23 Toxic Chemicals You Can Find in Everyday Items

There are so many products that we use on a regular basis — beauty products, household cleaners, food items, cookware, stuff for babies, and more

Photo: Unsplash/@picsbyjameslee

Photo: Unsplash/@picsbyjameslee

There are so many products that we use on a regular basis — beauty products, household cleaners, food items, cookware, stuff for babies, and more. It’s stressful enough to find time in the day to purchase these items and get them home, so it’s safe to say that a lot of us aren’t spending extra time investigating what’s in each product. We trust that if an item is on a store shelf, it must be safe to use. Well, that is just plain wrong.

After seeing the documentary Stink!, about dangerous chemicals in American products, we learned that very little is regulated. A lot of the items that are making us sick are the same items we are buying and using every day. People are making the connection between these products and negative changes in their health. The trail of guilt goes back to greedy corporations who cut corners to save money and make money. All the while, they are playing with our safety and that of our families. The best way to fight back is to inform yourself, demand more transparency, vote for those who feel the same, and refuse to buy toxic products. Here are 23 unhealthy ingredients in everyday items that you’ll want to avoid.



What is it? Who knows? In an effort to protect their special formulas, perfume companies don’t have to disclose the ingredients in their fragrances. This has spread to anything containing a “fragrance,” which can contain any number of hazardous chemicals.

Where is it found? Perfume, air fresheners, scented candles, dryer sheets, body wash, hand wash, etc.

What does it cause? Allergic reactions (including anaphylaxis), cancer, hormone disruption, weight gain, etc.



What is it? Phthalates are the esters of phthalic acid. They are used to make plastic and vinyl softer, more flexible, more transparent, and more durable.

Where are they found? Chemical hair relaxers, deodorant/antiperspirant, nail polish, fragrances, vinyl shower curtains, vinyl flooring, children’s toys, etc.

What do they cause? Weight gain, hormone issues (in men and women)/hormone damage, increased risk of breast cancer, linked to childhood language delays, cell damage, harm to thyroid function, etc.



What are they? Parabens (look for any ingredient that ends in this word) are preservatives and are used to prevent bacteria growth in products.

Where are they found? Facial cleansers, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, deodorant/antiperspirant, 85% of cosmetics, beer, sodas, sauces, jams, and other beverages and foods, etc.

What do they cause? Breast cancer (99% of breast cancer tissue contains parabens), endocrine disruption, infertility in men, etc.




What is it? Triclosan is an antimicrobial and antifungal chemical, which is also used as a preservative.

Where is it found? Colgate toothpaste, hand sanitizers, hand soap, clothing, makeup, cleaning products, children’s toys, plastic kitchen tools, bedding and other fabrics, deodorant/antiperspirant, body wash, aftershave, etc.

What does it cause? Increased risk of breast cancer (including for pregnant women); increased chance of children developing asthma, skin allergies, and eczema; weakening of the immune system, uncontrolled cell growth, etc.


1, 4-Dioxane

What is it? 1,4-Dioxane is a synthetic petrochemical, and contaminant (a.k.a. these names).

Where is it found? Cosmetics, shampoo, children’s bath products, face wash, bubble bath, body wash, drinking water, mouthwash, chemical hair relaxer, some pharmaceuticals, etc.

What does it cause? Cancer, linked to organ toxicity; vertigo; drowsiness; irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat; nausea; headache; etc.


Food Dyes

What are they? Food dyes are petroleum or crude oil derived chemicals used to add color to what we eat, and other items.

Where are they found? Pharmaceuticals such as Tylenol, cereals, baked goods, sodas, Jell-O, cake mix, waffles, crackers, Kool-Aid, cosmetics, candy, etc.

What do they cause? Hyperactivity in children, ADHD, behavioral issues in children, cancer, tumors, chromosomal damage, hypersensitivity, asthma, allergic reactions, eczema, hives, learning disabilities, insomnia, inability to concentrate, chromosomal damage, etc.


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

What is it? Sodium lauryl sulfate (a.k.a. sodium laureth sulfate and other ingredients featuring the word sodium) is a surfactant, emulsifier, and cleansing agent that makes products foam up or lather.

Where is it found? Shampoo, toothpaste, antibacterial soap, foaming cleanser, Cetaphil, soap, etc.

What does it cause? Hair loss, cancer (as it contains 1,4-Dioxane), skin irritation, dry skin, a triggering of allergies, etc.



What is it? Aluminum is a light silvery-grey heavy metal that is used in some everyday products we use.

Where is it found? Deodorant, aluminum foil, table salt, soy milk, soda cans, antacids, kitchenware, baking soda/baking powder, processed cheese, cake mix, canned foods, certain vaccines, cosmetics, cookware, certain baby formulas, etc.

What does it cause? Linked to Alzheimer’s, pulmonary fibrosis, other respiratory issues, constipation, heavy metal toxicity, linked to autism, breast cancer, etc.


Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

What is it? Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a petroleum-based compound, used to thicken, soften, carry moisture, and more in products.

Where is it found? Shampoo, ibuprofen, cream-based cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, laxatives, etc.

What does it cause? Scalp irritation, severe diarrhea, rectal bleeding, contact dermatitis, skin rashes, dry skin, linked to cancer, etc.


Sodium Fluoride

What is it? Sodium fluoride is a pharmaceutical and is often an umbrella term for various toxic chemicals.

Where is it found? Tap water, toothpaste, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, etc.

What does it cause? Cancer, collagen to break down, internal bleeding (in fluoride poisoning), lowered IQ, brain damage, thyroid issues, etc.


Mineral Oil


What is it? Mineral oil is a byproduct from distilling petroleum to make gasoline.

Where is it found? Used as a laxative, cosmetics, baby lotion, cold creams, baby oil, hair products, Swedish fish candy, ointments, etc.

What does it cause? Increased risk of cancer (for untreated or mildly treated mineral oil), clogged pores, contamination of the body, etc.



What is it? Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring organic chemical compound.

Where is it found? Adhesives and glues, pressed-wood products, permanent-press fabrics, cigarettes, nail polish, baby care products, chemical hair straightener, nail polish remover, some pillows, and bedding, etc.

What does it cause? Eye, nose, and throat irritation; cancer; nausea; wheezing; asthma attacks; bronchitis; etc.


Butyl Cellosolve


What is it? Butyl cellosolve is a chemical solvent that is added to several items, including cleaners.

Where is it found? 409, Goo Gone, Windex, simple green, Pledge, Easy Off, and other cleaning products.

What does it cause? Depression, mood swings, depression of the central nervous system, memory loss, blood disorders, linked to cancer, headaches, linked to reproductive issues, harmful if absorbed through the skin, etc.




What is it? Toluene is a clear, odorless liquid which occurs naturally in crude oil and in the tolu tree.

Where is it found? Nail polish, inks, paint thinner, paint brush cleaners, hair dyes, nail treatment

What does it cause? Organ system toxicity, dizziness, eye irritation, developmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity, bioaccumulation, etc.




What is it? Hydroquinone is a topical skin-lightening agent.

Where is it found? Skin lightener, nail glue, hair conditioner, facial cleanser, etc.

What does it cause? Organ system toxicity, cancer, immunotoxicity, allergies, damage to DNA, etc.


Triethanolamine (TEA)

What is it? Triethanolamine is an amine, used as a PH adjusting chemical, a surfactant, stabilizer, and fragrance ingredient, etc.

Where is it found? Shampoo, soap, mascara, eyeliner, other makeup, fragrances, shaving cream, sunscreen, paraffin and waxes, pharmaceutical ointments, etc.

What does it cause? Cancer, bioaccumulation, contact dermatitis, organ system toxicity, skin/eye irritation, etc.



What is it? Talc is a clay mineral, sometimes containing asbestos.

Where is it found? Talcum powder/baby powder, cosmetics including blush, ceramics, paint, rubber, paper, plastics, food, pharmaceuticals, etc.

What does it cause? Cancer (ovarian, lung), pulmonary issues, etc.


Vinyl and PVC

What is it? A synthetic plastic or resin (vinyl); polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a synthetic plastic polymer.

Where is it found? Plastic products, vinyl records, raincoats, and other clothing, shower curtains, pipes, window frames, blood bags, wire, cable, indoor plumbing, etc.

What does it cause? Increased risk of liver cancer (ovarian, lung), headaches, eye and respiratory tract irritation, endocrine disruption, etc.



What is it? Bronopol is the common name for the active ingredient in a series of broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents marketed by The Dow Chemical Company and its global affiliates under several trade names.

Where is it found? Cosmetics, topical medications, acne treatment, finger paints, foundation, cream, kitty litter, conditioner, eyebrow pencil, etc.

What does it cause? Severe irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract; change in weight of certain organs, harmful to the stomach and liver, etc.


BHA (Butylated Hydroxyl Anisole)

What is it? Butylated Hydroxyl Anisole is a synthetic antioxidant and preservative

Where is it found? Food, food packaging, cosmetics, animal feed, medicines, sunscreen, deodorant/antiperspirant, fragrance, etc.

What does it cause? Possibly carcinogenic, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, irritation, developmental and reproductive toxicity, bioaccumulation, allergies, etc.



What is it? “Oxybenzone is a benzophenone derivative used as a sunscreen agent.”

Where is it found? Sunscreen, plastics, cosmetics, plastics, etc.

What does it cause? Allergies/Photoallergies, is a photocarcinogen, potentially causes cell damage, etc.



What is it? “Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals…”

Where is it found? Lipstick, paint, household dust, some toys, lead-glazed pottery, ceramics, china, some toys, some metal jewelry, imported canned foods, batteries, etc.

What does it cause? Lower IQ and brain/nervous system damage in children, anemia, kidney damage, abdominal issues, fatigue, hallucinations, etc.


Carbon Black


What is it? Carbon black (subtypes are acetylene black, channel black, furnace black, lamp black, and thermal black) is a material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products such as FCC tar, coal tar, or ethylene cracking tar.”

Where is it found? Eyeliner, mascara, tires, rubber, shoes, ink, paint, etc.

What does it cause? Possible carcinogen; lung disease; irritation to eyes, nose, and throat; etc.

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