Do you know what toxic chemicals are in your everyday products?
"For many categories of products there's no requirement to list ingredients so there's no easy way to tell what's in a lot of products," said Megan Schwarzman, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley in the School of Public Health.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the Silent Spring Institute recently took data collected under California's Prop 65, which provides a list of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in certain product categories, to get an idea of the most commonly found toxic chemicals. California's Prop 65 requires businesses to have warnings about significant exposures to chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.
"The list of toxics that we were working from is the Proposition 65 list, so it's really only these three categories, that is, chemicals that cause cancer, chemicals that cause reproductive harm, and chemicals that cause developmental harm," Schwarzman said.
The study found two chemicals — diethanolamine and formaldehyde — were most often found in routine home products. They both contribute to cancer, according to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
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The study also found that an estimated 5,000 tons of Prop 65-listed volatile chemicals were released from consumer products in 2020 in California alone.
Some of the categories containing the most chemicals overall are adhesives, paint removers, vehicle care products, and mothballs, to name a few.
"One of the product categories is just called 'other adhesives' and we found 17 different Prop 65-listed chemicals as ingredients in that category," said Kristin Knox, a staff scientist at the Silent Spring Institute.
Experts say there is no easy way to figure out what's bad and good if a product doesn't list ingredients, but there are a few general rules.
"Anything that has a fragrance is much more likely to have volatile compounds in it," Schwarzman said.
There are also apps, like Silent Spring Institute’s Detox Me app, that provide tips to help reduce exposure.
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