The CHEM-ELEON iPhone app



Dangerous Chemicals In the Home - Part One


Where is the one place we feel the safest? For me it’s at home. I consider my home a sanctuary where there is nothing to worry about, other than paying the bills, but am I living in a dream world? The products I surround myself with are necessary for my cleanliness and comfort, and they all must be safe because they are approved by the government right - cue losing music from The Price is Right game show ba bow - wrong.

The more research I do into the numerous and constantly growing list of products I can buy to eat, clean with, let my children play with, or make myself beautiful with, the more I understand why thousands of people each day are succumbing to allergies and developing auto-immune disorders and cancer.

Many of the things we own and use on a daily basis contain dangerous chemicals, or chemicals that haven’t even been properly tested. In the case of air fresheners (see our previous article) there are no ingredients on the packaging and our government doesn’t even know what’s in them. So who’s protecting us?

Well, we’ll do our best to at least alert you to what are the worst of these chemicals so you can have the choice whether or not to reduce or ban them from your life. So here are four of the chemicals that have the potential to do damage.



This chemical is dangerous because it has been proven to cause cancer, in particular nasal pharyngeal, sinonasal and lymphohematopoietic - myeloid leukemia. Exposure to formaldehyde can occur on a daily basis, and whilst we don’t all get this type of cancer, we should limit our exposure as it also causes allergic reactions, fatigue, skin rashes and asthma.

Formaldehyde is found in building materials, in particular particleboard, which leaches this chemical into the air (think of that next time you walk through your new kitchen). It is also caused when ingredients in some air fresheners mix with ozone, and is contained in cosmetics we use every day including nail polish, hair gel, shampoo and eye-lash glue (ok so we don’t use eye-lash glue everyday but still).

Ingredients to watch out for in cosmetics and personal products, that are not obviously formaldehyde but slowly release formaldehyde, are diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (most commonly known as bronopol), and sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate.

If you need further convincing, this scientific paper may help




This next chemical is probably one you know is dangerous, but did you know it’s in more products that you thought? Mercury is a neurotoxin and can affect the immune system and kidneys. The household item you probably already know contains mercury is the thermometer. The mercury inside a thermometer is safe - as long as you don’t break it. What you may not know is that mercury is contained in fluorescent and low energy light bulbs.

The UK Department for environment, food and rural affairs say that whilst mercury is toxic, the small amount in light bulbs does not pose a huge threat, however their advice for cleaning up a broken bulb is this:
Vacate the room and ventilate it for at least 15 minutes. Do not use a vacuum cleaner, but clean up using rubber gloves and aim to avoid creating and inhaling airborne dust. Sweep up all particles and glass fragments and place in a plastic bag. Wipe the area with a damp cloth, then add that to the bag and seal it. Mercury is hazardous waste and the bag should not be disposed of in the bin. All local councils have an obligation to make arrangements for the disposal of hazardous household waste.

If it’s not dangerous, why go to such extremes? Of course it’s dangerous - I can’t believe they want to play it down. Mercury is also found in barometers, nasal spray, hemorrhoid relief ointment and mercurochrome, among other things.

A comprehensive list of household items that may contain mercury can be found here



Dibutyl Pthalate

This chemical is a plasticizer, which is added to polymers to effect flexibility and/or toughness so could be found in toys for instance, and is in nail polish, soaps, hairspray and shampoo. It is also used as an insect repellant in clothing, as a solvent for perfumes, oils, and textiles, and is in epoxy resins as a non-reactive solvent. It seems to be everywhere.

It poses a danger to humans because it is known to cause birth defects and has the potential to cause reproductive damage, affect the central nervous system and damage kidneys and liver. As usual, in small doses it won’t harm us, however the government does not have studies on the effects prolonged and consistent use will have. I am beyond trusting my health to others and I am going to minimize my (and my family’s) exposure to this chemical through choosing cosmetics, shampoos, toys and nail polishes which are phthalate free.




Toluene is a carcinogen, allergen, teratogen (causes birth defects) and can damage kidney, liver and brain. Toluene can be found in paint, nail polish, paint thinners, nail polish remover, colouring pens and markers, cigarette smoke, car polish, shoe polish, car exhaust and vinyl flooring. It’s like there should be someone yelling, "Put your hands in the air, you are surrounded."

It seems, in this modern world, that we can’t escape chemicals and we’re fooling ourselves if we think they are not doing any damage. Minor exposure to one or two chemicals may not do any damage, but it is obvious that we are bombarded on a daily basis, and the four chemicals we have told you about are only the oily sludge on the surface.

There are 3,000 chemicals contained in the millions of products and items we have in our homes, in the plastics, perfumes, cosmetics, cleaning products and even furniture. Only some of the these chemicals have been satisfactorily tested and I am appalled that we are being subjected to substances which may cause asthma, cancer or hormone problems without our government knowing what long term harm it could do, and in many cases, including perfume and air fresheners, not even requiring ingredients be printed on the packaging.

So if anyone in your family has skin allergies, asthma, itchy eyes or hormone problems, maybe it’s time you wondered why and took steps to cut the crap out of your lives - it may make all the difference.

For a more comprehensive list visit

What do you think?