TECH
02/17/2016 04:00 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2016

A Clever Way To Avoid Toxic Chemicals In Everyday Products

Yikes: Tens of thousands of untested chemicals lurk in household items.
The Silent Spring Institute developed a mobile app to help protect consumers from household products laden with toxic chemica
Jessica Helm/Silent Spring Institute
The Silent Spring Institute developed a mobile app to help protect consumers from household products laden with toxic chemicals.

Everyday consumer products could be exposing Americans to a raft of toxic substances.

Detox Me, a new mobile app from the nonprofit Silent Spring Institute, helps users limit their exposure to these substances by recommending which products to buy and which to walk away from.

The app, which officially launched in January, also lets shoppers scan product barcodes to look up information about items they're about to purchase. 

"We were trying to figure out where chemicals are in people’s lives, what ends up in their bodies and what they can do to intervene and reduce their exposure," Dr. Jessica Helm, a postdoctoral fellow at the Silent Spring Institute and the designer of Detox Me, told The Huffington Post. 

The Silent Spring Institute has spent 20 years researching the effects of environmental toxicants on human health. Its researchers have published findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and the organization is well-respected in the field of cancer prevention research. 

"I am confident in the rigor they apply to their scientific work," Dr. Keeve Nachman, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told HuffPost on Wednesday.

Detox Me works sort of like language-learning app Duolingo. It takes people through a crash course on household toxic chemicals and how to avoid them. As you advance through the Detox Me curriculum, you receive "badges" to mark your progress. You can also set up reminders for behaviors you'd like to work on. For example, you might want to cut down on chlorine bleach because it can release carcinogenic chemicals when it touches skin cells, according to the Detox Me app. 

Users receive badges as they advance through the Detox Me curriculum.
Jessica Helm/Silent Spring Institute
Users receive badges as they advance through the Detox Me curriculum.

The presence of potentially dangerous toxic chemicals in consumer goods received national attention in October, when two major medical organizations published research findings linking commonly used chemicals to cancer and reproductive health issues. 

There are still tens of thousands of chemicals in consumer products that have not yet been tested by manufacturers or regulators, Helm said. 

"But we know that these chemicals are out there, and we know that people are exposed to them," Helm said. "We're excited about giving people tools to reduce their exposure." 

CONVERSATIONS