It’s safe to say that most people know what chemicals are and where they can be found, but did you know that some chemicals can be found in products you use daily? Some everyday household products are known to contain certain chemicals and come with appropriate warnings. However, other products that we use every day contain potentially harmful toxins. Here are five places where you can find them.
#1: Cleaning Supplies
There are chemicals in our cleaning products, such as ammonia and chloride— two common cleaning chemicals that we should never use together— that don’t cause much harm when used properly. However, direct contact with the skin will irritate most people, and these chemicals can also cause eye irritation, throat irritation, and even breathing problems. Other chemicals to be aware of in household cleaners include:
- Ethylene glycol acetate
- Hydrochloric acid
- Potassium/sodium hydroxide
- Sodium hypochlorite
- Sulfuric acid
- Trisodium phosphate
These chemicals are found in everything from laundry detergents to toilet bowl cleaners. They are most dangerous when swallowed, but their fumes (especially when mixed) are extremely dangerous. Switch to safer, non-toxic household cleaners, or follow the directions carefully and exactly with your current cleaners.
#2: Drinking Water
Unfortunately, not all drinking water is 100% clean and safe, even in a first-world country like the United States. Agricultural and industrial waste contaminants can leach into underground water wells and other water sources, and this small amount is still approved for safe drinking.
You can check the Environmental Working Group website to check the water in your area. You can also install a water filter to help filter out any contaminants that may be present in your drinking water.
The furniture in your home, including bedding, carpet, fabrics, and even paint, can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases that are released from certain solid and liquid products. Formaldehyde (found in many plastics) is one of the most well-known VOCs, but other examples include:
- Acetone (nail polish remover)
- Butanal (candles and gas stoves)
- Carbon disulfide (chlorinated water)
- Ethanol (cleaning products)
- Methylene chloride (flame retardant chemicals)
Try to avoid purchasing flame-retardant furniture if you can. If you cannot, you can improve your indoor air quality (IAQ) to help lessen the negative effects. Household plants are great for IAQ; they remove many indoor air pollutants. Also, keep the humidity in your home under control, change your air conditioning filters at least once a month, and use vents when cooking.
#4: Outdoor Products
Many outdoor household products can also contain harmful chemicals, and one of the most common products is chemical herbicides. The herbicide Paraquat has been linked to Parkinson’s disease developing in those who use it. In contrast, other herbicides (and pesticides) have been linked to skin and eye irritation, breathing problems, and cancer.
Fortunately, there are natural alternatives to chemical herbicides and pesticides. Borax, salt, and vinegar are all great at killing weeds and other unwanted plants. As for insects, most can’t stand chili powder, garlic, or onions, so mixing any of these with water makes a great natural insect repellent. You can also plant herbs like lavender, eucalyptus, and mint, as they are also natural insect repellents.
#5: Personal Care Products
Personal care products such as body wash, deodorant, and even makeup are known to contain toxic chemicals. Many of these chemicals are measured in small amounts, but they’re still dangerous because they are used on the skin and are easily absorbed through the skin. Some toxins to be aware of are:
Probably the most dangerous ingredient you can find in your personal care products is something listed as “fragrance.” It gives a product its scent, but it can also include a variety of unsafe chemicals in the fragrance formula. Fragranced personal care products can also be a skin irritant for some people. Instead, opt for fragrance-free products or those scented with essential oils if you’re not sensitive to fragrances.
The bottom line is that looking for natural, organic products for your home is best. If you can’t find any (such as household and outdoor products), ensure you use them in well-ventilated areas and avoid contact with your skin and eyes. Also, purchase a water filter for your home, and try to buy organic fruits and vegetables.