The Top 10 Toxic Products You Don't
It's become so common in our culture to assume we need things
- a lot of things. Over-consumption is not only a strain on our
bank accounts and environment, it can also be harmful to our health.
Whether there's a warning label or not (usually not), many of
the things we buy have associated health risks.
Here are ten toxic products, in no particular order, that you
don't need. And, once you read about them, you probably won't
want them either. Be aware that different homes may have different
products that are more toxic than these. This is just a basic
list of some of the most commonly purchased products that are
almost entirely unnecessary, but pose significant risks.
1. Air fresheners: Most air fresheners mask odors with
a synthetic fragrance or numb your sense of smell with chemical
anesthetics. But, they do nothing to eliminate the source of the
odor. Also, aerosol air fresheners spew out tiny droplets of chemicals
that are easily inhaled into the lungs. Instead, ventilate well
and choose natural deodorizers, such as zeolite or baking soda,
which contain minerals that absorb odors. How to Freshen Indoor
Air Naturally includes recipes for other homemade remedies. Plants
are also helpful for purifying your indoor air.
2. Drain, oven and toilet bowl cleaners: Yes, three products
instead of one, but they all fit under the category of cleaners
- and these are the three nastiest. Corrosive or caustic cleaners,
such as the lye and acids found in drain cleaners, oven cleaners
and acid-based toilet bowl cleaners, are the most dangerous cleaning
products because they burn skin, eyes and internal tissue easily.
* To clean extra-greasy ovens, mix together 1 cup baking soda
and 1/4 cup of washing soda, then add enough water to make a paste;
apply the paste to oven surfaces and let soak overnight. The next
morning, lift off soda mixture and grime; and rinse surfaces well.
* Prevent clogged drains by using hair and food traps.
* To de-grease and sweeten sink and tub drains, pour 1/2 cup of
baking soda down drain followed by 1 cup vinegar; let bubble for
15 minutes; rinse with hot water. You might have to repeat the
whole procedure more than once. This same mixture can be used
prior to scrubbing your toilet bowl to deodorize and scour away
3. Canned food: It's probably shocking to find a food
item on a toxic product list, but it's no mistake. Food cans are
lined with an epoxy resin that contains bisphenol-A (BPA). Most
experts believe this is our main source of exposure to BPA, which
has been linked to hormone disruption, obesity, heart disease,
and much more. Eden Foods is currently the only company with BPA-free
canned foods (other than the canned tomatoes, which they haven't
found an adequate substitute for given the acidity of the tomatoes).
Opt for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred foods.
4. Pesticides: This is a huge category of products, but
they deserve inclusion in their entirety because of how extremely
toxic they are. They're made to be. That's how they kill things.
But, solving your pest problem may leave you with another problem
- residual poisons that linger on surfaces, contaminate air, and
get tracked onto carpet from the bottom of shoes. There are so
many non-toxic ways to eliminate pests and weeds - next time you
need to get on the offense, check out the recommendations at Beyond
5. Dry-cleaning: Okay, it's a service and not a product
per se, but the chemical used to do it, perchloroethylene, has
been linked to cancer as well as nervous system, kidney, liver
and reproductive disorders. Even bringing dry-cleaned clothes
home is risky. EPA studies have found that people who reported
visiting a dry-cleaning shop showed twice as much perc in their
breath, on average, as other people. EPA also found that levels
of perc remained elevated in a home for as long as one week after
placing newly dry-cleaned clothes in a closet. A Consumers Union
study found that people who wear freshly dry-cleaned clothes,
like a jacket and shirt, every week over a 40-year period, could
inhale enough perc "to measurably increase their risk of
cancer" - by as much as 150 times what is considered "negligible
risk." Try wet-cleaning, CO2 technology, or even hand-washing.
6. Bottled water: Most people buy bottled water thinking
they're avoiding any contaminants that may be present in their
tap water. For the most part, they're wrong. Bottled water can
be just as, or even more, contaminated than tap water. In fact,
some bottled water IS tap water - just packaged (in plastic that
can leach chemicals into the water) and over-priced. Also, from
manufacture to disposal, bottled water creates an enormous amount
of pollution - making our water even less drinkable. Do yourself
and the world a favor and invest in a reusable stainless steel
water bottle and a water filter.
7. Rubber duckies: How does such a cute toy end up on
a toxic product list? When it's made from PVC - the poison plastic.
Banned in over 14 countries and the European Union, PVC, also
known as vinyl, is still legally sold by U.S. retailers although
it threatens environmental and consumer health at every stage
of its product life cycle, according to the Center for Health,
Environment, and Justice (CHEJ). When it's in your home, PVC can
leach phthalates (linked to hormone disruption) and lead (a potent
neurotoxicant) - contaminating air, dust, and eventually you.
Go PVC-free by reading packages and avoiding the #3 in the chasing
arrows symbol (usually found on the bottom of a product). If a
plastic is not labeled, call the manufacturer.
8. Couch cushions: No, you needn't get rid of all your
cushions and consign yourself to a future of discomfort. Just
avoid cushions, pillows, and anything with foam labeled as meeting
California TB 117, as it is likely to contain toxic fire retardants.
These chemicals migrate from the foam to dust to people. In animal
research, these chemicals are associated with cancer, birth defects,
thyroid disruption, reproductive and neurological disorders such
as hyperactivity and mental retardation. Don't worry about increasing
your fire risk, data does not show that this standard has resulted
in increased fire safety. Look for foam and cushions made with
polyester, down, wool, or cotton as they are unlikely to contain
toxic fire retardants.
9. Perfume and cologne: Colognes and perfumes may make
us more attractive. But mixed in with the colors and scents are
a wide variety of unattractive chemicals. Perfumes and fragrances
can consist of hundreds of chemicals. Testing of Calvin Klein's
Eternity by an independent lab, commissioned by Environmental
Health Network (EHN), revealed that the perfume contained over
800 compounds. Among the chemicals of concern is diethyl phthalate
(DEP) that is absorbed through the skin and can accumulate in
human fat tissue. Phthalates are suspected carcinogens and hormone
disruptors that are increasingly being linked to reproductive
It's not so simple to avoid phthalates by switching products
because they are rarely listed on product ingredient labels. Phthalates
are claimed as a part of trade secret formulas, and are exempt
from federal labeling requirements. Find out if products you currently
use contain phthalates and find safer ones on Environmental Working
Group's Skin Deep Searchable Product Guide website.
10. Oil-based paints and finishes: There are 300 toxic
chemicals and 150 carcinogens potentially present in oil-based
paint, according to a John Hopkins University study. Still interested
in coating your walls and furniture with this gunk? I hope not.
Look for water-based options - ideally those that are low- or
no-VOC. You could also explore natural finishes like milk paint
and vegetable or wax based wood finishes.
Healthy Child Healthy World is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit inspiring
parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals. Learn
more at HealthyChild.org
February 26, 2010