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Toxic Everyday Household Cleaners

Common household toxins are linked to serious health concerns. But by finding toxins in the home, you can rid them as much as possible and lower harmful risks.

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When it comes to good health, we tend to think of diet, exercise, and perhaps catching more shuteye. Another component linked to health may be overlooked, and even invisible to the naked eye, though.

What's more, it may be in the house we call home. In fact, what is often used to clean the home may be doing more harm than good.

These are common household toxins, poisonous compounds linked to serious health concerns, cancer included. So it may seem alarming these invisible compounds can reside in the home we share with loved ones.

But by finding household toxins, limit and avoid their exposure as much as possible.

10 Commons Toxins in the Home

While there are numerous environmental toxins, here are a few of the most toxic chemicals in your home. We also take a look at where they are primarily found and tips to limit their presence as much as possible.

1. Acetaldehyde

Acetaldehyde is a common toxic molecule that has a negative impact on health. It is a Group 1 carcinogen, in which prolonged exposure can lead to cancer and other diseases. More immediate exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.

The toxin is sourced from alcohol, cigarette smoke, and some food and drinks. Acetaldehyde is also a common indoor and outdoor air pollutant, in which it is more concentrated inside. Residential fireplaces and wood stoves are the two highest sources of emissions.

2. Phthalates

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. Also known as plasticizers, they are found in hundreds of plastic products such as shower curtains, drinkware, and food packaging.

The risks of phthalates exposure are not well understood and continue to be studied. However, they have been linked to hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems.

3. Lead

Lead is a naturally occurring element found the air, soil, water, and even inside homes. The chemical is known to be regularly found in paint, gasoline, and factory emissions.

While it does bare beneficial uses, lead can be toxic, cause lead poisoning, and affect almost every body organ. Pregnant women and children are particular populations of concern, as lead can stunt growth and cause learning problems.

4. Mercury

Mercury is a naturally-occurring chemical element found in rock in the earth's crust. It becomes an environmental issue when it is released from rock and ends up in the atmosphere and water.

Burning coal, oil, and wood are major sources of mercury exposure. However, eating fish and shellfish with high levels of methylmercury is the primary way of mercury ingestion.

Overexposure of mercury can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. Toxicity is especially concerning in pregnant women, as mercury can cause developmental delays and brain damage to the fetus.

5. BPA

Standing for bisphenol A, BPA is a manmade chemical used in plastics. The chemical is commonly found in containers for foods and beverages, such as water bottles and canned goods.

The FDA warrants low levels of BPA is mostly safe. However, overexposure has been linked to health effects, including on the brain and prostate glands of developing fetuses and children.

6. Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that cannot be seen or smelled. It is primarily found in the ground, groundwater, or building materials that enters working and living spaces.

Just second to smoking, radon is a leading cause of lung cancer and is the number one cause amongst non-smokers!

7. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas that has a distinct, pungent smell. The gas is naturally produced by plants, animals, and humans and used in a wide variety of products. It is also one of the most common chemicals found in household products.

Formaldehyde has been declared a carcinogen, a substance capable of causing cancer. It can also cause irritation of the nose and eyes, neurological effects, and an increased allergy and asthma symptoms.

8. Naphthalene

Naphthalene is made from crude oil or coal tar, though it can also be naturally produced from burning materials. It is used as an insect repellant, in which it is best known as the active ingredient in mothballs.

Inhaling naphthalene may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Children and pets are most at risk of developing serious symptoms, as mothballs appear quite edible. If consumed, one might develop a type of anemia or damage to certain body organs.

Animal studies have suggested that naphthalene can cause cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that naphthalene is possibly carcinogenic.

9. Triclosan

Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent added to many consumer products to prevent or reduce the risk of contamination.

The agent is widely found soaps, toys, toothpaste, personal care products, kitchenware, furniture, and clothing. While the benefit of reducing contamination risk is rational, there is some evidence concerning its link to skin cancer.

10. Dust

Dust is much more than an eyesore covering the mantel, lampshade, and nightstand. And while it may not the most toxic chemical in your home, dust does come with a warning.

Dust is essentially an umbrella term that describes air pollutant produced by various sources and activities. But it can also hold toxic chemicals and lurk around the home.

A NRDC study found phthalates, fragrance, flame retardants, and phenols make up 90 percent or more of dust samples. These common toxins in the home are associated with cancer, endocrine and hormone disruption, and reproductive toxicity.

How to Reduce Toxins In Your Home

There is no denying environmental toxins are bountiful. You are likely to be exposed to them without even knowing it, too.

So how do you identify and combat against invisible toxins? These four steps can help reduce their exposure and build a healthy home!

1. Take Inventory

Take inventory of the current household products might contain harmful toxins. This may include household cleaning products, makeup, shampoo, paint, and pesticides.

Over time, you will start becoming more mindful of such toxins and make a habit of using more natural, organic products.

2. Use Toxic-Free Products

With knowing which products contain toxins, find and use a safer alternative.

Take, for example, BPA often found in plastics. Look for BPA-free products instead, including glass and stainless steel materials.

You can also make household products free of dangerous chemicals. Even baking soda is a safe, natural household cleaner.

3. Get the Home Tested

Especially if in the market to buy a new home, get it tested for common household toxins. For instance, a certified radon mitigator can help detect radon exposure.

Fortunately, too, federal and state regulatory standards have luckily helped to reduce the amount of lead. However, continue to take the precautionary steps to lower lead exposure, including with this lead poisoning home checklist.

4. Freshen Up the Home

Make an effort to clean the air at home, work, and immediate surroundings.

Reducing smoke, fumes, pet dander, and mold with an air purifier can help ensure fresher air in your personal surroundings. Also, vacuum frequently and empty the bag and filter each time.

Allow fresh air to circulate the air, too. For instance, formaldehyde primarily infiltrates indoor air. Circulating fresh air in the home can help lower exposure to formaldehyde.

5. Reduce Air Pollutant Exposure

While totally avoiding air pollutant exposure is difficult, if not impossible, there are actions one can take to minimize and protect against overexposure.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages us to conserve energy anywhere and any way possible. This may include carpooling with others, using public transportation, biking to work, and composting.

6. Spread Awareness

Since knowing is half the battle, continue acting on the issue. Because now that you know how to identify toxins and reduce exposure risk, it is important to spread awareness!

Doing so can spark others to go green and more natural in a number, in turn limiting overall environmental toxins and associated health risks.

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on May 31, 2019. Updated on August 31, 2019.

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