Toxic Household Chemicals Linked To Cancer And Infertility

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The Law Of... staying safe in your home

A research study in the US has identified that household dust could be full of potential toxins, promoting concerns relating to products that shed chemicals.

The Law Of... staying safe in your home

Explaining some of the risks, Joanna Tloczek – Paralegal on Simpson Millar's Industrial Disease team – describes how exposure to toxins is usually associated with the workplace and warns against the harmful nature of such chemicals in the home.

Household Toxins

The study has collated data from a variety of studies on the prevalence of household chemicals that have dated back to the year 2000.

Its findings are a stark warning of the dangers of dust in the home, as household items like televisions, furniture, beauty products, cleaning products, and flooring materials shed chemicals that end up in the air and in the dust around our homes.

In total, 45 toxic chemicals were found in indoor dust in the 26 peer-reviewed papers examined by the new report.

At the higher end of the results, 10 chemicals were consistently found in 90% or more of dust samples across multiple studies since 2000, these include:

  • Phthalates
  • Fragrances
  • Flame retardants
  • Phenols

Researchers that collated the data from previous studies warned that children were most at risk of exposure, due to the fact they often crawl on the floor and consistently put their hands to their mouths.

The additional danger to children is the fact that they may be more susceptible to the negative health effects of these chemicals, as their bodies and brains are still developing.

Contributing To Health Problems

While the real-world health effect these toxins are impossible to establish, many of the chemicals are known to increase the risk of a range of health hazards, including:

  • Reproductive and nervous system toxicity
  • Developmental toxicity
  • Cancer
  • Hormone disruption

While the study focuses on research conducted in the US, similar papers have looked at exposure to flame retardants, which are linked to an increased risk of cancer, in dust in the UK.

Authors of the recent study have outlined some simple steps that could reduce the risk of exposure to the potentially toxic household dust, as they recommend:

Toxic Chemicals In The Workplace

The study has shone a light on the dangers in our own homes, with many of these toxic chemicals normally associated with industrial work environments.

As Joanna explains, these dangers highlight the need for vigilance regarding the products we use and how we clean our homes:

"This report highlights the dangers of toxic chemicals in our own homes, many which are specific to the household - but similar toxic materials can be found in the workplace, especially those working in an industrial environment."

"Workplaces have begun to adapt and acknowledge the dangers of these chemicals, with many industries implementing hygiene policies and rules on personal protective equipment to ensure that exposure to dangerous dust is kept to a minimum."

"Even in instances where workers are exposed to harmful chemicals, they may be able to seek compensation from their employer for failing in their duty of care; for exposure at home people are unlikely to be afforded the same protection."

"I would highly recommend that homeowners follow the simple steps recommended by the study to reduce the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals in the home."

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