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Hidden Toxins In the Home

When you think of potentially harmful toxins that may be in your home, I’m sure it’s the usual suspects that may be found in traditional cleaners, pesticides. or even some beauty care products. However, I bet you didn’t think of most, if not all, of the places on this list from Seventh Generation, in which certain toxins could be found. Check it out, and maybe you’ll be as surprised as I was.

Hide & Go Eek! Our Homes’ Surprising Toxic Secrets


At this point, we all know the drill: There are potential cancer-causing ingredients in those cleaners, pesticides on that produce, and hormonal havoc in the canned goods. Common trouble spots like these are hardly news. But not all hazards on the home front get this kind of press. Some hide in the strangest places.

Here’s a handful that caught even a hardened eco-vigilante like me off guard:

Your tableware. If it’s made from melamine, you may be serving that popular plastic for supper, especially if that meal is a hot one. A recent study found that people eating soup from melamine bowls had eight times more melamine in their urine than people eating from ceramic bowls. Please pass the pottery.(1)

Your alarm clock. Artificial light confuses your body clock and alters hormonal patterns. According to the European Commission, it may promote breast cancer and gastrointestinal, mood and cardiovascular diseases. Research suggests that reddish light is less disruptive than bluish light, and that even the light from bedside smart phones matters. Clear your boudoir of illuminated displays and sleep better.(2)

Your life’s volume level. Living in a loud environment is more than annoying. Scientists say hypertension, heart disease, decreases in cognitive functioning, and developmental issues can be caused by noise pollution. That’s any background noise above 30 decibels, the level of a whisper. Silence really is golden after all.(3)

Your pillow. Brace yourself… After two years, one third of your pillow’s weight can consist of dead skin cells, bugs, and dust mites and their wastes. Dust mites are a serious allergen so wash your pillows regularly in hot water or use allergy covers.(4)

Your home’s dust. Speaking of dust, most contains toxic materials. That’s because dust is the final resting place for many common household toxins. One study found 66 hormone disrupting chemicals—from flame retardants to phthalates—in tested samples. Dust with a damp or microfiber cloth that removes dust instead of stirring it around.(5)

I’ll end with two items that are often overlooked and which surprised me not by being unhealthy (that I figured) but by being as toxic as they were.

The first are air fresheners. Tests done by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found 86% of air fresheners loaded with phthalates. Even products labeled “all natural” and “unscented” contained these chemicals. That’s unfortunate because phthalates are linked to hormone disruption, birth defects, and reproductive problems. And air fresheners are intentionally designed to be inhaled!(6)

Finally, let’s look at flea collars. Most pet owners use them without a second thought. But one study found that after three days animals wearing them had enough pesticide on their fur to pose neurological risks to any kids they played with. After two weeks? Forget about it.(7) Stick to baths and other non-chemical solutions.