Top 7 Toxins in Your Home

An excerpt from “Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure”

I think we all generally feel that exposure to toxic chemicals isn’t good. The strong smell of paint stripper just doesn’t seem to be particularly healthy. We might not know precisely why they are bad, but we instinctively and intuitively know that if toxic chemical exposures aren’t good for us, then they can’t be good for our kids, either.

So if we have a general understanding that toxic chemical exposures aren’t healthy for us, why do we blissfully ignore the toxic chemicals that are found in our homes, our schools and the products that we use every day? A recent study confirmed that while we are all concerned about toxic chemicals in the environment, most of us don’t realize that our greatest exposure to such chemicals is in our homes, mostly from our household cleaners, beauty care products and other common household items. So why do we ignore these exposures? At least part of the answer, I think, is that it is easier just not to question our easy-clean, easy-care disposable lifestyles. Unfortunately, the result is a body burden of toxic chemicals. That's right — we all carry around lead, mercury, flame retardants, bisphenol A (BPA), DDT, PCBs and others.

A brief glossary of toxicology terms

A carcinogen is a chemical that can cause cancer.

A developmental toxicant is a chemical that can produce adverse health effects prior to conception, during pregnancy and during childhood. The adverse health effects can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including death, stillbirths, malformations, reduced birth weight, mental retardation, sensory loss, growth alteration and/or functional deficit. 

A neurotoxin is a chemical that affects the nervous system, and can adversely affect intelligence, cause memory deficits, and result in cognitive and behavioral problems and sexual dysfunction, among other problems. 

A reproductive toxicant is a chemical that adversely affects the male or female reproductive system.

A teratogen is a chemical that specifically causes birth defectives.

Common household toxic chemicals

Here's a list of the seven most common toxic chemicals found in your home:

Chemical Health Effects* Common Exposure Sources
Bisphenol A (BPA) Birth defects; hormone disruptor Polycarbonate plastic; canned foods and beverages
Lead Toxic to brain and nervous system; decreased IQ; aggression and hyperactivity disorders Lead based paint; household dust; outdoor soils; consumer products
Mercury Toxic to brain and nervous system Consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish
Perchlorate Interferes with iodine uptake of thyroid gland, which regulates hormones necessary for proper development Drinking water; consumption of irrigated crops; milk
Phthalates Hormone disruptor; birth defects; reproductive disease; reduced sperm counts; heart disease; diabetes Polyvinyl chloride plastic; household cleaners and other products with synthetic fragrance; cosmetics; food packaging
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) Interfere with brain development and may be linked to hyperactivity; toxic to reproductive system Flame retardants used in electronics, polyurethane foam in upholstered furniture and mattresses, black out drapes and textiles that off-gas and can be found in household dust and food
 Triclosan Toxic to liver; disrupts thyroid hormone system (necessary for development); may cause cancer  Antibacterial agent used in liquid soap, beauty products and cleaning products

*Based on animal and/or human studies.

Smart Mama's Guide

The following has been excerpted from the book Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure by Jennifer Taggart. Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Taggart. Reprinted by Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Thank you for signing up!


Ted's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 45 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 09/09/2009

An answer to a question about balance balls that were on sale said they were made of PVC. In this article PVC is listed as one of the 7 top toxics in the home with lots of bad potential effects. If I'm trying to limit exposure, are there other balance ball options, or do I have to live with the potential downsides if I want to keep using a ball?

Add comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.