For most of us, our home is the best place in the world. Not only is it the place we are most relaxed and most ourselves, it is where we feel most safe. However, this is not entirely true.
Your house might not be brimming with obvious dangers, but some extremely toxic substances are lurking around harming you and your family, and you probably don’t even know it.
You are eating them, touching them and inhaling them constantly.
Before you know it, you develop a chronic condition that you might blame on a lot of things except the substances in your own home.
These are especially harmful to infants and young children, who are most susceptible to falling prey to diseases from contact with toxic substances.
It’s important to think about the dangers that might be hiding around your house, so you are better armed to eliminate them for the health and safety of your family and yourself.
Mold grows in sunlight-devoid, damp places. Sneak a peek into your basement and you may find mold on the ceilings, floors and old furniture legs.
Other common mold-infested places include shower stalls, in and around shower heads and drain pipes, and on your windows and doors.
Also, if you have water leaking through your roof or out of plumbing systems, mold might grow and release airborne spores from behind your walls and under carpets, rugs and wooden floors.
Mold also builds up inside central air conditioning and heating systems and is constantly inhaled when these systems are used.
A 2011 study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology notes that significant mold buildup was found in portions of Christmas trees and was directly linked to the spike in respiratory illnesses in December.
Common symptoms of mold infestation include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, itchy and watery eyes, migraines, joint and muscle pain, depression, visual disruptions, memory loss, stomach aches and shortness of breath.
Overtime, these symptoms can worsen and lead to severe gastrointestinal ailments, sinus problems and asthma.
Lead is a highly toxic substance that causes nerve disorders, reproductive problems, miscarriages, high blood pressure, poor muscle coordination, and reduced growth and brain damage in children.
Although countries like the U.S. have banned lead paint since the 1970s, it continues to be sold in other countries despite restrictions and is used in houses, offices and schools. Even in countries like the U.S., many people live in houses built before 1970s that still contain lead paint.
When lead paint starts degrading, paint dust and chunks settle on the floor, windowsills, countertops, furniture, clothing and children’s toys — exposing everyone in the house to this toxic substance.
Children who have a habit of putting their hands and other items in their mouths are even more susceptible to its damage.
Water pipes in your homes may also contain lead.
3. Household Cleaners
Cleaning aids like detergents, soaps, bleaching agents and specialized products to keep your windows, ovens, countertops, toilet bowls and mirrors looking spic and span may contain toxic substances.
When inhaled regularly, phenols found in disinfectants like toilet cleaners and ethylene glycol found in window cleaners can damage organs by altering the blood’s acid levels.
They also cause abdominal pain, nausea and bloody stools. They can swell your throat, make breathing difficult, cause chronic headaches and seizures, as well as brain, kidney and liver damage.
Sodium hydroxide found in oven cleaners may burn the skin and damage the tissues.
Many household detergents contain nonylphenols that mimic the functions of naturally occurring hormones in the body.
According to a 2012 report by the World Health Organization, these may severely affect the thyroid, metabolism and blood sugar levels. They may even cause neurological damage, infertility and cancer.
They also harm the development of organs and the neural system in unborn babies during pregnancy.
Carpets contain chemicals like organotins, permethrin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that may prove incredibly hazardous to your health with long-term exposure, according to a 2001 study by Greenpeace Research Laboratories.
PCBs are known to cause severe skin rashes, breathing disorders, liver damage, thyroid gland disorders, cancer and several reproductive problems including miscarriage.
A 2015 study published in the Environmental Research notes that children exposed to PCBs during pregnancy suffered asymmetrical hearing loss up until adulthood.
PCBs found in carpet are usually brought in from the outside on the soles of your shoes and your pets’ paws. If your house is located close to industrial areas, factories and urban centers, it is likely that a huge amount of PCBs is being carried into your home and settling in your floors and carpets.
Carpets also contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene, toluene and formaldehyde, that may cause hallucinations and nerve damage.
5. Air Fresheners
Air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as ethylene-based glycol ethers and terpenes, that react with the ozone in the environment to form secondary hazardous pollutants like formaldehyde, according to a 2006 study published in Indoor Air.
The harmful effects of formaldehyde include ulcers in the mouth, esophagus and stomach, bronchitis, menstrual disorders, birth defects and cancer.
According to a 2011 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 12 of the 14 tested air fresheners contained phthalates.
These substances mimic hormones in the body and cause asthma, reproductive disorders, breast cancer, neurological disorders, obesity, diabetes and autism.
6. Baby Bottles
Yes, the plastic bottle you are using to feed your child might just be the most harmful thing around.
Baby bottles contain a chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA) that is used to harden the plastic, prevent rusting and eliminate bacteria.
When these bottles are overheated or repeatedly washed, the BPA in the plastic ultimately breaks down and mingles with the milk.
BPA is known to cause prostate cancer, reproductive disorders in males, early puberty in females, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity. Children exposed to BPA are more vulnerable to its harmful effects as their organs are still developing.
7. Naphthalene Balls
Many people use naphthalene balls, also known as moth balls, when packing away wool clothes. They protect your clothes from being gnawed away by moths and other insects.
Some people also use these naphthalene balls to spread over their gardens and basement floors to keep away insects, birds and rodents.
However, exposure to naphthalene balls can prove harmful. A 2000 study published in the National Toxicology Program Technical Reports Series notes that a 2-year exposure to, and inhalation of, the naphthalene from naphthalene balls triggered cancerous activity in male and female rat models.
You may unknowingly inhale the naphthalene, absorb it through your skin and rub it into your eyes after touching naphthalene balls.
Long-term exposure to this toxin can cause nausea, abdominal cramps, anemia, retinal and cataract disorders, and cancer.
8. Clothes Dryer
Approximately 2,900 clothes dryer fires occur in the U.S. each year and cause around 5 deaths, 100 injuries and $35 million worth of property loss, according to a 2012 study published in the Topical Fire Report Series.
When we wash clothes, especially heavier clothes like winter garments and blankets, they shed off lint. People assume their dryers catch all the lint in the lint trap.
However, that does not happen. Over time, washing and repeated shedding causes a lint buildup all over the dryer. Lint is highly combustible.
Furthermore, the dryer exhausts moisture and heat when in use. When it is clogged, it cannot properly exhaust and goes into overdrive.
This, in turn, causes it to produce more heat without any vent. The excessive heat, coupled with the lint buildup, sparks a fire.
A majority of your favorite beauty products are laced with harmful chemicals that can, over time, cause some severe damage.
Preservatives like parabens and other harmful substances like lead, mercury and formaldehyde found in lipsticks, hair dyes, shampoos and other products have potent cancerous properties.
Silicone that is often injected into these products to create a post-application softness is also cancerous and causes skin constriction.
Phthalates are chemical compounds found in all fragrant cosmetics, such as deodorants, perfumes, nail polishes, shampoos, body gels and soaps.
They mimic hormones in the body and cause developmental and reproductive disorders. In pregnant women, they may cause certain birth defects in the child.
Mercury is mostly found in mascara and may cause brain disorders. Hydroquinone is a substance often found in skin-lightening products that causes reproductive disorders and is also a trigger for cancer.
10. Non-stick Cookware
Just because they keep your eggs from sticking to the pan does not mean non-stick cookware is your friend. Non-stick pots and pans are some of the most widely used kitchen appliances. However, they pose health threats that can prove severe in the long-term.
Non-stick cookware is made from Teflon, which is made from a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). A 2008 study published in the International Journal of Andrology notes that PFOA causes low testosterone in men and women, and high estradiol (a type of estrogen) in women.
Low testosterone causes depression and reduced libido, while high levels of estradiol may obstruct ovulation and pregnancy. It has also been linked to ovarian tumors.
Furthermore, PFOA may cause cancer. A 2013 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that adults who were regularly exposed to PFOA reported testicular and kidney cancer.