Toxic chemicals are lurking in your household products more than you think.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Try this: choose one household item you have handy at home, for example, a cleaning product, and check the ingredients list on the packaging. Chances are, there is a long list of ingredients, filled with long and complicated names of chemicals – some of which are probably not so great for us to be exposed to.
Many items used in our homes are unfortunately filled with toxic chemicals that can be dangerous to our health. Ensuring that we use safer alternatives to these products is especially essential with the little ones at home.
We have all heard of the common household culprits that are filled with toxic chemicals, from cleaning products to insecticides to certain beauty products, but there are other items in our homes that might be lesser known to have toxic chemicals lurking in them.
Check out our list below for some surprisingly toxic household products, as well as ideas for healthier alternatives.
1. Air Fresheners
That fresh pinewood scent might make your home smell like a forest, but the positive similarities to mother nature stop there because air fresheners actually contain ingredients harmful to both you and your little one.
Many brands of air fresheners contain phthalates – dangerous chemicals that have
been found to cause allergic reactions, changes and abnormalities in hormone levels,
birth defects, as well as problems to the reproductive system.
If you wish to use air fresheners at home, checking the ingredients list for phthalates might not be useful either because brands are not required to disclose their use of these hazardous chemicals.
For a healthier alternative, how about creating your own potpourri instead? All you need are some dried flowers and your preferred essential oils. Put the dried flowers in a container, add a few drops of essential oils, and keep the container closed for about two weeks to let the flowers absorb the oils. You can experiment with the scent of your potpourri by adding herbs and spices too.
2. Anti-Bacterial Soap
When we see a product labelled as anti-bacterial, we probably assume that it is the safer and cleaner option for the family. On the contrary, anti-bacterial products such as soap contain an ingredient called triclosan, a chemical that laboratory studies have found results in the growth of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are also animal studies showing how triclosan can cause changes in the way hormones function in the body, which raises concerns about the possible harmful effects the chemical has on humans.
Although anti-bacterial soaps do remove the bacteria from our bodies, so do regular soap and water. For a safer option, choose soaps with a shorter ingredients list since they will less likely contain harmful chemicals.
3. Non-Stick Cookware
Cooking your food using non-stick cookware might save you the hassle of dealing with the sticky mess afterwards, but the toxic chemical used in non-stick cookware is certainly not worth the benefit of fuss-free cooking. The non-stick coating bonds with the cookware through the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This chemical has been classified by the International Agency of Research on Cancer, an agency part of the World Health Organisation, as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
Although the effects of PFOA in humans are still inconclusive, studies on animals have shown
exposure to PFOA leads to a greater risk of the development of certain cancerous tumours.
Go for stainless steel cookware, or if you want to avoid using unhealthy oils when cooking in a regular pan, use healthier oils such as olive oil or coconut oil instead.
Carpets by themselves are not toxic, but the treatments used to remove stains from carpets contain a group of hazardous chemicals known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). Aside from stain removers, PFCs can also be found in food packaging, non-stick cookware, and waterproof clothing.
Exposure to PFCs in animal studies have shown to cause tumours, disrupt hormone levels, as well as damage the immune system.
The danger of PFCs to our health also lies in its longevity in the environment.
PFCs take an extremely long time to break down, and because
these chemicals can be released from household products into the air,
not only are we exposed to PFCs but they can remain in our bodies for a long period of time.
There is no need to buy chemical-laden stain removers when you most likely have a natural one at home, such as vinegar. This natural ingredient is a cheap and safe alternative to commercial stain removers. Simply mix two tablespoons of salt with half a cup of white vinegar. Rub this mixture on the carpet stains, leave it to dry and then vacuum.
Burning candles is an easy way to add a bit of atmosphere to your home, but they can also add harmful gases into the air. The candles you have to keep a careful watch out for are those made of paraffin wax, which is a by-product of petroleum. When burnt, paraffin wax candles release the known carcinogens – benzene and toluene – into the air.
While lighting candles once in a while is unlikely to pose any health dangers, frequently lighting them, especially in a room that is not well-ventilated, might also lead to other health hazards such as respiratory problems due to the release of soot particles.
Opt for candles made of beeswax or natural oils instead. Unlike paraffin wax candles, these candles do not emit benzene and toluene. However, you should still pay extra caution when lighting these candles because they will still release soot particles, which can lead to respiratory problems. Just be sure that you are burning the candle in a well-ventilated room. To reduce the release of soot, trim the candle wick to 1/8 inch.
You can also scent your home using essential oils rather than candles. Essential oils are non-toxic, making them a safer alternative to candles. You can either add the essential oils into a diffuser or create your own room spray by mixing ten drops of essential oils with seven tablespoons of water.