We Live In A
Toxic Chemical Stew

This page contains information on many of the toxic chemicals, and their hazards, which are found in products we use every day around our homes as well as in and on our bodies. You will NOT find these toxic chemicals in truly organic products such as organic food, organic skin care products, organic cosmetics, organic baby products, organic personal care products and organic home products.

If you find any of the chemicals listed here in products you use, you are not using truly organic products. You are exposing yourself and your family to very dangerous toxic chemicals.

Maybe most of us will not suffer any harmful effects from the occasional exposure to small amounts of some of these toxic chemicals. That is however a very big maybe and you need to be asking yourself some very pointed questions about what the consequences will be a few years from now and very possibly for generations to come.

Since everyone reacts differently, how do you know what your own body or your children's bodies threshold to exposure is to what combination of toxic chemicals? You don't. Are you willing to take the chance with your health and the health of your family?

What are the long range issues going to be with continued exposure to so many different toxic chemicals? What are the synergistic (multiplier) effects going to be and at what point do they become a health problem?

Are you ready to take responsibility for exposing your family, especially your children, to these toxic chemicals and the possible consequences by not changing?

Information on this page comes from almost 30 years of research and personal work experience with toxic chemicals and in the nuclear industry.

Additional research findings were provided by Organic and Natural Enterprises Pty Ltd., National Institutes of Health, NIH - Household Product Database , the Skin Deep Data Base * and the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)** for these products.

You can further study the MSDS documents by going to the Safety Information Resources Inc. MSDS web site. Enter the ingredient name and search.

If you don't find an ingredient on this list, and you're still unsure if it may be a toxic chemical and want to research it further, you can access the links above and find almost any chemical you can come up with.

This is by no means a complete listing of the many toxic chemicals we expose ourselves and our families to on a daily basis. What we put in and on our bodies and what we use around our homes all adds up to a toxic chemical stew.


* It's our opinion that the Skin Deep Data Base errors on the side of caution. We personally like this as it provides information for those who are more sensitive. It does however, mean that we all will need to weigh more carefully the information for ourselves.

** The MSDS's are the international standard for providing safety information about toxic chemicals and their known or suspected dangers.

Toxic Chemicals Around The Home, In Our Food,
Cosmetics, Personal Care and Skin Care Products


Nearly half of the cosmetics containing ethoxylated surfactants have been shown to contain 1,4-dioxane.

1,4-dioxane may exert its effects through inhalation, skin absorption, and ingestion. 1,4-dioxane is listed as a carcinogen, causes cancer.

1,4-dioxane is an eye and mucous membrane irritant, primary skin irritant, central nervous system depressant, nephrotoxin and hepatotoxin. Acute exposure causes irritation, headache, dizziness and narcosis. Chronic inhalation exposure can produce damage to the liver and kidneys and blood disorders.

Preclude from exposure those individuals with diseases of the blood, liver, kidneys, central nervous system and those susceptible to dermatitis.

Also see
Ethoxylated surfactants

2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (Bronopol)

Causes allergic contact dermatitis.

Also see
Nitrosating agents

Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40)

A solvent that strips away the skin's natural acid layer which protects us from bacteria, moulds and viruses. It is made from propylene, a petroleum bi-product and is thought to promote brown spots and premature aging of skin.

Anionic Surfactants

Anionic refers to the negative charge these surfactants have. They may be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. Surfactants can pose serious health threats. They are used in car washes, as garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers - and in the majority of personal care products that foam.

Anionic Surfactants include the following:
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES)
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)
Disodium Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate
Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate
Disodium Oleamide Sulfosuccinate
Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate
Lauryl or Cocoyl Sarcosine
Potassium Coco Hydrolysed Collagen
Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate
Triethanolamine (TEA)

Benzalkonium Chloride

Primary skin irritant, very toxic chemical.


Material is highly toxic via oral route. If conscious, immediately drink large quantities of fluid to dilute and induce vomiting. Call physician.

Mists can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, throat and mucous membranes. Avoid direct contact.

Muscular paralysis, low blood pressure, central nervous system depression and weakness.

Eyes: Corrosive! Immediately wash eyes with copious amount of water.

Remove person to fresh air. Give oxygen (If breathing is difficult). Call physician.

Also see
Cationic Surfactants



Butylated Hudroxyanisole (BHA)

Causes allergic contact dermatitis.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Causes allergic contact dermatitis. Contains toluene.

Also see

Cationic Surfactants

These toxic chemicals have a positive electrical charge. They contain a quaternary ammonium group, often called "quats". Used in hair conditioners, they were originally developed for the paper and fabric industries as softeners and anti-static compounds. With extended usage they can cause hair to become dry and brittle. They are synthetic, irritating, allergenic and toxic chemicals, oral intake can be lethal.

Cationic Sufactants include the following toxic chemicals:
Benzalkonium Chloride
Cetalkonium Chloride
Cetrimonium Chloride
Lauryl Dimonium Hydrolysed Collagen
Stearalkonium Chloride


Causes contact dermatitis

Cocoamidopropyl Betaine


Can cause eye and skin irritation.

DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), and TEA (triethanolamine)

Used in cosmetics to adjust the pH, and used with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt for use as the base for cleansers. TEA causes allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, and could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.

These toxic chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects. Studies have shown that repeated skin applications of DEA-based detergents resulted in a major increase in the incidence of liver and kidney cancer.


Product is severely irritating to body tissues and possibly corrosive to the eyes.

Amines react with Nitrosating agents to form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic, causes cancer.

Also see
Nitrosating agents

Diazolidinyl urea

Contains formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical, is a toxic chemical by inhalation, a strong irritant, and causes contact dermatitis.


If misted, will cause irritation of mucous membranes, nose, eyes and throat. Coughing, difficulty breathing.

Contact causes smarting and burning sensations, inflammation, burns, and painful blisters. Profound damage to tissue.

Will cause painful burning or stinging of eyes and lids, watering of eyes, and inflammation of conjunctiva.

Also see


A pesticide that has a very long lifespan in water, soil, plants, fish, animals and humans. It has been shown to cause liver cancer in laboratory animals. The US EPA has listed it as a possible human carcinogen. It has been banned in the US since 1974. However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has not classified it as a carcinogen.

It is still used in some countries for pest control on cotton and food crops. Prior to 1974 is was also used as a wood preservative to control termites.

There have been studies which have shown reduced liver and immune system function, nervous system effects and indications that it may be an endocrine disruptor.

Human exposure comes mostly from eating meat and fish which have consumed it in water, plants bonemeal food sources.


Dioxins are known to cause cancer and are endocrine disruptors.

There are more than 150 compounds in the dioxin family of compounds and they enter the environment primarily as air pollution. They are formed as by-products of waste incineration, chemical manufacturing, PVC production, paper bleaching, metal smelting plus a many other industrial processes.

They presist in the environment for decades by attaching to soil particles and sediment in water. They primarily enter the food chain by being in the foods consumed by animals and fish then accumulating in their fatty tissues. Human exposure comes mainly from eating contaminated meat, fish and dairy products.

DMDM Hydantoin


Ethoxylated surfactants

Used in cosmetics as foaming agents, emulsifiers and humectants. As part of the manufacturing process the toxic chemical 1,4-dioxane, a potent carcinogen, is generated.

They are identified in the ingredients by the prefex "PEG", polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, "eth, or oxynol".

Also see

FD&C color pigments

Synthetic colors made from coal tar. Contain heavy metal salts that deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic, can cause cancer.


Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Causes allergic reactions, irritant and contact dermatitis, headaches and chronic fatigue. The vapor is extremely irritating to the eyes, nose, throat and mucous membranes.

Also see
Nitrosating agents


Fragrance indicates the presence of one of the estimated 4,000 plus separate ingredients, many of which contain phthalates are toxic chemicals and/or carcinogenic. The FDA reports symptoms which include headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and skin irritation. Clinical observation has shown that some fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, and irritability.

Imidazolidinyl Urea

The trade name for this toxic chemical is Germall 115. Releases formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical, into cosmetics at over 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


Also see
Nitrosating agents


Causes contact dermatitis


Corrosive to the eyes with possible permanent damage.

Corrosive to the skin, possibly resulting in third degree burns. Can be harmful if absorbed, can cause allergic contact dermatitis in susceptible individuals.

Can be fatal.

Can be corrosive to the mucous membranes and the lungs. Can cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals.


Lanolin obtained from the wool of sheep will most likely be contaminated with pesticides.

Liquidum Paraffinum

Liquidum Paraffinum is just another way to say mineral oil.

Also see
Mineral Oil


Melamine has many industrial uses such as when it's combined with other substances such as formaldehyde to make melamin resin.

Melamine was a hot item in the news in early 2007, when veterinary scientists determined it to be the cause of hundreds of dog and cat deaths, because of the unexplained presence of melamine in mass produced dog and cat foods.

Melamine has not nutritional value but it does give a false reading of protein content levels.

Ingestion of melamine can lead to kidney stones and in some cases kidney failure and death.

Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone

Both cause cosmetic allergies

Mineral Oil

Mineral Oil is a petroleum by-product that coats the skin clogging the pores which interferes with skin's ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Baby oil is 100% mineral oil. Many mineral oil derivatives have been found to be contaminated with cancer causing PAH's (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). Manufacturers use mineral oil because it is extremly inexpensive patroleum byproduct.

Also known as:
Liquidum paraffinum (also known as posh mineral oil!)
Paraffin oil,
Paraffin wax

Nitrosating Agents

There have been concerns expressed world wide about the contamination of cosmetics products with nitrosamines which have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

The following are nitrosating agents which can cause nitrosamine contamination:
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
Cocoyl Sarcosine
DEA compounds
Hydrolysed Animal Protein
Imidazolidinyl Urea
Lauryl Sarcosine
MEA compounds
Quaternium-7, 15, 31, 60, etc.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate
TEA compounds

Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3)

Has been shown to cause photoallergic reactions. It absorbs through the skin is present in the bodies of 97% of Americans according to the CDC.

Used as a UV blocker in the majority of sunscreens, including childrens, lip balms, lip gloss, lipsticks, many lotions and moisturizing creams with SPF listings. Found in anti-aging creams, shampoo's, conditioners, perfumes, after shave lotions as well as a number of cosmetics products.

Linked to cancer in government, industry and academic studies.

Linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. Can cause a broad range of health effects from infertility and reproductive organ cancer to birth defects and developmental delays for children.

Linked to harm to the immune system, manifest as allergic reactions or impaired capacity to fight desease and repair damaged tissues.

Paraben preservatives (methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl)

Used widley as inhibitors of microbial growth to extend shelf life of products even though they are known to be toxic chemicals. Cause many allergic reactions and skin rashes.

Parabens are listed as endocrine disruptors.

Highly toxic chemical.


WARNING! Harmful if swallowed or inhaled. Causes irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tract. May cause allergic skin reaction.

Causes irritation to skin. Symptoms include redness, itching and pain. May cause allergic skin reactions.

Causes irritation, redness and pain.


One of the "Dirty Dozen" toxic chemicals banned in April 2001 by the Stockholm Convention.

Japan banned the production, use and import of PCB's in 1972.
The US banned production in 1977 although they are still allowed to be used in closed systems.
The UK banned the use of PCB's in new equipment in 1981 but closed uses were allowed to continue until December 2000.
PCB's continue to this day to enter the enviornment from illegal dumping and disposal of equipment in waste sites and from leaking equipment still allowed to be in use.

PCB's have been linked to cancer, reproductive, neurological and developmental effects and they are endocrine disruptors. Exposures to infants through breast milk has been linked to lower IQ, hyperactivity, delayed learning, motor skills and short term memory reduction.

Exposures to human, polar bear and whale fetus's have been shown to contribute to reproductive maladies. In the womb unborn males can be "feminized" or intersex, neither male nor female. Both sets of reproductive organs often develope.

PCB's persist in the soil and sediment in water for decades. They accumulate in plant food sources and are their levels increase as they move up the food chain through meat, fish and dairy products. As a result humans, who store them in fatty tissue, can be exposed to levels many times higher than the original concentrations. It typically takes 7 to 10 years for the human body to eliminate half of its body burden of these toxic chemicals.


Phthalates are not identified as being present in any of the products which contain them. They are found in products such as IV tubing, vinyl flooring, glues, inks, pesticides, detergents, plastic bags, food packaging, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, colognes, hair spray, nail polish, vinyl shower curtians, soft plastic children's toys, infant care products such as powders, lotions and shampoos, many fragrances, adult cosmetics and personal/skin care products.

Phthalates are not chemically bound to any product so they are continuously being released from the personal care products via skin contact, from vinyl products into the air, leaching into liquids all of which leads to exposure through ingestion, absorbtion, and inhalation.

Animal and human research suggests that early exposure to some phthalates reduces testosterone production and alters the development reproductive organs, particularly in male infants.

Some phthalates are known endocrine disruptors.

Common Phthalates are:
butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP)
di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)
dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
diethyl phthalate (DEP)
di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP)
di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP)
mono-2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl phthalate (MEHHP)
mono-2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl phthalate (MEOHP)
mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP)
mono-3-carboxypropyl phthalate (MCPP)
monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP)
monoethyl phthalate (MEP)
monoisobutyl phthalate (MiBP)
mono-n-butyl phthalate (MBP)
monomethyl phthalate (MMP)

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

A potentially carcinogenic petroleum ingredient that can alter and reduce the skin's natural moisture factor. Used in products designed to dissolve oil and grease and clean ovens.

Also see
Ethoxylated surfactants

Propylene/Butylene Glycol (PG)

Propylene glycol (PG) is a petroleum by-product. It penetrates the skin and can weaken protein and cellular structure. Commonly used to make extracts from herbs.

PG penetrates the skin so quickly, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.

All of this and there isn't even a warning label on products such as stick deodorants, where the concentration is greater than in most industrial applications.


May cause respiratory and throat Irritation, central nervous system depression, blood and kidney disorders. May cause Nystagmus, Lymphocytosis.

Irritation and dermatitis, absorption.

Irritation and conjunctivitis.

Pulmonary edema, brain damage, hypoglycemia, intravascular hemolysis. Death may occur.

PVP/VA Copolymer

Used in hairsprays, wave sets and some cosmetics. Particles may contribute to respiratory problems when inhaled into the lungs of sensitive persons.

Quaternium-7, 15, 31, 60, etc.


Prolonged or repeated exposure may cause skin irritation. May cause more severe response if skin is damp. May be a weak skin sensitizer in susceptible individuals at greater than 1% in aqueous solution.

Also see
Nitrosating agents

Rancid Natural Emollients

Rancid natural emollients (oils) form free radicals which damage and age your skin. Natural oils used in cosmetics, such as Borage, Evening Primrose and Rosehip, should be cold pressed not refined. Creams and lotions made from cold pressed plant oils will have approximately a 6 month use by date. The reason for this is that they are not refined. The refining process generates excessive heat which produces "trans" fatty acids some of which are poisonous. The refining process also removes the nutrients, vitamins and essential fatty acids and therefore they contain none of the valuable skin conditioning agents that they were used for in the firsts place.

Silicone derived emollients

Silicone emollients coat the skin and hair trapping anything that is under it. They do not allow the skin or hair to breathe thus leading to skin irritations, acne problems and unhealthy hair.

Some synthetic emollients have been found to cause tumors in laboratory tests and accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes. They are also an environmental concern as they are not biodegradable.

Silicone derived emollients include the following:
Dimethicone Copolyol

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES)

When combined with other toxic chemicals, SLES and ALES can create nitrosamines, a potent class of cancer causing carcinogens. They are often hidden in natural and so called organic cosmetics with the words "derived from coconut oil".


Causes skin and eye irritation! Avoid contact with eyes, skin and clothing.

Also see
Anionic Surfactants
Ethoxylated surfactants
Nitrosating agents

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)

SLS and ALS are found in the vast majority of cosmetics and skin care products that foam. Their primary commercial uses are in car washes, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers.

Laboratory test show that SLS and ALS cause eye damage, central nervous system depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation, and even death.

If exposed to SLS and ALS young eyes may not develop properly because proteins are dissolved. SLS and ALS can cause skin layers to separate and inflame. They are often hidden in so called "natural" and "organic" cosmetics with the words "derived from coconut oil".

Also see
Anionic Surfactants
Nitrosating agents

Stearalkonium Chloride

Used in hair conditioners and creams Stearalkonium chloride was originally developed as fabric softener. It is much less expensive and easier to use than proteins or herbals.

Toxic Chemical.

Also see
Cationic surfactants

Scientific studies have shown that routine application of talcum powder in the genital area is associated with a three-to-fourfold increase in the development of ovarian cancer.

TEA (Triethanolamine) Laureth Sulfate

A highly acidic compound Approximately 40% of cosmetics containing TEA, have been shown to contain nitrosamines, which are potent carcinogens.


Special Hazard Precautions: Product is severely irritating to body tissues and possibly corrosive to the eyes. Handle with care. Avoid eye and skin contact. Avoid breathing vapors if generated. If there is danger of eye contact, wear a face shield.

Also see
Anionic Surfactants
Nitrosating agents



POISON! DANGER! Toxic Chemical!

Harmful or fatal if swallowed. Harmful if inhaled or absorbed through skin.


May affect liver, kidneys, blood system or central nervous system. Causes irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

Inhalation may cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms of overexposure may include fatigue, confusion, headache, dizziness and drowsiness. Peculiar skin sensations i.e., pins and needles or numbness may be produced. Very high concentrations may cause unconsciousness and death.

Swallowing may cause abdominal spasms and other symptoms that parallel over exposure from inhalation. Aspiration of material into the lungs can cause Chemical Pneumonitis, which may be fatal.

Causes irritation. May be absorbed through the skin.

Causes severe eye irritation with redness and pain.

Reports of chronic poisoning described anemia, decreased blood cell count and bone marrow Hypoplasia. Liver and kidney damage may occur. Repeated or prolonged contact has a defatting action, causing drying, redness and dermatitis.

Exposure of a pregnant woman to toluene may affect a developing fetus.


One of the "Dirty Dozen" toxic chemicals banned in April 2001 by the Stockholm Convention.

Toxaphene was used as a pesticide replacement for DDT in the mid 1970's. It was banned from general use in the US in 1982

The US EPA and DHHS have determined the toxaphene is probably a human carcinogen. High levels of exposure can cause damage to lungs, nervous system and kidneys and may also cause death. There has been very little research on the effects of toxaphene at low levels of exposure.

Toxaphene persists for many years in soil and sediment in water and is found virtually everywhere in to fresh water and saltwater. It evaporates from the water and travels on air currents. It is most commonly found in certain species of fish. Exposure to humans is most commonly through eating contaminated fish or breathing air near a hazardous waste site.

Once consumed by humans it remains stored in fatty tissues for long periods of time. It may be a hazard to the unborn fetus and nursing infants.

If you find any of the toxic chemical ingredients listed here in your cosmetics, skin care products, bath, body and baby products or products you use around you home, we urge you to stop and think about what you can do to find safer products.

It is our hope that you will decide to stop feeding your body, and the bodies of your family as many of these toxic chemicals as possible. You can start by systematically, one by one, switching to organic food, organic skin care products, organic cosmetics, organic baby products, organic personal care products and organic home products.

Return from our Toxic Chemicals page to the Organic Living Home Page

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