Toxic chemicals in your home could be linked to cancer, autism, and reproductive issues. Here are 4 of the most concerning:
Where they reside: Pesticides are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and milk, among other foods. Even harmful levels of weed-killer - a common pesticide - in some morning cereal products (There's been some debate about whether these low levels are actually toxic.)
The potential health effects: While scientists are still figuring out the link between pesticides and human disease, studies have indicated that exposure to certain pesticides may cause cancers like leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Pesticides have also been linked to autism risk in infants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and young teens.
How to limit exposure: people can limit their exposure, like not spraying pesticides in their backyards or switching to organic foods when possible, though even some organic produce can also contain pesticides.
Where they reside: Phthalates are part of the plasticizer family, which make plastic durable and flexible. Although the US Congress instituted a federal ban on phthalates in toys and children's products in 2008, the chemicals continue to be used in other manufacturing. As of 2016, phthalates still represented a third of the plasticizer market. Among the long list of products containing phthalates are items like vinyl flooring, shower curtains, detergents, nail polish, hair sprays, shampoos, and perfumes.
The potential health effects: phthalates are associated with a number of reproductive issues, including decreased reproductive functions in men and endometriosis in women. Additional studies have found a link between phthalates and obesity, ADHD, asthma, diabetes, and breast cancer.
How to limit exposure: Reducing exposure to phthalates is a challenge, given how many products contain the chemical. One helpful trick is to look for key words on the label. If a product was packaged in "recycling-code-3" plastic or contains the word "fragrance," phthalates could be present. Using a premium air purifier, such as IQAir’s GC Multigas, can reduce or remove dangerous chemicals and gases from indoor air.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Where it resides: Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical commonly found in plastics such as water bottles and food packaging. It's also hidden in household items like paper receipts and the linings of aluminium cans.
The potential health effects: Numerous scientists have uncovered a link between BPA and obesity. The chemical has also been associated with coronary artery disease, increased blood pressure, and issues with female reproductive development. While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that BPA is safe for humans, their assertion has been widely challenged by the scientific community.
How to limit exposure: To avoid BPA exposure homeowners should stop microwaving plastic, scale back on canned food consumption, and replace plastic containers with an alternative like glass or stainless steel.
Where they reside: As the name suggests, flame retardants are designed to make products like electronics, furniture, carpets, and building materials less flammable. To date, 13 US states have adopted policies that limit or ban flame retardants from certain products. But the chemicals still linger in the environment in soil, water, and air. They're also commonly found in household dust.
The potential health effects: Flame retardants have been associated with a litany of negative health effects, including thyroid cancer, ADHD, slower brain development, and decreases in children's IQs. Flame retardants in indoor dust could also cause allergies and asthma.
How to limit exposure: Frequent mopping and vacuuming. And a premium quality air purifier, like the IQAir Healthpro 250, can capture and remove such particle matter, reducing the likelihood of inhaling dust laced with flame retardant. Parents should also watch out for mattresses and children's toys that contain polyurethane foam.
As science uncovers more evidence of the dangers of these chemicals, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to lag behind. Thus far, the EPA has only banned a handful of chemicals, despite the presence of 80,000 on the US market.