Love Shouldn’t Be Toxic…Detox Valentine’s Day!

If you want to shower your spouse, partner, or special friend with love this Valentine’s Day, be sure to do is sans toxins! Many people don’t realize that this celebrated day of love can be overflowing with nefarious unloving (indeed, dangerous!) features. Love should not be toxic!

Here are a few common things associated with Valentine’s Day that can be hazardous to your and your loved one’s health (and even your pets!) and some healthful alternatives.


Scented candles can offer pleasing aromas and set the stage for a romantic evening. That is, unless they are also emitting toxic chemicals such as benzene and toluene. According to environmental pollutants expert Anne Steinemann, professor of civil engineering at the University of Melbourne, some candles are short on promoting that loving feeling and can actually cause brain, central nervous system, and lung damage, along with developmental problems. If you want to set the mood, you may want to consider the findings of a South Carolina State University study. Researchers tested vegetable-based (soybean) candles (non-scented, dye-free, pigment-free) and petroleum-based paraffin wax candles. The veggie-based candles didn’t emit any potentially dangerous pollutants, while the paraffin candles sent out chemicals along with their flickering light. When shopping for candles, stick with vegetable or beeswax.


A Valentine’s Day card can express a sentiment when you aren’t able to find the right words. But that doesn’t mean you need to help use up natural resources or contribute to the waste stream to do it by buying a card. Instead, you can send a personalized e-card from any of the many different greeting card websites. Not only can you shop for just the right card without having to run all over town. You also will find a vast array of animated, musical, and often free cards from which to choose. Another option is to create your own special Valentine using items you have on hand already, such as cards you may have saved, magazines, newspapers, leftover wrapping and tissue paper, and offers from nature, including dried flowers, leaves, and seeds. (Hint: This is a great project for kids who need Valentines as well!) Just add your own special poem, verse, or sentiments (or borrow from a poet!) and you’re done!

Read about healthy eating tips for Valentine’s Day


Chocolate is a mainstay of Valentine’s Day, but too many of these sweet offerings are replete with additives you can’t even pronounce. Take polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR), for example. This goopy castor bean derivative is used by many chocolate makers because it can replace expensive cocoa butter. The stated purpose of this emulsifier is to help the particles in chocolate product ingredients flow more easily when melted. Here’s another additive that’s easy to pronounce, but that doesn’t make it any more palatable: paraffin wax. Yes, inexpensive chocolate and likely even some of the more pricey brands contain this petroleum-derived additive. Paraffin wax makes chocolate shiny and helps with shelf life. Let’s not forget ingredients like “natural flavors” (which can be just about anything) and lecithin, usually derived from soy and an allergen for some folks. If you can’t get through Valentine’s Day without chocolate (and many of us can’t!), then be sure it’s organic dark chocolate, which is high in flavonoids and antioxidants. There are several excellent brands on the market, and you also can make your own organic dark chocolate, which may be a romantic way to spend time with that special valentine! You might make a dark organic chocolate fondue and dip cherries and strawberries for a sweet treat.

Condoms and Spermicides

You’ve probably heard the saying about love meaning “never having to say you’re sorry.” That adage brings to mind the responsibility part of love and Valentine’s Day, meaning safe sex and condoms. However, not just any condoms will do if you want to be really safe. Condoms are usually made of latex and lined with spermicides. Some men and women are allergic to the latex and/or spermicides, so it’s important to know what to expect and what other options are available to you. Symptoms of a latex allergy include rash, hive, itching, cough, watery eyes, and sneezing. In rare cases, a type I latex allergy can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis. Nearly all spermicides in the United States contain nonoxynol-9, which is considered safe by the FDA. However, some men and women experience symptoms such as itching, swelling, genital rash, burning, and even in rare cases, anaphylactic shock (i.e., chest tightness, shortness of breath, confusion, low blood pressure, slurred speech, dizziness). Women can experience urinary tract or yeast infections. Alternatives to latex condoms are those made of polyurethane or natural membrane (lamb intestine). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that these alternative condoms may break and slip more easily than latex brands. An alternative to spermicides with nonoxynol-9 are ones that are lactic acid based, such as ContraGel.

Read about how to get a little closer this Valentine’s Day


Those cut flowers you pick up at the flower stand or order from the florist likely come with a dose of pesticides. In fact, “flower growers are actually among the heaviest users of agricultural chemicals, including pesticides that are suspected of being the most toxic.” Although the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service can turn back flower shipments that have a single pest, it is not sufficiently staffed to test imported flowers for the presence of pesticides. Nearly all (85 to 95 percent) of the most common types of fresh cut flowers sold in the United States come from Ecuador or Colombia. One study reported that flowers companies in Ecuador use more than 30 different pesticides on their cut flowers, and 20 percent of the chemicals used in Colombia have been banned or restricted in the United States. In addition, the workers in the cut flower industry in these countries—which include children--are exposed to these chemicals, are poorly paid, and at risk for sexual harassment. If you still want to get flowers (which will die within a few days), consider an organically produced potted plant, locally grown if possible. If not, look for plants that have been certified under VeriFlora or Fair Trade programs, which guarantee environmental responsibility and fair conditions and wages for workers.

Read about being a green valentine


That little bottle of perfume with the fancy label probably also has some hidden health hazards. Fragrance makers routinely use any of the approximately 3,100 chemical ingredients at their disposal, and they may or may not list a few of them—or none—on the label. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned tests on 17 name brand fragrances and discovered 38 chemicals not shown on the labels. Among those chemicals were those that disrupt hormone balance, cause allergic reactions, and damage sperm, and others that have not been tested for safety in personal care products. Under US law, the word “fragrance” means a bunch of ingredients and chemicals that can come from petroleum, a laboratory, or natural raw materials and provide a distinctive scent. The ingredients often include a wide variety of parabens (which disrupt hormone production and activity), phthalates (linked to organ damage, reproductive problems, and are carcinogenic), and synthetic musks (associated with hormone problems and accumulation in body fat and breast milk). Rather than conventional perfumes, one option is to gift organic essential oils. A variety of these oils would be a welcome surprise for anyone (as long as they are not hypersensitive to certain oils). There also are some fragrances that are 100 percent naturally derived from essential oils and isolates. 

NEXT PAGE >>  Read more ways to detox your Valentine's Day.


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By Deborah Mitchell| February 12, 2017
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently she lives in Tucson, Arizona. Visit her at

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