Harmful Substances Lurking in Your Home

Harmful Substances Lurking in Your Home
Harmful Substances Lurking in Your Home

What may seem like a safe and hazard-free home might have hundreds of toxic chemicals and hazardous substances lurking around. These harmful substances can significantly damage the health and well-being of all who step foot into the building.

Many homeowners purchase consumer products such as cleaning liquids, air fresheners, and insecticides laden with toxic chemicals. Unsurprisingly, 81% of dollar store products in the United States contain at least one hazardous chemical above the acceptable amount. Toxic substances are also used in construction, which can be hidden in the four walls of your abode.

To assist homeowners in eliminating these harmful substances for good, here’s a list to be wary of.


This harmful mineral was popularized during the Industrial Revolution to insulate steam engines. Its heat and chemical corrosion resistance properties and ability to mix with other materials made it ideal for strengthening concrete, bricks, and cement. The demand for asbestos grew greater during World War II when it was used for shipbuilding.

However, by the 1970s, it was evident that asbestos exposure was responsible for causing mesothelioma. Many veterans and inhabitants of homes and workplaces where asbestos was present were diagnosed and lost their lives, while some fortunate ones experienced mesothelioma remission through multiple treatments.

While asbestos use has largely declined since the 1980s, it continues to find its way into homes through gaskets, brake pads, consumer products such as children’s toys, or the 1% legal amount of asbestos allowed in building materials to date. To eliminate asbestos from your home, check the roof, flooring, and walls for signs of the mineral before moving in or renovating the place.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

These substances are a group of synthetic chemicals that include PFOA, PFOS, and GenX. They have been popularized in the United States since the 1940s, being commonly used in manufacturing commercial household products such as nonstick cookware, stain-resistant clothes, and other liquid-repellant materials due to their ability to repel water and grease. They have also been found in drinking water and food.

Known as the ‘forever chemical,’ PFAs cannot be broken down, meaning they remain perpetually in the body and environment and accumulate over time upon exposure. Consistent exposure to PFAS has been linked to serious health concerns such as liver damage, thyroid disease, obesity, fertility issues, and cancer. To prevent such complications, discard any items in your home containing PFAS and look for alternatives, such as products manufactured using Polylactic Acid (PLA).

Bisphenol-A (BPA) And Bisphenol-S (BPS)

Initially, BPA was used as an additive in plastic to make the material flexible and moldable. Until 2009, the substance was added to feeder bottles and cups for children but was soon found to be toxic. BPS was found as a substitute after major backlash and condemnation of using BPA. Unfortunately, the alternative meant to replace BPA was found to be just as toxic as its predecessor. Both substances have been classified as endocrine disruptors, which mimic natural hormones and can cause obesity, reproductive cancers, and infertility among users.

Despite the findings, BPA and BPS can still be present in the lining of food and beverage cans, bottled formulas, and shopping receipts. Therefore, be mindful of your use of these products, and make it a habit to read ingredient lists and chemical compositions of products before bringing them into your home.


All those who enjoy the odor of new mattresses, air fresheners, and car interiors should know that it comes from a strong-smelling, colorless, and flammable gas known as Formaldehyde. In 1987, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labeled Formaldehyde as a potential carcinogen under high or prolonged exposure.

Since it is widely used in pesticides, building materials, textiles, cosmetics, and as a preservative in household products, look out for such items around your house and get rid of them instantly.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

As a class of fire retardant chemicals, PBDEs are used to manufacture foam furniture, carpet padding, electronics, plastics, textiles, and building materials. Being endocrine disruptors like PFAS, PBDEs have been labeled a widespread environmental pollutant, and most have been banned. Their exposure has also been associated with tumors, delayed brain development, and thyroid issues. Be sure to check for this substance in any fire-resistant object or material tucked away in your house, and refrain from buying it altogether in the future.


Homeowners often choose cleaning products containing ammonia due to their effectiveness but fail to realize the harmful effects of this corrosive chemical. Some go so far as to mix ammonia with bleach, which can catastrophically and even fatally affect humans upon contact. Ammonia produces fumes that irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, especially for those already suffering from asthma or lung issues.

Upon touching, ammonia can cause burns to the skin. For all these reasons, it’s best to steer clear of ammonia usage in the home and opt for alternatives like mixing vinegar and baking soda for a natural cleaning product.


The final hazardous chemical worth mentioning on this list due to its widespread availability is 2-Butoxyethanol. Widely used in household cleaners as a degreaser and found in cosmetics and liquid soaps due to its sweet smell, the chemical is yet to be banned, with research on its harmful effects still ongoing. However, it has been declared a contaminant in air, water, and soil, while California considers it toxic to reproductive health and development.

The EPA states 2-Butoxyethanol can cause sore throats, pulmonary edema, and liver and kidney damage. As of yet, 2-butoxyethanol is not required to be listed on a product’s label legally, making it difficult to identify its presence. Because of this, switching to organic products for home cleaning and cosmetic purposes may be your best bet at mitigating the presence of the toxin in your house.


If you think your humble abode is safe from harmful toxins, think again. Countless toxic chemicals and hazardous substances may lurk in your walls, cabinets, and drawers. Now that you’ve read the list above, you are one step closer to making your home toxin-free. Be sure to review the ingredient list and product labels of all preexisting items in your house, and make it a habit to do the same for future purchases.

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