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Everyday health hazards. Beware!

March 24, 2005

We have more reason to be careful now!

A study of common household dust shows there are dangerous chemicals that leach from everyday products.

Take care!Though the study, Sick of Dust: Chemicals in Common Products -- A Needless Health Threat to Our Homes, was done across 70 homes in the United States of America, it is very relevant to India.

The study looks at a new, wide range of chemicals used in computers, cosmetics, upholstery, pesticides and other products.

Interestingly, all these chemicals are legal despite the fact that they are internationally recognised as toxic or harmful to the immune and reproductive systems! Babies and young children are particularly at risk from exposure to these chemicals.

Sick of Dust outlines the major chemicals found in dust samples, their health risks and the products they are found in.

The report also ranks brand name companies and retailers on their use of hazardous chemicals and reveals the fundamental changes needed to protect the basic health of the current and  future generations.

Beverley Thorpe, International Director of Clean Production Action, said: 'Manufacturers and retailers need to stop using toxic chemicals which are building up in our bodies and switch to safer alternatives which are readily available.'

The Sick of Dust report found six main types of chemicals in people's homes.

All composite samples were contaminated by all six of the following chemical classes:

~ Alkylphenols

  • Where: Laundry detergents, textiles, hair-colouring products, paints and all-purpose cleaners.
  • Effect: These chemicals are widely recognised to mimic natural estrogen hormones leading to altered sexual development in some organisms.

~ Organotin compounds

  • Where: Found in polyvinyl chloride water pipes, PVC food packing materials, glass coatings, polyurethane foams and many other consumer products. 
  • Effect: They can disrupt the hormone, reproductive and immune systems.

~ Perfluorinated Organics

  • Where: These are used to make Teflon, Goretex and other oil, water and stain-resistant materials for
    nonstick frying pans, utensils, stove hoods, stain-proof carpets, furniture and clothes. 
  • Effect: They have been shown to damage organ function and sexual development in laboratory animals and are potentially carcinogenic.

~ Pesticides

  • Where: Applied in and around homes for controlling infestations of various insects and used in carpets.
  • Effect: Some are associated with cancer, reproductive effects and birth defects; many are toxic to the nervous system.


  • Where: Found in PVC products like shower curtains, raincoats, toys, furniture and flooring. Also used in paint, pesticides and personal care products (perfume, nail polish, hairspray).
  • Effect: They disrupt reproductive systems in animal studies, particularly in male offspring and can contribute to male infertility.

~ Polybrominated dephenyl ethers (Brominated Flame Retardants)

  • Where: Applied to textiles or incorporated into plastics, foams and electrical goods to prevent the spread of
  • Effect: They damage the development of the nervous and behavioural systems in young animals.


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