Where Are Toxic Substances Hiding? Six Surprising Sources

cleaning supplies homeAccording to Merriam-Webster, a toxin is “a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation[1].” In other words, toxins are produced by plants and animals, and may be found anywhere those products are used.

The word “toxic,” on the other hand, is defined as “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation[2].” Therefore, toxic substances do not come from a living organism but are manufactured.

There are many sources of toxic substances in our lives. If we’re not diligent about what we eat, use in our homes, and put on our bodies, we are exposed to literally thousands of toxic substances every day. Here are six surprising sources:

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Artificial Colors

Artificial colors may be used in foods and cosmetics, but they’re definitely not safe. Food dyes have been linked to all types of problems, including chromosomal damage, thyroid tumors, vascular response, pruritus, urticaria, broncho-constriction, chest heaviness, anaphylactoid reactions, contact dermatitis, kidney tumors, abdominal pain, vomiting, indigestion, nasal congestion, rhinitis, brain tumors, and behavioral disorders[3]All artificial colors contain heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury[4]. These toxic metals can be absorbed when you eat them, or through skin absorption. If you’re trying to avoid them, look for “FD&C” on labels, or any dye with a number sign after it, like “Red No. 2.”

Gas Pumps

You probably think nothing of stopping at a gas station to top up your car with fuel. Gasoline is a highly toxic substance, and contains a myriad of toxic chemicals like benzene and toluene. In Oregon, only trained employees are permitted to pump gas, because it is considered a “Class 1 flammable liquid” and state statutes actually make it illegal[5] to pump your own gas, with a few exceptions. Reasoning includes the fact that exposure (through direct contact or to airborne fumes) is harmful to your health.

Candles and Other Home Fragrance Items

grocery shopping basketCandles, fabric softener, room sprays: they all contain chemicals like phthalates, formaldehyde, paraffin, terpene, benzene, and lead. These can cause asthma, allergic reactions, cancer, endocrine disorders, reproductive problems, behavioral problems, and central nervous system damage. If you want to scent your home, try using fresh flower, lavender, or open a window for some fresh air.

Mercury Fillings

Do you have silver fillings in your teeth? If so, your mouth is full of mercury that leaches into your system constantly. Dentists use mercury fillings because they’re less expensive than composite fillings, and because they’re easier[6]. If your dentist uses metal fillings, go somewhere else – don’t entrust your teeth to someone who puts money ahead of health.

Bleached Paper Products

Most paper in the U.S. is bleached using chlorine derivatives or chlorine gas, which produce the toxic by-product dioxin. The four most commonly used bleached paper products are coffee filters, parchment paper, paper towels, and toilet paper. According to the World Health Organization, dioxins cause developmental and reproductive problems, hormonal interference, immune system damage, and cancer.[7]

Quiz: Is Your Body TOXIC? Take the Test...
(personalized report)

Disposable Diapers

Do you think that just because disposable diapers are so prevalent, and sold freely, that they’re safe? If so, think again. They contain dye, plastic (and associated chemicals), fragrance, ethylbenzene, xylene, chlorine, and dipentene. Contact with these can increase a child’s risk of developing asthma, among other problems. When you throw them into the landfill, all of those chemicals also get released into the environment. Use cloth diapers and save your child and the environment. Cloth diapers are also much less expensive, when you consider that you can use them for more than one child.

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