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Most of us live with dangerous poisons lurking in kitchen cabinets, hallway closets, basements or garages. When warning labels are ignored or chemicals fall into the wrong hands, disaster can occur.
More than 300 children are treated in the U.S. every day and two die as a result of poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC recommends keeping toxic products such as cleaning solutions in their original packaging, out of sight and out of reach of curious children.
The Environmental Protection Agency defines a toxic substance as any chemical or mixture that may be harmful to the environment and to human health if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin.
Children are more vulnerable than adults to the adverse effects of chemical pollutants. Their bodies are developing rapidly and their hand-to-mouth activities make them more susceptible to toxic exposure, according to the Children's Environmental Health Network.
Experts recommend scrutinizing all household products, including:
These products may contain ammonia, sulfuric and phosphoric acids, lye, chlorine, lead, formaldehyde and phenol.
Cleaners can burn skin, irritate eyes and cause respiratory harm, and formaldehyde, found in some air fresheners, is a highly toxic agent. Phenol, used to kill bacteria and fungi, is found in disinfectant and antiseptic products, mouthwashes and throat lozenges. Exposure to high amounts of phenol can cause burns, liver damage, irregular heartbeat and death.
Detergent pods for laundry and dishwashers are attractive to infants and toddlers because they are soft and colorful and resemble candy, toys and teething products. Children who eat these pods are at elevated risk because of the concentrated levels of chemicals in the pods.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports children younger than 5 ingested, inhaled or were exposed through skin or eye contact to single-load laundry pods over 9,000 times in 2018.
Don’t rely on manufacturers’ packaging to keep laundry pods or any cleaning products out of the hands of children. Store these products out of reach and out of sight of curious children. The American Cleaning Institute offers more tips for Doing Laundry – The Safe Way.
Some carpets, textiles, foam furniture cushions, curtains, wall decorations and electronic devices are treated with toxic flame-retardant chemicals that can be hazardous.
Researchers noted that many of the flame retardants found in sofas are associated with hormone disruption, neurological and reproductive damage, and cancer in hundreds of animal studies and a number of human studies. The chemicals continuously move out of furniture foam into house dust, which can then be consumed by pets and people, especially small children who are near floors and put their hands in their mouths, the researchers said. Results of the study were published by Environmental Science & Technology.
When it comes to building materials, the Children's Environmental Health Network says to be wary of risks associated with items such as:
CEHN says some play sets and toys, as well as outdoor swing sets and playgrounds, may be treated with toxic chemicals, made from toxic plastics or include hazardous materials.
Indoors, the concentration of cancer-causing asbestos depends on several variables, including whether asbestos was used for insulation, or ceiling or floor tiles, and whether the asbestos-containing materials are in good condition or are deteriorated and easily crumbled, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Even though application of pesticides usually occurs outdoors, the Environmental Protection Agency says measurable levels of up to a dozen pesticides have been found inside homes. Often, these pesticides are found in dust particles or tracked in from contaminated soil. EPA discusses pesticides’ impact on indoor air quality and what you can do to reduce your exposure.
Health effects linked to pesticide exposure include memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, and altered or uncontrollable mood or general behavior disruption.
While some of the most dangerous pesticides have been pulled off the market in recent years, including diazinon, others still could be stored in your garage or shed, posing a risk.
Instead of using pesticides to control weeds and insects, the National Resources Defense Council recommends safe ways to control pests in your home and manage weeds in your lawn:
Make informed decisions about the type of products you bring into your home. Before you buy, read the label to make sure you know exactly what you're purchasing. Also, understand terms and definitions found on product labels:
NSC recommends periodically cleaning out storage cabinets and carefully following disposal instructions indicated on product labels.
Living with chemicals is a reality. Understanding risk and limiting exposure are paramount to keeping your family safe.
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