Everyone wants a safe and healthy home, but are you trading convenience for your family’s good health? Exposure to harmful chemicals around the house is more common than you think. Chemicals are two to five times more prevalent indoors than outside. Proper ventilation helps, but the best way to avoid chemicals in the home is to not bring them inside in the first place. Here are some of the chemicals you might find around your house.
1. Lead is One of the Most Dangerous Chemicals in the Home
Lead is a neurotoxin that affects an adult’s nervous system and organs. In children, it takes less exposure to cause damage that may result in learning and behavioral disorders. Lead in paint and plumbing materials is now restricted, but if your home was built before 1978, check your paint and have your water tested. Test kits are available for both. Do not purchase plastic toys made in China as they may also contain lead.
VOCs or volatile organic compounds are one of the most common types of chemicals in your home. VOCs are released into the air from composite wood, sealers, stains, cleaners, and some air fresheners. Formaldehyde is one of the most prevalent and harmful VOCs and can be found in drapery, carpeting, and new furniture built with particleboard or plywood. VOCs can also be found in clothes that have been sent to a dry cleaner.
VOCs irritate the respiratory system and trigger asthma attacks. Reduce VOCs and improve indoor air quality with proper ventilation and by choosing products with low-emission or no formaldehyde. You can make your own non-toxic cleaners and air fresheners out of vinegar, essential oils, and water.
Benzene is a chemical found in paints, cigarette smoke, glues, furniture, and household cleaners. Short-term exposure to benzene can produce unpleasant effects like irregular heartbeat, confusion, and tremors. Long-term exposure to benzene may affect the bone marrow and reduce red blood cell counts. Opt for safer all-natural cleaners to keep chemicals out of your home.
4. A Common Chemical in the Home is PVC
Shower curtain liners are great for keeping your curtain and bathroom floor dry, but if yours is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), it may be emitting VOCs. PVC has been labeled as a carcinogen by the EPA.
Flexible or soft PVC, often found in shower curtain liners, may contain phthalates known to affect the reproductive system. PVC is also found in plastic wrap, rigid plastics used in pipes, windows, and flooring. PVCs can be identified by the recycling code 3.
BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical found in rigid plastics and in the resin that coats metal cans. BPA can seep into food from plastic containers. It may increase blood pressure in adults and can affect the brains of fetuses and young children.
Within the last few years, most reusable plastic bottles are produced without bisphenol-A. Avoid harmful chemicals in the home by using glass or stainless steel, or by switching to plastics labeled “BPA-free.”
6. Perfluorinated Chemicals in the Home
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are found in stain repellants, waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, food packaging, and carpeting. PFCs are dangerous chemicals because they build up in your body and are linked to cancer, hormone disorders, weakened immunity, and pregnancies resulting in low birth weight. Products containing these chemicals include those labeled “Teflon,” “GoreTex,” and “Stainmaster.”