Common Household Pollutants

by in Air Pollution, Environmental Medicine, Kitchen Sink February 20, 2008
  • Formaldehyde off-gasses (evaporates) from cushions, cosmetics, insulation, plywood, disinfectants, particleboard and adhesives used to manufacture most inexpensive wood-based products. Carpets and carpet cushions may also off-gas formaldehyde, causing eye and upper respiratory irritation. According to the EPA, formaldehyde may even cause cancer.
  • Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., warns the Surgeon General. Radon is a natural, radioactive gas that can seep into homes through cracks in the basement, the surrounding foundation, and in well water. It enters the body quietly through the ai  
  • Lead, at levels once thought to be acceptable, is now known to contribute to learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Lead is found in paint in older houses, old plumbing, and soil near highways and busy roads. It can cause neurological and kidney damage, high blood pressure, disrupted blood cell production, and reproductive problems. 
  • Carbon monoxide will kill an estimated 660 Americans this year. The biggest culprit is the unserviced furnace burningPhotobucket propane, butane or oil. Attributed effects are headache and nausea. 
  • Arsenic is still laced in many household pesticides and is used as a wood preservative (“treated” wood for outdoor use). Low levels of inorganic arsenic “may increase lung cancer risk,” according to the CDC. The Department of Health and Human Services agrees added arsenic compounds to the list of known carcinogens.
  • Vinyl chloride is the source of “new car smell”: The plastic interior of a new car off-gasses this known carcinogen. Water sitting in PVC pipes overnight may be steeping into a toxic tea. Very large exposures can lead to “vinyl chloride disease,” which causes severe liver damage and ballooning of the fingertips.
  • Hydrofluoric acid can cause intense pain and damage to tissues and bone if the recommended gloves happen to have holes in them. This highly corrosive substance is the active ingredient in many household rust removers.
  • House dust can include lead, cadmium, bacteria, mites, flea eggs, pesticides, asbestos, mold spores, and dust mites. Allergies including sneezing, itching eyes, runny nose, asthma, and headache can occur due to dust exposure.
  • Asbestos is a fiber particle used in insulation that is linked to lung and stomach cancers.
  • Methylene chloride in hair spray, decaffeinated coffee and insect spray can cause cancer.
  • Electromagnetic fields emitted by electric cords and appliances can cause miscarriage.
  • Volatile organic compounds have well-documented adverse effects.
  • Solvents, disinfectants, antiseptics, perfumes, mouthwashes, glues and air fresheners can contain harmful phenols and other chemicals.
  • Cleaning agents irritate skin, lungs, and eyes, and throw off the ecological environment of waterways that wash them away.
  • Pesticides are poisons used to control insects, fungi, weeds, and rodents. Attributed effects are nervous system depression and childhood leukemia. Pesticides such as chlordane, aldrin, dieldrin, though all banned for nearly two decades, continue to show up airborne in older houses.

2. Pearson, David. The Natural House Book. Fireside Pub. 1989.

One Comment
  1. […] with lead pipes and lead paint since the 1980’s, many fixtures are still partially made of lead, and this toxic metal that causes anemia, decreased neurological functioning, and immune […]

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