Toxic Home List

Top 4 Toxic Home Chemicals

Top 4 Toxic Home Chemicals

If you think you don't have a toxic home, think again. We are all subjected to a smorgasbord of chemical concoctions every day, and some elements are worse than others; making your house a camouflaged ambush of noxious brews and often lethal compounds.

Here are the four worst ones that you will probably come in to contact with daily, and that you should try to limit contact with whenever possible:

  1. BPA
  2. Mercury
  3. Phthalate
  4. PBDE

Toxic Home Tactics to Take

Read ~ Recall ~ React

The following text describes each of these chemical compounds in detail and explains how dangerous they are. Each toxic mix has a section that points out where they are most likely found in a toxic home and gives tips on how to avoid them.

Easy Vegan offers this information, not to scare you, but to make you aware in advance so you can action the steps to remove them. By reading this page, we hope you continue with your due diligence into further research to ensure the safety of your family, friends and social bubble as much as possible.   

Toxic Home Chemical No. 1 - BPA

BPA means Bisphenol-A. It was created in 1891 to make certain plastics and was around for 40 years before anyone thought to test its safety. Only over the last 30 years has it been classed as a highly questionable substance.

How is BPA Dangerous?

The endocrine system is the hormone regulating part of the body, and any disruption to it is cause for worry. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which means that it interrupts the proper functions of certain hormones. BPA acts as an antiestrogen which means it competes with endogenous estrogen as it binds to estrogen receptors. Also, BPA can bind to thyroid receptors, as well as interact with your nervous system, endocrine pancreas, and immune system.

Having a higher level of urinary BPA is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and probable liver damage. Further studies have also proven that there are significant associations between high levels of BPA and insulin resistance. There are also concerns over reproduction and congenital disabilities, which is a common side-effect of any endocrine disruptor. A study in pregnant rats revealed that BPA transfers from the mother to the fetuses, and also might have adverse effects on birth weight.

Where is BPA Found?

To avoid BPA in your everyday routine, you need to know where this dreadful chemical is hiding. BPA often comes in the form of plastic bottles and food cans. BPA elements transfer from those containers onto our food, which we ingest. Most food cans contain a lining that contains BPA, including tinned fish, vegetables and most other canned foods.

BPA is also present in many types of water bottles, especially if the bottom of the bottle has a recycling code of three or seven. When the plastic gets hot, it breaks down, and the BPA leaches out. For example, leaving a drinking bottle in a hot car or on a sunny window sill can easily cause the dangerous breakdown of the BPA content hidden in the plastic.

Other Sources of BPA

There are many other sources of BPA that we have no control over, such as medical devices, safety equipment (helmets and clothing), and some dental materials. BPA often seeps its way into recycled paper products. It's relatively common in receipt paper, and even in pizza boxes. 

How to Avoid BPA

The best way to cut back on exposure to BPA is to limit the number of cans you buy in favour of fresh food. Choose glass bottles over plastic ones whenever possible.

It is also sensible to get a reusable BPA-free water bottle. If you have to reuse disposable bottles, replace them frequently and keep them away from heat.

Toxic Home Chemical No. 2 - Mercury

Mercury is widely known as a toxin, even in small amounts. Unfortunately, mercury is present in a variety of industrial processes. For instance, to make chlorine using the 'Chloralkali process' thousands of kilograms of mercury is produced and released into the environment. For more details on the dangers of this process, look at Ontario Minamata disease and the Japanese Minamata disease.

How is Mercury Dangerous?

Ingesting too much mercury is a significant problem. In 2003, a study revealed that roughly 8% of people in the U.S. had higher mercury levels than the safe amount determined by the EPA. Because mercury is so tricky to remove it easily accumulates in the brain, muscle, hair, and kidney tissue. The effects of mercury toxicity include: 

  • Adverse neurological effects
  • Increased chance of stroke
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Low infant brain development and cognition

Interestingly, mothers with high levels of omega-3 fats and low levels of mercury had children with the highest cognition scores.

Where is Mercury Found?

Mercury (aka quicksilver), is naturally found in rocks and soils and is liquid at room temperature. Mercury is gathered by burning coal or waste. Unfortunately, mercury typically ends up in aquatic ecosystems, where fish ingest it. From there, it enters our food chain, where it develops to become the most dangerous and most concentrated.  (Unless you are vegan of course! Most vegans have a much lower toxic home than non-vegans.)

Other Sources of Mercury

Thermometers, barometers, and other measuring types of meters often contain liquid mercury. You could also check light bulbs, antiques, and small batteries for mercury. A common component in many gas-fired appliances is a mercury-led heat (or flame) sensor. These sensors are also called automatic gas shut-off valves. These little devices are used in ovens, furnaces and water heaters and stop the flow of gas if the flame stops producing heat. If you find liquid mercury in your home, use extreme caution, so you don't accidentally spill or vaporise it.

How to Avoid Mercury

The first sensible thing to do is limit or stop your consumption of fatty and oily fish as these are very high in mercury. Swordfish and shark have the highest mercury concentration, followed by mackerel, tuna, halibut and lobster. Cut back on those types of seafood or be wholly safe and become vegan.

Cut back on those types of seafood or be wholly safe and become vegan!

Toxic Home Chemical No. 3 - Phthalates

Phthalates are a class of chemical substances typically added to plastics to increase flexibility. Like BPA, they are not tightly bound to anything. This flexibility means they can quickly end up in the environment, where they eventually end up in air, food, and dust. This is a nasty toxic home chemical indeed.

How are Phthalates Dangerous?

Unlike mercury, phthalates don't accumulate in the body. Our bodies eliminate them naturally. However, this doesn't mean that phthalates can't harm us. Phthalates dangerously disrupt our hormones. One study showed a compelling association between phthalates in pregnant women and pre-term deliveries. Fertility and reproductive issues are also affected by men, with evidence showing a correlation between phthalates and reduced sperm motility. Phthalates in high concentrations also cause early sexual development in girls.

Phthalates also cause problems in infants and very young children. One study looked at levels of two commonly known phthalates, MEP and MBP, in maternal breast milk. Alarmingly the report states that researchers found that the higher the level of MEP, the lower the free testosterone in male children. In another study found that newborn children of mothers with elevated phthalate levels had alertness problems that lasted for years. 

Where are Phthalates Found?

The big problem is that phthalates are in our toxic homes almost everywhere we look! Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Detergents
  • Shampoos
  • Fragrances and perfumes
  • Cosmetics
  • Hair spray
  • Plastic bags
  • Garden hoses
  • Adhesives
  • Cleaning material
  • Insecticides
  • Medical vinyl gloves

A terrible toxic home chemical indeed - and hidden from sight most of the time!

Other Sources of Phthalate

One report carried out in 2002 tested levels of phthalates in cosmetic products, and found them in: 

  • 71% of cosmetic products, including deodorants & lotions
  • 100% of fragrances & perfumes
  • 86% of hair gels & sprays

The good news is that phthalate use appears to be going down. Results from a 2010 FDA survey show that only about 10% of cosmetic products overall contain any of the common phthalates, though 11 out of 25 fragrances surveyed still contained phthalates, as did 8 out of 17 hair products. 

How to Avoid Phthalates

Let's face it, we are probably not going to phthalates 100% in this modern age. However, we can try to limit our exposure to them.

Here are some actions you can do to avoid phthalates:

  • Stay away from cheap shop-bought makeup, and either make your own or find a phthalate-free brand.
  • Use essential oils as fragrances
  • Avoid hair gels and sprays
  • Skip the conventional cleaners and create natural cleansers from natural ingredients like vinegar, lemon, or baking soda.

Toxic Home Chemical No. 4 - PBDEs

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are a class of synthetic halogenated organic compounds used in polymer-based commercial and household products. PBDEs were introduced in the 1960s to serve as flame retardants for plastics, foam, and textiles. Similar in structure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), PBDEs resist degradation in the environment.

How are PBDEs Dangerous?

What makes PBDEs particularly dangerous is that they are fat-soluble, meaning that they bind to fat within the body. When this happens, it is challenging for the body to get rid of the toxin, meaning that it will accumulate in the body over time.

Richard Hull, a professor of Chemistry and Fire Science at the University of Central Lancashire, co-wrote a science journal in 2017 showing that fire retardants make a fire much more toxic. It also concluded that PBDEs do very little to hold back flames.

Prof Hull explained: "We burnt two kinds of sofas: a U.K. flammability regulation sofa with flame retardants and a European sofa without flame retardants. We found that the U.K. sofa burnt slightly slower than the European sofa, but in doing so produced between two and three times as much toxic gas as the European sofa."

In animals, PBDE's are toxic to the thyroid and developing brain and are associated with estrogen-like properties similar to BPA. PBDEs are also related to the development of lymphoma and breast cancer.

Where are PBDEs Found?

PBDEs are in a variety of consumer products, from T.V.s and toasters to mattresses and drapes. PBDEs are supposed to slow the rate of ignition and fire advancement, allowing people more time to escape or give them time to extinguish the fire before getting out of control. However, research shows that flame retardants do little to effect any change of fire growth at all. Continue reading to discover why this is true.

PBDEs are in the majority of furniture, including sofas, mattresses, and rugs, as well as children's car seats and nursing pillows. 

Flame-retardants in consumer goods include:

  • Electrical equipment
  • Construction materials
  • Coatings
  • Textiles
  • Polyurethane foam (furniture padding). 

Other finished products in a toxic home that may contain PBDEs are wire insulation, rugs, draperies and upholstery. Plus plastic cabinets for televisions, personal computers and small appliances. 

Other Sources of PBDEs

People are exposed to PBDEs and PBBs in a toxic home by eating contaminated foods, especially those with high-fat content, such as fatty or oily fish. Another source of PBDE exposure comes from breathing contaminated air or swallowing contaminated dust particles. People that work in industries that make these chemicals or that make, repair, or recycle products containing these chemicals can also have increased vulnerability.

How to Avoid PBDEs

Here are some ideas to help clear your toxic home of PBDEs. (These come from the EWG (Environmental Working Group) research archives:

  1. Wherever possible, choose electronic and furniture that are PBDE-free. PBDEs should not be present in mattresses, sofas and other foam products sold in the year 2005 or later. However, be careful as PBDE is still present in several makes of television and computer monitors.
  2. Avoid any contact with decaying or crumbling foam that might contain fire retardants. Examples include older vehicle seats, old upholstered furniture, foam mattress pads, carpet padding and any children's products made with foam.
  3. Use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum cleaner. These vacuums capture the most comprehensive range of particles useful for reducing lead or allergens in house dust.
  4. Replace sofas, stuffed upholstered chairs, car seats or furnishings with exposed foam. If replacing them is not possible, cover with sturdy cloth and vacuum on and around them frequently.
  5. Do not reupholster older foam furniture, especially in homes where children or pregnant women live. Opt instead for replacing them entirely.
  6. Be careful when replacing or removing the old carpet. PBDEs are in the foam padding beneath the top carpet. Isolate the work area with plastics and avoid tracking construction dust into the rest of your house. Pull out a HEPA vacuum to clean up when you're finished.
  7. Be aware that most replacement flame-retardant chemicals are still not thoroughly tested for their health effects. Use products made with natural fibres (like cotton and bamboo) that are naturally fire-resistant and do not contain chemicals. 

The UK Toxic Home

If you live in the U.K., you have the problem of a draconian fire safety regulation law. After almost ten years of proposed regulation revisions, and a three-year wait for the publication of the consultation outcome, the government response provided a disappointing lack of clarity or urgency on the critical threat of toxic home chemicals. 

Unfortunately, by not adopting a new testing regime, and by adding further consultations, the government is continuing to expose the U.K. population to toxic homes and the environment to unnecessary and harmful chemicals released in the air.

Sadly, the U.K. public has no choice at the moment but to buy furniture and furnishings full of toxic chemicals have been banned in many other countries. Chemicals that cause severe damage to our lungs, DNA and bodily organs when burned. Ironically, these fire-retardant chemicals that are there to make furniture safer in case of a fire are more dangerous when alight than not — making their primary function; a built-in resistance to cigarette burns and naked flames, a perilous predicament of choice. (Although no alternative is offered to date!)

Click here for the FIRA Flammability Guide.

Is Anyone Listening?

Prof Hull of UCLAN also raises a question about whether the regulations prevent fires: his research found British sofas burned at a similar rate to European ones.

But his research is not the first to raise concerns about the effectiveness of the rules. At the moment, our regulations only apply to certain parts of the sofa. The arms of a sofa, for example, often contain hessian, wood or cardboard which is an unregulated fire risk. Furthermore, data that would show Britain has fewer fires as a consequence is hard to find.

So with the lack of evidence to prove the worthiness of flame retardant chemicals, why has nothing been done so far to change legislation?

Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988/1989, 1993 and 2010

The Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988 (and amended in 1989, 1993 and 2010), set the levels of fire resistance for domestic upholstered furniture, furnishings and other products containing upholstery. The regulations are U.K. law and ensure that upholstery components and composites meet specified ignition resistance levels and are suitably labelled. 

There are six main elements contained within the regulations:

  1. Filling materials must meet specified ignition requirements.
  2. Upholstery composites must be cigarette resistant.
  3. Covers must be match-resistant (with certain exceptions as outlined in Section 8.2 and Appendix A5)
  4. A permanent label must appear with to every item of new furniture (except for bed-bases and mattresses.)
  5. A marked display label must be fitted to every item of new furniture at the point of sale (except for mattresses, bed bases, pillows, scatter cushions, seat pads, loose covers sold separately from the furniture and stretch covers)
  6. Suppliers of domestic upholstered furniture in the U.K. must maintain records for five years to prove compliance.

However, manufacturers that are forced to adhered to these rules have to use dangerous chemicals to meet with the standards, meaning every home in the UK is a toxic home full of hazardous chemicals that cause cancers and death over a period of time.

Easy Vegan, along with many others, think that the time is NOW for the government to take a serious look at alternative fire regulation policies. Especially where fire retardant chemicals are so readily used to conform to the stringent rules. 

Review of Alternative Fire Retardant Technologies

How to Reduce Exposure to Chemicals in a Toxic Home

In our culture, it's probably not realistic to think we can eliminate plastics and toxic chemicals from our everyday lives. Still, we can limit our exposure to the sources that lead to the most exposure.

Here are a few guidelines to follow to limit exposure to toxic home chemicals:

  1. Buy a reusable stainless steel or glass water bottles. Avoid all reusable plastic water bottles, even if they say BPA-free. If you positively have no choice, then do not under any circumstances, leave plastic bottles in the sun, as heat increases the release of plastics into the liquid int he bottle.
  2. Replace all plastics in the kitchen. Especially crucial for anything that gets heated, such as storage containers, bowls, plates, cups, spatulas, etc. Never heat food in a Ziploc bag, cling wrap, plastic plates, or anything similar, as this will dramatically increase exposure. Instead of silicone spatulas use wooden spoons or stainless steel tongs. Cook in parchment, wrap food in waxed paper and use aluminium foil. Store food in glass, pyrex and stainless steel containers. 
  3. Replace all cosmetics, lotions/shampoos, and perfumes with safe alternatives. See the EWG (Environmental Working Group) website for their database called Skin Deep for a very comprehensive list of alternative options to these products.
  4. If purchasing new furniture, baby pyjamas, clothing, rugs, drapes, etc., look for flame-retardant-free products. Vacuum frequently to remove airborne flame retardants found in household dust.
  5. Make sure to air out your house and car daily, especially in the summer. Your furniture and car will off-gas PBDEs throughout the day and especially in the heat.
  6. Avoid handling receipts when possible. The majority of billing receipts have a BPA coating, which is readily absorbed in the skin.
  7. Effect change yourself. If more of the public voiced concerns about toxic home chemicals, the government would listen. They have to; they are our employees. They are our public servants and are there for our benefit. We can help them do their job correctly. But like any employee, they need proper direction. 

How to Stop Living in a Toxic Home

What is needed now is a positive action for change. We need to get rid of toxic homes and houses for good.

The general public should not continue waiting silently for this process to conclude. The stakes are too high to allow procrastination or deliberate delay to continue.

Easy Vegan is calling for immediate and decisive action that removes the barriers to innovative alternatives to chemical flame retardants and promote fire safety without toxicity. We all have a right to live in a toxic-free home.

Easy Vegan's sister company, TopEco Home offers high-end luxury furniture and home decor that is eco-friendly, sustainable and toxic-free wherever possible. Every manufacturer TopEco Home works with has passed stringent tests for acceptance and safe manufacturing processes.

There is an urgent need for future regulations that recognise the health and environmental consequences of toxicity in our toxic homes from furniture and other items demanding the flame-retardant directive. Following the example of other countries, a ban on the use of known harmful chemicals. We do not believe British citizens should have to wait at all. The government is a public servant and employed by us, the people. The people have said they want a change. If no change comes quickly, we should remove the employees that are not doing their job correctly and replace them with those that will.

Easy Vegan, along with many others, think that the time is NOW for the government to take a serious look at alternative fire regulation policies. Especially where fire retardant chemicals are so readily used to conform to the stringent rules. 

Join other Easy Vegan followers and sign up below to stay informed. Please find out how you can use your influence to help Easy Vegan call for a profound change to our to currently very toxic homes.

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