Sunday, November 1, 2009

10 Dangerous Everyday Things in Your Home

We have known that chemicals are bad for health. They are toxic and dangerous. Scientists have realized that chemicals found in a wide variety of the goods we use every day may be more toxic than previously thought.

Where are these toxins coming from and what can we do about it? Here are 10 of the most common products that people are starting to think twice about bringing into their houses.

10. Mothballs
Mothballs emit one of the most distinctive and unpleasant household scents. Since moths will chew holes through clothing or other textiles, people pack away these stinky repellents to kill any moths that attempt to. But as they convert from a solid to a gas, you do not want to inhale too much of it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency even requires mothball manufacturers to include a warning on packaging to "avoid breathing in the vapors."

9. Pesticides
According to the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network, 90 percent of households in the United States use some form of pesticides [source: NPTC]. Pesticide is a broad term that encompasses a variety of chemical formulas that kill everything from tiny microorganisms up to rodents. They could be insecticides, fungicides, disinfectants or other varieties. Because these are poisons, the U.S. EPA requires pesticide manufacturers to include the toxicity level of the product on its packaging.

8. Pressed Wood Products
If you catch a couple episodes of "The Brady Bunch," you can see pressed wood paneling at the height of its splendor. This faux wood is like the hotdog of timber products, taking bits and pieces of logs and whatnot and combining them together. Pressed wood products also include particle board, fiberboard and insulation, which were particularly popular for home construction in the 1970s.

7. Chemicals in Carpet
Indoor carpeting has recently come under greater scrutiny because of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with new carpet installation. Although the popular floor covering isn't inherently dangerous, people have reported health problems associated with it [source: EPA].

6. Laser Printers Chemicals
A 2007 study from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia found that some laser printers give off ultra fine particles that could cause serious health problems [source: He, Morawaska and Taplin]. Another study from the National Institute of Public Health also confirmed that laser and ink-jet printers can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone particulates [source: Kagi et al].

5. Lead Paint
In 1991, the U.S. government declared lead to be the greatest environmental threat to children [source: EPA]. Not a big surprise considering the nasty effects that lead exposure can have on adults and children alike. Even low concentrations can cause problems with your central nervous system, brain, blood cells and kidneys [source: EPA]. It's particularly threatening for fetuses, babies and children, because of potential developmental disorders.

4. Air Fresheners and Cleaning Solutions
Air fresheners and cleaning solutions freshen and sanitize our indoor habitats. However, a study by the University of California at Berkeley found that when used excessively or in a small, unventilated area, these products release toxic levels of pollutants.

3. Baby Bottles and BPA
Canada has taken the first steps to outlaw the sale of baby bottles made from polycarbonate plastics, which are the most common type on the market. It has done so because the plastics are made with a chemical called bisphenol-a (BPA). When heated, these types of baby bottles can release BPA.

2. Flame Retardants
Commonly used in mattresses, upholstery, television and computer casings and circuit boards, flame retardants have likely saved many lives by preventing unexpected fires in homes across the world. However, science has revealed a dark­er side to these chemical superheroes, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs for short, found in a variety of consumer plastics. Two forms of PBDEs were phased out of use in manufacturing in the United States in 2004 because of related health threats [source: CDC]. However, the products containing them and their cousin deca-PBDE linger on.

1. Cosmetic Phthalates
Forget about bat poop in mascara. There's another icky ingredient that could be floating around in your favorite beauty products. Phthalates, also called plasticizers, go into many products dotted around your bathroom and vanity, including hair spray, shampoos, fragrances, deodorants and even your rubber ducky. Along with increasing the durability and flexibility of plastics, phthalates also bind the color and fragrance in cosmetic products.

There you have it, all 10 dangerous everyday things in your home compiled by HowStuffWorks. Visit the site for more details.


  1. I thing I don't have any of these in my house at the moment. :D

  2. Anonymous7:55 PM

    Yes most of the items listed are pretty dangerous. I use screw pine leaves, daun pandan to ward off roaches, pepper and cinnamon powder to get rid of ants. Will blog about it soon.

  3. I've got to be careful next time with the things I have in my house..

  4. Thanks for the info. But there are a lot more dangerous household items.

  5. wow.. certainly and self created poisonious environment.

    People built up things to kill themselves,

    thanks for sharing this.

  6. That's a very enlightening read.

    Damn, I always knew mothballs were evil. There's something about that smell I never liked.

  7. Actually, my house is full of dangerous stuffs that scientists are not even aware of yet! Haha! Thanks for the info : )

  8. Tekkaus, good for you!

    Asha, looks like you have some natural repellants. Yes, please tell us more.

  9. Theeggyolks, in fact we all have to be extra careful about chemicals at home though we can't totally avoid everything.

    KS, you are welcome. Indeed there are far more dangerous items in the house.

  10. Robin, the paradox of modern technology, eh?

    Mothballs are never my favourite too. Did you know that naphthalene mothballs are never to be used for people with a blood disorder called G6PD? Pava beans is another to be avoided for people with this disorder.

  11. Foong, I so agree with you - not about your home, I mean, but about lots of dangerous chemicals in everyone's home. Even from the 10 items here, every household would have at least a couple, right?

  12. What's bad about pressed wood products? They don't say!

  13. MM, allow me to quote from the site:

    However, the glue that holds the wood particles in place can cause a sticky situation for people. Some products use urea-formaldehyde as a resin, and the U.S. EPA estimates that this is the largest source of formaldehyde emissions indoors, which can increase as well in hotter, more humid conditions [source: EPA].

    Formaldehyde exposure can be dangerous, possibly setting off watery eyes, burning eyes and throat, difficulty breathing and asthma attacks. Scientists also know that it can cause cancer in animals, which leaves open a possibility for the same in humans.

    Because of construction materials and smaller spaces, trailers and prefab homes often give off higher levels of formaldehyde emissions [source: EPA]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a preliminary report in February 2008 detailing this problem in FEMA trailers along the Gulf Coast occupied by hurricane victims [source: CDC]. The people reported an unusual spike in illnesses suspected to have happened from prolonged formaldehyde exposure. As a result, the agency recommended that the people move out of the trailers.

    If you live in an older house with pressed wood paneling or insulation, the good news is that it releases less formaldehyde as it ages [source: EPA]. Using a dehumidifier and air conditioning to keep the indoor environment temperate can help. Today, pressed wood products also are more closely regulated to reduce formaldehyde emissions.