- Always read the warning labels.
Avoid products marked "Danger" or "Poison".
Least toxic products that don't have warnings.
- Choose a product with no scent or only a mild scent.
Scented products add a variety of chemicals to indoor pollution, especially challenging for children and people with respiratory ailments or sensitive skin.
Today, there are more organic and naturally products to choose from. Make a choice that is better for your health.
- Check the ingredients. Unlike food products, manufacturers are not required to list all the ingredients. Many products don't list ingredients in the 'Inert' category, and your family may be sensitive to these chemicals. Even when the ingredients are listed, the information can be confusing. Use the warning words as a guide. Learn more about potential health risks of products by name (National Institutes of Health).
- Follow the product instructions for safest use.
Reading the fine print will tell you about products not to mix (like ammonia and bleach), safe clean up and storage, and how to avoid water pollution or environmental harm.
- Avoid aerosol products. Aerosol products may contain hazardous or toxic propellants, and the fine mist that they produce may be more easily inhaled. Pressurized cans cause problems or explode when they are crushed, punctured or burned.
- Remember, the word "non-toxic" is for advertising only. It does not mean the product meets any federal regulations for non-toxicity.
- Do not mix products unless directions indicate that you can safely do so. This can cause explosive or poisonous chemical reactions. Even different brands of the same product may contain incompatible ingredients.
- Avoid wearing soft contact lenses when working with solvents and pesticides. They can absorb vapors and hold the chemical near your eyes.
- Follow label directions for proper storage conditions and disposal. If no directions are listed on the product, try choosing another product or find more information from the manufacturer.
- Be more informed about the products you use at your home or office:
The US Environmental Protection Agency provide a list of common household items that contain hazardous ingredients. Visit their website to learn more about these products.
The US Department of Health and Human Services provides a database of household products. Visit their website to learn moreabout what's under your kitchen sink, in your garage, in your bathroom, and in your laundry room? what's in these products, what are the potential health effects, and the safety and handling procedures.
You could also look up the affect of any of the chemicals in your household items at the NIOSH website for chemical hazardous.
What Don't the Labels Tell?
- Label information is directed at "acute" or immediate effects only. You are not given information about "chronic" or long-term hazards of chemical products, such as cancer or birth defects.
- The use of the term "non-toxic" is for advertising only. It has no regulatory definition by the federal government.
- A lot of household products contain ingredients that have not been officially recognized by the federal government as hazardous but still are cause for concern.
- Many labels do not tell you how to dispose of a product safely.
References and Additional Resource
- US Department of Health and Human Services: Household Products Database
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Household Hazardous Waste
- U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards