Chemicals are an important part of life. They are a natural and important part of our environment, and even though we don’t often think about it, we use chemicals every day.
Under certain conditions, chemicals can be poisonous or harmful to our health. Some chemicals considered safe and helpful in small amounts, can be harmful in large quantities or under certain conditions.
Every year, Americans report more than 2 million instances of poisonings, and over 90 percent of these incidents take place in the home.
Fortunately, there are several precautions Florida homeowners can take to prevent a poison-induced panic from happening.
When we think about household poisons, the following items often come to mind:
- School/art supplies
- Expired food
- Cleaning products
- Animals/insect repellent
- Plants, mushrooms and berries
But what potentially harmful poisons might also be lurking in our homes?
Poison # 1: Radon
Radon is an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas that is produced from decaying soil. Radon gas can seep through cracks in the foundation, especially near the basement.
Hazard: According to National Institutes of Health, Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is associated with 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
Prevention: Test your home for Radon gas. You can purchase an EPA-approved test kit for about $35 at your local hardware store. If your home shows high levels of Radon, hire a certified professional to inspect it and install a mitigation system, if needed.
Poison #2: Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is found in various home construction products such as glues, fiberboard and insulation.
Hazard: The EPA classified Formaldehyde is a probable carcinogen. Formaldehyde vapor can irritate the eyes, skin, nose and throat and trigger asthma attacks.
Prevention: During home renovations, make sure there is adequate ventilation to allow Formaldehyde to be released outside, rather than creating noxious fumes inside the home.
Poison #3: Phthalates
Phthalates, or plasticizers, are found in common household products like shampoo, perfume, and toys. When heated, this binding agent has the potential to leak out and impact its surroundings.
Hazard: According to the International Journal of Andrology, Phthalates may lower testosterone levels in humans and animals.
Prevention: Do not microwave plastic containers. When children chew or suck on their toys, they are at risk for absorbing this chemical. You can check what types of Phthalates may be in your children’s toys here.
Poison #4: Parabens
Parabens are preservatives commonly found in cosmetic products to prevent bacteria growth. According to Arthur Rich, Ph.D., approximately 85 percent of cosmetics contain Parabens.
Hazard: Parabens have been linked to disrupted estrogen levels, which may lead to breast cancer and reproductive issues.
Prevention: While the risk of developing breast cancer or other reproductive issues from Parabens in cosmetics is relatively low, there are various Paraben-free products on the market that work just as well as the originals.
Poison #5: Synthetic Coloring
Synthetic coloring is used in beauty products labeled with numbers and letters such as FD&C blue 1. These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar.
Hazard: Synthetic coloring is suspected to be linked to cancer and has been linked to skin irritation and ADHD problems in children. It is currently banned by the European Union.
Prevention: Synthetic coloring is still found in American beauty products. Consider using organic beauty lines that do not use dye or coloring in their products.
Poison #6: Carbon Monoxide
CO is a colorless, odorless gas found in fumes produced by cars, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.
Hazard: When CO builds up inside a confined space, it can poison people and animals who breathe it in. Minimal exposure to CO may trigger flu-like symptoms such as headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Excessive exposure may result in fainting, and even sometimes death.
Prevention: Install a CO detector in your home and check the batteries every spring and fall. Have your heating system and water heater inspected and serviced by a qualified professional annually.