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7 Household Items That May Be Making You Sick

Experts share seven items you should never have in your home and why. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

No one wants to be exposed to toxic chemicals, yet many are unknowingly living with harmful materials in their own home which increases the risk of serious health issues like cancer. Most people think of their house as a safe zone, but the use of some everyday household items can be dangerous. From the kitchen to the bathroom, toxic products are everywhere and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who reveal which items to get rid of and why. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Cleaning Products that are Packaged Attractively

Group of empty plastic bottles of various sizes and colors

Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, FACEP, FUHM, FACMT Medical Toxicologist and Co-Medical Director at the National Capital Poison Center tells us, "While many cleaning products are packaged in industrial-type packaging, some are contained in colorful bottles that carry images of fruits, flowers, rainbows, and other attractive images. My husband recently bought lemon-scented bleach that came in a bright yellow bottle with a lovely picture of a lemon on the front! Adults should typically recognize that these products are not meant for human consumption, but children are especially drawn to colorful images and may be tempted to take a drink of these products or play with them. Cleaning products can contain toxic chemicals, including surfactants, alcohols, and disinfectants, that can be poisonous when swallowed, inhaled, or spilled onto skin or eyes." 


Rare Earth Magnets

hands in yellow gloves are washing food products to get rid of bacteria or virus

Dr. Johnson-Arbor explains, "These small, round magnets are approximately 5-20 times stronger than traditional iron magnets. They are marketed as fidgets or stress-relievers, are sometimes used as fake lip or nasal piercing products, and are available in a variety of colors. While these magnets are intriguing to play with, they can cause death if swallowed. Ingestion of two or more magnets causes the magnets to stick to each other, through intestinal tissues. This can lead to gastrointestinal damage including bowel blockages, perforations, and necrosis. In some cases, children have required surgery or even died after swallowing rare earth magnets. In September 2022, the Consumer Product Safety Commission approved new federal safety standards for these magnets with the intent of reducing magnet-related injuries and deaths, but that doesn't affect the magnets that are already in people's homes or that are sold before the regulation is finalized."


Old Chemistry Sets

couple is cleaning kitchen. Girl is smiling

Dr. Johnson-Arbor says, "A lot of us Generation X-ers played with these when we were kids, and we may be holding on to them for nostalgic reasons. But old chemistry sets can contain hazardous compounds, including elemental mercury. Elemental mercury is a silvery liquid at room temperature. It vaporizes easily at room temperature, and can be very poisonous if inhaled. Elemental mercury poisoning can lead to personality changes, tremors, rashes, high blood pressure, and other undesirable symptoms."



man cleaning stains off the table

Attorney Collen Clark who specializes in product liability, toxic torts, and toxic exposure with Schmidt & Clark shares, "These products are known to contain naphthalene, which is considered a potential carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO). The substance is made from coal tar or crude oil and is usually found in car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and smoke from forest fires. Exposure to naphthalene can result in neurotoxic effects, such as confusion, vertigo, and lethargy. It can also cause hepatic effects, gastrointestinal distress, ocular effects, and renal effects. Naphthalene has been found to cause cancer in animals, but there haven't been any confirmed cancer cases in humans. Despite that, it's still linked to a number of adverse health effects, posing severe health risks, especially for children, who may accidentally consume them."


Shower Curtain

Woman takes shower in the bathroom. Feminine hygiene rules concept

Dr. Ellie Heintze, Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist at Starting Point Acupuncture asks, "How can a shower curtain be toxic? If it contains phthalates it can. Most plastic shower curtain liners contain compounds to aid in its flexibility and durability. Phthalates are just one of hundreds of compounds known as estrogen disruptors that may mimic estrogen and cause your body to respond to them inappropriately. Or they may block, stimulate or inhibit these hormones. By interfering in your hormone system, there is growing evidence that these chemicals are responsible for a wide range of health problems." 


Any Item that Emits Fragrance (Candles, Dryer sheets, Plug-Ins, Everyday Cosmetics and More)

soap, natural sponge and shower gel closeup

Dr. Heintze says, "Items that contain added perfumes, dyes, and fragrance can pose a serious toxin to your system, in addition to being an endocrine disruptor. Common hidden toxic items that contain fragrance are: air fresheners, dryer sheets, perfumes, sunscreens, cleaning products, laundry detergents, pesticides, cosmetics, shampoo, conditioners and those super cute seasonal candles! Exposure to fragrance-containing products have been associated with many health problems including fatigue, skin reactions, breathing difficulties and migraine headaches.  A recent study noted that, "82.0%  {of people} with chemical sensitivity report adverse effects from fragranced products.

Some tips on how to reduce fragrance containing products include: Keep your house fresh and clean without using air fresheners, open the windows, add indoor plants to your home to help improve air quality, throw out the dryer sheets and use hypoallergenic and fragrance-free/green laundry detergents." 


Some Non-Stick Cookware

trendy cooking pots with lids and cutting boards

Beatrice Flores, a cleaning expert at Living Pristine tells us, "Non-stick Cookware is a very popular item that many people have in their homes. It is also one of the most dangerous items you can own. It contains a chemical called Perfluoroalkyls, which are linked to serious health problems and even cancer."

According to Toxic-Free Future, "To make the pan nonstick, the manufacturer coated it with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a PFAS-containing plastic (Teflon™ is a common brand name for these coatings). Unfortunately, the same properties that make PTFE ideal for nonstick cookware also make it dangerous to produce and dispose of. PFAS chemicals persist in the environment, and are thus exceptionally challenging and expensive to clean up. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to cancer and other health risks." 

In addition, " the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre states, "Starting in 1998, multiple lawsuits were filed in US courts against chemical company DuPont in relation to PFOA used to produce Teflon. Local farmers, residents and company workers claimed to have suffered illnesses linked to PFOA pollution from DuPont's Parkersburg plant in West Virginia. In one class action lawsuit settled in 2005, DuPont agreed to provide up to $235 million for medical monitoring of over 70,000 people. There have been numerous individual lawsuits from victims of PFOA-related diseases. In February 2017, DuPont settled over 3,550 lawsuits for $671 million."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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