Sparkle & Smile

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Toxins in the Environment

July 16, 2010

Chemicals in plastics and other products seem harmless, but mounting evidence links them to health problems — and Washington lacks the power to protect us.

With so many scary-sounding, potentially toxic compounds turning up in our household products, it’s hard to know which agents are really worth worrying about. Here is a guide to some of the most commonly found toxins:  

Bisphenol A (BPA):

What It Is: A chemical used in plastic production.

Found In: Water bottles, baby bottles, plastic wraps, food packaging.

Health Hazards: The government’s National Toxicology Program has concluded that there is some concern about brain and behavioral effects on fetuses and young children at current exposure levels.

What You Should Know: Switch to glass products when possible.


What It Is: A form of the basic element fluorine.

Found In: Toothpaste, tap water.

Health Hazards: Neurotoxic and potentially tumorigenic if swallowed. The American Dental Association advises that children under 2 not use fluoride toothpaste.

What You Should Know: Government studies support current fluoride levels in tap water, but studies on long-term exposure and cancers are ongoing.


What They Are: Chemicals that give plastic its resilience and flexibility.

Found In: Toys, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, detergents, food packaging, shampoos.

Health Hazards: Animal studies show reduced sperm counts and reproductive abnormalities.  There is evidence of a link to liver cancer in humans.

What You Should Know: Congress passed legislation in 2008 to ban six phthalates from toys and cosmetics.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA):

What It Is: A component of Teflon nonstick coatings.

Found In: Tap water, nonstick pots and pans.

Health Hazards: Has been found to cause hormone disruption and reproductive abnormalities in animal and human studies.

What You Should Know: The EPA is urging makers to stop using PFOA by 2015. Until then, avoid heating empty Teflon cookware to high temperatures.


What It Is: An oxidant in rocket fuel.

Found In: Drinking water, soil, some vegetables.

Health Hazards: Disrupts thyroid’s hormone production.

What You Should Know: Environmental groups are urging the government to lower perchlorate levels in drinking water.

Decabromodiphenyl Ether (DECA):

What It Is: A flame retardant.

Found In: Electronics, furniture, carpets.

Health Hazards: Permanent learning and memory deficits, hearing defects, decreased sperm count in animals.

What You Should Know: Following EPA advice, the industry began phasing out the chemical in December 2009.


What It Is: A naturally occurring fibrous mineral.

Found In: Housing insulation, drywall, artificial fireplace logs, toys.

Health Hazard: Mesothelioma, a fatal cancer.

What You Should Know: Asbestos in products is not always labeled, and while most manufacturers have abandoned it or reduced its levels, it’s still not banned by the U.S. government.

Maid Brigade House Cleaning Services cares about the health of you and your family.  For more information on healthy green living and green cleaning, please log on to or



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