Did you know the top 10 most dangerous chemicals we are exposed to on a regular basis are actually right under our noses, in our homes, offices and very often in our cars too?
You love your modern, stylish things around you. You love that they are contemporary and elegant. But, did you know some materials in present-day furniture, decor and everyday products are hazardous to your family's health and the well-being of those who enter your household, office or car?
Specifically, those furniture items made of plastic/polymers and veneer are poisoning us with the top 10 most dangerous chemicals of all.
Toxic chemical concoctions and chemicals such as formaldehyde are released into the air when exposed to heat and sunlight. They also leach out from the furniture itself into our drinking water. Toxins drain from our bodies too. Some studies found increased infant mortality rates for mothers exposed to chemical poisoning.
It's all very well us pointing out the top 10 most dangerous chemicals and scaring the living bejesus out of you, but we feel it's important that you know the facts.
Read on and we'll give you some solutions to put your mind at rest.
Formaldehyde is a colourless chemical with a strong odour commonly found in pressed-wood products, adhesives, glues, plywood, fabrics, and many product coatings. The National Cancer Institute research states that side effects from short-term exposure to formaldehyde include: watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing, wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde could develop into cancer as the chemical is classified as a human carcinogen by several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Acetaldehyde is a chemical used in the production of perfumes (think "new-car" or "new-furniture" smell), polyester resins, dyes, rubber production, and tanning agent production. A recent report classifies it as follows: "…a probable human carcinogen based on inadequate human cancer studies and animal studies that have shown nasal tumours in rats and laryngeal tumours in hamsters." Short-term side effects listed by the EPA include irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.
While benzene is commonly associated with vehicle exhaust and coal emissions, it is also found in detergents and dyes used on furniture. It is also a solvent for waxes, resins, and plastics, incorporated into furniture manufacture. Side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, irritation of eyes, skin, and respiratory tracts, blood disorders including reduced numbers of red blood cells and aplastic anaemia, adverse reproductive effects on developing fetuses, and increased leukaemia incidence. The EPA has classified benzene as a "known human carcinogen for all routes of exposure."
4. Vinyl Acetate
Vinyl Acetate is a chemical used to produce polyvinyl, adhesives, paints, films, and lacquers. Most of its effects involve the respiratory system and include coughing and inflammation. While the EPA hasn't classified it as a carcinogen, it states that studies have found "an increased incidence of nasal cavity tumours… observed in rats exposed by inhalation." However the EPA has stated in a 1998 study, "Vinyl acetate has been related to reproductive abnormalities. It is a skin and upper respiratory tract irritant and a central nervous system depressant. Exposure caused gradual deterioration of heart muscles."
Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) is a category of toxic flame retardants used to minimise the chance of fire spreading should your sofa or mattress catch on fire. The EPA states that it accumulates in the environment, breast milk, and "biomagnifies" in the food chain. It can also be transported long distances and remains persistent in its environment. This persistence is terrible news, considering it also has adverse reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects.
6. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
Perfluorooctanoic acid is historically used in carpets, leathers, and upholstering to make them waterproof and stain-resistant. Since 2015, the EPA has attempted to regulate PFOA due to its accumulation in the environment, but it is still used nationwide. The half-life for PFOA in the human body is 3.8 years (meaning it takes double this time for it to leave your body) where it causes: liver toxicity (hypertrophy, necrosis, and effects on the metabolism and deposition of dietary lipids), kidney toxicity, and developmental outcomes (survival, body weight changes, reduced ossification, altered puberty, and retarded mammary gland development), and cancer.
Of the top 10 most dangerous chemicals, trichloroethylene is a nasty one. It is a VOC used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing. It is classified as a known human carcinogen still doesn't stop the US from using around 250 million pounds per year in manufacturing. Other side effects include unfavourable effects on developing fetuses, light-headedness, drowsiness, headaches, and adverse developments in the liver, kidneys, immune system and central nervous system.
8. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are additional flame retardants classified in a cluster since they contain fewer chemical combinations. They leach out of foams, plastics, and fabrics and pollute the air while also accumulating in the environment. The primary safety concern involves adverse neurobehavioral effects (a worrying thing to consider if you've been experiencing behaviour problems with anyone, especially young children).
Phthalates are a class of chemicals used in nearly every consumer product, from plastics to tablecloths. As for furniture, they are on floor tiles, furniture upholstery, carpet backings, and packaging. They are considered major endocrine disruptors that interfere with natural hormone regulation and production. They can affect development in children, resulting in changes in male hormone production, altered sexual differentiation, and changes to reproductive organs. reIn addition, prenatal exposure to some phthalates have resulted in deformities of the genitals and anus.
Perchloroethylene is at the bottom of this top 10 most dangerous chemicals list but that doesn't mean it's not a nasty one. Like trichloroethylene, it commonly used for dry cleaning fabrics and metal degreasing. Side effects include kidney dysfunction, neurological effects and behavioural changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, and unconsciousness. Long-term exposure is associated with several types of cancer, including bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
That was the top 10 most dangerous chemicals we consider are worth doing something about right now.
Don't worry if you have no idea what to do; all is not lost.
Below are several ways you can naturally get rid of, or at least minimise the risk of the top 10 most dangerous chemicals in the home.
1. Air Purifiers and PCO Cleaners
Investing in a great air filter can go a long way in removing dangerous chemicals hanging around in the air from your furniture. PCO cleaners, in particular, use UV light to change gas-based pollutants into harmless products. However, they do not remove particles like a good air purifier.
2. Baking Soda
Many VOCs are acidic. Because of this, using alkaline baking soda as a deodoriser to trap harmful gases may provide some relief. To do this:
3. House Plants
Studies show that some house plants help absorb chemicals lingering in the air. Researchers in one study recommended purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternata), English ivy, purple heart, foxtail fern and wax plant for their superior air-filtering abilities. Also, they suggest, "… adding a cross-section of plants, one per 100 square feet of living space."
4. Charcoal Filters
Charcoal has been used to help remove dangerous gases during warfare due to its highly porous nature. Purchasing a charcoal filter for your home may help remove some of the VOCs lingering in the air in your home environment. Just be sure to change the filters frequently.
5. Ventilation & Off-Gassing
After purchasing new furniture, it would be wise to let it "off-gas" or "air out" outside or in a garage with lots of ventilation. Doing this allows the chemicals to evaporate and release quickly outside rather than inside your home, where they can be trapped for months. While this action will not eliminate all of the VOCs (some can take up to 6 months to off-gas, while others stick around for years), it can help with the initial off-gassing of most VOCs. Be sure to keep your home well-ventilated as well, with regular airing out to reduce the accumulation of chemicals in the interior air.
6. Always Purchase Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Furniture
While it's nearly impossible to thoroughly remove all of the chemicals in your environment and on your new furniture, purchasing eco-friendly furniture with a guarantee of no harmful toxins built into the manufacturing process is the perfect way to minimise toxins in your home from stopping it at the source. Companies like the popular TopEco Home furniture store specialise in eco-friendly furniture that has been manufactured with the environment and human longevity in mind. Setting your new home up with green, environmentally friendly furniture from the outset will go a long way in minimising your and your family's exposure for the rest of your lives.
Stopping dangerous cheap, toxic furniture from entering the purchasing chain at the top (from new) can put an end to families down the line in the second-hand furniture markets. And maybe the top 10 most dangerous chemicals list will not be so severe.
Sadly, it is most often the poorest of people that are the most vulnerable from the mistake of the few at the top. For example, a tired, dated sofa contains chemicals, plastics, solvents, harmful glues and resins hidden in the foam padding and upholstery. The coverings are worn, foam is exposed, and dangerous chemicals are compromised and released into the new owner's home. It is no longer wanted and is sold off to the second-hand market.
If you have to buy second-hand furniture, opt for solid wood furniture with no upholstery. But as a rule, buying second-hand is not recommended for any cushioned, upholstered furniture because toxins can off-gas from those materials for years.
Plus, without knowing the previous owners, you don't know if the chair or sofa has been exposed to cigarette smoke, toxic cleaners, or any other household toxins that tend to linger on upholstery for a very long time.
By purchasing safe, eco-friendly furniture in the first place, you help everyone, including the planet and the animals that live all over its surface. Yep, pat yourself on the back for that decision.
Do you know of a worthy element to make our top 10 most dangerous chemicals list?
Add your comments below and we'll investigate!