Harmful chemicals at home are at work to harm you! The goods we buy and use every day are made from or contain chemicals that improve their durability, make plastics more resilient or reduce the risk of fire. For instance, it is possible to identify more than 150 different chemicals in dust in the average home. Several of these are chemicals that are considered particularly harmful because they are toxic, persistent and can accumulate in our bodies. Here's the list of toxic chemicals that everyone can find at home... easily:
- Brominated flame retardants
Used in: computers, electronics and electrical equipment, televisions, textiles, foam furniture, insulating foams, and other building materials, in order to reduce fire risk
Effects: Heating and burning of materials containing brominated flame retardants can produce polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, which have similar toxicological effects to chlorinated dioxins. Brominated flame retardants exposure may cause permanent disturbances in behaviour, memory and learning. They may disrupt the thyroid hormone system and these systems are a crucial part of the development of the brain and body. It is environmentally hazardous and brominated flame retardants have been found to contaminate the blubber of sperm whales in the remote deep waters of the Atlantic.
- Perfluorinated Compounds
Used in: grease-resistant food packaging and paper products, such as microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes. Manufacture of 3M's Scotchgard treatment, used on carpet, furniture, and clothing. PFOA is used to make DuPont's Teflon product, famous for its use in non-stick cookware. They are in cleaning and personal-care products like shampoo, dental floss, and denture cleaners.
Effects: Perfluorinated Compounds are a likely human carcinogen; it may cause liver, pancreatic, testicular, and mammary gland tumors. PFOS causes liver and thyroid cancer and range of other problems in laboratory animals, including liver and kidney damage, as well as reproductive problems.
Used in: consumer products such as vinyl flooring, vinyl shower curtains, and children's toys, many personal care products, such as perfumes, nail polish, sex toys and lotions, medical devices, such as IV bags and tubing that are made with PVC, automobile interiors and anything that has Number 3 (V) recycling logo.
Effects: In animal studies, phthalates cause an array of reproductive problems in male offspring, including small or otherwise abnormal testes, abnormal urinary openings, and undescended testes. In studies on people, boys born to mothers with greater exposure had altered genital development because phthalates may mimic the female hormone oestrogen, and cause "feminisation" of baby boys. A joint Swedish-Danish research team found a very strong link between allergies in children and the phthalates. Phthalates may also cause asthma as well as liver and kidney damage.
Used in: soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and cleaning supplies and is infused in an increasing number of consumer products, such as kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, socks, and trash bags, sometimes as the proprietary Microban treatment.
Effects: Triclosan can combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform gas, which is a probable human carcinogen. Triclosan may block the metabolism of thyroid hormone, because it chemically mimics thyroid hormone, and binds to the hormone receptor sites, blocking them, so that normal hormones cannot be utilized.
- Bisphenol A
Used in: many consumer products, from sunglasses and CDs to water and food containers and shatter-resistant baby bottles. Also used in dental fillings and coatings for the inside of cans used for canning food and anything that has Number 7 (other) recycling logo.
Effects: Bisphenol A can activate estrogen receptors leading to similar physiological effects as the body's own estrogens. It has been claimed that these effects lead to health problems such as, in men, lowered sperm count and infertile sperm. Various environmental groups have claimed that studies show risks for human ingestion.
Used in: permanent adhesives, such as those used in plywood or carpeting. It is used as the wet-strength resin added to sanitary paper products such as facial tissue, table napkins, and roll towels. Formaldehyde is also used to make numerous other chemicals, used in personal care products such as toothpaste, antiseptics, medicines, and cosmetics.
Effects: Low formaldehyde exposures can irritate the eyes and mucous membranes, resulting in watery eyes. If inhaled, it may cause headaches, a burning sensation in the throat, and difficulty breathing, as well as triggering or aggravating asthma symptoms. Large formaldehyde exposures are potentially deadly. Formaldehyde is converted to formic acid in the body, leading to a rise in blood acidity, rapid, shallow breathing, blurred vision or complete blindness, hypothermia, and, in the most severe cases, coma or death. Laboratory animals exposed to large doses of inhaled formaldehyde over their lifetimes have developed more cancers of the nose and throat than are usual, as have workers in particle-board sawmills. Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen.
Used in: household fumigant, such as in mothballs. Naphthalene also used in deodorants, soil as a fumigant pesticide, and in attic spaces to repel animals.
Effects: In humans, exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may damage or destroy red blood cells. Humans, particularly children, have developed this condition after ingesting mothballs or deodorant blocks containing naphthalene. The International Agency for Research on cancer classifies naphthalene as possibly carcinogenic to humans. It also points out that acute exposure causes cataracts in humans. Over 400 million people have an inherited condition called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and for these people, exposure to naphthalene is harmful and may cause hemolytic anemia, which causes their erythrocytes to break down.