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Chemicals of Concern

This is an alphabetical listing and summary of the chemicals discussed on this website.


Antimony is a silvery-white metal found in natural deposits such as ores.

Used in: Antimony is added to textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire. It is also used in paints, ceramics, and fireworks, and as enamels for plastics, metal, and glass.

Health Effects: possible carcinogen, developmental, cardiovascular, and reproductive toxin Note: Studies have found that antimony leaches from plastic containers, including water bottles.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical element. It enters soil and water from the erosion of rocks, volcanic eruptions, contamination from mining and the use of this chemical as a preservative in wood products. It lingers in soil even though its use as an agricultural insecticide, especially on cotton, was banned 30 years ago.   Uses

Uses - As a preservative in wood products and as insecticides (use was banned in 1980). used in animal feed to prevent disease and promote growth         

It takes about 4 days for your body to breakdown and excrete inorganic arsenic in urine. However, some of it accumulates in your body / some of the breakdown products are also considered very toxic.

Health Effects
Creates Inflammation disrupts thyroid hormones, diabetes, cancer, heart disease.     


Atrazine is an herbicide used on the majority of corn crops in the United States, and is a common drinking water contaminant.

Used as: herbicide for control of broadleaf and grassy weeds. 

Health Effects: potent hormone-disruptor, developmental and reproductive toxin, prostate cancer, obesity.

Note: Atrazine is also suspected of acting in combination with other pesticides to increase their toxic effects.


Benzene is one of the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States.

Used to: make other chemicals that are then used to make plastics, resins, nylon, and other synthetic fibers. It is also used to make explosives, photographic chemicals, rubber, lubricants, dyes, adhesives, coatings, paint, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. It is used in printing, lithography, and food processing. glue, paint, furniture wax, and detergent.  

Health Effects: known human carcinogen, leukemia, Long-term exposure to benzene can decrease red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and affect the immune system, increasing the chance of infection.


BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole/ BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are used as preservatives in food and personal care products mainly to prevent oils from oxidizing and becoming rancid.

Used in : soaps, facial cleansers, and foods such as cereal, chewing gum, oil, potato chips and other snack foods. 

Health Effects : BHA is anticipated to be a human carcinogen by the National Institutes of Health, while BHT has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, and been shown to interfere with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels in animals in some studies. The Center for Science in the Public Interest cites BHA as an additive to “avoid” and puts BHT in its “caution” column.

Bisphenol A, or BPA is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy coatings. Epoxy lines most of the 131 billion food and beverage cans made in the U.S. annually. More than a billion pounds of BPA are produced in the United States every year. The dangers of this synthetic estrogen leaching into our food from food containers and the health effects of this exposure are well-documented.

Used in: food and drink packaging, water bottles, infant and baby bottles, infant feeding cups, reusable cups, compact discs, automobile parts, impact-resistant safety equipment, plastic dinnerware, eyeglass lenses, toys, and medical devices. BPA epoxy resins are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as the inside lining of  metal food cans, bottle tops, wine vat linings, floorings, paints, and water supply pipes. Some flame retardants, dental sealants, and dental composites may also contain BPA. BPA is used in the recycling of thermal paper, such as receipts, self-adhesive labels, and fax paper. It is also used to make polyvinyl chloride plastics 

Exposure: you and your family can be exposed if you use plastic food containers, canned foods, water or baby bottles, plastic dinnerware, reusable cups, and other products that are made with BPA. 

Half-life6 hour Half life in your body

Health Effects: estrogenic activity (EA), asthma, breast, liver and prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, and obesity. It is also thought to cause behavioral changes in children. In my opinion one of the scariest aspects of BPA exposure is that in some cases, its effects appear to be handed down. This means the chemical reprograms an individual's genes and causes disease in future generations.


Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide. Organophosphates are phosphorus-based compounds that kill insects upon contact by affecting the normal function of the nervous system. Some of the more commonly used organophosphates include diazinon, parathion and chlorpyrifos, which was banned for household use in 2000 but is still used on crops.

Uses:  Chlorpyrifos is used on food and non-food crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, as well as on turf and greenhouse plants. Chlorpyrifos is still heavily used on fruit and nut orchards.  

Found in:  Produce and drinking water                    

Health Effects: Obesity, neurotoxin, endocrine disruptor

Exposure:  Pesticide residues on produce, especially apples, pesticide drift if you live near farms, Drinking water     

Cocamide DEA

Cocamide DEA is a chemically-modified form of coconut oil.

Used as: a foaming agent in shampoos, soaps and body washes.

Health Effects: possible carcinogen, organ system toxicity, combines with other chemicals to create carcinogenic nitrosamines.



Prior to 1972 when its use was banned, DDT was a commonly used pesticide. Although it is no longer used or produced in the United States, we continue to find DDT in our environment. Other parts of the world continue to use DDT in agricultural practices and in disease-control programs. Therefore, atmospheric deposition is the current source of new DDT contamination in our Great Lakes. DDT, and its break-down products DDE and DDD, are persistent, bioacculumative, and toxic (PBT) pollutants target by EPA.

Half-life: DDT has a half life in your body of 5 years

Health Effects: Probable human carcinogen, damages the liver, temporarily damages the nervous system, reduces reproductive success, can cause liver cancer and damages reproductive system.

Exposure: By eating contaminated fish and shellfish, by eating imported food directly exposed to DDT, by eating crops grown in contaminated soil.


Dieldrin is an insecticide and a by-product of the pesticide Aldrin. From 1950 to 1974, dieldrin was widely used to control insects on cotton, corn and citrus crops. Also, dieldrin was used to control locusts and mosquitoes, as a wood preserve, and for termite control. Most uses of dieldrin were banned in 1987 and it is no longer produced in the U.S. due to its harmful effects on humans, fish, and wildlife. Dieldrin is a persistent, bioacculumative, and toxic (PBT) pollutant targeted by EPA.

Health Effects: Decreases the effectiveness of our immune system,  may increase infant mortality,  reduces reproductive success, possible carcinogen, may cause birth defects, damages the kidneys.

Exposure: By eating contaminated fish and shellfish. 

Diethanolamine (DEA)

DEA is used widely because it provides a rich lather in shampoos and keeps a favorable consistency in lotions and creams. Types of DEA include Cocamide DEA, Cocamide MEA, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate, Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide MEA, Myristamide DEA, Oleamide DEA, Stearamide MEA, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate.

Used as: wetting agent in shampoos, lotions, creams and other cosmetics.

Health Effects: Organ System Toxicity. DEA can react with other ingredients in the cosmetic formula to form an extremely potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). NDEA is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers. 

Synonyms & Trade Names: DEA; Di(2-hydroxyethyl)amine; 2,2'-Dihydroxydiethyamine; Diolamine; bis(2-Hydroxyethyl)amine; 2,2'-Iminodiethanol

2,5 Diamine Toluene Sulfate       

2,5 Diamines use is extremely controversial. In fact, a serious blood disorder called aplastic anemia has long been linked to the use of 2,5 diamine toluene sulfate. on the scalp in hair dyes.

  • Used in: hair products, especially hair dyes

  • Health Effects: The Journal of Carcinogenic Toxicology describes 2,5 diamine toluene sulfate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” toxic to the brain and central nervous system, kidneys and liver.

Dioxins and Furans

This large group of hundreds of chemicals is some of the most toxic chemicals known. There are 75 different dioxins, or polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs), 135 different furans, or polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and 209 different polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Seven of the 75 dioxins, 10 of the 135 furans, and 12 of the 209 PCBs have dioxin-like toxicity. They are highly persistent in the environment. There is no safe level of exposure that will not result in adverse health effects.

Found in: Dioxin is a by-product of many industrial processes involving chlorine such as incineration of waste, the production of PVC vinyl, chemical and pesticide manufacturing and pulp and paper bleaching

Exposure: The primary mode of exposure is through food. About 40% of exposure comes from eating beef and 25% from dairy consumption. 

Health Effects: cancer and severe reproductive and developmental problems (at levels 100 times lower than those associated with its cancer causing effects). Dioxin is well-known for its ability to damage the immune system and interfere with hormonal systems. Dioxin exposure has also been linked to diabetes, learning disabilities, immune system suppression, lung problems, and skin disorders.

Flame Retardants

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame-retardant chemicals that are added to plastics and foam products to make them difficult to burn. They are mixed into products rather than bound so they easily leach out of products that contain them. PBDEs are considered to be persistent organic pollutants (POPs), a group of highly toxic chemicals that are persistent in the environment.

One class of flame retardants - pentaBDE, octaBDE, and decaBDE -was phased out of use in the U.S. by the end of 2013. Replacement compounds include chlorinated alkyl and non-chlorinated aryl organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) as well as aromatic brominated compounds such as Firemaster® 550 (FM550).

Found in: strollers, polyurethane foam furniture such as couches, chairs, mattress pads, car seats, crib mattresses and nursing pillows. Also in vinyl products, electronics, adhesives, plastics, paints, varnishes, carpet backing.

Health Effects: neurobehavioral changes, damages immune system, cancer of the liver, kidneys, brain and testes, reduction in fertility and hyperactivity.


Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas or liquid that has a pungent, suffocating odor.

Used As: a preservative in some foods and as an antibacterial ingredient in cosmetics, household antiseptics, medicines, dishwashing liquids, fabric softeners, carpet cleaners, lacquers, and wood products. It is also used as a preservative in some paints, paper coatings; in the permanent press coating on fabrics; in carpets; and in some foam insulation materials. 

Exposure Pathway: Because formaldehyde is a volatile organic chemical it is released from products as a vapor. Most formaldehyde exposures occur by breathing indoor air contaminated by carpets, countertops, cabinets, couches and other furniture.

Health Effects: known human carcinogen, leukemia, asthma, has been identified to cause cancer of the upper airways and leukemia, as well as respiratory illness. 

Furans – see Dioxins

Glycol Ethers

Glycol ethers are used as solvents.

Found In: paints, lacquers, varnishes, cleaning products, liquid soaps, brake fluid, cosmetics, perfumes, dyes and inks. 

Exposure routes: Glycol ethers enter your body when they evaporate into the air you breathe, and they are rapidly absorbed into your body if the liquids contact your skin.

Health Effects: blood abnormalities, low sperm count, asthma, allergies. Chronic exposure glycol ethers i results in fatigue, lethargy, nausea, anorexia, tremor, and anemia. 

Parabens (butyl, ethyl, isobutyl, methyl, propyl)

Parabens are used as preservatives in personal care products.

Used in: hair dye, shampoo, deodorants, cosmetics, lotions 

Health Effects: Endocrine disrupter, breast cancer, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, obesity

Perchloroethylene (PCE, PERC)

Perchloroethylene is a manufactured chemical that is primarily used for dry cleaning fabrics.

Used in: dry cleaning, aerosol products, solvent soaps, printing inks, adhesives, sealants, paint removers, paper coatings, leather treatments, automotive cleaners, polishes, lubricants, and silicones, adhesives, spot removers, wood cleaners, and shoe polish. 

Exposure: dry cleaned clothes will release small amounts of perchloroethylene into the air after they are dry cleaned.

Health Effects: leukemia and cancer of the skin, colon, lung, larynx, bladder, and urogenital tract, central nervous system, liver, and kidney damage 

Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)

PFCs are a class of chemicals that make things stain and stick-resistant.

PFOA, a type of PFC, is used to make Teflon. It has a half-life of four years and is found the blood of 95% of Americans. It is a persistent organic pollutant. Even though manufactures have agreed to eliminate it in consumer products by 2015, it will continually circulate through our bodies, the environment and the food chain. It has been replaced by PFBS, a sister to PFOA, which probably breaks down into PFOA.

PFOS has a half-life of eight years and was used to make Scotchguard. It has been replaced, but there is no information available on the new Scotchguard formula.

Found in: every stain resistant and non-stick product, including non-stick cookware, clothing, carpeting, furniture and food packaging (microwave popcorn, pizza boxes, fast food containers). It is also used as a surfactant (substance that reduces the surface tension of liquids so that the liquid spreads out, rather than collecting in droplets) in shampoo, dental floss and denture cleaners.

Exposure: Ingestion from food contaminated by packaging and cooking in non-stick cookware. Inhalation from fumes associated cooking in non-stick cookware. Absorption through the skin from items treated to be stain-resistant.

Health Effects: Causes cancer, liver and kidney damage, reproductive problems, birth defects, elevated cholesterol and hypothyroidism. Scientists have failed to find a dose of PFOA that doesn’t damage the immune system, especially the spleen and thymus gland.


Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl. They are not bound to the products they are in so they leach out easily.

Found in: cosmetics, personal care products, including fragrances soap, shampoo, and nail polish, food packaging (canned food, soda and frozen dinners), plastic wrap, flexible plastic and vinyl toys, shower curtains, vinyl blinds, vinyl flooring, wallpaper, insecticides.

Exposure: Inhaled, ingested and absorbed through the skin. You can be exposed to phthalates through diets high in meat and dairy, plastic food storage containers, cosmetics, personal care products, cleaning products, and small appliances. 

Health Effects: Endocrine (hormone) disrupter, diabetes, infertility, decreased sperm count, obesity, worsening of allergies and asthma, altered toddler behavior. 

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

There are no known natural sources of PCBs in our environment. PCBs are either oily liquids or solids, are colorless to light yellow, and have no smell or taste. Because they do not easily burn and are good insulators, PCBs have been used widely as coolants and lubricants. PCBs are persisten, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) pollutants that have been targeted by EPA.

Health Effects: Probable human carcinogen, stomach, liver and kidney damage and thyroid gland injuries. 

Exposure: By eating contaminated fish and shellfish, infants may be exposed through breast milk, may be in milk, meat, and their by-products.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Polyvinyl chloride is an odorless and solid plastic made from vinyl chloride. Exposure to PVC often includes exposure to phthalates, which are used to soften PVC.

Used in: raincoats, toys, food packaging and shrink wrap, house wares, pipes, shoe soles, shades and blinds, vinyl flooring and siding, upholstery and seat covers, shower curtains, furniture, carpet backing, plastic bags, videodiscs, and credit cards. 

Health Effects: known carcinogen (liver, breast, blood and brain), liver disease, vinyl chloride disease.


Propylparaben is the most toxic of the parabens.

Used as: a fragrance and preservative in food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics 

Health Effects: mimic estrogen and can act as potential endocrine system disruptors. 

Synonyms:4-hydroxy- propyl ester benzoic acid // 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, propyl ester // 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, propyl ester, sodium salt // benzoic acid, 4-hydroxy-, propyl ester // benzoic acid, 4-hydroxy-, propyl ester, sodium salt // benzoic acid, 4hydroxy, propyl ester // benzoic acid, 4hydroxy, propyl ester, sodium salt // polyparaben // potassium propylparaben // potassium salt propylparaben // propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate


Used in: hair dye, as anti-acne agent and fragrance ingredient

Health Effects: Endocrine system disrupter, organ system toxicity, immunotoxicity, hypothyroidism 

Synoyms:1,3-benzenediol; 1,3benzenediol; 3-hydroxyphenol; ci developer 4; m-dihydroxybenzene; m-hydroquinone; m-phenylenediol; oxidation base 31; resorcin; 1,3-benzenediol; 1,3-dihydroxybenzene

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS/SLES)

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic products.

Found in: shampoos, scalp treatments, hair dye and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes, bath oils/bath salts, and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, and laundry detergents. 

Health Effects: skin irritant, potential carcinogen


Styrene is a colorless to yellow liquid widely used to make plastics, fiberglass, rubber, and latex.

Used in: insulation, packaging, luggage, shoes, toys, food containers, floor tiles, floor waxes and polishes, adhesives, putties, and varnishes. Styrene is also used to make resins for various office products, such as photocopier toners and computer printer cartridges.

Exposure: You can be exposed to low levels of styrene by breathing indoor air or eating food stored in polystyrene containers.  High levels of styrene in the home may come from building materials, consumer products, tobacco smoke, photocopiers, and laser printers.

Health Effects: has been linked to leukemia, lymphoma, and other stem, blood, and bone marrow cancers. It has also been linked to genetic damage and increased risk of cancer of the esophagus and pancreas. Long-term exposure may cause brain disease, liver damage, nerve tissue damage, effects on kidney function, occupational asthma, damage to the central nervous system, impaired hearing, altered color vision, and reproductive effects. 


Toluene is a toxic ingredient in solvents, paints, and other household products.

Used in: spray and wall paints, paint thinner, medicine, dyes, explosives, detergents, fingernail polish, spot removers, lacquers, adhesives, rubber, and antifreeze. It is also used in some printing and leather tanning processes. 

Exposure: You can be exposed to toluene by breathing automobile exhaust, pumping gasoline, consuming contaminated food or water, or using other products that contain toluene, such as kerosene, heating oil, paints, and lacquers. 

Health Effects: Exposure to high levels of toluene may affect your kidneys, nervous system, liver, brain, and heart. Exposure to low to moderate levels of toluene can cause confusion, light-headedness, dizziness, headache, fatigue, weakness, memory loss, nausea, appetite loss, coughing, wheezing, and hearing and color vision loss. 


Trichloroethylene, a volatile organic chemical (VOC), is a colorless liquid which is used as a solvent for cleaning metal parts and in the production of some textiles to clean cotton, wool and other fabrics. It is also used as a solvent for waterless dying.

Found in: dyes, inks, pepper sprays, rug cleaners, spot removers, paints, paint removers, adhesives. 

Health Effects: cancer (liver, kidney, prostate), nervous system, liver and lung damage, birth defects and low birth weight. 

Note: Conclusion from EHP “TCE is carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure and poses a potential human health hazard for non cancer toxicity to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and the developing embryo/fetus.” (EHP 2013.)


Triclosan is synthetic antibacterial ingredient. It is a registered pesticide and considered highly toxic.

Used in: products labeled antibacterial, including toothbrushes, toothpaste (Colgate), toys, cutting boards, detergents, soaps, skin cleansers, deodorants, lotions, creams, toothpastes, and dishwashing liquids 

Health Effects: carcinogen, thyroid and estrogen endocrine disruptor, reproductive toxin, suppresses immune system, heart disease. 

Note: Watch for the antibacterial chemicals triclosan and triclocarban (triclosan's chemical cousin) in personal care products. It also appears in products as Microban® Additive B, Irgasan® (DP 300 or PG 60), Biofresh®, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac or Cloxifenolum.