Top 10 Chemicals to Keep Out of Your Home
1. Synthetic Pesticides—and this includes herbicides and disinfectants.
According to a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, more than 80 percent of commonly used pesticides today have been classified by NAS researchers as potentially carcinogen. Some attribute increased rates of birth defects and human reproductive problems to pesticides as well.
2. Moth Balls
Even if Grandma used them, they are not OK, they are a recognized carcinogen and highly neurotoxic. The fumes are very hard to remove from a home; airing contaminated clothes and chests in the sun is your best bet.
Formaldehyde has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Formaldehyde is used in pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials.
4. Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
VOCs are vaporous compounds that are minimally soluble in water. Typically they are found in solvents, whether they be furniture polish, paints, cleaning products, refrigerants, or pharmaceuticals. The EPA notes that VOCs cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Zero-VOC paint products easy to find. Not all VOCs are made of synthetic chemicals.
The word “fragrance” can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients, and 600 of those may be used in a single formulation. Approximately 95 percent of these ingredients are synthetic, and some are very toxic, neurotoxic, endocrine disrupters, immunotoxicants, and suspected carcinogens.
At this point, avoiding all plastic is a good choice, but there are some plastics that current science indicates are worse than others, and these include phthalated (DBP, DEHP, BBP, DMP) in nail polish, many personal care products, fragrances, #3 and #7 plastics); PVC (toys, clothing accessories,) and bisphenol A (BPA) found in #7 plastic, baby bottles, can linings, tooth amalgams, and more. Plastics are increasingly being isolated as causing endocrine disruption, fertility problems, and are linked to an increase in breast and prostate cancers.
7. Lead and other heavy metals
Lead used to be common place in homes, air, and soil. Lead was removed from paint by law after 1978, and from gasoline in 1996. Lead is still remarkably prevalent, and should be removed from the environment, especially for children. Even low levels of lead can cause a reduction in IQ. Elevated levels of lead in blood range from behavior disorders and anemia to mental retardation and permanent nerve damage. Other heavy metals to be concerned about include aluminum and mercury.
8. Kerosene space heaters
Kerosene space heaters give off odorless carbon monoxide, and too much carbon monoxide in the air kills.
9. Dry Cleaned Clothes
Exposure to perchloroethylene — the solvent used in most dry cleaning establishments — is associated with chronic effects, including liver and kidney damage in rodents, and neurological effects. It is also considered a probable carcinogen. Acute exposures can result in loss of coordination; eye, nose and throat irritation; and headache. Don’t hang dry cleaned clothes in your bedroom.
10. Toxic Cleaning Products
According to the EPA, indoor air quality is 90 times worse that outdoor, and many mainstream cleaning products–the cause of much indoor air quality persons– contain carcinogens, VOCs, caustic materials, neurotoxic chemicals, immunotoxicants, endocrine disrupters, and more.
There are other chemicals to be concerned about, too, and these chemicals have a slow, insidious long-term affect on us, ending up in our fat, breast milk, and causing cancer. They are especially hazardous to fetuses. These other chemicals are fire retardants (found in mattresses, cushions, children clothing), stain repellents, and Teflon or other non-stick coatings.
By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home Enlightenment, Clean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).