Health and Wellness

I N F O R M A T I O N . . . .

   There are more than     3 million poisonings     every year.
Household cleaners are the number one cause of poisonings of children. Last year over 25,000 children were exposed to or poisoned by household chlorine bleach alone.

   Formaldehyde, phenol, and benzene are all found in common household cleaners and cosmetics. These chemicals are known to be cancer causing and toxic to the immune and nervous system

   There has been a call from the U.S./Canadian Commission to ban bleach in North America. Bleach is being linked to the rising rates of breast cancer in women, reproductive problems in men and learning and behavioral problems in children.

   The National Cancer Association released results of a 15 year study concluding that women who work in the home are at a 54% higher risk of developing cancer than women who work outside the home due to the toxic fumes from cleaning and laundry products that they use.

   According to the American Cancer Society, 1 out of 3 people have cancer.

   Lysol is even more dangerous than we thought. Lysol contains phenols. Fatal poisoning can occur through skin absorption and although there have been many poisonings from phenolic solutions, phenol continues to be used in consumer products.

   There is Formaldehyde in Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo.

   Since 1980, asthma has increased by 600%. The Canadian Lung Association and the Asthma Society of Canada identify commom household cleaners and cosmetics as triggers.

   Add/ADHD is an epidemic in schools today. Behavioral problems have long been linked to exposure to toxic chemicals and molds.

   Chemical and environmental sensitivities are known to cause all types of headaches.

   The New York Poison Control Center reports that 85% of product warning labels are either inadequate or incorrect for identifying a poison and for first aid instructions.

   Formaldehyde, phenol, benzene, toluene, and xylene are all found in commom household cleaners, cosmetics, beverages, fabrics, and cigarette smoke. These chemicals are known to be cancer causing and toxic to the immune and nervous systems.

   The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found more thatn 2, 500 chemicals in cosmetics that are toxic, cause tumors, reproductive complications, biological mutations, eye and skin irritations.

   Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue symdrome, arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, circulatory disorders, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, irritable bowel syndrom, depression, and hormonal problems are diseases commonly related to chemical exposure.

Taken from "Create a Safe and Healthy Home" by Dr. Joyce M. Woods



The Environmental Protection Agency defines chemical hazards as "acute" or "chronic:"

Acute hazard, includes highly toxic, or corrosive chemicals which cause an adverse effect to an organ after short-term exposure.

Chronic hazard, includes carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals which cause an adverse effect over a long-term exposure.

The Federal Code of Regulations defines "Hazardous Chemicals" in Section 1910.1200c Title 29. However, the term "Hazardous" does NOT include hazardous ingredients used in products designed for personal, family, or household use.  

The Federal Code of Regulations section 1500.82, EXEMPTS manufacturers from full labeling, allowing them to exclude "Hazardous" chemicals from their labels.  

   The EPA reports toxic chemicals in our home cleaning and personal care products are 3 times more likely to cause cancer, than outside pollutants.  

   The President's Toxic Substances Strategy Committee warns 90% of all cancers are triggered by toxic chemicals in our home environment.  

   The Consumer Product Safety Commission connects 150 toxic chemicals in our homes to allergies, birth defects, cancer, and psychological abnormalities.  

   The EPA warns toxic chemicals in household cleaners cause women working at home to have a 55% HIGHER cancer risk than women working outside the home.  

   The EPA warns the nation's worst pollution is inside our homes. A number of homes tested have toxic chemical levels 70 times higher inside the home than outside.  

   The Mayo clinic warns Formaldehyde in our household and personal care products can irritate the respiratory system, cause skin reactions, and trigger heart palpitations.  

   The Harvard School of Public Health warns Formaldehyde can cause headaches, depression, joint pain, chronic fatigue, chest pains, ear infections, dizziness, and loss of sleep.  

   The California Public Research Group warns Phenol, which is used in most household disinfectants, can cause cancer, deactivate the sensory nerve endings, damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.  


   Dove Beauty Bar: Quaternium 15: Formaldehyde-Carcinogen. Causes cancer, dermatitis, neurotoxic, sensitizer-poisonious, irritant to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.

   Butylated Hydroxytoluene, (BHT) Carcinogen.  

   Johnson's Baby Shampoo: Quaternium 15: FD&C RED 40: Carcinogen, and causes dermatitis.  

   Crest Tarter Control Toothpaste: Saccharin: Carcinogen, contains Phenol Fluoride: Carcinogen If you accidentally swallow more than a pea-sized amount of this, you must contact the Poison Control Center immediately. This warning does not appear on the tube.  

   Tide & Cheer Detergent: Detergent: Can cause temporary respiratory tract irritation. Symptoms include stinging, swelling, or redness. Sodium Silicate: Can be corrosive. Can cause burns to the eyes and tissue damage to the skin, as well as cause burns to the mouth, throat, and stomach if swallowed. Sodium Sulfate: Corrosive, Severe eye, skin, and respiratory irritant. Can cause asthma attacks. Trisodium Nitrilotriacetate: Carcinogen  

   Clorox: Sodium Hypochlorite: Corrosive. Sensitizer: Can be fatal if swallowed. Eye, skin, and respiratory irritant. Especially hazardous to people with heart conditions or asthma.  

   Cascade: Sodium Hypochlorite Sodium Silicate: Can be corrosive. Can cause burns to the eyes and tissuedamage to the skin, as well as cause burns to the mouth, throat, and stomachif swallowed.  

   Fantastic, Formula 409: Butyl Cellosolve: Neurotoxic. Eye and skin irritant. Damages central nervous system, kidney, and liver. Readily absorbed throughthe skin. Damages blood and body's ability to make blood.  

   Windex Aerosol Glass Cleaner: Butyl Cellosolve (see above) Isobutane: Neurotoxic  

   Lysol Disinfectant: Dioxin; Carcinogen. 500,000 times more deadly than DDT Ethyl Alcohol: Eye, skin, respiratory tract irritant.  

Details on the above data are available in "The Safe Shopper's Bible" by Dr. Samuel Epstein, MD. & David Steinman. Macmillian, 1995. Lysol data from "The Environmental Health Newsletter."

Children's Unique Vulnerability to Environmental Toxins

   Children's Vulnerability to Toxins in the Environment Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental toxins. This heightened susceptibility stems from several sources.

   Children have greater exposures to environmental toxins than adults.

   Pound for pound of body weight, children drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air than do adults. For example, children ages one through five years eat three to four times more food per pound than the average adult American.

   The air intake of a resting infant is twice that of an adult per pound of body weight. These patterns of increased consumption reflect the rapid metabolism of children. The implication for environmental health is that children will have substantially heavier exposures pound for pound than adults to any toxins that are present in water, food, or air. This has been demonstrated clearly in the case of children's exposures to pesticides in the diet.

   Two additional characteristics of children further magnify their exposures to toxins in the environment: 1) their hand-to-mouth behavior, which increases their ingestion of any toxins in dust or soil, and 2) their likelihood of playing close to the ground, which increases their exposure to toxins in dust, soil, and carpets as well as to any toxins that form low-lying layers in the air, such as certain pesticide vapors.

   Children's metabolic pathways are immature compared with those of adults. As a consequence of this biological immaturity, children's ability to detoxify and excrete certain toxins is different from that of adults. In some instances, children are actually better able than adults to deal with environmental toxins. More commonly, however, they are less able than adults to deal with toxic chemicals and thus they are more vulnerable to them.

   Children are undergoing rapid growth and development, and their developmental processes are easily disrupted.

   Many organ systems in young children-the nervous system, the reproductive organs, the immune system-undergo very rapid growth and development in the first months and years of life. During this period, structures are developed and vital connections are established. Indeed, development of the nervous system continues all through childhood, as is evidenced by the fact that children continue to acquire new skills progressively as they grow and develop-crawling, walking, talking, reading, and writing. The nervous system is not well able to repair any structural damage that is caused by environmental toxins. Thus, if cells in the developing brain are destroyed by chemicals such as lead, mercury, or solvents, or if vital connections between nerve cells fail to form, there is high risk that the resulting neurobehavioral dysfunction will be permanent and irreversible. The consequences can be loss of intelligence and alteration of normal behavior.

   Because children have more future years of life than do most adults, they have more time to develop chronic diseases that may be triggered by early environmental exposures.

   Many diseases that are triggered by toxins in the environment require decades to develop. Examples include mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos, leukemia caused by benzene, breast cancer that may be caused by DDT, and possibly some chronic neurologic diseases such as Parkinson's disease that may be caused by exposure to environmental neurotoxins.

Many of those diseases are now thought to be the products of multistage processes within the body's cells that require many years to evolve from earliest initiation to actual manifestation of illness. Consequently, certain carcinogenic and toxic exposures sustained early in life appear more likely to lead to disease than do the same exposures encountered later in life.

This summary was prepared by the Center for Children's Health and the Environment of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. CCHE's mission is to promote the health of children by conducting environmental health and policy research. CCHE was established in 1998 with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts. CCHE's director is Philip J. Landrigan M.D., M.Sc., a pediatrician who chairs the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai.

National Academy of Sciences: Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1993.
Landrigan, PJ, Carlson JE: Environmental policy and children's health. The Future of Children 1995;5:34-52.
Copyright © 2000, 2001 [Center for Children's Health and the Environment]. All rights reserved. Last Revised: February 21, 2001 .