Environmental toxins are everywhere, including chemicals in your home that are potentially toxic. The best thing you can do is simply be informed and educated about what products you're using and what chemicals they contain. There are many known carcinogens that we're exposed to daily, however knowing about the chemicals in your home can help you avoid some of them by making different purchasing choices. Here is a list of chemicals that are found in everyday items!
1. Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)
Some of the chemicals in your home are found in items like pots and pans and furniture. PFCs are used in non-stick cookware like Teflon, as well as in stain-resistant fabrics. Most everyone uses these products on a daily basis and sometimes don't second guess the potentially harmful chemicals they contain. PFCs are believed to cause birth defects and cancer and have shown to be highly concentrated in the breast milk of nursing mothers! Instead of non-stick cookware, use stainless steel or cast iron and avoid buying stain resistant furniture.
2. Bisphenol a (BPAs)
BPAs are plastic additives that create a rigid plastic in many common items. They are endocrine disruptors, meaning they mimic natural hormones and can adversely affect reproductive development. BPAs are also linked to early puberty in girls. Even though major manufacturers are no longer making baby bottles and children's cups with BPA, it can still be found in the lining of food and beverage cans, in bottled formula, and even on shopping receipts. Make sure to check packaging information and another thing to note is that you shouldn't microwave plastic containers because they can leak chemicals into your food.
Formaldehyde is commonly used as an embalming fluid (think dissecting frogs in science lab) but it's also used to preserve a number of household products. It's a known carcinogen and a skin irritant that can cause allergy-like reactions which include watery, burning eyes and throat, stuffy nose, and skin rashes. Physical contact with products that contain formaldehyde can also cause respiratory symptoms like a headache, fatigue, and nausea. It can be found in on the outside of furniture, permanent press clothing and drapes, within glues, adhesives, aerosol sprays, cleaning and beauty products, including some brands of baby wipes. The best way to avoid formaldehyde is to read labels and know what components are byproducts of formaldehyde.
Phthalates, similar to BPAs, are plastic additives that soften plastic and make it more flexible. They are linked to low testosterone and to male reproductive problems. Even though three types of phthalates have been banned in toys for young children, they are still used to soften vinyl plastics (raincoats, backpacks, shower curtains, blow-up toys) and preserve scents (soaps, lotions, and perfumes). Luckily, these can mostly be avoided by buying only items that say PVC free.
5. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Can you believe that even your yummy smelling laundry detergent has carcinogenic chemicals in it? VOCs are unsafe substances that add to indoor air pollution and are linked to asthma and cancer. Pesticides, paints, lacquers, building materials, and office equipment can all contain VOCs; however, the biggest culprit of VOC emissions in the home are scented, petroleum-based laundry detergents. Instead, buy natural laundry detergent that has no fragrance or better yet, make your own!
6. Polybrominated Biphenyl Ethers (PBSEs)
PBDEs is a type of flame retardant in which exposure to even small doses at critical points in development can damage reproductive systems and affect motor skills. Flame retardants are found in upholstered furniture, including couches, mattresses, pillows and carpet padding. Because the chemicals are not bonded to the foam, they can be released easily in dust as the furniture ages. So, be wary of older furniture!
Arsenic is a known carcinogen that has been linked particularly to skin, bladder, kidney, and lung cancers. Both organic and inorganic types of arsenic are found in apple and grape juice as well as in rice and rice products. This includes infant rice cereals! Take precautions and limit the amount of juice you and your family consume, always rinse your rice well and either substitute something else besides rice cereal or limit the amount you give your infant.
It may seem scary that all these chemicals are floating around your home every single day. But the reality is that it's impossible to avoid them all. Even stepping outside is exposure to air pollution and other nasty things. Do your part in reducing your exposure and you'll be just fine! Did any of these chemicals surprise you?