You might feel safe within your own home. But some everyday objects in your dwelling could harm you and your family. Take this quiz to see how much you know about the risks—and how to reduce them.
Toxic or not?
Plastic baby bottles
Toxic. Far from clearing the air, these products often contain formaldehyde and other frightening ingredients. Spray formulas irritate your eyes, skin and throat. And solid fresheners pose a mortal danger to animals and children who may accidentally eat them. Open a box of baking soda or simmer herbs on the stove for a natural alternative.
Not. Chemicals used in manufacturing nonstick coating may be hazardous. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found no evidence that either fumes or chips from the surface of these pans harm human health. Still, don’t use metal utensils or abrasive scouring pads on them.
Toxic. Newly installed carpet emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals can cause headaches; ear, nose and throat irritation; difficulty breathing; and nausea. When damp, rugs become breeding grounds for mold, which can cause allergic reactions. Opt for hardwood or cork floors where you can. Otherwise, look for carpets that are labeled low-or no-VOCs. Dry leaks and spills within 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
Not. There’s concern about the health effects, especially on infants and children, of bisphenol A, a chemical used to make hard plastics. Manufacturers are phasing this chemical out of baby bottles. But the bottles you own are safe to use, as long as they’re not scratched or broken. Just don’t put them in boiling water or the microwave.
Not—but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use it. The FDA is currently reviewing the safety of triclosan, a chemical that fights bacteria and that is used in most of these products. It may increase antibiotic resistance, which makes infections more difficult to treat. Plain old soap and water works just as well.
Toxic—possibly. Any piece of granite can emit low levels of a colorless, odorless radioactive gas called radon. High levels cause lung cancer. But most radon in homes comes from the soil beneath them. To keep your family safe, test for radon with an at-home kit. Contact your state radon office for details.