Top 10 Toxic Products You Don’t Need

Written by Margie Kelly, communications manager at Healthy Child Healthy World

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on September 17, 2012. Enjoy!

Advertisers spent an astonishing $144 billion in 2011 to entice you to buy more and more stuff, so it’s not surprising that you have a home full of things you don’t need. Here’s a list of 10 toxic products you absolutely don’t need; you can get rid of them right away! Not only will your home be less cluttered, your health will improve by eliminating everyday items that contain toxic chemicals that contaminate your air, food and body.

1. Vinyl plastic

Vinyl is the worst plastic for the environment. Banned in over 14 countries and the European Union, PVC, also known as vinyl, is found in floors, wall coverings, and toys. Vinyl leaches phthalates (linked to hormone disruption) and lead (a potent neurotoxicant) — contaminating air, dust, and eventually you. Go PVC-free by reading packages and avoiding the #3 in the chasing arrows symbol (usually found on the bottom of a product).

2. Fragrances

Chemical fragrances found in everyday products like air fresheners, dryer sheets, and perfumes can trigger asthma. Some of the chemicals mimic estrogen, a process that may increase the risk of breast cancer. For example, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is absorbed through the skin and can accumulate in human fat tissue. Phthalates are suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors that are increasingly being linked to reproductive disorders. To be safe, choose fragrance-free products or use those scented with natural fragrances like essential oils.

3. Canned food

It’s probably shocking to find a food item on a toxic product list, but it’s no mistake. Food cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA). Most experts believe this is our main source of exposure to BPA, which has been linked to early puberty, cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression in young girls and much more. Many food brands have gone BPA free, including Campbell’s Soup. But beware: some companies have switched to BPS, BPA’s chemical cousin, which has been linked many of the same health effects. To be safe, opt for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred foods.

4. Dirty cleaners

Admit it: it’s a bit odd to wipe toxic chemicals all over your oven, floors, counters, and toilets to get them “clean.” Corrosive or caustic cleaners, such as the lye and acids found in drain cleaners, oven cleaners and acid-based toilet bowl cleaners are the most dangerous cleaning products because they burn skin, eyes and internal tissue easily. It’s simple and effective to use non-toxic cleaners or to make your own. You won’t miss the toxic fumes in your home either!

5. Pesticides

This is a huge category of products, but they deserve inclusion in their entirety because of how extremely toxic they are. They’re made to be. That’s how they kill things. But, solving your pest problem may leave you with another problem – residual poisons that linger on surfaces, contaminate air, and get tracked onto carpet from the bottom of shoes. There are so many non-toxic ways to eliminate pests and weeds. Next time, get on the offense without chemicals.

6. Bottled water

Americans buy half a billion bottles of water every week, according to the film The Story of Bottled Water. Most people buy bottled water thinking they’re avoiding any contaminants that may be present in their tap water. For the most part, they’re wrong. Bottled water can be just as, or even more, contaminated than tap water. In fact, some bottled water IS tap water – just packaged (in plastic that can leach chemicals into the water) and over-priced. Also, from manufacture to disposal, bottled water creates an enormous amount of pollution, making our water even less drinkable. Do yourself and the world a favor and invest in a reusable stainless steel water bottle and a water filter.

7. Lead lipstick

Can you believe lead, a known neurotoxin that has no safe level of exposure, is found in women’s lipsticks? A study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered lead in 400 lipsticks tested, at levels two times higher than found in a previous FDA study. There is no safe level of lead exposure. Pregnant women and children are at special risk, as lead can interfere with normal brain development. To find a safe lipstick, as well as other personal care products like shampoo and lotion, check out the Skin Deep Database.

8. Nonstick cookware

Studies show that perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which make products stain-and stick resistant, are linked to cancer and low birth weights. They are incredibly persistent and can now be found all over the globe, including in the bodies of polar bears. Not only are PFCs found in cookware, but microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, some dental flosses, furniture and clothing. To steer clear of PFCs, avoid products made with Teflon or list ingredients beginning with “fluoro” or “perfluoro.”

9. Triclosan

This antibacterial agent is found in soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, deodorants, and even clothing. Studies have found triclosan may harm the human immune system, which makes people more likely to develop allergies, and reduces muscle strength in humans and animals. The FDA warns consumers to read labels for triclosan and recommends using plain soap to clean up. Instead of using antibacterial hand sanitizers made with triclosan, choose an alternative made with at least 60 percent alcohol.

10. Oil-based paints and finishes

There are 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens potentially present in oil-based paint, according to a John Hopkins University study. Still interested in coating your walls and furniture with this gunk? I hope not. Look for water-based options – ideally those that are low- or no-VOC. You could also explore natural finishes like milk paint and vegetable or wax-based wood finishes.

What’s at the top of your list of toxic products you don’t need?

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Healthy Child Healthy World’s mission is to empower parents to take action and protect their children from harmful chemicals. By working with manufacturers and supporting policy initiatives, Healthy Child Healthy World has transformed the marketplace into a safer environment for children.

Image credit: Unsplash


jill Campbell
jill Campbell13 days ago

Ok, let's get honest here. There has been many chemicals invented over the years that were approved by the FDA, only to find out years down the road that these products turned out not to be safe (for whatever reason). Scientists do not set out to harm us. They take an oath "to first do no harm". No one sets out with conspiring to ignore harmful side effects. You watch too much t.v. if you believe this. Sometimes it's not till years later that we even have the equipment or know about the side effects humans have.
It's so easy to blame the government or people we think are trying to poison us for profit. However, we, the everyday person are far more to blame for poisoning our environment on land and in oceans.

Dot A
Dot A19 days ago

Several thoughtful comments to add to this dawning awareness of businesses poisoning our population for profit. If our consensus could be a collective goal to use our intelligence in a far more constructive concept of what we NEED, what is SAFE, what is USEFUL, and what is WISE, we would re-construct our economics and our governing structure for everyone's benefit. As it is, the business model has poisoned not only our environment, it has also poisoned our thinking with 'get rich' and let the chips fall where they may. We're chipping away at life's preciousness for selfish profits, and eventually it will all go bankrupt, in every sense of the word. We can change this!!!! if we Care2.

One Heart i
One Heart inc20 days ago


Janis K
Janis K20 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Nicole H
Nicole H20 days ago

2.- Non sticky cookware : I plead guilty. Use them because so easy for cleaning, And the expensive ones are no longer coated with teflon.
Triclosan : must admit I never heard of it, but will pay attention in the future. I hope the old Sunlight soap is not adding this poison in its bars of soap.
Oil based paints : since over 10 years, we are using water based paint. First, they are not bad smelling, 2ndly, brushes and rolls are more easy to clean with just water.
What worries me the most is that so many products for daily use are available in any shop or super market, are not labelled as being bad or poisonous for our health. We have a government, we have food & drug administration (or an equivalent organization in W. Europe) but ALL this is allowed. What are these organizations do then ? They know it is bad for the people's health, causes diseases which in turn cause enormous amounts to the community for surgery or other treatment, and people die !! Is that the good way to use our taxpayers' money ??

Of course I know it is all a matter of the rich getting richer, and as long as their $$ account is not in danger, they just don't bother about us !! Thank you Presidents, Ministers, Governors, etc... You really keep your promises. You conquered the tobacco industry, so why not fight the chemical industry now ??? Afraid of burning your fingers ??

Nicole H
Nicole H20 days ago

Vinyl plastics : pity most toys for small children ALL are made of plastics. Hard to find wooden toys, and metal ? even harder to find. Therefore, hard to avoid this when you have children.
Fragrances and canned foods : just went to my food storage, and I found small cans with mushrooms, prepared ravioli and white beans in tomato sauce. I believe I use max. 2 or 3 of each a YEAR, in a hurry.
Fragrances : The only thing I use are perfumed candles, when I have visitors.
Cleaners and Pesticides : for cleaning I use generally only soda (sodium bicarbonate which is a very very old stuff and costs less than 0,50 $ for a kilo. Pesticides : I use none. When I have flies at home, I hang some fly catchers,(my grandmother and mom used them also).It are sticking rolls of paper, with a "good" smell for flies Once they put their feet on it, they stick to it and finally die. Not animal friendly, but better than all the chems we use. Bottled water : the most idiot thing. I use tap water and keep it in special bottles, lasting for 4/5 years. I have a device to make my sparkling water as well and make my own lemonades adding self made syrups from fresh fruits. So no need to carry each week 10 to 15 kilos of water, no plastic waste, and more money for me. Bottled water contains too much salt and other chemicals that are bad for our health. Our tap water is controlled regularly, and lab tests proved them to be far more healthy

Jaime J
Jaime J20 days ago

Thank you!!!

Amanda M
Amanda M20 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Amanda M
Amanda M20 days ago

Thanks for sharing =)

Amanda M
Amanda M20 days ago