3 Harmful Chemicals that you most likely have in YOUR Home
In the past few years the awareness campaigns focusing on harmful chemicals and their effects on the human body have been quite effective and most of us are definitely better informed about the dangers of chemical ingredients, than we were a few of decades ago. Consumers started to take action, they read the labels of the products they intend to buy more carefully and try to choose those that are as clean as possible. These are definitely steps in the right direction, but the truth is that we are still exposed daily to dozens of harmful substances, many of which are right in our homes.
BPA, or bisphenol A, is a synthetic compound used industrially that has been in commercial use since 1957. It is mainly found in plastics, primarily polycarbonates and epoxy resins, but also in other niche materials. In a study (1) conducted in 2015, BPA was found in all household wastepaper samples. According to www.conseil-constitutionnel.fr, BPA is one of the most popular chemicals worldwide, with an estimated 4 million tons being produced just in 2015.
PBA was discovered in 1891, and in the early 1930’s it was tested as an artificial estrogen. Though it was never used as a drug, BPA has the ability to mimic the effects of natural estrogen and it is also considered to be an endocrine disrupter. The adverse effects of BPA were first signalled in the late 1990’s, when possible connections were found between the exposure to BPA and several health issues, during pregnancy in particular.
In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and infant formula packaging. The European Union and Canada have also banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. In 2017, the European Chemicals Agency concluded that BPA should be put on the list of substances of very high concern because of its effects as an endocrine disruptor, but, according to the European Food Safety Authority, it is still considered to “pose no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels.”
PBS and your health
In large doses, PBA is believed to be linked to a decrease in sperm production in man, to induce early puberty in girls, cause fertility problems and increase the risk of miscarriage. It has also been linked to an increase risk of obesity and diabetes.
PBA in your home
BPA can be found in plastic bottles and other reusable drink containers, food storage containers, canned food (in the linings of the cans) and even in the coating of the receipts from the stores.
How to avoid BPA
- Look for products labelled BPA-free.
- Avoid canned foods, as much as possible.
- Do not expose PBA containers to heat! According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, microwaving polycarbonate plastics or putting them in the dishwasher may cause the plastic to break down over time and allow PBA to enter the food.
- Instead of plastic containers, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling gas usually found in the building materials and household products. According to the ULLMANN’S Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, the capacity for the production of formaldehyde was estimated in 1996 at approximately 8.7 tons per year, making it one of the most widespread chemicals. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen” and, according to the CDC, formaldehyde exposure is especially dangerous for children and the elderly.
Formaldehyde and your health
Formaldehyde irritates the airways and affects especially people that suffer from asthma, bronchitis or other breathing conditions. Some people are more sensitive than others and they can have symptoms such as sore throat, cough, scratchy eyes or nosebleeds. The longer the exposure to the substance, the higher the risk for these symptoms. People with chronic diseases are also more likely to have a low level of tolerance. While there are no clear indications that formaldehyde has a bigger impact on pregnant women and children, it is recommended, nonetheless, that they limit the exposure as much as possible.
Formaldehyde is also known to cause cancer, especially in the nose and throat. Scientific research has shown that the higher the level and the longer the exposure, the greater the chance of getting cancer.
Formaldehyde in your home
Formaldehyde is found in building materials and insulation, household products – such as glues, permanent press fabrics, paintings and coatings, lacquers, finishes and paper products – resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products, some consumer products – such as dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners, in some medicines and cosmetics, in fertilizers and pesticides, in cigarette smoke and in the emissions of gas stoves or kerosene space heaters.
The CDC’s recommendation for avoiding formaldehyde exposure are:
- Do not smoke, and especially do not smoke indoors.
- Open windows as much as possible to let in fresh air.
- Try to keep the temperature inside homes at the lowest comfortable setting.
- Run the air conditioner or dehumidifier to ventilate, control humidity and mold.
- Also, spend as much time outdoors, in fresh air, as possible.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also recommends the use of “exterior-grade” pressed-wood products, which emit less formaldehyde because they contain phenol resins, instead of urea resins.
Always ask about the formaldehyde content of wood products before purchasing. Formaldehyde emissions decrease over time, therefore old pieces of furniture are safer.
Also, look for glues and binders that are formaldehyde-free
Triclosan is an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent that was developed in the 1960’s and that is added to many consumer products – such as bar soaps and body washes, toothpastes, gel hand soaps and other cosmetics – with the intent to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination.
In 2016, FDA issued a rule, effective September 2017, stating that over-the-counter “consumer antiseptic washes” – liquid, foam and gel hand soaps, bar soaps and body washes – containing some potentially harmful ingredients, such as Triclosan, can no longer be marketed to consumers partially because of the role these products may play in contributing to antimicrobial resistance if they’re not manufactured or used appropriately.
Triclosan and your health
According to FDA (The Food and Drug Administration), short-term animal studies have shown that exposure to high doses of Triclosan is associated with a decrease in the levels of some thyroid hormones, while other studies focus on the potential of developing skin cancer after long-term exposure to Triclosan. But maybe the biggest concern regarding the use on Triclosan is that its widespread use may lead to the emergence of pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics.
Triclosan in your home
Triclosan is found in detergents, soaps, washers, deodorants, lotions, creams, toothpastes, dishwashing liquids. It can also be found in clothes – it is added to the textiles to make them more resistant to bacterial growth.
How to avoid Triclosan
According to the CDC, Triclosan can be absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream. Actually, traces of Triclosan were found in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population.
Fortunately, avoiding Triclosan is not an impossible task. Anything that is labelled “antibacterial” might contain Triclosan. Read the labels carefully and avoid the products containing it.
Also, if you want to fight bacteria, antibacterial essential oils are the best natural option, as they effectively kill bacteria without contributing to the emergence of resistant pathogens. Some of the best antibacterial essential oils are: Tea Tree Oil, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lavender, Lemongrass and Geranium.
- Pivnenkoa, G.A. Pedersenb, E. Erikssona, T.F. Astrupa, Bisphenol A and its structural analogues in household waste paper, Waste Management, 2015