Toxic Chemicals In the Home – Is Your Home A Health Hazard?

green-cleaning 2Cleanliness is next to Godliness, right? That’s why we like to keep our households sparkling fresh and clean.

Plain soap, water and elbow grease were the traditional cleaning agents of yore but these days cleaning and personal products have trendier names, fancier packaging and are often detrimental to our health.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that cleaning product labels contain information on toxicity and poison control where warranted, it doesn’t require manufacturers to post their material data safety sheets. In most cases, you won’t know what chemicals are in the products you use on a daily basis unless you take the time to track them down.

The Corporate giants who profit from manufacturing the toxins that impact on your health and that are now ubiquitous in your home and just about anywhere and everywhere you go in everyday life will not volunteer any more information than they are required to by law.

slowdeathbyrubberduckIn their book “Slow Death By Rubber Duck“, leading environmentalists, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie expose the hidden and harmful dangers that we have become exposed to in the toxic world that we now live in. Canada has been leading the charge in many ways with addressing the issues of the excessive amount of toxic chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday life.  In particular Canada has taken decisive action in relationship to BPA in products.

If you want to identify, better understand and eliminate the effects of the numerous toxins impacting on your health and the environment this is a must read for you.

Common Toxins in Your Kitchen and Bathroom

Here’s a short list of the toxic chemicals that you can come into contact with every day:

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is an ingredient found in leading brand baby bottles, epoxy glue and lubricants used for auto and household maintenance is a known hormone disruptor. Through numerous scientific research studies it is also believed that rising levels of BPA can be linked to increases in breast and prostate cancer, metabolic disorders and behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. BPA is not friendly for anyone of any age or gender. Think about that plastic water bottle you drink from?

kordeltawaterbottleThere are now BPA free products available including baby bottles and water bottles without BPA.  Follow Canada’s lead and make sure baby bottles are BPA free. We love the Kor Delta BPA free hydration vessel that is not only good for your health, it is also very stylish and comes in a great choice of colors.  We also love this product from Kor because the company donates a minimum of 1% of sales to water -related causes around the globe. There is even a great surprise under the lid every time you take a drink.

Sodium hypochlorite a/k/a chlorine bleach

Chlorine bleach is the active ingredient in a host of household cleaners, mold and mildew removers and oven cleaners. When mixed with ammonia – a common ingredient in other household products – chlorine bleach products produce toxic chlorine gas.

Phenol and cresol

An ingredient used in disinfectant cleaners, dishwashing liquids and pre-wash stain removers. If swallowed, these chemicals can cause diarrhea, dizziness and fainting, or – in the worst cases – liver and kidney damage.


An ingredient used as a preservative in liquid detergents, laundry detergents, fabric wrinkle removers, particleboard furniture and building materials and cosmetics. Studies have linked formaldehyde to leukemia and other forms of cancer. Even at low levels of exposure, formaldehyde can irritate the eyes, throat, skin and lungs.


An ingredient found in household cleaners, window cleaners, paint strippers and various forms of metal polish. Exposure to even low levels of ammonia can cause skin and eye irritation; exposure to high levels of ammonia can cause severe burns and pulmonary edema.


TUNA MEAT IN A CANMercury can be found around your home, in your food and in the environment including in water.

Of considerable concern are the high levels of mercury in fish. Recommended as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, fish has become a popular dish on many menus and diets around the world.  If you are a sushi lover, eat tuna or you are pregnant reducing the amount of high-mercury fish in your diet is advised.

Around the home you can also find mercury in thermometers used to assess fevers and in cooking to check the temperature of candy, meat and oil for deep-frying. Mercury can also be found in fluorescent lights although to a lesser degree than a decade ago and in those old-fashioned temperature gauges attached to signs that many people collect as antiques.

Once released into the environment, mercury enters the food chain through water pollution from whence it causes neurological damage in all vertebrates including humans.

A 2003 study found that 8 percent of American women have blood mercury levels that have been deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) According to the World Health Organization, however there is no safe limit on the amount of mercury in your body.

Prolonged exposure to or unsafe levels of mercury can affect liver and thyroid function, cause tremors, memory loss irritability and disturbances to vision.

In February 2009 at the end of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Governing Council meeting in Nairobi an agreement was made by environment ministers for a global crackdown on mercury.

The decision taken by over 140 countries was a turning point that would lift a major health threat for hundreds of millions of people. With a significant risk to the environment as well as human health a voluntary Global Mercury Partnership was decided upon while the negotiations and final agreements for an international mercury treaty could be finalized.

Since 2009 several more events have been held with a 2013 goal to have
the regulation of the use and emissions of mercury in a new global legally binding instrument.

Top Household Cleaning Hazards

TOXIC CLEANING PRODUCTSChemical cleaning products are supposed to make our lives easier by cutting down on the effort involved in keeping a tidy home. Many of these products carry significant health risks and threaten our environment.

What is more important, your health and the environment or a get clean quick method that is harmful to your health and the environment?

Carpet/Upholstery Shampoo

It takes a lot of chemicals to get spilled coffee off the white sofa; among them are perchlorethylene – a known carcinogen, extremely toxic to liver functioning – and ammonium hydroxide, a weak ammonia solution that’s also been linked to cancer.

Furniture Polishes

Furniture polishes make great use of petroleum distillate, phenols and nitrobenzene.

In addition to being extremely flammable, petroleum distillates are potential carcinogens, linked in particular to skin and lung cancers. Phenols cause edema, hives, rashes and burning when it comes in contact with your skin and when ingested phenols can cause circulatory collapse and coma.

Nitrobenzene poisoning typically occurs through inhalation of toxic fumes. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, cyanosis and in extreme cases, circulatory and respiratory collapse.

Air Fresheners

You didn’t think those air fresheners worked by pumping out all the unpleasant smells in your house and replacing them with fresh, sweet-scented air, did you? No, they work by coating the inside of your nose with a chemical residue. That residue contains phenols and formaldehyde.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

The active ingredient in many toilet bowl cleaners is hydrochloric acid, an extremely corrosive substance that can cause pulmonary edema, permanent kidney and liver damage, and even coma and death if ingested; and severe burns if splashed accidently on the skin. Some toilet bowl cleaners also contain oxalic acid whose fumes cause pulmonary edema and which interferes with the absorption of calcium if ingested.

Drain Cleaners

Most drain cleaners are a cocktail of lye and hydrochloric acid. Sometimes trichloroethane (1,1,1-TCE) is used as a solvent. Trichloroethane is occasionally used recreationally by teenagers looking for a high; death is associated with central nervous system depression and cardiac arrhythmias.

Lye is the common name for chemical sodium hydroxide, an extremely caustic, alkaline chemical that causes severe eye irritation and burns, and, when mixed with water, creates an exothermic reaction.


Dangerous when mixed with ammonia (see above) and an extremely caustic corrosive on its own, bleach has the potential to cause pulmonary edema and coma.

Dishwasher Detergents

Poison centers across the United States cite dishwasher detergents as the number one cause of accidental poisonings in children under the age of six.

Dishwashing detergent powders commonly contain highly concentrated amounts of dry chlorine. They may also contain phosphates that have a deleterious effect on the environment, causing the unchecked proliferation of algae in lakes and other standing bodies of water.

Even after the rinsing cycle is through, the compounds in dishwashing detergent leave a potentially carcinogenic chemical residue on the plates and utensils we use to eat.

Mold/Mildew Cleaners

A veritable smorgasboard of toxins that include formaldehyde, lye, chlorine bleach and assorted chemical fragrances.

Safe and Healthy Options

seventh-generation-cleanerThe dangers of using most commercial cleaning products are very real. Fortunately, many safe and effective products are now available that won’t harm our babies, infants, children, seniors, pets, planet or us.

You can reduce the chemical burden in your home with a variety of low cost methods by simply buying more natural products that don’t contain the harmful chemicals.

There are many different guides available so you can educate yourself and have handy the information you need to make a safer decision for yourself and your family.

Stop using the hazardous chemicals to get rid of household pests like cockroaches or flies. There are many different aromatherapy oils like bergamot and lavender when used the right way can prevent and help to eliminate some common household pests.

Other Poisons In Your Home

Of course cleaning products are far from the only chemical toxins found in your home. To some degree, we expect to find pesticides and other chemicals in our landscaping and gardening products.

Chlordane and dieldran are no longer sold as insecticides for everyday use, but they’re still used for industrial agriculture. Poisoning may occur through the ingestion of contaminated root crops, meats, fish, and shellfish.

Mercury may be found in many brands of charcoal used for barbecuing. But still – wouldn’t we be more comfortable if we chose to garden and barbecue with chemical-free alternatives?

Until two decades ago, lead was also a common ingredient in most paints and especially in older houses, still presents a serious health hazard particularly to children.

What about the family pets? Pity the poor dog whose toys, pet bed, collar and leashes are contaminated with lead, mercury, chlorine (PVC), bromine and arsenic.

Children and Chemicals

Children under the age of six are one of the two groups most vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the home. Exposure begins before birth.

A 2009 study conducted by the Environmental Working Group found over 280 toxic chemicals in the cord blood of ten newborns. Children’s metabolisms are much faster than adults, so they absorb common poisons more quickly. Furthermore, their still developing organs are more susceptible to chemical damage. Household cleaners that are kept in an unlocked cabinet underneath the sink are the perfect height for a curious toddler to investigate.

A report issued in 1989 by the U.S. House of Representatives found that the most common cause of poisoning in the home in children under the age of six is liquid dish soap, which is liberally laced with formaldehyde and ammonia.

Although most cleaning products emblazon the warning KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN in big, bold letters on the label, in 2006 ingesting common household cleaning products injured nearly 12,000 children. Three-quarters of these cases were children under the age of two. The number one culprit? Sodium hypochlorite or bleach.

The Elderly

Like children under six, the elderly are most likely to spend more time in the home that means they are at greater risk of exposure to environmental chemicals. Their metabolisms, and physiological and biochemical processes are slowing down and their organ systems may be showing signs of compromise.

With functional changes in their eyesight and nervous systems, the elderly may misread labels or become confused among similarly packaged products.

Seniors are most at risk for carbon monoxide inhalation and accidental poisoning involving pesticides.

Unless someone living in your home is severely immunocompromised, you don’t actually need that antibacterial scrub with the fancy label – plain vegetable soap, water and elbow grease will do the trick just as they’ve been doing it for many years.



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