10 Harmful Chemicals to Avoid

It feels like everywhere around you there is something that causes cancer, whether it's food, cleaning products, environmental toxins, clothes, furniture and the list can go on. This can be really overwhelming for people, especially those with children.

Parents Magazine published an article in 2013 about the results of specific chemicals that should be avoided. Many of those chemicals are "known or suspected" to be linked to cancer, early puberty, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obesity, autism, and other serious health issues.

There seems to be so much to avoid that lists such as these are a great way to get started without feeling overwhelmed. The goal is to reduce the usage of any products that contain harmful chemicals.

Here is a summary of the list, with some additions, provided by the published article done by Parents Magazine:

1. Arsenic 

Linked to: Skin, bladder, kidney and lung cancers

Found in: 
  • Apple and grape juice
  • Rice products (which are contaminated through pesticides in groundwater) 
  • Pressure-treated wood made or manufactured before 2003
What you can do: 
  • Consume juices in small amounts
  • Limit amount of rice consumed and try to switch to 100% organic and, if possible, whole wheat products
  • Avoid older pressure-treated wood, which may be found in sandboxes, playgrounds, wing sets, decks. If your child gets a splinter, it can actually be absorbed into the skin.
Remember, the skin is the largest organ of the body and absorbs everything placed on it. For children, it absorbs at a much higher rate relative to their body size, so it's best to limit the exposure to these harmful chemicals as much as possible.

2. Formaldehyde 

Linked to: Skin irritants, allergies, respiratory symptoms, headache, fatigue, and nausea

Found in: 
  • Embalming fluid
  • Household products
  • Makeup
  • Skin care products
  • Baby wipes
  • Hair products
  • Pressured wood medium density fiberboard
  • Furniture
  • Glue and adhesives 
What you can do: 
  • Ventilate any furniture outdoors or in an open garage if you purchase wood made of pressboard or MDF that has been treated with this chemical.
  • Avoid beauty and household products that have these ingredients: 
    • Quaternium 15
    • Bronopol (also written as 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol)
    • Diazolidinyl urea
    • DMDM hydantoin
    • Imidazolidinyl urea
    • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
3. Mercury 

Linked to: Impaired neurological development and high levels of ADHD 

Found in: 
  • Air pollution
  • Industrial waste
  • Fish (shellfish and larger fish that eat shellfish)
  • Older thermometers 
What you can do: 
  • Eliminate the consumption of large fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish from diet, especially if you're trying to conceive, are pregnant, or breastfeeding.
  • Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do about the air pollution, but if you live in a major city with a lot of pollution, try to make a weekly visit to a park surrounded by trees and clean air and inhale. 
  • Fight for clean air through the Clean Air Act
4.  Bisphenol A (BPA) and 5. Phthalates 

Linked to: endocrine disruptors, hormone disruptors (they mimic natural hormones and can affect reproductive development and health), early puberty, low testosterone for males and male reproductive problems. 

Found in: 
What you can do: 
  • Don't support or purchase any body products with "Fragrance" listed as an ingredient. They legally DO NOT have to tell you how many toxins are used in that word used to mask an array of chemicals including this one. 
    • This may come as a shock to you ladies, but it's in 99% of your products that are not organic. Use EWG to see what ingredients are found in the daily products you use. Purchase organic skin care products for your whole family.
  • Look for "PVC-free" raincoats and backpacks
  • Try to have cashiers drop the receipt in the bag to refrain from touching the chemical.
  • Avoid purchasing food and beverage cans, plastics and bottled formulas unless they are marked "BPA-free"
  • Do not microwave foods in plastic containers because they release this toil chemical and others into the food
  • Purchase "BPA-free" cups
6. Flame Retardants

Linked to: damaged reproductive systems (specifically polybrominated diphenyl ethers [PBDEs]), affected motor skills, learning, memory and hearing. 

Found in: 
  • Upholstered furniture (couches, pillows, mattresses, carpet padding)
    • Because the chemical is not bonded to foam, they can be released in the dust of the furniture as it ages (very scary!)
  • Electronics before 2014
  • Foam products manufactured before 2005
What you can do: 
  • Don't let babies put electronics, especially those mobile phones, in their mouths
  • Replace furniture and pillows if foam is old and beyond repair
  • Use a vacuum with HEPA filter and/or run HEPA air filters in rooms
  • Throw out older items such as car seats and mattress pads where the foam is not covered in a protective fabric
7. Fluoride

Linked to: cancer, discolored teeth, loss in tooth enamel, brittle bones, and neurotoxicity. 

Found in: 
  • Water supply
  • Toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Soil
What you can do: 
  • Switch to a toothpaste and mouthwash that does not contain fluoride. I personally use Now XyliWhite Toothpaste and love it! I have for over 4 years. 
  • Call your state department of environmental protection or municipal water supplier to see the level of fluoride in your waters. We do this every time we move to find out immediately.
  • Invest in purchasing a water filtration that does reverse osmosis. Use the EWG water filter buying guide before doing this. 
8. Pesticides 

Linked to: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia in children and negative neurobehavioral development. 

Found in: 
  • Sprays to treat and kill inspects and weeds produce, outdoor lawns and gardens. 
  • Soil as a result of spraying
  • Groundwater supply as a result of spraying
  • Baby food and drinks
What you can do: 
  • Don't let children play in areas where pesticides have just been sprayed
  • Buy organic fruits and veggies!
  • Always wash fruits and veggies with a soft brush and water or peel and trim before eating. 
9. Lead 

Linked to: nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development 

Found in: 
  • Homes built before 1978 that have not been in good repair (lead was found in wood and used in paint) 
  • Imported toys,
  • Jewelry 
  • Candy 
What you can do: 
  • If you live in a home built before 1978, be sure all the paint is in good condition as it contains lead and can be inhaled by young ones. Frequently mop and wipe surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • If you live in an older home, make sure to get a lead-safe certified contractor to do repairs
  • Avoid painted or metal toys older than 1978
  • Avoid purchasing imported toys and children's jewelry, especially from China
  • Do not buy candy made in Mexico
10. Perchlorate  

Linked to: high doses interferes with iodine absorption into the thyroid gland, which interferes with hormone production needed for growth and development.

Found in: 
  • Naturally occurring it is found in arid states in the southwestern U.S.
  • Industrial chemical contaminant used in rocket fuel, fireworks, explosives and flares
  • Bleach
  • Some fertilizers
  • Groundwater
  • Drinking water and irrigation all over the country
What you can do: 
  • Call your state department of environmental protection or municipal water supplier to see the level of perchlorate in your waters. 
  • Check with your doctor about taking an iodine supplement to boost thyroid function and offset any contaminants.