Toxic chemicals that affect our health and environment are present in our daily lives. Here are some of the most pressing chemicals of concern today. The good news is that we can take steps to protect ourselves and the environment from these chemicals.
PFAS, or poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, have become notorious as drinking water contaminants as a result of industrial releases and use of firefighting foam. But they are used in a wide range of products, from food packaging to stain-resistant furniture, and our exposure comes from multiple sources and routes. PFAS have become global pollutants that threaten the health of people and wildlife. Learn more
Phthalates are plasticizers and fragrance carriers used in a wide array of consumer products, especially those containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Learn more
From our TVs to our automobiles, furniture and building materials, dangerous cancer-causing and brain-harming flame retardants are used in the name of fire safety when safer alternatives are available. Learn more
Pesticides are chemicals used to kill pests, such as insects or weeds. Many different kinds of synthetic (human-made) pesticides are used in agriculture or in home-use products. Learn more
PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls – are synthetic (human-made) chemicals first produced in the late 1920s. They were used as cooling fluids in electrical equipment and machinery because of their durability and resistance to fire.
DDT – dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane – was developed as an insecticide in the 1940s, and was widely used during World War II to combat insect-borne diseases. Learn more
Mercury, arsenic, and lead are found naturally in the earth, but just because they’re natural chemical elements doesn’t mean they’re harmless. They are heavy metals with a long history of industrial and personal use—and just as long of a history of harming human health. Learn more
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas at room temperature. It is widely used in many consumer products, including building materials, pressed wood, cosmetics, shoe-care products, and textiles. It is also used as a disinfectant and as a preservative, including in mortuaries and medical labs. Learn more
Bisphenol A is a building-block chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic as well as epoxy resins used as can linings. It is also found in some dental materials. Learn more
Antimony is a naturally occurring metal often used in combination with lead and zinc, found in metal alloys, paints, ceramics, and fireworks. It is also used as a catalyst to produce polyester, and is found in plastics used for disposable beverage bottles. The most widely used antimony compound is antimony trioxide, used as a component in flame retardant applications. Learn more
Lead is found naturally in the earth, but just because it’s natural chemical elements doesn’t mean it’s harmless. It is a heavy metal with a long history of industrial and personal use—and just as long of a history of harming human health. It has actually been recorded to be harmful as early as 2,000 BC! Learn more