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The Top 7 Most Toxic Chemicals Found In Your Bathroom

When buying personal and home hygiene products, most people tend to prioritize the price or the brand. But do you ever stop to take a look at the list of ingredients? If not, this is a habit you will want to develop as soon as possible.

It’s not uncommon for toxic chemicals to hide behind the fancy packaging and pleasant smell. What’s more, improper use of products deemed as safe can be detrimental to your health. The toxicity of these products depends on various factors, and so do the effects that they can have.

While dangerous chemicals appear in many forms, there are a few common ingredients you should be on the lookout for whenever you’re reading the label. Let’s take a look at some of them.


#1. Triclosan

If you use antibacterial soaps, deodorants, or toothpaste, there’s a very high chance that you’re exposing yourself to triclosan on a regular basis. It acts as a potent antibacterial agent that can also be found in kitchenware and even clothes.

So if it protects you from harmful bacteria, what’s the issue with triclosan? First of all, it may cause the body to develop bacterial resistance. When this happens, bacteria can evolve into superbugs that don’t react to popular antibiotics. In addition, extensive research shows that prolonged exposure to triclosan can lead to a decrease in the levels of important thyroid hormones.

Luckily, there are many products that don’t use triclosan and still have the same hygienic effect. FDA’s research shows that regular soaps are just as effective asthose advertised as antibacterial, so you might want to go with them instead.

A bucket with a human brain stored in formaldehyde is pictured at a brain bank in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S. June 28, 2017.  Picture taken June 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RC134AC4C970

#2. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a highly toxic substance that has many applications, from beauty products to embalming. While it occurs naturally in the environment, its half-life is short and it’s present in negligible amounts. But when used in home and beauty products, formaldehyde can be highly toxic.

According to a study, there’s sufficient evidence that it contributes to the development of various cancers, including nasopharyngeal and lung cancer, as well as leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is why the use of formaldehyde in personal and home care products is prohibited in some countries like Japan and Sweden.

While checking the label, you won’t necessarily see the word ‘formaldehyde’ among the ingredients, as the substance itself can be used in different forms. Instead, you should look for the following:

  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Methenamine
  • Quaternium-15
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Imidazolidinyl urea

#3. Sodium Hypochlorite

Sodium hypochlorite has different applications, one of the most common being disinfection of swimming pools. For this purpose, it is present in small amounts that generally don’t cause any harm to people.

But there’s another product that almost every bathroom has and that contains this chemical – bleach. Most commonly, the concentration of sodium hypochlorite in bleach ranges from 0.7% to 5.25%, with the remaining liquid mostly consisting of water.

If misused, this chemical can cause a wide variety of health concerns. Some of the milder issues include skin irritation and cough if inhaled, while the worst case scenario may include severe poisoning and even death, especially if the substance comes in contact with ammonia. 

So when using bleach, make sure to get one with a lower percentage of sodium hypochlorite if possible. In addition, always use it as instructed and wear the right equipment, especially if you’ll be exposed to it for a longer period of time. 


#4. Cationic Detergents

Laundry detergents, as well as various other cleaning products, contain cationic, anionic, and non-ionic enzymes that serve the purpose of loosening stains. Among them, cationic compounds are the most toxic and can cause the most severe health issues.

While mortality is quite rare, they can still cause corrosive injury to your body, especially if ingested. When this happens, your organs might get severely damaged and you might need urgent care.

Of course, this isn’t likely to happen as long as you use these detergents with care. Always keep them out of children’s reach so that they don’t ingest them. If you get into any kind of direct contact with cationic detergents, wash the affected area immediately.


#5. PTFE

Commonly found on labels as polytetrafluoroethylene, this chemical is used in various skin care and cosmetic products. But do you know what else it’s used for? Teflon, traces of which you certainly don’t want to ingest.

The reason behind PTFE’s toxicity is that it’s derived from perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This acid has been shown to contribute to various cancers, including testicular, thyroid, and kidney cancer. Aside from this, PFOA can cause various other health concerns like high cholesterol levels, liver damage, and thyroid disease. Long-term exposure in any form can be quite dangerous, so you should check your bathroom for products that might have this chemical.

PTFE is present in many products, including shaving foam and different beauty products like mascara and blush. Its main role is to make the products fill tiny skin crevices more effectively to create a smoother look, but the risk isn’t worth it.


#6. Ammonia

Many people know how dangerous ammonia is. But what they don’t know is how abundantly present it is in home care products. The list is very long and includes:

  • Window cleaners
  • Furniture polish
  • Toilet and drain cleaners
  • Stainless steel cleansers

You can recognize ammonia by its strong odor, and as soon as you do, you’ll want to leave the room and let the air clear out. In high concentrations, it can irritate your throat and nose, which can make it hard to breathe. But there are also far worse effects, including severe burns, blindness, and lung damage that might lead to death.

There are many alternative products that use much less harmful substances as cleaning agents yet manage to achieve equally impressive results. This is why you should avoid ammonia-based options as much as you can. If it’s necessary to use them, always wear a face mask and protective gloves, and keep exposure to it at a minimum.


#7. Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Hydroxytoluene

BHA and BHT are commonly used in skin care and cosmetic products like moisturizers and lipsticks. This is especially true for low-quality products, so make sure to choose your skin care brand carefully.

These compounds are deemed as “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens” in NTP’s report on carcinogens. While there’s no extensive research that estimates the risk levels, it would still be best to steer clear of products containing BHA and BHT.

What’s more, they’re also used in some cereals and snack foods as preservatives, so try to pay attention to their labels as well.

Shop with Caution

There are many chemicals in commercially available products that can cause serious health damage. What you saw here were only some of the most commonsuch chemicals, but the full list is much longer. The chemicals listed here are also among the most potent ones, so you should always be wary of them when buying home and personal hygiene products.

While many people find it to be too much of a bother, it pays to do some research before you go shopping for products that might contain the above compounds. Not all of them will necessarily cause permanent damage or death, but they could still contribute to health concerns that can be easily avoided when you know what you’re buying.