You can go to great lengths (and spend plenty of money) protecting yourself from harmful substances. Most people start by buying organic fruits and veggies or avoiding processed foods that contain genetically modified ingredients like corn and soy. Unfortunately, just because the food you put in your body is free of pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from toxic substances.
The average household can contain gallons of toxic chemicals, most of which are found in everyday cleaners. Many of these items contain known carcinogens or cancer-causing substances and endocrine disruptors, which confuse the body by mimicking human hormones leading to reproductive, development, and behavioral problems. In addition, several have neurotoxins, which affect your brain activity and can cause headaches and a loss of intellect.
It’s hard to find a balance between the desire to maintain a clean, well-stocked home and the need to protect yourself and those you love from potent chemicals. Start small by banishing the following toxic household products from your home.
1. Laundry products
The multitude of chemicals found in laundry detergents that work to clean and de-stink your clothes may be doing more harm than good. Some of the most trusted brands — like Ajax, Dynamo, and Fab Ultra — contain formaldehyde, which can cause asthma and allergies. Your detergent’s partner in crime, scented dryer sheets, aren’t any better. Researchers have found that dryer vents can emit more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when scented laundry detergents and dryer sheets are used. Of these 25 VOCs, seven are classified as hazardous air pollutants and can cause interior or exterior air pollution.
2. Nonstick cookware
Nonstick pots and pans can be handy, especially if you’re trying to cut back on oil and butter, which are typically used to keep food from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Unfortunately, nonstick pots and pans contain trace amounts of perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical that has been proven to cause cancer in lab animals. When you’re cooking, the pan’s nonstick surface may chip off into your food and enter your body. Rather than falling for the too-good-to-be-true nonstick cookware, stick with cast iron or stainless steel pans and invest in some natural nonstick cooking sprays or oils.
3. Air fresheners
They sound like a dream come true, especially when you have to deal with a wet dog or live with a smelly teenager, but air fresheners have some nasty side effects. They interfere with your body’s ability to smell by releasing a nerve deadening agent or coating your nasal passages with an oil film. Contained in a typical air freshener’s ingredient list is formaldehyde and phenol. As you might have guessed, formaldehyde is a highly toxic known carcinogen and phenol, when it comes in direct contact with your skin, can cause it to swell, peel, burn, and break out in hives.
4. Toilet bowl cleaners
It’s no one’s favorite job, but everyone knows cleaning the toilet is made a whole lot easier with the assistance of a good toilet bowl cleaner. However, sulfates and bleach are commonly found in toilet bowl cleaners and as you get down and scrub, you’re probably breathing in a toxic chlorine gas, which is extremely dangerous to your respiratory and circulatory systems.
5. Plastic food containers
The fact that plastic containers release chemicals into the food and liquid you store in them is nothing new, but a recent study reported by NPR found that most plastics — including cups, food wrap, and containers — still release a hormone similar to estrogen into the substances it stores. This study claims even those supposedly safe BPA-free containers may be leaching chemicals into your food and drink.
6. Oven cleaners
Like toilet bowl cleaners, oven cleaners are popular household products because they make one of the hardest household chores easier. Contained in most oven cleaners, including Easy-Off and Mr. Muscle, are corrosive alkalis, a poisonous ingredient that can lead to difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, vision loss, abdominal pain, and vomiting, among others.