on the job, in your office building or during a renovation project. Learn more about staying safe at work and how to avoid bringing workplace chemicals home.

  • Prevent exposure in your community - Learn ways to avoid exposure to pollutants in your neighborhood, and help create a better environment for your family and everyone around you.

  • Become a smart consumer – Become informed about the products you use everyday and which ingredients to avoid to keep yourself and your family as safe as possible from toxic exposures. Using your power as a consumer sends a message to companies that the public is interested in safer, non-toxic alternatives.

  • Make the government work for you – Because individual action alone cannot prevent all exposures, become active in the issues about toxic substances in your environment. Learn how to do your part to influence lawmakers and help them pass laws that will reduce everyone’s exposure to toxic substances.

Dr.Tracey Woodruff, Director, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment shared, “Everyone is exposed to toxic chemicals every day. Our research at UCSF shows that all pregnant women in the U.S have multiple toxic chemicals in their bodies. Naturally, people want to know what to do about these exposures.  So we created Toxic Matters to give campus patients, students, employees, and the public practical tips on how to reduce harmful exposures at home, in the community and at work. Also, by making people more knowledgeable about how many chemicals there are in the environment and in us, Toxic Matters helps support our efforts with the UCSF community to improve public policies to prevent harmful exposures for all.”

Download a printable copy of the Toxic Matters brochure HERE.

Practical, Everyday Tips

Everyday decisions we make at home and at work can reduce our exposure to toxins.  When it comes time to buy new furniture, personal care products, and cleaning products, here are a few practical tips from the brochure to consider:

  • Use Non-Toxic Personal Care Products –  The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Website provides information and resources for avoiding products with unhealthy ingredients.  Find safer products at: http://tiny.ucsf.edu/personalcare.

  • Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Products – It is easy and cheap to make effective, non-toxic cleaners using common items like vinegar and baking soda.  Find out how to shop for non-toxic cleaning products, and get recipes to make your own at: http://tiny.ucsf.edu/cleaning.

  • Choose Safer Home Improvements –  Many paints, glues, and flooring materials can release toxic chemicals long after you complete a project.  Ask for “VOC-free” and“water-based” materials.  Learn more about safer materials at:  http://tiny.ucsf.edu/remodeling.

  • Select Flame Retardant-Free Foam Products –  Avoid crib mattresses, nap mats, and other upholstered products with flame retardants because they can harm a child’s brain.  Select foam products labeled as “flame retardant free”.  If you are in the market for a new couch, look for the new flame-retardant free label to minimize your exposure to flame retardants.  Learn more about flame retardants at:  http://tiny.ucsf.edu/flameretardant.

  • Eat Organic – Eat organic food when possible to reduce your exposure to pesticides. If you can’t afford to buy organic produce, buy the fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide levels, and avoid the most contaminated ones. Learn more about reducing your exposure to pesticides from food at: http://tiny.ucsf.edu/foodandwater

  • Make the Government Work for You – Individual actions help but can only go so far in preventing exposure to toxic substances in the environment. In order to really solve this problem, we need public policies that stop chemical pollution in the first place.  Consider getting involved with groups working to prevent pollution or reach out to your representatives and let them know what you think. You can find contact information for your state and federal representatives at: http://tiny.ucsf.edu/government.

To Learn More

Come to the May 14th LivingGreen Fair to learn more about how to live greener at home and at work. Copies of the new brochure will be available.  To view the brochure online go to: