Hazardous Chemicals

Hazardous Chemicals in Everyday Living

Hazardous chemicals sound remote. Something that might occur after an industrial accident. Sadly this is untrue. In a paper presented at a conference in Melbourne in 1994, Dr Lance Wallace of the USA EPA reported " The major sources of exposure to all chemical groups studied have been small and close to the person - usually in his or her own home."

In his study, the top regular toxic exposures were:
(a)    Filling your car with petrol
(b)    Exposure to carpet dust (which contained DDT even though its use had been prohibited ten years previously)
(c)    Dry-cleaning fluid on clothes that had been put in a wardrobe without airing
(d)    "Air-fresheners"

Introduction to Hazardous Chemicals

The subject of hazardous chemicals is huge. I first started learning about it in the 1970's when I talked to Vietnam Veterans who returned from Vietnam suffering from chemically induced illnesses. However, despite that spark of awareness, I didn't seriously consider my own working environment, laboratories and darkrooms that were exposing us all to dangerous chemicals.

My attention increased in 1994 when I completed my studies of the effects of hazardous chemical exposure on conception. The results were dramatic and showed significant associations between chemical exposure and infertility and miscarriage. I also discovered surprisingly that my findings were unpopular with many medical practitioners. If you wish to read about chemical exposures and reproduction, I recommend my book "It Takes Two". If you are planning pregnancy and think you may have been exposed, answer the planning pregnancy questionnaire.

Since the subject of hazardous chemicals is so vast, I will only attempt to introduce you to it here. I recommend the USA EPA Website as a resource for information about common chemicals. My CD "Strengthen Yourself against Cancer" covers quite a few common exposures that can cause cancer and gives advice on how to avoid them. "GLOW: Principles of Healthy Ageing" also has a useful section on common chemicals, their effects and how to reduce your exposure to them. My E-Book "Know Your Enemy: Understand and Prevent Cancer" is a detailed but easy to understand resource on cancer prevention.

Visit the pages our programs and our products to see how we can help you to optimize your own health and that of your family and workplace. Our programs include lectures, workshops and personal coaching.

Common Sources of Hazardous Chemicals in Daily Life

Chemicals in Homes and Offices

A partial List: Adhesives, Air fresheners, Carpet, Ceiling Tiles, Chlorinated Tap Water, Cleaning Products, Computer VDU Screens, COSMETICS, Curtains, Dry-cleaning, Facial Tissues and Toilet Paper, Floor Treatments, Gas Cookers, Gas Heaters and other Heaters, Paints, Paper Towels, PEOPLE BREATHING (BIO-EFFLUENTS), Particle Board, Photocopiers, Printers, Printed Materials, Plastics, Stains and Varnishes, Tobacco Smoke, Upholstery.

Did you know that in its last update in 2001 that the RTECS Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances had registered 152,970 chemicals with toxic effects!

Avoid Additives in Food

Toxic chemicals are also found in food as flavorings, colorings and preservatives. Although not all flavorings, colorings and preservatives are toxic, it is much safer to eat fresh foods or prepared foods that are free from all additives.

People and Bio-effluents

Bio-effluents include perspiration, urine and feces and also chemicals in breath! People breathe out such noxious chemicals as Ethyl Alcohol (and not just from drinking alcohol), Acetone, Methyl Alcohol and Ethyl Acetate. These can be removed effectively by indoor plants. The Peace lily is a good example.


How to Avoid Home/Office Chemicals or their Effects

Where possible, replace TOXIC products with SAFE products eg Cosmetics and Cleaning Agents. Remove unnecessary TOXIC products eg Air Fresheners. Use filters on SHOWER HEADS to avoid chlorine exposure in the shower. Use House Plants to remove INDOOR POLLUTANTS.

A N.A.S.A. study compared the rates of removal of different pollutants by different plants. Some were more effective at removing one pollutant than another.

airfreshener_pl.jpg (86607 bytes)

The Peace Lily is a reliable air freshener. Actual removal rates depend on the size of the plant. In order of efficiency, it removes Acetone, Methyl alcohol, Ethyl acetate, Benzene, Ammonia, Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde, Xylene. In relative terms it removes 19 times more Acetone per hour than Xylene. Peace lilies are very efficient at removing Bio-effluents and are excellent plants to use in crowded rooms.


Benzene is still used widely as a fuel additive. In many cases, lead has been removed and replaced with the equally or more toxic benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen. If you inhale or absorb it, it will greatly increase your risk of cancer.

Filling your Tank
Whenever you fill your tank with petrol you are in danger of high benzene exposure. The exposure has been measured as being over the industrial safety limit.

My Advice
Always completely fill your tank so that you reduce the OCCASIONS of exposure. Always stand in such a way as to minimize your exposure. NEVER lean towards your car where the fumes are greatest!

Car Servicing

Always keep your car in optimal performance so as to minimize exhaust fumes. Always check for leaks and keep fumes out of the car in heavy traffic by closing all windows and vents.


Hazardous Chemicals sold as Air Fresheners

"Air fresheners" are used to remove odors and are most frequently found in kitchens, bathrooms and cars. But chemical air fresheners are themselves pollutants, usually much more dangerous than the chemicals they are supposed to remove. There are four basic ingredients: FORMALDEHYDE, PETROLEUM DISTILLATES, p-DICHLOROBENZENE, PROPELLANTS.

These chemicals are thought to cause CANCER and BRAIN DAMAGE. They are strong irritants to eyes, skin and throat. The solid air fresheners usually cause death if eaten by people or animals.

Why would you EVER consider using them?


The words on labels have a hierarchy and must be taken very seriously. DANGER is the strongest word and means: "If it is used the wrong way, you could get very sick, go blind or even die. Danger is also used on products that could explode if they get hot" (US EPA definition). WARNING is the next strongest and CAUTION the least.

10. dressed to poison.gif (11168 bytes)


Where I live, it is not uncommon to see a person who is spraying pesticides or herbicides, dressed in this way. This suggests that their employer is looking after their health and safety.

Public Warnings
Sadly, it is uncommon to see warnings to the public about the spraying. Children might be playing on the grass nearby. Yet there is no warning. I know the situation is better in some places than others. If your neighborhood is like mine, we need to take some action!

DYO, Builders, Tradesmen, Laborers, Factory Workers

Many people have occupations that potentially expose them to dangerous chemicals. Organizations have a responsibility for the health and safety of their workers. Some take this responsibility very seriously and others are quite irresponsible.

Everyone needs to be aware of the potential dangers of all of the chemicals to which they might be exposed. Everyone needs to makes sure that the protection offered is sufficient and suitable. Everyone needs to become chemically aware and responsible because it is your health that is a stake.

You may win a legal case for compensation but it will be your life that is ruined if you are exposed to toxic chemicals. Make sure you use ALL the protective clothing and equipment.


You need to read about ALL the chemicals you intend to use and obtain appropriate protection. Many couples have reproductive problems because of chemical exposure through work or renovating.

The Lifestyle Doctor, Adelaide, South Australia