The Unhealthiest Things in Your Pharmacy

You may want to think twice about buying these pharmacy staples.

March 25, 2014— -- intro: You may have heard about CVS's tobacco ban, a major step forward. After all, pharmacies are supposed to help people live well, right? (Not sell them known carcinogens like cigarettes and chewing tobacco.) While we applaud the bold move, a stroll down most box store pharmacy aisles shows we've still got a long way to go. Here are some of the most unhealthy, harmful products you should dodge during your next trip to the pharmacy.

quicklist: 1category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Soda url:text:There are a lot of unsavory facts about soda (like these 9 Disturbing Side Effects of Soda). Besides fueling a major obesity epidemic, soda assaults our bodies in several other negative ways: The excess sugar promotes dangerous fat buildup around our organs, and a flame retardant (brominated vegeteable oil, or BVO) used in orange sodas and Mountain Dew has been linked to skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve damage! Try this instead: Get the fizz without the high-fructose or freaky sweeteners by adding just a splash of organic fruit juice to a glass of seltzer water. Or, reach for one of these healthy sodas for a treat.

quicklist: 2category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Harsh Cleaners url:text:Chances are some of the worst cleaners in America are sitting on the shelves of the pharmacy cleaning aisle, with ingredients that damage red blood cells and cause cancer. Harmful ingredients have no place in this country, let alone pharmacies--places that are supposed to supply what we need to make us feel better! Try This Instead: Save money and keep carcinogens out of your house by making your own green cleaners out of simple ingredients like white vinegar and baking soda.

quicklist: 3category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Makeup & Personal Care Productsurl:text: There shouldn't be lead in your lipstick or breast cancer promoters in your foundation, but most of the ingredients in popular makeup, shampoo, deodorant, and hair product brands sold in box-store pharmacies throughout the United States contain some seriously questionable ingredients. Try This Instead: Look up Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database to find safer makeup and personal care options, and always be sure to avoid these five ingredients in your makeup: 1. Triclosan 2. Fragrance 3. Sodium laureth sulfate and other PEG compounds 4. Parabens 5. Formaldehyde-releasing ingredients like DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

quicklist: 4category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Energy Drinks url:text:Your dentist probably cringes every time he or she walks into a pharmacy. The energy drinks lining pharmacy coolers are often full of ingredients that eat away your tooth enamel. Also, a new study published in The Journal of Addictive Medicine recently found teens who drink caffeinated energy drinks and shots face a higher risk of substance abuse when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

Try This Instead: Save money and your health by making your own homemade energy drinks out of true health foods like honey and apple cider vinegar. Or, reach for one of these naturally energizing foods and drinks.

quicklist: 5category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Unnecessary Antibiotics url:text:The more we push doctors to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections like colds and most earaches and sinus infections, the more we're threatening the effectiveness of important antibiotic drugs. While it's true the greatest form of antibiotic abuse occurs in nonorganic farming, where drugs are routinely added to feed to speed animal growth, doing your part to avoid antibiotics when they're not needed for human medical conditions can help curb the emergence of dangerous hard-to-treat superbugs.

Try This Instead: Find out if you really need an antibiotic for these common conditions as well as the ones mentioned above.

quicklist: 6category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Candy url:text: Candy at the pharmacy is loaded with excess added sugar, GMOs, artificial food dyes and flavors, and other questionable ingredients. A surefire prescription for obesity and all of the trouble it brings, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even wrinkles!

Try This Instead: To keep your sugar intake under control while still satisfying your taste buds, try making your own homemade healthy snacks, including good old-fashioned stovetop popcorn.

quicklist: 7category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Candles url:text: Some candles are just gross. Most are made of petroleum and contain fake fragrances that disrupt your hormones and damage your immune system. In 2009, South Carolina State University researchers tested popular paraffin and soy candles and found they emitted cancer-causing toluene and benzene, along with other hydrocarbon chemicals called alkanes and alkenes, components of gasoline that trigger asthma.

Try This Instead: If you really want to burn a candle, choose a natural beeswax version. Otherwise, you're likely just polluting your indoor air and harming everyone inside of your house.

quicklist: 8category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Mega Supplements url:text: Pharmacies are lined with supplements containing crazy-high levels of vitamins and minerals. Labels touting 3,000% vitamin C and beyond are common, but probably not necessary. A recent multivitamin study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found you may not benefit from multivitamins, and could in fact be wasting your money on them. Another scary fact? A 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found excessive copper levels in popular multivitamins, something that could damage your brain and possible cause Alzheimer's disease later in life.

Try This Instead: Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, Jenkins Director of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center, suggests adults take a high-quality children's multivitamin to avoid those superdoses found in many adult products. Look for certification or products bearing either the U.S. Pharmacopoeia's USP Verified Dietary Supplement or NSF Certified Dietary Supplement seals to avoid contaminated supplements.

PLUS: 21 Foods That Feed Your Brain

quicklist: 9category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Toilet Wipes url:text: A common preservative in moist toilet wipes could leave you with an uncontrollable urge to scratch your nether regions. That's because some wipes contain preservatives called methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone. In one study, the preservatives caused contact dermatitis near the anus or in the area between the anus and genitals--not fun! While none of the cases in the study were responsive to cortisone creams, the patients saw nearly complete improvement when they stopped using the toilet wipes with the aforementioned preservatives.

Try This Instead: Stop using moist toilet wipes, or at the very least look for ones without methylchloroisothiazolinone and/or methylisothiazolinone on the ingredients list.

quicklist: 10category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Fruitless Fruit Juice url:text: Be on the lookout for juice listing high-fructose corn syrup, added sugars, and petroleum-based food dyes like Red #40. It's cheaper for companies to produce compared to using 100 percent real fruit juice, but it does a real number on your body.

Try This Instead: Opt for 100-percent real, organic fruit juice, but reserve it as a treat. Eat the whole fruit instead for a fiber-rich snack that won't spike your blood sugar the way juice does.

quicklist: 11category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Acetaminophen url:text: Millions of Americans may turn to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, to relieve pain and fever symptoms, but the Food and Drug Administration recently issued an acetaminophen warning. Why? Because so many over-the-counter and prescription drugs contain the active ingredient, and people are too easily (and sometimes unknowingly) overdosing on the drug, potentially leading to irreversible liver damage and even death.

Try This Instead: Make sure you talk to your doctor and pharmacist, letting them know all the over-the-counter and prescription drugs you're on to avoid an overdose. If possible, try mindfulness, ginger, turmeric, vitamin D, and other nontoxic measures for natural pain relief.

quicklist: 12category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Air Fresheners url:text: While it might seem like air fresheners clear your air, most actually create indoor air pollution several times worse than what you'll experience outside during a high-pollution day! For instance, a 2009 Environmental Working Group report found 89 air contaminants in a bottle of Febreeze Air Effects, including ethyl acetate, something toxic to the brain and nervous system, acetaldehyde, a known respiratory irritant and possible human carcinogen, and butylated hydroxytoluene, a preservative that's toxic to the immune system and suspected of messing with normal hormone levels.

Try This Instead: If something smells bad in your home, deal with the source of the problem, don't cover it up with chemical air fresheners. For a more natural air-freshening option, boil a pot of water with some orange peels, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, and leave it simmering on the stove for a while.

quicklist: 13category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Toxic Tamponsurl:text: Tampons are about as intimate as you can get when it comes to personal care products. But did you know they could be laced with pesticide residues, fragrance chemicals, and dioxins and furans, contaminants from the chlorine-based bleaching process? These questionable chemicals raise concerns for cancer, reproductive harm, hormone disruption, and allergic rashes, according to a recent analysis of feminine hygiene products conducted by Women's Voices for the Earth.

Try This Instead: Avoid scented tampon and pad products, choose chlorine-free bleached or unbleached options, and consider investing in reusable, washable menstrual pads or menstrual cups.

quicklist: 14category: The Unhealthiest Things In Your Pharmacytitle: Latex-Free Dishwashing Gloves url:text: In this case, "latex-free" is usually code for vinyl, a plastic chemical nicknamed "the poison plastic" by some public health-focused nonprofits. Vinyl contains phthalates, chemicals that seem to promote obesity, certain cancers, and even infertility.

Try This Instead: Unless you have a latex allergy, look for regular latex dishwashing gloves, or wash the dishes using less-harsh dish detergents. More from For more ways to create a safer, healthier home, check out The 12 Worst Chemicals in Your Home.