What is a Sick House?

There are many harmful chemicals found in the most common household products.There are many harmful chemicals found in the most common of household products, including makeup, sunscreen, perfume, cleaning products, plastic water bottles, non-stick cookware, air fresheners, furniture and many more!

Is your house making you sick?

Do you have a toxic home?

Many of us don't stop and think about these questions; we assume that our home is our haven, sanctuary, and castle. But you'd be shocked to know that aside from the everyday chemicals under your kitchen sink, there are a lot more dangerous chemicals lurking in your living room too!

TopEco Green has listed some of the most common toxic home chemicals for you to wrap your head around. While we do not want to alarm anyone, we would like our readers to be aware that even though these chemicals may be familiar, they are some of the worst you will ever encounter. We believe that being forewarned is also being forearmed. After all, knowledge is power.

Many organizations are battling the powers that be to get these toxic chemicals out of our homes and offices. Still, while the battle rages on, you can do a lot to make sure only safe, chemical-free furniture and decor come through your front door in the first place.

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

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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.

BPA - Bisphenol-A.

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?

If you can, purchase fresh foods over canned or packaged products. Cans and plastic packaging are known to contain harmful phthalates, so by reducing your consumption of these products, you reduce your phthalate levels as well.

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

BPA often makes its way into recycled paper products. It's relatively common in receipt paper, and even in pizza boxes.

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

Thermometers, barometers, and other meters often contain liquid mercury. These add up and go unnoticed in a toxic home.

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?

The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal. The inorganic salts of mercury are corrosive to the skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract, and may induce kidney toxicity if ingested.

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

King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna all contain high levels of mercury. Women who are pregnant or nursing or who plan to become pregnant within a year should avoid eating these fish.

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 family of chemical compounds primarily used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl, flexible and pliant. Phthalates are one of the most commonly used plasticizers in the world and are categorized as “high” or “low,” depending on molecular weight.

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?

Exposure to hormone-altering chemicals called phthalates in early pregnancy is associated with a disruption in an essential pregnancy hormone, report researchers. In addition, their study suggests this exposure adversely affects the masculinization of male babies' genitals

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?

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in hundreds of products, such as toys, vinyl flooring and wall covering, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, blood bags and tubing, and personal care products, such as nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes and other fragrance preparations.

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

Dangerous phthalates are present in cosmetics and personal care products including shampoo, perfume, nail polish, hairspray, sanitary pads and many more - check the label and see for yourself.

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

They are often broken into categories based on chemical structure and properties. In general, flame retardants are grouped based on whether they contain bromine, chlorine, phosphorus, nitrogen, metals, or boron. Brominated flame retardants contain bromine and are the most abundantly used flame retardants.

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?

Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute, explains "flame retardants are what are called semi-volatile. That means they are coming out, always, from the couch. You don't have to sit on it, they're always coming out. And they're heavy, they drop into dust. You get dust on your hands and you eat a sandwich - you're eating flame retardants."

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?

Flame retardants do appear to present a threat to health, and may potentially do more harm than good in a fire. The study found that today's most widely used products contain the hazardous chemical element bromine, and that they actually increase amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide released during fires.

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 can be exposed to PBDEs and PBBs by eating contaminated foods, especially those with a high fat content, such as fatty fish. Another source of exposure results from breathing contaminated air or swallowing contaminated dust.

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. 

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