What Are the 7 Most Dangerous Chemicals Lurking in Your Home?

While it may seem to be your sanctuary, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the air inside your home is five times more polluted than outside. And considering more and more people now work from home, that's a concern worth doing our best to correct. Many chemicals have no odor or fade over time, giving the appearance that your home is safe from toxins, but take a look at this list first before you decide your home is as safe as it could be.

  1. Lead: Although lead use in paint has been banned for more than 30 years, it still remains on the walls and pipes in scores of homes and offices. If you've had remodeling done, it can cause the lead paint to emit a dust that can get into the air and lead to developmental issues in children. Many states and local health departments now offer tests for lead in homes, which is particularly recommended if your house is more than 25 years old. You can also decrease your risk of exposure by not scraping old paint, just simply painting over it.
  2. Pesticides: These odorless, colorless chemicals are used in record numbers now to prevent insect and weed contamination on our food, gardens, and lawns. Pesticides have been linked to hormonal imbalances, respiratory issues, damage to the nervous system, and certain types of cancer. Acutely, they can cause skin irritations and itchy eyes.  Even if you wash your fruits and vegetables before consuming, those pesticides can linger wherever those foods were set. Try washing your produce as soon as you bring it home from the market (especially if it's not organic!). Keep any weed killer products for your lawn or garden outside of the home and wash hands thoroughly after using to prevent contamination. Explore natural alternatives to weed control.
  3. Air fresheners: You may think you're combating your polluted air issue with commercial air freshening products, but guess again. They can contain formaldehyde—a known carcinogen—and phenol, which can lead to coma and even death in high enough exposure. Those fresh scents can contain detergents and actually interfere with your ability to smell! Opt instead for homemade potpourri, essential oils or fresh flowers to enhance your olfactory experience indoors.
  4. Ammonia: This common poison is found in a number of household cleaning products, fertilizers, plastics, and pesticides. It is extremely volatile and can lead to a number of health issues from burning the eyes, throat, and nose, to causing severe coughing fits. It can cause permanent damage to the eyes and lungs after prolonged exposure and if mixed with bleach, can cause the very toxic combination, chlorine gas, which can kill you quickly. Opt instead for natural cleaners like vinegar, salt, baking soda, and lemon. Try organic fertilizers for your gardens and read labels to make sure you're avoiding ammonia.
  5. Bleach: Like ammonia, bleach is one of the most common ingredients in household products including all types of cleansers, laundry detergents, and even personal care products. Unfortunately, many of us have come to equate the strong smell of bleach with clean, when nothing could be further from the truth! Go all-natural with your cleaning and laundry products instead. Vinegar kills just as many germs on contact as bleach but without the toxins. Read your labels!
  6. Furniture Polish: Wanting wood that shines is reasonable (it's a tree after all, honor it!). But commercial furniture polish is highly flammable and has been connected to skin and lung cancer. It can contain phenol and nitrobenzene, which are extremely toxic chemicals easily absorbed through the skin. Shine your coffee table with salad dressing instead! Yep! A ¼ cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil will clean your furniture and leave a sparkly shine without the toxins!
  7. Dishwasher Detergent: The Center for Science in the Public Interest says this is actually the most dangerous household toxin, resulting in more child poisonings than anything else. Most often, dishwashing detergents contain formaldehyde and chlorine. Both are linked to serious health conditions including cancer. Every time you wash your dishes with detergent, residue lingers and can actually build up and end up in your food (gross!). Switch to a natural dishwashing detergent (but make sure to read the labels) or skip it altogether and wash dishes by hand with a natural soap. You'll save water that way, too.
Learn more about Jill Ettinger

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