Are There Toxins in Your Home?
Many common household products contain ingredients that can be hazardous to your long-term health. Other substances can become dangerous if used incorrectly. Do you know what the potential dangers are? Test yourself here.
Question 1 of 15
1. Formaldehyde can be found in:
|The bottom of your compost bin|
|Tarnished silverware and toothpaste|
|Number 7 plastic|
Air fresheners and nail polish
Formaldehyde is found in air fresheners and nail polish. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers formaldehyde a probable carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent. Try simple odor fighters, such as baking soda, or scents such as natural potpourri or citrus peels. Look for nail polish labeled "formaldehyde free."
Question 2 of 15
It’s wise to avoid products that list “fragrance” among their ingredients because they are likely to contain:
|Athlete’s foot bacteria|
Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and possible carcinogens often found in products labeled as dibutyl and diethylhexyl or just "fragrance." Phthalates are also found in plastics and glue. (As for the other answer choices, phthiriasis is no fun either, but more annoying than dangerous: It's the fancy word for lice infestation! Phlox is a nice flower with a spicy fragrance.)
Question 3 of 15
If it’s been dermatologist tested, it does not affect your health.
False. "Dermatologist tested" means just that: It's been tested. It says nothing about the results. Furthermore, dermatologists would be testing for reactions of the skin to a product, not for long-term health consequences. According to Consumer Reports, "dermatologist tested" is a general and pretty meaningless claim. So read labels carefully, and critically!
Question 4 of 15
Two household products you should never mix are:
Window cleaner and bleach
Never mix window cleaner and bleach! In other words, don't mix ammonia-containing products with chlorine-containing products. The result is an extremely toxic gas similar to what was used on the battlefields of World War I! Do not mix bleach with any acid (such as vinegar) either. Vinegar and baking soda, however, can be used (with caution) to clean drains.
|Water and wine|
|Salt and fluoride toothpaste|
|Baking soda and vinegar|
Question 5 of 15
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is potentially dangerous because:
|It may contribute to childhood obesity|
All of the above
All of the above: Bisphenol A (BPA) should be avoided! The National Institutes for Health National Toxicology Program reports some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A. The same group has minimal concern for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty for females in fetuses, infants, and children. (That is, approximately three and two on a one-to-five scale of concern.)
|It may cause neurological problems|
|It may disrupt a developing reproductive system|
Question 6 of 15
BPA has been discovered in:
|A-1 Steak Sauce|
Number 7 plastic
Number 7 plastic had been one of the main places you'd come into contact with BPA. Number 7 in recycling lingo means "other," and new number 7 plastic has been formulated that does not contain BPA. Again, read your labels! Another source is the lining of metal cans. Opt for glass containers, where feasible, to be on the safe side.
|7-Eleven store bags|
|Grade B honey|
Question 7 of 15
Lead is a naturally occurring element. So what’s wrong with it? If ingested or inhaled, it can:
|Cause people to set off metal detectors|
|Cause excessive weight gain in babies, children, and adults|
|Cause clubbed feet in developing fetuses|
Cause developmental delay and lower IQ in babies and children
Lead ingested or inhaled can lead to neurological and developmental problems. According to the EPA, exposure can also cause reproductive problems in adults.
Question 8 of 15
Lead is NOT likely to be found in:
Number 7 plastic
We can't blame numer 7 plastic for everything—it's not a source for lead. Years back, paint often contained lead, and while regulations have curtailed its use in the United States, it is still used elsewhere, which is how it gets painted onto toys imported to the United States. Check out our recall coverage to identify affected toys. Pewter is a metal made of tin, copper, antinomy, and lead. The lead can leach out, particularly in contact with acidic substances.
Question 9 of 15
|Vinyl oxide chemicals|
Volatile organic compounds
VOCs are volatile organic compounds. In this case, organic refers to organic chemistry (i.e., the study of chemicals with a carbon base) rather than organically grown products! These are some very commonly found VOCSs:
|An acapella band|
|Violent organ contractions|
Question 10 of 15
You should avoid VOCs because they:
Can cause cancer
Long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to cancer, as well as liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage. Short-term overexposure can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, or dizziness.
|Hurt your ears|
Question 11 of 15
The trouble with antibacterial products like hand soap is:
|They dry out your skin|
|They contain VOCs|
|They come in number 7 plastic containers|
They kill off the weak bacteria, leaving the strong to carry on
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, antibacterial products are a cause for concern because they create resistant strains of bacteria. In short, being in a world of a lot of weak germs is better than being in a world with a few super-powerful germs. Watch for and try to avoid products containing antibacterials such as triclosan.
Question 12 of 15
Materials that release perfluorooctanoic acid, a known carcinogen, can be found in:
|Fabric stain protector|
|None of the above|
All of the above
Perfluorooctanoic acid is found in nonstick coating, the inside of microwave popcorn bags, and fabric stain protectors, among other places. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group cites exposure risks and offers more info.
Question 13 of 15
Endocrine disruptors may:
Interfere with normal hormone function by mimicking or blocking hormones
Endocrine disruptors interfere with normal hormone function by mimicking or blocking hormones, particularly estrogen.
|Cause weakening of the bones|
|Make things taste bad|
|Release hormones that cause a person to interrupt or be obnoxious|
Question 14 of 15
Parabens, which may be endocrine disruptors, allergens, or carcinogens, are often found as preservatives in:
|Motor oil and brake fluid|
|Beer and wine|
Shampoos and lotions
According to the Environmental Working Group, shampoos, lotions, and makeup can contain a number of toxins like parabens and phthalates, which have been identified as hormone disruptors and may be linked to certain cancers.
Question 15 of 15
If you find any products containing the aforementioned ingredients in your home you should:
|Call 911 immediately|
|Take them to a toxic waste disposal center|
Use up products as directed but buy no more
Don't panic! The most common advice one hears from experts is to cautiously use up a product as directed. Most of these dangers are cumulative; that is, a short period of exposure or infrequent exposure is unlikely to do you harm. It is likely more dangerous to the environment to have it all in a lump somewhere, like the sewer or septic (so don't flush it all away!) or a landfill. Materials such as ancient housepaint or unidentified chemicals from a workshop probably should be taken to a toxic waste collection site, however. Certainly don't use suspect products on babies or children, and if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, give some of these products away to others.
|Flush them all down the toilet|
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