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Most Common Household Toxins
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on May 28, 2006
Exposure to household toxins is linked to just about every disease that we know of, most notably cancer. Numerous animal studies have linked many of the more than 24,000 toxins that exist in our environment to negative health effects on the following systems:
Many household toxins have also been linked to mental and physical developmental problems in children.
Because we are unable to feel, see, smell, or taste many household toxins at first contact, it is important to be aware of the most common household toxins and to proactively take measures to prevent or reduce our exposure to them.
The most common household toxins are as follows:
- Triclosan: an antibacterial agent that is chemically similar to the dioxin class of compounds.
Linked to: immune system and endocrine system dysfunction.
Most commonly found in: many liquid soaps and in some deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, kitchenware, and children's toys.
- Phthalates: large phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastics to impart resilience and flexibility. Smaller phthalates are used to prolong the length of time that a scented product maintains its fragrance.
Linked to: endocrine, reproductive, and developmental problems.
Most commonly found in: vinyl flooring, plastic food packaging, plastic bags, plastic clothing, detergents, children's toys, shower curtains, and personal care products like soap, shampoo, nail polish, and hair spray.
- Bisphenol A: used in epoxy resins that line some metal cans, and to make polycarbonate plastics utilized in a variety of food containers and baby products.
Linked to: endocrine problems.
Most commonly found in: food and drink containers, baby bottles, teethers, toys, metal food cans, and dental sealants used to prevent cavities.
- Carbon monoxide: formed from incomplete combustion of fuel. Carbon monoxide decreases delivery of oxygen to cells.
Linked to: cardiovascular and nervous system failure.
Most commonly produced by: leaking furnaces and chimneys, gas stoves, wood stoves and fireplaces, back-drafting from gas water heaters, and auto exhaust from an attached garage or nearby traffic.
- Perfluorinated chemicals: used to make stain-repellents and non-stick surfaces.
Linked to: many different types of cancer and developmental problems in children.
Most commonly found in: teflon-coated cookware, microwave popcorn bags, and stain-guarded clothing, furniture, and carpets.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): chemicals that are released into the air as gases.
Linked to: reproductive, respiratory, neurological, and developmental problems. Also linked to different types of cancer.
Most commonly found in: air fresheners, hair spray, perfumes, cleaning products, paints, carpets, and furniture made out of pressed wood.
- Radon: odorless gas that forms as uranium in rocks and soil breaks down.
Linked to: lung cancer.
Most commonly found in: confined spaces, the most common of which are poorly ventilated basements that have cracked walls and/or floors.
- Lead: a heavy metal that can build up in our tissues.
Linked to: cancer, neurological dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems, and developmental problems in children.
Most commonly found in: lead plumbing pipes found in older homes, lead-based paint, crystal tableware, and some varieties of imported mini-blinds.
- Pesticides and herbicides: linked to problems with the nervous system, and possibly a risk factor for cancer, developmental challenges, and reproductive problems.
Most commonly found in: non-organic food supply, non-organic farming regions, and non-organic landscaped areas that are well maintained.
Although we are all at risk of experiencing health problems due to exposure to the household toxins listed above, particularly worrisome are the effects that these toxins may have on babies growing in their mothers' wombs.
A study conducted in 2004 by the Environmental Working Group found that umbilical cord blood from 10 newborns contained chemicals used in consumer products, pesticides, and by-products from gasoline, garbage, and the burning of coal.
On average, the blood from each newborn contained 200 industrial pollutants and chemicals. Of the 287 toxins that were found in the newborns' blood, 180 are known to cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are known to be toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 are known to cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.
I think it's important not to become obsessed with living in a way that minimizes exposure to household and other toxins. I firmly believe that such an obsession can quite possibly become an emotional stressor that creates more of a negative impact on our health than toxins themselves.
Still, within the context of living emotionally balanced lives, we can significantly lower our risk of developing many different types of chronic disease by doing our best to avoid the most common sources of the toxins listed in this article.
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