5 Chemicals to Avoid in your Household Products

5 Chemicals to Avoid in your Household Products

There are many chemicals that you want to avoid in your home products, especially in any products that come into contact with your skin. The safety of most cosmetics and home products has improved significantly over the years, and federal guidelines have been put in place to limit or prohibit many ingredients that have been deemed harmful to humans. As well, in Canada and the US, industry guidelines have been established for ingredient labeling, including listing any avoidable hazards such as contact with the eyes or ingesting internally. Even with these restrictions in place, some standard chemicals found in your daily household products can harm your health and wellness. Today we have shared 5 different chemicals you should do your best to avoid in your home.


1 – Fragrances

The number one ingredient to avoid is fragrances. Fragrances are found in virtually every product that you use in your home, from floor cleaners to bathroom cleaners, to room deodorizers, to cosmetics and perfumes. Sadly, even fragrance-free products can contain fragrance, which is crazy! You need to read product labels on any items you purchase and do your best to avoid or decrease any fragrances or perfumes. Fragrances are essentially tiny particles (like plastics) that get into the skin or the respiratory tract, which can then get into the bloodstream. These chemicals are classified as carcinogens, meaning that they can cause cancers, and they are also hormone disruptors, which means they can interfere with your hormones. They can also be neurotoxic, leading to neuro symptoms of numbness, tingling, and tremors. You might also develop rashes, coughs, or asthma. If you like scents in your home, give essential oils a try. They are generally non-toxic and are usually well-tolerated amongst most people.


2 – Phthalates

Another chemical that everyone should avoid is Phthalates, which are a component of fragrances. If you’re avoiding fragrances, you’ll naturally be avoiding phthalates at the same time. Phthalates are typically used in fragrances to make their scents last longer. Sadly, they are currently not regulated, which is true for a lot of chemicals. This means they can be added to many different household items. Phthalates have been associated with reproductive issues and developmental problems in unborn children. You can often find phthalates in certain plastics, so when you see plastic packaging or a plastic product there’s usually a number in the recycling symbol or the plastic symbol. You want to try and avoid plastic numbers 3, 6, and 7, as those are the ones that are resources of phthalates. Interestingly, some recent studies have found that phthalates exist in the blood of most Americans, especially women.


3 – Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

The third chemical you should try to avoid at home would be Volatile Organic Compounds, also known as VOCs. VOCs have been associated with asthma, cancer, liver and kidney damage, and many big organ dysfunctions. You can find VOCs in scented petroleum-based laundry detergents, cleaners, disinfectants, air fresheners, and personal care products. It’s not currently required that VOCs are listed on labels, so they can easily be added to many of your household products. Help avoid VOCs by going fragrance-free and not using air fresheners. Instead, replace any air fresheners you might be using with a diffuser with organic pure essential oils. Another benefit of essential oils is that they are naturally antimicrobial, meaning they kill odor-causing bacteria.

Do note that not all essential oils are safe for pets, so if you have pets, do your research.


4 – Dyes

Different cleaning products often have dyes added to make them that vibrant blue, pink. or yellow color you are familiar with. These dyes generally don’t affect the performance of the products. Rather, they are just added for esthetics. At what point was it decided that a blue cleaner was better than a clear cleaner? I don’t know, but it is currently the norm to dye many common household products. Unfortunately, these dyes can create significant health risks such as respiratory issues like asthma, skin allergies like irritations, and neurotoxicity. It takes about 25 different chemicals to make one artificial dye, so think about that the next time you’re looking at your blue window cleaner. Try to use products that don’t contain any color.


5 – Bisphenol A (BPA)

The last chemical you should avoid is Bisphenol A (BPA). Over the last few years, everyone has become more aware of the dangers of BPA. Bisphenol A used to be commonly found in water bottles and food storage containers, but has now in most cases been replaced with other types of plastics, mostly BPS or Bisphenol S. Scarily, Bisphenol S is not shown to be better than BPA. The best option is to move towards stainless steel or glass containers. If you are still drinking out of plastic water bottles, even the reusable kind, you’re probably being exposed to BPA and BPS. The plastics industry easily modifies and renames compounds to give the impression they are safe, but the safety data for new chemicals is pretty lacking. Typically the standards for the chemical industry are not incredibly high, so it’s really easy for different plastics to be rolled out without adequate testing. Because of this, be cautious when approaching plastic products, and avoid them altogether if possible. BPS and BPA have both been shown to be endocrine disruptors, meaning they affect our hormones, creating hormone imbalances and impacting hormone production. Think of all those plastic products that babies put in their mouths! A recent study found that 93% of Americans had BPA in their urine, and if it’s in the urine, it means it’s also getting into your blood.

These are the Chemicals to avoid if avoiding BPA/BPS: Limonene, toluene, a-pinene, isoprene, methylene chloride, PERC, xylenes, methyl ethyl ketone, Trichloroethane (TCE), 1,4-dichlorobenzene, naphthalene, ethanol, formaldehyde, decane, butoxyethanol, isopentane, styrene, vinyl chloride, acetone, benzene, ethylene glycol, 1,3-butadiene, 2-butoxyethanol, heptane, butane, pentane.

Remember that BPA-free plastic products are not necessarily safe, so as much as possible, avoid plastics altogether. A good guideline is: If your products contain chemicals and fancy words you can’t pronounce and you don’t know what they are, I would air on the side of caution and assume that they are probably not good for your health.


The good news is that there are many natural products that you can use to clean your home that does a good job. For example, old-school vinegar and baking soda can be effective cleaning products without chemical exposures, fumes, or solvents that are harmful to your health. Use natural dish soaps that are fragrance-free and biodegradable. Store leftovers in the fridge in ceramic or glass dishes, rather than plastic. Stainless steel, glass, or non-treated wood containers are generally best.

In addition to avoiding toxic chemicals in your home, eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet is the best way to stay healthy. Learn more here.

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