What do you get when you combine 20 years of research, an innovative postdoctoral researcher and mobile technology? A handy new tool to empower change.
What we recognize,we can change.
The handy tool is Detox Me, a new smartphone app aimed to help the average consumer recognize potentially toxic chemicals found in many household and personal care products. Once hazards have been identified, users are encouraged to make simple changes that will decrease exposure and possibly prevent long term, harmful effects. The innovative scientist behind this project is Jessica Helm, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Silent Spring Institute. She’s determined to bring the Institute’s research findings to a broader audience.
Since its founding in 1994, the Institute’s mission has been to pursue science for the public interest while encouraging people to take action to protect their own health. The Institute is named in honor of Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, the book that is often credited with starting the modern environmental movement. As one of the few people who actually wrote a book that really did change the world, Carson’s belief that “what we can recognize, we can change” is carried on through the Institute’s work.
A Savvy Women’s Alliance founding partner, Silent Spring Institute’s research based findings provide the public with a reliable source of information—something that is often in question when Googling for answers. Silentspring.org has long been a place for trustworthy exploration and Silent Spring facebook posts frequently provide another level of learning through videos, articles and research recaps. The recent launch of the Detox Me app allows the Institute’s work to be easily utilized by an even broader audience.
Well, if the product is for sale on the grocery store shelves, it should be safe … right?
According to Helm, when it comes to personal care products, most people assume the government has a regulatory process in place to keep consumers safe—after all, if a product is for sale on the grocery store shelves, it should be safe … right? Hmmm … not quite true. Unfortunately, most chemicals are not tested for health effects before being placed in personal care products.
Recognizing an opportunity, Helm took the lead to develop Detox Me. Based on 20 years of research by Silent Spring Institute, the app highlights health risks associated with ongoing exposure to chemicals in consumer products. By providing easily accessible tools, users can learn more, take action, and even consider advocating for change. Anticipating that advocacy may be new (and possibly scary) to some, the app suggests options easily attempted by even the most tentative advocate. Beginner possibilities include “joining the parent-teacher organization” and “setting up an edible school garden.”
The aim is to nudge, not judge
With more than 270 tips divided into six categories, the app covers a wide range of activities that increase exposure to chemicals—including purchasing habits, how we store food and how we clean house.
With the aim to nudge, not judge, users can learn at their own pace. Why remove skin from meat? Why choose glass or stainless baby bottles? What is castile soap? The answers are all easily accessible. The possibility of simply rushing through the tips or being overwhelmed by information is offset by rewards. The virtual handshakes and earned badges build in stopping points and provide a reminder that this isn’t a game to beat, but a tool to implement.
The Label Guide & Simple Substitutions make shopping easier—no need to rack your brain to recall an ingredient list—the app provides suggestions on what to purchase and what to avoid. Users can even scan barcodes to instantly check a product’s safety information and recipes are suggested for those ready to do-it-yourself.
The app launched in January with the goal of 10,000 downloads within the first year. According to Helm, more than 3,000 people have downloaded so far. With no budget for advertising the aim is to develop partnerships to reach new audiences, to utilize social media to spread the word and to rely on friends to share, share, share (hint, hint, hint.)
Every small change makes a difference
Helm notes that the Institute’s research provides much data on the links between chemicals, cancer and prevention. The research not only identifies sources of exposure, but also shows that efforts to reduce exposure actually work. While it is not possible to completely avoid chemicals, the science does confirm that every small change does make a difference.
Dr. Helm’s shared her top Detox Me tips:
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter—Potentially harmful chemicals that accumulate in household dust are easily sucked up, leaving tidy floors and a cleaner environment.
- Eat fresh food—Simply switching to fresh food lowers levels of hormone disruptors in just days.
- Avoid fragrance—Fragrance is everywhere…and is unregulated. Go fragrance free, or choose products with milder scents.
Convinced to give Detox Me a try? We hope so! The app is available for free through Apple’s app store and Google Play for use on your iPhone or Android device. Visit detoxmeapp.org for more details. We’ll be posting occasional Detox Me updates on the Savvy Women’s Alliance facebook page. Follow us, post your comments and invite others to join the Detox Me journey!
Remember…what we recognize, we can change!
Originally published at Savvy Women’s Alliance.